Life At The Sea Wall

Water rushing over the sea wall on a rising tide. You can see the orange sponge Mycale sp. growing on the bricks under the water.

Much of the fishpond has calm waters with low visibility. However, when the tide is rising, water rushes through the cracks in the seawall, bringing in saltwater, plankton, and small fish… and making it possible to see for more than a few feet underwater. Many filter- and suspension-feeding organisms take advantage of the high-flow environment. Fish gather here to eat plankton and other small invertebrates. Below are a few snapshots of life at the ocean break during a high tide. Many of these organisms are marine, and not found further in at the pond. Among these is the puffer fish Arothron hispidus, a species that has been mysteriously dying around the Hawai’ian Islands.

Feather duster worms (Sabellestarte spectabilis) growing among sediment-laden Gracilaria near the ocean break. These marine suspension feeders are found in areas of the pond with high flow, salty water, and access to marine plankton.

Two alien species side by side: a colony of orange sponge next to a feather duster worm.

A white-spotted puffer fish (Arothron hispidus) in the sea wall. This individual is healthy, but others have been found dead in Kaneohe Bay and other parts of the Hawai'ian Islands. Dr. Thierry Work, a wildlife disease specialist from USGS, is studying what may be a virus affecting these fish.

A portrait of life at the makaha. Featherduster worms extend their tentacles in the foreground. Convict tangs, or manini, are eating plankton brought in by the high tide, and picking microalgae from the rocks and seaweeds.

A swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi) nestled in Gracilaria near the wall. This species can live on sand, mud, or seaweed, and can swim away from predators by paddling with its tentacles.


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  • Mahalo Nui Loa

    I recently graduated from the Donahue Lab at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and am currently a graduate student at the University of Washington. This research is funded by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, as well a scholarship from the Seattle chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation.
  • “Where do ecological ideas come from? …Most do not spring deductively from the minds of ecologists, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Instead, they emerge when ecologists absorb the essential spirit of individual places– their genius loci.”

    ~Mary V. Price & Ian Billick, "The Ecology of Place"
  • “Aloha is the intelligence with which we meet life.”

    ~Olana A'i, Kumu Hula

  • “I no longer say ‘Hawaiian ways of knowing’ anymore. Because people relegate that to the margins. ‘Ways of knowing,’ as if it’s a quaint, anthropologic way of describing something outside us. No, it’s ‘epistemology,’ the philosophy of knowledge. Land educates. ‘Ike ‘aina. The land of your birth educates you. This land here educates you.”

    ~Manu Meyer

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