Boy, I'm really bad at doing 2 blog entries per week, and then the one I do is usually super long! I don't have time for that right now, but I'll try to start doing 2 short entries per week!
Lots has been happening lately. Last week, the PA'A educators' workshop (run by the Monument co-trustees) was here with 12 educators from all over the U.S. and 4 facilitators. They were able to do some amazing things - from observing biologists tagging a monk seal and actually banding albatross to helping us with our research! They had a strong Hawaiian cultural component, which was really interesting. We gave a short 20-30 minute presentation on our research projects one night and took them out snorkeling to Reef Hotel one day. They were supposed to help us with our research, but the water ended up being really cold that day, so very few people were willing to go back in the water. Oh, well! Kate and I really enjoyed interacting with all of them though! On their last night, just before going on the plane, Matt and Merissa hosted a reception for them at Midway House and they presented all of the island residents that worked with them with leis. This photo is of all of the women present at the reception - educators, researchers, and all (there were only 3 male educators, plus Greg, who took the photo with dozens of cameras!). For more info on the educators, check out their blog.
Earlier that day, on our way back into the atoll from diving, several dolphins rode our bow to the harbor. We haven't seen the spinner dolphins much this year, so I was quite excited and took lots of photos and even a video!
On Friday, several interesting people arrived on the G-1. Keoki Stender returned with his wife Yuko to run the dive program for a Conservation International group. Kate and I went on their dry run dive to a site called Angel Ledge - the most exciting part for us was definitely being in the center of a spawning aggregation of about a hundred large ulua (giant trevally), each about the size and weight of us! Unfortunately, we didn't have a camera and Keoki and Yuko had macro lenses to photograph the rare and endemic angelfish also at that site. We definitely have to return with a camera, although I doubt we'll ever see the spawning aggregation again!
Elizabeth Keenan and her partner Susy returned to continue their study on the effects of marine debris nets on corals. They have nearly 30 sites around the atoll where they have either removed or left a net and return to photograph the corals regularly. I went out with them Sunday to better understand what they're doing and to help them, which I really enjoyed. My expertise with the GPS came in handy for them! The photo at right is of Susy photographing a coral with their photo quadrapod. I was also very impressed to observe hundreds of black sea cucumbers (Holothuria atra) standing up to spawn! It was high tide near the new moon. I've seen them stand up before, but I don't think I've ever actually seen the spawn, so I took lots of photos!
Monday and Tuesday, the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai was docked at the Cargo Pier. Kate and I worked with Elizabeth, Susy, and others to pull a huge marine debris net onto our Gray Whaler (on camera for an MTV documentary on marine debris!). Then Kate and I worked with the Hi'ialakai to use their cranes to move the marine debris onto the Cargo Pier. We were wearing swimsuits, life jackets, and hard hats! They estimated that this net weighed 4000 lbs wet!
Finally, I'm spending two days entering the huge mounds of data we've accumulated, while Kate helps Keoki and Yuko train several island residents on open-water SCUBA diving. Unfortunately, winds have come up, so they've had to do all their dives at the Cargo Pier. The albatross are starting to move into the water and flap their wings around, both signs of fledging. This change also means more tiger sharks are around or will be soon, so we're trying to finish up all our work near the islands! The Conservation International group left last night, so everyone's looking forward to the island settling back into its normal routine. We're also looking forward to welcoming Coral Reefer Anne Warner, construction worker Matt Kelly, and several other long-time friends back to the island on Friday!