In the same way that meteorologist can predict with some certainty the weather conditions across the globe, oceanographers can predict the conditions of the oceans. Advances in fundamental geophysics and fluid mechanics theory have made it possible to explain physical oceanography through mathematical relationships and combine them into a model of the ocean. By taking into account these ocean models when making observations in marine biology we can begin to explain and even predict the patterns that we find.
We aim to achieve a comprehensive understanding of coastal ocean circulation around Okinawa island. By monitoring the currents and oceanographic conditions at key locations along the coast we can develop a real-time forecasting system that local people and public agencies can utilize to implement more relevant spatial management of coastal resources. We implement both Lagrangian and Eulerian methods to monitor local currents in the form of ‘Reef Drifter’ floats and ADCPs attached to fixed observatories respectively.
Some of the most dynamic as well as vulnerable ecosystems in the Okinawa region are directly reliant on ocean currents to connect their scattered populations and ensure their survival. Many of the diverse species that characterise coastal coral reef, mangrove forest and hydrothermal vent ecosystems rely on ocean currents for dispersal during their time as plankton. Our understanding of the local ocean circulation provides us with tools to assess connectivity between the coastal communities of Okinawa island but the ecosystems mentioned above are suspected to be connected over much larger, regional scales. We therefore require an understanding of ocean circulation on similar scales (across the East-China Sea and even the Pacific). For this we need to scale up our lagragian methods by deploying Argo floats as well as many and more simulated floats to understand how planktonic larvae can be dispersed over such large distances.