Marine Conservation Biology in Hawaii

Day Nine (Jan. 26) – It’s a Two Cookie Kind of Day
by -- January 26th, 2011

Hard work planting and shoveling in the morning, snorkeling in the afternoon. Today is definitely a two cookie kind of day!

We woke up this morning to the sounds of the thousands of albatross outside: clicks, chirps, squawks, beaks clacking.  Yup, we’re definitely still on Midway!  After a quick Clipper House breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast with strawberry yam (ok, its really “jam”, but we really enjoyed the typo) we met Greg Schubert at the Fish and Wildlife Office.  Greg is entrusted with the mighty task of controlling invasive plants on Midway.

Sometimes a language barrier results in some pretty good typos.

Sometimes a language barrier results in some pretty good typos.

Like many islands, Midway has its share of invasive plant species.  Verbesina and ironwood are two of Greg’s greatest nemeses.  Altering the natural environment by introducing certain species can have devastating affects on native species.  Verbesina is a lovely sunflower that thrives here.  It does so well and grows so fast that Albatross can actually get stuck in the stuff!  Greg has worked long and hard to remove and control the invasives on Midway, but as we’ve seen since we’ve been here, there is still much more to be done.

Greg Schubert shows us how to plant native bunch grass.

Greg Schubert shows us how to plant native bunch grass.

After a short introduction, Greg took us to turtle beach (named for the green turtles who often bask in the sun there) where we would spend part of the morning planting native plants (bunch grass, morning glory, and some sedges) around man-made dunes.  Greg showed us his technique, perfected after years of trial and error.  With 15 people working together, we were hopefully able to make a bit of a difference in the landscape.

Albatross tend to get stuck in large holes in the ground, so, we filled them in.

Albatross tend to get stuck in large holes in the ground, so, we filled them in.

After planting, we grabbed shovels and biked (with our shovels) to the south side of the island to fill in holes left by last week’s storm.  This is an important task because albatross, although quite graceful in the air, are incredibly clumsy on land and can fall into these holes.  Once they’ve fallen, they’re not able to get out since they can’t get the running start needed to take off.  As we were walking around filling in the holes, I was again struck by the amount of debris scattered between albatross nests.

On the ride back to lunch, the wind was in our faces.  I had to duck a couple of times to avoid collisions with flying albatross.  But all of that was worth it when we arrived at the Clipper House to find that Tuesday is sandwich day!  Not only were there sandwiches, but there was also lobster bisque, and for dessert, sweet rice.  Some chose to top the rice with mango puree, others went the chocolate syrup route.  Some skipped the rice and chose the familiar favorite, cookies.  Some people felt that we worked so hard this morning, that we deserved two cookies for all we had done.

As we were filling in holes to help the Albatross, we came upon piles and piles of marine debris. This is a sad sight that we've been seeing a lot of here on Midway.

As we were filling in holes to help the Albatross, we came upon piles and piles of marine debris. This is a sad sight that we've been seeing a lot of here on Midway.

With full bellies, we picked up PFDs and wet suits to board the boat for snorkeling and a Spinner Dolphin search.  The high today was a mild 67, partly cloudy, and windy, so its understandable that a few members of our group chose to skip snorkeling to stay on the dry and warm(ish) boat.  However some of us could not resist the clear aqua water, (the most beautiful shade of aqua you could possibly imagine) so, clothed in wetsuits and snorkel gear, we hopped in.

The reef was a stunning combination of bright purples and greens.  The pictures shown here simply do not do it justice.  We saw many species of butterfly fish and parrot fish, as well as yellow tangs, moorish idols, and even an eel.  Although some students were disappointed, I am happy to report that we did not see a single shark.

Here are just some of the many reef fish we saw while snorkeling

Here are just some of the many reef fish we saw while snorkeling

Once the snorkelers dried off, we began our search for spinner dolphins.  The boat ride was lots of fun (I sat in the front, holding on tight as we jumped over waves) but there were no spinners in sights.  Once we docked, the clouds had rolled in and we were all thinking rain was on the way, so we quickly biked back to Charlie Barracks.

As I’m writing this, the rain still has not come, but we hear it’s in the forecast.  This may be the end of our sunny days on Midway, but we’re always looking forward to the adventures tomorrow may bring.

1 Comment

  1. Stephany Crane
    Jan 28, 2011

    Enjoying your blog so much – feels like I’m tagging seals, planting bunch grass, and snorkling right along with you! Thanks for the local color – strawberry yam, puka dogs, and riding bikes with shovels – and for a look at the beautiful as well as the disturbing. Seeing the photos of the plastics washed up there at the ends of the earth is a stark reminder that there is no “away.” – Katie’s mom.

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