Big Adventures on Big Islands

My new digs!

For those of you wondering where the heck I disappeared to, worry not! I’ve just hopped down to the Big island to start a new volunteer gig. 😉 That’s my house, right there ^. I’ve decided that slate glass windows really are fantastic. Anyway. For the next 2 months, I’ll be working with USGS on their endangered Laysan Teal project. I’m stationed in Volcanoes National Park, which is literally the coolest. On my morning runs and bike rides to work, I pass by smoldering volcanic craters, steam vents and cut through paths in the rain forest. The feeling I get when I go to work every day must be what actors felt like when they walked onto the set of Jurassic Park, or Lost. Everything is so green and it rains more than it’s sunny. It’s also cold. I now wear socks and sweats to bed. I can’t even remember the last time I wore socks!

Path to Work

So, what am I doing in the middle of a volcanic crater if there aren’t any ducks there? Well, that just so happens to be where USGS is based out of. Along with analyzing data that I helped collect while on Midway, I’ll get to reap the benefits associated with living in such close proximity to so much wild space. WOOP!

The work I’m doing, on the surface, doesn’t seem very exciting but it actually kind of is, if you’re into conservation biology and endangered species survival and all that jazz. I’m helping go through 2 years worth of data to determine how the population of ducks are doing on both Midway Atoll and Laysan Island: the only two places in the world where these ducks are found (crazy, huh?). We especially want to see how the population fared after the March 2011 tsunami that struck the islands. I think the coolest thing for me though, is that I’ve spent time with the ducks and now will have the opportunity to see what happens to all that data. It’s sort of like getting a behind-the-scenes glance at how the analysis side of research projects work. You can collect all the data you want, but eventually, it has to get processed so the people in charge of management strategies, or those with the ability to fund projects (read: the big wigs) will understand what it is that they’re throwing money and resources at.

I left Midway a week ago yesterday, spent a weekend in Honolulu and then started work on Monday so needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind of a week. I still haven’t fully processed my last couple of months on Midway (haven’t had much time to, really) so a post on final thoughts and whatnot is still in the pipeline. Rest assured, I enjoyed every single solitary second I was on Midway and have come out of that experience as someone with eyes wide open and a new perspective on the world. Midway’s rendered me a slightly different person but in a totally awesome way.

With the volunteer program having just recently been slashed 😦 I am even more grateful that I was able to spend so much time in such a beautiful place. Thanks, Pete for the fantastic, amazing opportunity! I know I’ll be back soon.


One thought on “Big Adventures on Big Islands

  1. Ryan, fabulous to hear from you! I WAS wondering if you dropped off the shores of Midway so i’m glad you have made it to another island! I really hope you will come to tell me all about this in Bulrington sometime…..meanwhile, I think the way your life and work are unfolding is just amazing, and perfect for you. Sometime they will have to start paying you for this work……..or maybe you do graduate school on some island??? Lots of luck to you, and stay in touch! Christine
    PS: Cappy and Velvet say hi, and are slightly more civilized these days.


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