Marine Conservation Biology in Hawaii

Day Nine (Jan. 26) The Challenges of Being an Environmental Manager
by -- January 27th, 2011

An easy day of potting native plants, watching historical videos, and discussing management strategies.

Leela and Anthony preparing Bunch grass.

Leela and Anthony preparing Bunch grass.

The forecasted rain quickly came and drenched us all as we reported for invasive species duty – 0700. In rainy weather the seeds of invasiveVerbesina stick to muddy shoes, thereby spreading to other parts of the island. Thoroughly soaked, we agree to instead work in the greenhouse potting new Bunch grass plants for future habitat restoration. As Greg Schubert, a biological technician for the Fish and Wildlife Service, prepared our potting task, we took a historical pause to watch two videos – one filmed on Laysan Island in 1923 and the other during the Battle of Midway.

These videos easily communicate the experiences of life on these remote islands. The 1923 silent film is comical and fun as grungy sailors play with birds and sea turtles. The Battle of Midway Film from 1942 is very graphic with unrehearsed shots of flying Japanese Zeros and shelling of the island; damage which is still visible today in the scars of the historic buildings. Images of war are always hard to swallow, but it is important as we all enjoy this refuge that we keep in mind the great sacrifices many gave to protect America.

After the videos we began working in the greenhouse. Our help in potting and planting Bunch grass is an important to contributing to the goal of restoring natural biological communities in Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Bunch grass is important nesting habitat, providing protection for Albatross and Laysan Ducks. Healthy patches of Bunch grass complement invasive species removal by discouraging non-native plants from recolonizing these areas. Our efforts join the many volunteer efforts of others who have come to experience and improve this special place.

Heather with the final product.

Heather with the final product.

After another great Thai/American lunch we met with John Klavitter, the acting refuge manager, to learn about the Fish & Wildlife Service’s role in managing the island and what they are doing to reach their conservation goals. After three semesters of class work, it was interesting to hear about management issues firsthand. We have the unique opportunity to be immersed in conservation with biologists in the field.

We finished the day with a class discussion on the ranking of the many management priorities we have experienced in the past few days. If we were the managers of the Refuge, what would be our top three tasks to complete? The group unanimously agreed that control of Verbesina (the invasive weed) must continue. The management of the endangered (and most loved) Laysan Ducks and beach cleanups came out as the second and third priorities. Our differing opinions in choosing top priorities are a foreshadowing of the challenges we will face in working with multiple stakeholders. As future managers of the environment we will all face the challenges we have been exposed to here on Midway. Here’s to the current scientists and managers that light our path.

2 Comments

  1. Kristin Junkin
    Jan 27, 2011

    Nice job, Anthony! And great photos… Does Midway have SAV issues too or are the bunch grasses all on land.

    • Anthony Gubler
      Jan 29, 2011

      Hi Kristin. There are no SAV problems within the Midway Atoll. However, another problem is that the large amounts of iron in the lagoon from old wrecks and debris feeds the growth of blue-green algae on some parts of the reef. The Chesapeake Bay beats Midway in the poor water quality category.

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