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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting Ready to Go

Aloha kakou! 

The excitement mounts as Meg Duhr Schultz reports from Tern that ke ka'upu (the black-footed albatross) have laid almost 100 eggs so far, including at least one nest with two eggs!   The team currently on-island (Meg, Erin and Scott) are keeping very, very busy with albatross -- and with protecting their native out-plantings from these curious birds.  Meg also reports that the albatross appear very attracted to the areas the team has been revegetating -- which is great news.

Back in Honolulu, Team Tern II is beginning to gather in Honolulu for their deployment.  Abram Fleishman came from research in Baja California/Mexico. Dakshina Marlier flew in from her home island of Kaua'i, after some months of leading biking trips in southeast Alaska.  These two new-to-FWS volunteers arrived last week to participate in training, help buy and load supplies, and enjoy the last bit of civilization before heading out to Tern.

During this week, we've picked up almost $3,000 in dry foods, supplies for maintaining the buildings, tractors and boats (things like PVC, hand tools, carts, extra tires, ropes, sewage line, and boat tiller kits).  We've tested and packed equipment needed for biological monitoring (things like measuring tapes and calipers, a night-vision camera, rite-in-the-rain notebooks, and data loggers).  And we've had lots and lots of training:  an introduction to operations, training on banding safety, evacuation, medical safety, boating safety, team safety, lifting safety, cooking safety, mental health and safety, and of course, safety safety.  Our outreach expert Barbara Mayer joined us for an introduction to Biological Monitoring and the Common Species at French Frigate Shoals.

All this training, shopping, and packing can be tedious -- but it is extremely important for the crews to have a broad background and understanding of the purposes and methods before we get to the island.  Even before they arrive on-island, they should have a pretty good idea of what they will be doing, and able to identify all of the bird species.  We've even gone over the proper way to capture an albatross, albeit our practice albatross strongly resembles a pillow with a paper towel roll taped on the top. :-)  This training really provides the volunteers with enough background that they will know when they're missing information, and what questions to ask, once we hit the ground running with albatross monitoring once we arrive.

We've made a couple trips to the Northshore of O'ahu collecting naupaka cuttings for transplanting at Tern Island.  We're hoping this influx of new plants will result in a long-term increase in the number of shrubs at Tern, important for nesting habitat.
FWS Volunteer Dakshina Marlier (left) and staff Paula Hartzell (right) gather nau paka cuttings from the roadside on O'ahu. 
Photo by FWS Volunteer Abram Fleishman.
Abram's beautiful photography at work:  A naupaka blossom.  While Abram took these great shots, Dakshina enlightened us with a telling of the traditional Hawaiian story about naupaka.  Looks like we're really going to benefit from the talents of these two this winter!
The naupaka pruning gets serious... Tempers flare....
The crew, post cutting....  hmmmm.....All that shopping, packing, and pruning can be exhausting. :-)
We expect the rest of the crew -- Sarah Youngren, Dan Rapp, and Morgan Gilmour -- to show up this weekend, so we can finish preparing and take off to Kānemilohaʻi next week.  Yeah!!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lānaʻi High School Students "Sail" to Tern Island

Tern Island is probably about 600 miles away from Lānaʻi High School, which is close to the southeastern end of the Hawaiian Islands archipelago.  On Tuesday, October 18th the two locations seemed a little closer to each other.

On that day 21 high school juniors & seniors and their teacher made a "virtual field trip" to Tern Island, with Barb Mayer (USFWS volunteer) and Wes Byers (NOAA's Outreach Specialist for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument).

The virtual field trip to far-away Tern was made possible through a Powerpoint presentation, utilizing photos and this real-life video "The Searcher Departs from Honolulu":

After "setting sail" on the Searcher, the students imagined voyaging for 3 days to reach Tern Island where they were to start work as wildlife volunteers.  Therefore, at the conclusion of the Powerpoint, students were put to work in the classroom!  They were divided into small groups and rotated through several activities utilizing artifacts from Tern.

For example, here's an activity featuring actual marine animal eggs.  (They were infertile; they didn't hatch.  Therefore, it's possible for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to use them for education.  The eggs have been filled with plaster of paris, to strengthen them against accidental breakage.)

Most of the eggs are labeled with their birds' identifying, 4-letter code; two are not...or three, since you can't see the whole code for the egg on the right.  

Egg Challenge:  Of those three, which one belongs to the Laysan Albatross, Mōlī?  Which is the store-bought chicken egg?  ...and which one belongs to the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, Honu?  (Hint: reptile eggs don't have [much] calcium in them).  Honor system: don't peek until you're ready, but the answers are at the end of this post.

THAT can't be a Laysan Albatross, a Mōlī?!  Your're right; it's a stuffed toy.  Imagine how much bigger the REAL albatross parents are who laid this egg?

JMacaulay took this picture of a pair of adult Mōlī.

 Here's an activity about the Great Frigatebird's wingspan-->

Challenge: Place the Great Frigatebird (GRFR; ʻIwa) skeleton and both sets of wing bones in the proper places to represent a living bird's actual wingspan!

The students have put the GRFR skeleton in the middle of the 7' long fabric strip.  Now, can they correctly arrange the wing bones?

YES THEY CAN!  The answer sheet, which was hidden under a paper taped to the classroom's front board, confirmed their effort.  Wow, that ʻiwa has a chicken-size body and a hang-glider wingspan!
Back at the end of May "A Busy Time at Kānemilohaʻi" was posted.  Mark Sullivan's photo shows a particularly disturbing example of a Honu with marine debris, a porthole, around its neck:
Here's the porthole again.  Now it's being used to help students make the mind and heart connection to what marine debris actually does to life in the ocean. 

How does it feel to be caught in marine debris? Well, how does it feel to have this rubber band around your hand?!

The class period ended with everyone feeling a little closer to Tern Island Field Station and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  Barb and Wes look forward to "bringing the place to the people" in other classrooms around the state of Hawaiʻi!
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Egg Challenge Answers:
  • Laysan Albatross -- the BIG one on the right
  • Chicken -- in the top-right corner of the egg carton
  • Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle -- bottom-left in the carton

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