Marine studies capstone projects 2021-2022

This years marine studies capstone projects are focusing on coral biology and sea turtle facial identification and the effect of climate change on coral and fish abundance along the west coast of Hawaii Island.  

Students made their first project dive on Sunday, 10/17/2021

Second Dive to 56 PBR for Capstone Project work, Sunday 11/7/2021

Coral and reef fish transects at Mahu Kona, Sunday 11/21/2021

The world’s coral reef ecosystems are facing serious challenges from human pressure and climate change.  

Using facial scale patterns to determine frequency of presence at a Puako turtle cleaning station

Juvenile and sub-adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) frequent the turtle cleaning station off of 56 Puako Beach Road where mostly herbivorous fishes clean their shell and skin by foraging on the algae growing there.  Work done in the past has described some of their behaviors, the cleaner fishes, and the length of cleaning sessions.  There have not been any studies to determine how many different turtles come to the cleaning station or how frequently they visit it.

The goal for this project is to determine the number of individual turtles that use the cleaning station by digitally recording facial scale patterns to identify individuals.  Using digital photos of the left and right side head scale patterns I will create a catalog of turtles that visit the station. Photographs taken by other divers can also be used to increase the database of individuals and may also allow me to begin to develop a better idea of how often a turtle uses the station and how long they remain at the station.   

Products of the Study:

  1.  Catalog of individual turtles that utilize the cleaning station
  2. An estimation of the amount of time a given turtle uses the cleaning station
  3. When possible a correlation of individual turtles cleaning station with tagging data of foraging habitat
  4. Personal Skills:  develop underwater photographic skills, Improve scuba skills, learn visual recognition algorithms that are currently in use in the scientific community, learn how to engage others in citizen science opportunities