The Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area is the largest protected marine area in the world. It was formed in 2008 thanks to the efforts of the Island nation of Kiribati, the New England Aquarium and Conservation International.
This September an international team of scientists, divers, photographers and officials are heading to the Phoenix Islands, a remote archipelago of coral islands in the equatorial Pacific, on a 3-week research mission to survey what may be the most pristine, intact coral reef ecosystems on Earth, in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).
The PIPA reefs are a nearly-untouched underwater wilderness of lush and diverse corals; abundant fish of many kinds including sharks; sea turtles; manta rays; and uncounted invertebrate species.
The focus of this expedition is to survey the reefs, count and identify coral and fish species and continue a long-term monitoring program begun on previous trips. The researchers will also take coral samples, assess coral health and predation on corals.
WHOI biologist Larry Madin is participating in the expedition, to conduct the first survey of planktonic invertebrate animals in the open water around the islands. Madin will also bring back samples of corals and coral skeleton for Anne Cohen and Konrad Hughen, WHOI scientists studying coral growth and responses to environmental and climate change.