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expeditions/September/October 2007/Tern Island
Lunch Aboard the Hi'ialakai
by Darla White
here to see where the Hi'ialakai is now.
here to see current data from the ship.
On Thursday, the Hi‘ialakai invited the
group of folks working out on Tern Island at French Frigate
Shoals to come aboard the ship for lunch. They
arrived by boat through some very choppy seas to dine with
CO Jon Swallow on the Chief Steward’s wonderful cuisine
and fresh produce…every plate included fruit, a luxury
item in this remote part of the globe. They were a
very cheerful bunch, full of enthusiasm for the research
they are doing there and excited for the opportunity to be
in such an endearing place. The team is led by US Fish
and Wildlife Service (FWS) island manager David Zabriskie
from St. Petersburg, Florida. The volunteer biologists
are Ed Conrad of Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt Barbour from
San Diego, California, Marie Medina of Austin, Texas, and
Matthew York from Waco, Texas.
In addition to wildlife
management, the island manager is responsible for keeping
the island running, which entails a great deal of maintenance
and organization. David,
a biologist and a former Navy man, came to Tern Island with
a host of skills necessary for living in such a remote location. Here
you cannot just pick up the phone and call someone if you
need something fixed. To live here, you have to be
able to manage and maintain the infrastructure, as well as
supplies for any sort of maintenance and research.
Research Assistants in this group are here for a four-month
term as volunteers through FWS. Most have
backgrounds in ornithology, but Maria had previously been
working on fire ant bio-control research and this is her
first time to study birds. I asked where they found
out about these positions, and they told me on line at the
Texas A&M job wildlife board, and ornjobs.com.
group is currently doing reproduction studies on the birds. Each
of them is assigned different species and nest plots to observe. When
the chicks are old enough, just before fledging, they will
be banded. Next they
will work with the albatross recapture and banding project.
They tell me the island is in its slow season, with a mere
60,000 birds from 16 different species in residence on the
island, 18 total on the atoll (two nest at La Perouse Pinnacle). At
other times, the sooty terns arrive to hatch and rear their
young in numbers estimated at 78,000 birds that nest on the
island. The albatross also return to nest here annually. This
island is strictly for the birds, turtles, and monk seals.
For an excellent description of Tern Island itself, see the
article from the NOWRAMP 2002 journals at: http://www.hawaiianatolls.org/research/NOWRAMP2002/journals/ffs1.php.
Photo (from left to right): Matthew York, Maria Madina, CO
Jon Swallow, David Zabriskie, Matt Barbour, Ed Conrad
here for maps of the region