Maui Coral Community Surveys

Our typical shore dive setup.
Our typical shore dive setup.

Surveys on Maui last week went great – working with colleague Erika Johnston, I was able to survey 336 coral-associated reef communities spread out over nine days of diving!

We stayed with a good friend, Mike, who let us crash with him in Wailuku and even borrow let us borrow his car! We borrowed dive tanks and safety equipment from the Marine Option Program at the University of Hawaii Maui College. Despite both Erika and I struggling with laryngitis during the trip (mainly a problem for making us feel extra exhausted on long field days) and despite working around large winter swells, I am very Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.34.40 AMhappy to say we surveyed 10 sites with a good geographic spread around the island!

Some survey sites were over a 2 hour drive away from our home base, some required walking with all of our gear (~50 pounds each) for 5 to 10 minutes from the car to the entry point 4 times (2 dives at each site), some required swimming out from shore for 10 minutes or so to get to the target reef, and some challenged our finesse and balance with entry points that combined waves and slippery rocks or thick sand.

Ideal entry at Ahihi Bay compared to rocky scramble at Papawai Point.
Ideal entry at Ahihi Bay compared to rocky scramble at Papawai Point.

One of the best parts of surveying Maui in February and March was listening to the humpback whales. They sang to us on most of our dives sometimes loud enough we were sure they were right next to us. While we never caught a glimpse of the whales underwater, we did see lots of fishes and turtles while we were diving. We were quite intrigued by the variety of substrate types at our surveys sites. Similar to surveying around O’ahu, some sites were bouldery, some were sandy, and some were covered in coral. Unlike the sites I’ve surveyed in O’ahu, we found some sites in Maui that were mainly river rock or dark sand bottom including Hana Bay and Maliko Gulch.

Lots of fishes and turtles on our dives!
Lots of fishes and turtles on our dives!

We enjoyed exploring new places, neither of us had dove on Maui before, so each site was an adventure. We usually had online reviews from fellow shore divers to guide us to the best entry points. These were sometimes as simple as identifying a beach park and sometimes as through as entire paragraphs detailing how to get from the shore out to deeper reefs (shore diving maui). Even better, we ran into divers at a few sites and were quite happy to follow our new friends to ideal entry points.

Variety of bottom types at our survey sites.
Variety of bottom types at our survey sites.
Domino damselfish in Honolua Bay.
Domino damselfish in Honolua Bay.

While it is too soon to tell what differences there are within the coral-associated communities around Maui sites and to compare these sites to Oahu sites, I can confirm that many of the commonly observed species from Oahu sites were found around Maui.

Also it seemed there was a lot of variation between sites which may not be surprising given the differences in bottom type. Next week, I’ll head to Big Island to survey the communities there!

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