Dongsha proposal Fig. 1.jpg

Since early 2016, I have been carrying out research at Taiwan's largest atoll property, Dongsha ("East Sand" in Chinese). It is hypothesized (and hoped) that the incredibly remote nature of this atoll may give the resident marine organisms a better chance at persistence into the distant future, so we are attempting to assess the health of the local corals. Sampling of pocilloporid corals was conducted during primarily cooler temperatures (~23ºC), and tagged colonies will be sampled during or after a future bleaching event (occurring essentially annually at this point) with the hopes of identifying certain genotypes/colonies that resist bleaching (in an analogous manner as was observed in the Maldives in 2016). This Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST; Taiwan)-funded project represents a collaboration between myself, Dr. Pi-Jen Liu of Taiwan's National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (NMMBA), and the Dongsha Atoll Research Station

2018 update: the funding for research at Dongsha Atoll Research Station is fizzling out. It was just too expensive for the Taiwanese government (via their national science funding agency: the Ministry of Science and Technology [MOST]). Although the team was able to collect valuable ecological survey data, it is unclear to me how much more we will be able to do in terms of documenting the molecular basis of bleaching and bleaching resilience in this relatively pristine location (it is still incredibly over-fished). You can still carry out research there, but you need to bring your own boat, boat fuel, toilet paper, bedding, SCUBA equipment, etc. I think they can still provide military barracks lodging and food (eaten with the army), but even this may eventually change! Damn shame, but who knows, maybe this is just a temporary funding hiatus. 

If my cheap camera can take these kinds of pictures, just imagine what a $500+ model could do! BTW, here are some images of the 28 colonies sampled prior to a bleaching event. FYI, the edge of the blade of the pliers (my scaling object) is 4 cm.

The environmental data associated with these samples (including GPS coordinates) can be found here. For more details on the nutrient environment of Dongsha, please see this Powerpoint file.