It’s not a sprint…

It’s a marathon.  Rather, it’s a marathon-length obstacle course.  Rather, it’s a marathon length obstacle course throughout which one must sprint (and jump, climb, dive, bleed, cry, swim, crawl…you get the idea).

They say I’m lucky, and I am.  But perspective means everything.

This has been quite a busy 2013:


February:  Maui Research
March: Dissertation Qualifying Exam
May: Maui Research
June: Maldives Research
July: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Research
August:  Kahoolawe Research
September:  Maui Research

Basically, a lot of this:


Yep, it’s September now, and I’m finally seeing the light at the end of this year’s odyssey.

I haven’t had time to keep up with blogging, or emails, or contacting friends/family, sleeping or breathing regularly.  But this time of blissful madness is coming to an end and I, at last, have time to reflect.

I have a ton of adventures to report on, going back over a year ago.  These will come piecemeal, as time opens up.  I can’t wait to reflect, relive, and enjoy the experiences that have passed.  Some say one shouldn’t live in the past; rather, to live in the present.   Sometimes, however, one was simply working too hard to enjoy the present, so reflecting on the previous presents via images, videos and stories is quite attractive at the moment…

I did mention that I’m seeing the light, but I still reside deep within the tunnel.  So for now, I’ll be mostly dealing with the the present, which remains highly algified (a good thing).

IMG_4208  IMG_4215 IMG_4219 IMG_4225 IMG_4229 IMG_4233 IMG_4200 IMG_4190


Strangely Stoked

I regularly find myself strangely stoked…well…life is good like that.

I’m stoked I’m in Maui again.  I’m stoked that Maui is getting much needed rain.  I’m stoked to be wet and cold, daily. I’m stoked for short intervals of dry/calmness.  I’m stoked my dive buddy has busted butt, though southern storms, sediments, swell, & tigas (sharks).  I’m stoked we survived a Kona shore pound.   I’m stoked we were able to fix my cages.  I’m stoked we’re done collecting heaps of data from all over the island.  I’m stoked the swell was popping today.  I’m stoked I caught two waves before catching my sacred spear/board (Djoubiti) to the face.  I’m stoked I split my forehead and not my eye.  I’m stoked to be surfing again tomorrow.  I’m stoked I tried a new pizza joint to the horror of my Maui mentor.  I’m stoked I have a couple days off to write.  I’m stoked for incessant cetacean serenades. I’m stoked I enjoyed Chasing Mavericks.  I’m stoked my data are sound, but overwhelming.  I’m stoked to be sleeping on the floor.  I’m stoked to have exchanged sleep for hanging out with lab mates, Maui friends, bocces & brews.  I’m stoked for not scratching on the 8 ball. I’m stoked to be driving around like a soccer mom.  I’m stoked to have gone to Maui “salsa” night, which apparently, HERE, is synonymous with “polka.”   I’m stoked to be sore, tired, and feel like I’m living life.  I’m stoked to be stressing over my quals.  I’m stoked to be able to get 7 hrs of sleep.   Strangely, I’m simply stoked.

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

This blog got about 3,500 views in 2012.

Attractions in 2012

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.


The Grass is Always Greener

Given their warmth, clarity & beautiful corals, Hawaii’s waters certainly have their charm; however, it took only one dive off La Jolla to remind myself of two truths:  (1)  there’s no place like home where (2) the grass is always greener, literally.


Na Hoku

I have recently had the chance to photograph a few rare stars on the reef.

Edmonson’s pipefish (Halicampus edmondsoni)

This was a rare find.  My buddy, Don, spotted a mated pair in Kaanapali and took some great shots.  When he contacted the fish experts in Hawaii to confirm his ID, Don learned that he had the first and only pictures of these fish ever taken in the wild.  It was a real treat for Don to invite me down to see the rare pair in person, and perhaps be the second person to ever film these guys in their natural habitat.

Flame angelfish  (Centropyge loricula)

This is a difficult fish to film.  Not only are they rare on the reef (have only seen one during my 300 dives out here), but they are also great at dancing and dodging into & out of the reef at a rapid pace, seldom holding still to flaunt the beautiful reds, yellows & turquoises their mammas gave them.   Despite their nymph-like agility, patience paid off and I final captured a few decent shots of this remarkable fish.  These are prime targets for aquarium collectors, but I’m glad this little guy has escaped their nets thus far.

Hawaiian Green Lionfish Dendrochirus barberi

Called the Turkey Fish by Hoover (but not Randall), this little guy is related to real lionfish and can provide quite the nasty wound with its venomous spines.  Despite this fact, it’s quite a cute little fish.

Descent/Ascent into/from the House of the Sun

I’m in Maui.

Daily, I hope for nothing less than warm days, beads of sweat on my brow, scuba tanks, warm water, sandy beaches, and tropical drinks with little straw hats.  So it seemed insane to me that my friends wanted to drive 10,000 feet into the sky to scope out a mountain/volcano; beyond the reach of my dearest island proclivities.  Even better, they planned on spending the night, freezing our toes off in a tent.  Apparently, I really like my friends/colleagues, so I decided to brave the cold & hike the Haleakala volcano with them a few weeks ago.

To my pleasant surprise, we had warm, beautiful weather during the days, making for some of the most amazing hiking, camping, & volcano bocce one could ever imagine.
Haleakala means “House of the Sun” and it lived up to it’s name perfectly.  The scenery was stunning, the weather–perfect, and the company fantastic.

We headed 6 mi down “Shifting Sand Trail”, stayed in a cabin, trekked another 5 the next day to our tent camp site, then up “Switch Backs” back to the top.  We spent 3 surreal days in the so-called crater (actually erosional).  We delicately wove our ways through beautiful Haleakala silverswords, navigated through clusters of massive cinder cones, hung out side-by-side with endangered nene (native Hawiian geese), raced the shadows, worshiped the sun, and tossed the bocces around all over the basin.

The story goes that Maui’s grandmother is from the crater and that she helped him wrangle the sun & slow it down, giving us longer days.  Well, Maui, HUGE thanks for that.  But on days like these, the only truly acceptable solar speed would have been zero.

Mala Shark Encounter

We climbed into the water near Mala boat ramp.  After catching my breath from laughing @ Em & Sam beached on a concrete slab, we rounded the corner & descended into a shallow world of massive rubble piles covered in coral.   This is the Mala pier; or what’s left of it after it collapsed in the 1990s.  Among and beneath the rubble is an incredible collection of sealife, making for a really unique & interesting dive experience.  I was stoked to get to experience this with team Maui, my dive shop buddy Rich, and some of the finned kine.

Disgustingly Awesome

An odd smell permeated our vehicle while driving down the road to one of our field sites…what is that?  We’ve smelled trash, sewage, yard waste, burning cane; but never this.  What could it be?  No idea.

It turns out, that corals around the entire island of Maui were making love.

Rice coral spawning is an amazing event that occurs only twice a year, on a couple of specific days, at a specific time of night.  All the corals in the region wait to exhale at the exact same moment, releasing their loads into the ocean with uncanny temporal precision.
This precision allowed us to run out to the reef at Kapalua, jump in the water at night, and within minutes, observe millions of sperm/egg packets being dumped before our eyes.  The spawn turned the coastal ocean into a soup of gamete balls that floated to the surface, creating a thick odorous slick stretching as far as we could see.

This slick is likely what created the aforementioned smell around the island.   It was the smell of corals gettin’ it on.  We watched in amazement, along with many other animals that came out at night to observe the salacious activity.

Yes, we were one with the coral spawn.  Pretty disgusting….pretty awesome.Get ‘er done my coral friends…and keep building those reefs.

[de] Construction @ Ukumehame

One of my favorite sites to dive/snorkel in Maui is Ukumehame.  Despite the 300m swim to get out there, the reef rewards divers & swimmers with large fish, numerous turtles, beautiful & complex coral formations, clear water, and manta rays.    In addition, it’s proven to be a great surf spot & now hosts an array of my experimental tiles.

The reefs at Ukumehame are magnificent and should stay that way.

It has been a real bummer to find the reef, now, completely silted due to recent & on-going shoreline construction activities.  Maui transportation has built the highway directly on the water; and though a nice drive, the highway is regularly damaged by swell events, necessitating significant construction activities seaward of the road.  With the tractors clawing @ the earth & the waves simultaneously pounding the shoreline, huge plumes of sediment are mobilized and descend upon the reef.  Human-caused spikes in sedimentation rates is one of the main killers of coral reefs around the world.

Mounds of clean rock belie the missing mounds of silt & sediment dumped onto the reef from shoreline construction activities.

The water at Ukumehame has been transformed from clear & beautiful to a thick soup of sediment with visibility less than 12 inches at times.

It’s hard to imagine how much sediment has been delivered to Maui’s reefs over the last century of construction and development, and how much degradation such activities have caused Maui’s reefs.  Previously we did not know the impacts, or know to care about the impacts, so perhaps an ‘oops’ was appropriate.

But now we do know; and perhaps, this should no longer be acceptable.

Niko scopes the sediment plume at Ukumehame, stretching several hundred meters over the reef.

Another Day in the Office

We’re back in Maui, attacking science like tuna on tangs.  This trip my field assistant/dive buddy is Niko Kaplanis–undergrad researcher & surfing grom guru.  We’ve been having a great time…working long days, sometimes under water for 6 hrs/day.  We’ve traveled 60 km of Maui’s coastline three times now, sampling around our CAUs (calcification/accretion units), collecting water samples, deploying instruments, commiserating with turtles & avoiding sharks.

Niko is great in the field & has a perpetual stoke, which is a ton of fun.

Colorful frog dotting the reef.

Niko making friends with the locals

Niko getting ‘er done in the research position.

Coral battling algal takeover…