Over the course of nearly 15 years I have collected and curated nearly 7000 gorgonian specimens and their associated taxa, which are stored at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Approximately 75% of these specimens have been subsampled for molecular, morphological, and histological analyses and stored appropriately. The majority of this material has been collected from the shallow and mesophotic reefs of the Indo-Pacific. Each specimen has digital imagery, location, and environmental metadata associated with it. This unique and comprehensive collection may make it the largest of its kind across this depth range for the region.
Figure 1: In-house collections at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Laboratory and office images demonstrating some of the storage locations for the excessive quantities of gorgonian corals. Images by SJ. Rowley.
In 2007, prior to completing my undergraduate studies, I began researching the gorgonian corals on the shallow reefs of the Wakatobi Marine National Park, SE Sulawesi, Indonesia. Overwhelmed by the sheer diversity and abundance of species it became necessary to source original material to determine what all these animals were. However, the majority of taxonomic literature and material was from expeditions as early as the 1700's (e.g., Rumphius 1741) with very little research conducted in recent years.
The search and collection persists with an ever-increasing bathymetric and geographic range size. Below is a list of collections that I have been fortunate enough to visit, and whose material has been generously gifted or loaned in the pursuit of knowledge of these enigmatic, yet poorly studied corals.
2018 – Queensland Museum Network, Australia (QLM). Visiting Scientist
2014 & 2015 California Academy of Sciences (CAS), USA. Visiting Scientist.
2014 – National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), New Zealand. Young Taxonomist Fund.
2012 – Present: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (BPBM), USA. Research Affiliate.
2012 & 2018 National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), USA. Short Term Visitor Fellowship.
2012 – Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity (NCB) Naturalis, Netherlands. Martin Fellowship.
2012 – American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), USA. Learner Grey Grant.
2011 – National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), New Zealand.
2011 – Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Sinagpore (NUS). Visiting Scientist
2011 – Indonesian Institute for Sciences (LIPI), Indonesia. Visiting Scientist.
2009 – 2017: British Natural History Museum (BNHM), UK. Visiting Scientist.