Marine Biophysics Unit (Satoshi Mitarai)

Unit outline

Assistant Professor Satoshi Mitarai

satoshi at

Research Goals

We propose to develop real-time forecasting system for the coastal ocean circulation processes around Okinawa and implement a validated connectivity assessment tool, coupling available modeling and observation techniques. This modeling tool will …

  • 1. Help marine biologists and geneticists estimate rates of gene flow among coral reefs,
  • 2. Enable public agencies to build and evaluate marine protected areas based on population connectivity, and
  • 3. Provide marine ecologists with a modeling system for predicting the global and long-term dynamics of the coral reef ecosystem.

We combine expertise in the modeling of coastal circulation and in-situ physical and biological observations to create novel tools to assess population connectivity as well as a predictive tool to address management scenarios for Okinawa. This research combines modeled ocean currents and life history information (i.e., spawning season and duration, larval development time course, etc.) of the marine species of interest (both corals and coral-reef species) to determine the probability that larvae from a given site are transported to another site via a Lagrangian probability density function modeling procedure, backed up with available in-situ oceanographic data. This will provide a matrix of connectivity (i.e., connectivity for all possible combinations of coral reefs) that can be directly integrated into spatial population dynamics models of reef species to forecast the dynamics and structure of the coral reef ecosystem.

We will create state-of-the-art tools for connectivity analyses for Okinawa that can be implemented for public participation. This facilitates spatial ecosystem-based planning of oceans – not only for the designation of marine protected areas, but also for the risk assessment of pollutant discharge into the coral reef or the implementation of new energy generation facilities. These tools will provide a general model for applying oceanographic knowledge to reef management processes elsewhere around the world. Academically, the proposed work will provide new knowledge about larval connectivity in Okinawa, a validated framework for applying ocean observatory assets to marine biology and modeling environments for the coral ecosystem that can be easily applied to many on-going reef management research projects.

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