Interviewers and posted by: Scott Kikiloi and Ann Bell
off the MTV, and lets take a look at the "real world."
Six people picked to live on an atoll, each making important
contributions to protecting and managing our wildlife and
ecosystems in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
location - Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals is located
500 miles from Honolulu. This island is one of nine low
sandy islets that make up French Frigate Shoals and is the
home of the only U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service year-round
remote field station in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife
a LORAN Coast Guard Station, Tern Island Field Station has
a very comfortable living situation, utilizing the natural
rain to supply water to showers, toilet, and laundry. Each
person has their own room in the barracks, and the kitchen
has all the appliances needed to cook and refrigerate food,
and the living quarters have a T.V. and VCR in a combination
recreational, dining and social room. It has the all the
qualities of comfort and home. "I have made amazing
When you live in such close quarters
with people, you create very special bonds. Everyone here
becomes your family," comments, Jen Palmer, one of
the National Marine Fisheries Service employees.
Shawn, Suzanne, Chris, Matt, and Cari are the real life
models who are tasked with protecting this fragile ecosystem.
Their workdays are long and hard, as they are busy monitoring
sea bird populations, saving lost baby turtles, and protecting
the critically endangered monk seals. The rewards of working
outdoors with these special animals are apparent.
the cast and characters that exemplify passion and commitment
to 'malama' (to care for) our wildlife in Hawaii:
38 years old
Gained her knowledge and skills through job experience
was your most memorable moment?
able to be present soon after the birth of monk seal twins
on East Island this past June. I sat in awe and fascination.
We observed them off and on during our visits to the island.
We occasionally intervened to help one of the twins find
are you studying monk seals?
"By the time I graduated from High School I had fallen
in love with Dolphins. So I got a job working at Sea World
and while working in the gift shop I would peer out the
window to watch the Dolphins. I realized then I did not
want to work with mammals in captivity, it didn't feel right.
I then became a river guide for a non-profit rafting organization
that brought together Russian and American teenagers in
team building exercises. I then headed to Maui where my
mother was living and that is where I met Hannah Bernard.
Ever since then I have been working on behalf of marine
mammals and hawksbill sea turtles in the wild."
27 years old
Degree in Biology
me about the sea wall project?
suppose to start in March or April and we are going to start
replacing the walls, there are still a lot of plans in the
making, a lot of construction is going to happen. We are
going to have about 20 construction workers in the island
for two years so everything is going to change quite a bit.
The goal is to rebuild the island, because right now it
is washing away."
the sea walls are meant to stop the erosion?
"Yeah. Stop the erosion. Tern Island has turned out
to be such a valuable spot. That is why they (the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service) are deciding not to let it wash away,.
. .there are now so many critters out here (depending upon
this place for food and nesting habitat) that have lost
habitat elsewhere. That is why we are going to rebuild.
The ultimate goal is to get the island all fixed up, cleaned
up, and then re-vegetate it, remove all the invasive species,
and put back the natives."
28 years old
Degree in Biology
is your most memorable moment here?
I would have to say a combination of watching all the animals
grow and change throughout the season. Whether it's the
birds, the turtles, or the seals, seeing them from an egg,
and then watching them fledge or hatch and watching them
crawl out into the ocean. Also seeing the monk seals being
born, and eventually watching them get larger and larger,
until their mom leaves, and then they are on their own.
Hopefully next year they will continue to grow."
36 years old
Masters degree in Wildlife Biology
kind of things do you do around here?
"Our main responsibility is to evaluate the French
Frigate Shoals monk seek population. Most of the population
is tagged, so we retag to see who is still alive. It's basically
population dynamics with the seals. We tag all the marine
pups, and then try and do different projects to increase
survivability of pups. This year we did a lot of work with
critter cams, putting cameras on seals. (Placing cameras
on seals allows one to see what seals eat and where they
go to find their food. See for yourself the underwater world
from a monk seal perspective. Check out the National Marine
Fisheries Service Critter Cam website at www.
is your most memorable moment here?
"It's hard to narrow it down. If you took one day and
stuck it into your regular life, every day would be the
most interesting day you had, but out here its blurred because
you have like twenty memorable moments a day. You just move
on to the next one."
23 years old
Degree in Biology and minor in Environmental Studies
do you do here?
work with the bird colonies, such as counting eggs and chicks,
determining reproductive success, banding, and maintenance
of the facility."
your favorite animal here?
"I like the masked boobies, because they are in my
plots. You get to know them a little bit better when you
go through the colonies every other day. They become good
your most memorable moment?
"My most memorable moment was landing on Tern Island,
coming from the dark blue ocean to the atoll, where the
blues were just unreal. . .then landing. . .didn't know
really what to expect and there were birds everywhere just
engulfing the plane. It was just awesome."
Volunteer 22 years old
Degree in Biology
kind of stuff do you do around here?
"We do all the sea bird monitoring so we are checking
for nests, eggs, and chicks. Also, we are banding the chicks
and trying to keep track of the breeding populations of
the birds on the island."
long do you guys work?
"About 8 hours a day, six days a week.
you were a kid what were you interested in?
"Well my mom is a high school biology teacher and she
always pushed me in that direction, and kind of sparked
my interest in biology."
your most memorable moment here?
"I don't know, it's hard to pick one. The overall experience
is just really impressive. To be able to look our your window
and see a monk seal and a sea turtle.. . . . Also seeing
the green flash at sunset a few days ago made me a believer."
Talk About It!
Asked by Maureen from late of Project RAFT on Aug 31, 2003.
Could you please have Suzanne Canja contact me via email if possible. I want to say hi and see how she's doing and I have a couple of questions I need to ask her. She HAS to remember me from the Katun and the Colorado because I was the best and funniest person in the group. Thank you very much.
Answered by Andy from NOAA on Oct 14, 2003.