The Biodiscovery Expedition is, as its name suggests, an expedition of discovery to the Kermadec Islands. Very little is known of the marine flora and fauna of the Kermadec islands. The Kermadec Biodiscovery Expedition will begin to fill the gap in our knowledge of the marine plants and animals that occur in the Kermadec region, and their connection to marine populations in the adjacent subtropical western Pacific Ocean.
The limited amount of marine sampling that has been done around the Kermadec Islands has made some remarkable discoveries: the only records of some species in the New Zealand EEZ, discovery of new species to science, and the surprising finding that some species of fish and invertebrates occur nowhere else in the world. The common and more visible marine species are reasonably well-documented from the earlier surveys; smaller, cryptic species are definitely under-represented in past surveys and will be the source of new discoveries. It is anticipated that additional effort in documenting the biodiversity of the Kermadec Islands will lead to the discovery of species not recorded previously from New Zealand waters. It is also likely that new species will be discovered.
The main goals of this multi-agency, multi-disciplinary project are to:
1. Document the marine biodiversity of the Kermadec Islands. The focus is on marine plants and animals within 200m of the surface, and on species occuring down to 1,000m.
2. Discover and document new marine species and new records of marine species not recorded previously in New Zealand.
3. Use molecular techniques to determine the connectivity of the marine fauna of the Kermadecs and adjacent South Pacific islands. That is, determine the source of the closest relatives of the Kermadec populations.
4. Provide a baseline record of species diversity against which to monitor changes over time. This will be an important reference survey to track changes in species composition that may result from global warming changes to regional water temperatures and currents.
The research vessel for this expedition is the MV Braveheart and the date of departure from Tauranga is 9 May 2011. Collecting in the Kermadecs will commence on 11 May and the Braveheart will return to Tauranga on 29 May.
The experienced research team are scientists from five agencies and they have superior knowledge of marine species in the region, and the projects complement each other and previous surveys.
- · From the Auckland Museum: Dr Tom Trnski (expedition leader and fish specialist), Stephen Ullrich and Ged Wiren.
- · From the National Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa: Carl Struthers, Dr Vincent Zintzen (fish specialists) and Charles Bedford.
- · From the Department of Conservation: Clinton Duffy (shark specialist), Dr Peter de Lange (plant specialist) and Dr Warren Chinn (insect specialist).
- · From NIWA: Dr Malcolm Francis (fish specialist and underwater photographer).
- · From the Australian Museum: Mark McGrouther (fish specialist), Dr Stephen Keable and Dr Mandy Reid (marine invertebrate specialists).
- · From Radio NZ: Alison Ballance (science communicator and radio journalist).
- · From New Zealand Geographic:Richie Robinson (underwater photographer).
Follow the excitement of discovery during the expedition through daily blogs by the expedition scientists, download of images and video, and track the location of the Braveheart here.