2022 Expedition
Recent exploration efforts have shown that the region also harbors high-density deep-sea coral and sponge communities.

Deep Sea Biodiversity & Ancient Volcanoes near Johnston Atoll

June 20 – July 13, 2022

Expedition Partners

Lead Scientist
Lead Scientist
Expedition Leader

Johnston Atoll, one of the most isolated atolls in the world, is located in the central Pacific Ocean, between the Hawaiian Islands, the Line Islands, and the nation of Kiribati. Around this atoll, the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) was expanded in 2014 to protect the full 200 nautical mile perimeter of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) encompassing many unexplored seafloor features. Utilizing data from the previous mapping expedition and the multiyear NOAA Campaign to Address Pacific monument Science Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE, 2015-2017), the team will target ROV dives to expand upon understanding of prime deep sea coral and sponge habitat.

The ROV dives will largely occur along ridge features that are common within the Johnston Atoll Unit of PRIMNM where high densities of corals are expected to reside. The primary objectives of this expedition include (1) conducting surveys of the density and diversity of benthic habitats of Johnston Atoll including deep-water corals, sponges, and fish habitats; (2) acquiring physical and chemical data in support of PRIMNM’s conservation and exploration goals, including dissolved oxygen and eDNA samples; and (3) collect rock samples to identify mineral crusts and age date the geological features of the region. 

Johnston Atoll is located in the Prime Crust Zone, an area of the Pacific with oceanographic conditions observed to concentrate deep-sea minerals, including economically valuable metals and rare earth elements. The questions of biological connectivity are particularly relevant around Johnston Atoll as the area contains rich biodiversity and is the closest deep water marine protected area to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and in the same region as the Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

This expedition is funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute.



Meet the Team

Gallery Highlights

Expedition Posts

Selected Publications


Pollerspöck, J., Cares, D., Ebert, D.A., Kelley, K.A., Pockalny, R., Robinson, R.S, Wagner, D., and Straube, N. (2023). First in situ documentation of a fossil tooth of the megatooth shark Otodus (Megaselachus) megalodon from the deep sea in the Pacific Ocean. Historical Biology https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08912963.2023…


Pockalny, R., S Auscavitch, K Konrad, M Everett, E Miller, B Scott, A Fundis, M Cook, E Heffron, L Gee, R Kane, D Wagner (2022). Mapping and Exploration of Deep Seamounts around Johnston Atoll: 2021 Expeditions aboard E/V Nautilus. Deep-Sea Life 19: 11-12.
Wagner, D. (2022). E/V Nautilus seafloor mapping: recent accomplishments and what is next. Map the Gaps Symposium