Friday, March 6, 2015

1A week ago we had the amazing opportunity to board the rickety camion “No Probleme” once again and head twelve hours south to stay in various villages in the Faux Cap region for five nights. The purpose of the trip was academically to allow us to produce resource flow and village maps as well as market diagrams and village transects, but also allowed us to explore living in a very remote Antandroy village and attempt to view their culture as much as our disrupting presence allowed us.
      The taxi-brousse was once again filled with SIT and CEL students (serving as our linguistic and cultural translators) and we tried to while away the 12 hours on (once again) horrendous Malagasy roads. We climbed the mountains which encircle Fort Dauphin and which cup the moist warm ocean air and descended into the rain shadow into the semi-arid zone full of the unique and endemic spiny forest. Nowhere else in Madagascar can you transition from low elevation rainforest to quasi-desert conditions so quickly. We passed the expansive Sisal plantation in Ambosary and enjoyed the hot but dry air, a nice improvement from the bugginess of Fort Dauphin. As we drew nearer Faux Cap in the extreme south of Madagascar, the land flattened and became sunbaked  before transitioning to completely sandy soil, relics of old sand dunes. Exhausted, we set up our tents on the beach of the Hotel Cactus and prepared to meet our village families the next day.
    There were four of us in the village of Maromena (I believe means red soil despite the sand being white to yellow); Amanda and me as the two SIT students and two CEL students Ernest and Anicet. The village was one of the biggest villages in the immediate radius of the Commune of Faux Cap, some 4 kilometers away from the Hotel Cactus with over 50 houses and 100 children as well as a school and a catholic church. Our experience was therefore slightly different from other groups who lived in villages with 20 or less houses and so were quite a bit “chiller” than ours. Once arrived, it immediately became apparent just how distant our cultures were. If we had though the stares and attention we had gotten in Fort Dauphin had been bad, then the attention we were receiving in Maromena was nothing short of KGB agents. At any given time a dozen pairs of eyes would be fixed on every move the vazahas made and every activity, from setting up tents to sitting on reed mats to gulping down lentils and rice was discussed with intensity as to the various capabilities of vazahas. Any ability to prove to the villagers that we were competent human beings quickly disintegrated and for the rest of the village I felt only like a helpless child, taking up space and food as I struggled to grasp the social functioning of the Antandroy people.
     We managed to finish our work within two days, and so the rest of the village stay was devoted to playing cards, visiting other villages, walking through the fields, and being stared at. The people in Faux Cap primarily grow Manioc and corn, supplemented with chicken, goats, and the revered Zebu. Rice is imported from Tana, and appears to actually be from Pakistan. Growing anything in this climate and soil is near impossible, and I had to marvel at the persistence and knowledge of the villagers as to their resilience. About 300-400 years ago cactus (closely related to prickly pear) was introduced from Central America by the French and this stubborn plant soon took over the arid south of the island, pushing out many native plants. The cactus are both a scourge and a blessing, as they grow almost everywhere and choke out crops, restrict free travel through the countryside, and overall are just a nuisance. However, the Antandroy weren’t conquered until 125 years ago for just their toughness – the cacti make fantastic defensive walls, and in times of famine the fruit can be eaten when nothing else is growing (the only payment being severe constipation). I ate several during my time in Maromena, and they tasted slightly like watermelon, but less sweet with more seeds.
    Work and life is difficult in the Faux Cap region, but any suffering the Antandroy might feel is masked and tempered by their love for dance. While they do not dance every day, our extremely disruptive presence prompted dance festivities every day for over an hour, much to Amanda and my dismay. Music is produced by a chorus of young girls either unaccompanied or with drums and an assortment of homemade guitars and mandolins. In my time in the village I am certain I heard only four or so songs which were sung with great gusto multiple times in a single dance session (including the rousing number “welcome vazahas, welcome vazahas, welcome Drew, welcome Amanda, welcome vazahas…).  Dances are heavily regulated by a dance master who blasts ear-splittingly on a tin whistle about six inches from your eardrum and grabs your hand should you (god forbid) slightly get out of step. The zebu dance, mimicking the movement of the zebu, is a favorite and seems to be the most physically exhausting dance one could possibly do. Others include an uncomfortable sexualized dance in which women were sometimes unwillingly dragged into the dance which really highlighted the extent to which women are treated as objects and property in this culture (not that our culture is free from that either). We managed to avoid taking part in this dance thankfully. Much of the village stay was a battle between being open and doing things to be polite and explore another culture as well as trying to reconcile what personal boundaries we had as westerners coming into a completely new society.  We also felt to a certain extent that we were causing the “quantum-observer” affect, in that our presence in the village disrupted nearly every activity. Though we gained an incredible insight into a culture few others have had the opportunity to see, we would never be able to fully see or understand the village. For instance, when we were taken into the fields, it was more to show the vazahas manioc and corn (which I have seen before many times) and less to show their techniques which would have been interesting. A few young men, one in particular, stopped going out to work in the field and chose instead to sit in the dirt around the reed mat on which we as guests sat and watched us play cards for a few hours. I was informed by our academic director Barry (who has been living in-country for 17 years and has a Malagasy wife and kids) that dancing is performed only on special occasions like marriages or burial ceremonies, but when we were there dancing was performed for two hours a day, something I felt to be highly disruptive for their own everyday struggle to survive.
Overall, the trip highlighted to me even more how little I know or could do in Madagascar as a westerner. Not only was I more useless and disruptive to village life than many five year olds, but I realized how little I comprehended or would ever comprehend of Malagasy life or complexities tied to land use. It feels like neo-colonialism and arrogance now to even think I as a westerner can come into Madagascar and advise on conservation and land use when many people are scratching an existence out of sand and telling them not to do slash-and-burn means death. The misguidance of western interventions and development are extremely apparent in the Faux Cap region, where the main commune town is littered with several abandoned school buildings (one of which has a recent SIT mural painted on the inside) and a wind-turbine spins lazily, producing no power to the cold-house which has never seen any fish or any temperature below 60 Fahrenheit. The story behind the wind turbine/cold house was that the EU built the cold house to store fish and a private donor constructed the turbine to power the commune and the cold house. The turbine was built for free ostensibly without community input and after a few months the donor began demanding payments for electricity. Electricity is not a vital commodity in southern Madagascar, people have lived here for a thousand years without it, and they’re not about to go about paying for it now. So the donor dismantled the generator portion of the turbine before the cold house was even finished. The school building are a relic of NGOs seeking tangible feel-good projects which are visually available for our materialistic culture, while in reality there is a painful need for qualified paid teachers (ratios in the bush range 200 and up children per teacher for a single one room school house). All you really need to teach is some shade, a chalkboard, and a teacher – schools are nice thoughts, but why build one if you don’t have a teacher to fill them? Teachers cost more and take more time to train than it takes to build a school, and so schools are nice visual things to put on glossy brochures while spending the minimal amount of money.
Overall, by the time the fifth day rolled around and we had walked the four km back to the hotel cactus and finished our farewell dance marathon with our villages, I was so glad to see other vazahas and a modicum of privacy. It wasn’t a bad experience; in fact it was one of the most eye-opening experiences yet in Madagascar. But to throw away almost completely my own culture for a week (the villagers had almost no interest in where I came from or my own practices) was exhausting and uncomfortable many times. It was a relief after the 12 hours taxi-brousse ride back to Fort Dauphin to be in a town with a modicum of western comforts.

For the past week and the next one I have/will be in Fort Dauphin as we finish a last flurry of work before heading off on two weeks of camping starting in Tulear and working our way north east to Fianarantsoa and finally Tana as part of our exploration of Malagasy protected areas. From Tana we begin preparing for our independent projects which will take everyone to various parts of Madagascar. So we are all trying to enjoy our quasi-structured lives in Fort Dauphin before we are packed up in another unbearable taxi brousse. During this period internet will be super sketchy, but I will do my best to update when possible. There is still so much about Madagascar I wish I had the time write about, but I feel that it is almost impossible to express what is really going on here, the contrasting pessimism and breathtaking optimism in this country. If my blogs sound like a lot of suffering and complaining, this is only because I want to highlight important events that have happened here that have impacted my and other SIT students’ thinking. We are all having an amazing time here, learning so much and yes having lots of fun between sickness and culture clashes (how can you not with a beach by your classroom and with 80 cent beer?) But now it’s time to go back to reading papers. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

If it’s been a while since I’ve last updated, it’s been because there is little time left in the day after class, homework, and living in Malagasy culture to sit down and reflect over what has happened in the past two weeks living in Fort Dauphin. As I mentioned in my past entry, I am staying with a host family in the outskirts of Fort Dauphin, a forty-five minute walk to school every day. Homestays are exhausting but enlightening as well; I can’t imagine being able to adjust to Malagasy culture without my host family. I actually don’t spend that much time at home, since I leave my house at 7 for the walk to school and usually return around 6 or 7 at night after some post-school swims at the beach or hanging out at one of the two hotels in town that have wifi (provided you buy a beer or a pastry). My father works as Secretary General for the Anosy region while my mother stays home with their 1 year old Abigail, and I usually get home an hour or so before dinner. Malagasy cuisine to be honest has been a difficult transition point for the group, especially those of us who are vegetarian. Rice (vary) is the staple food which is served at every meal three times a day. Before I came to Madagascar I knew I would eat a lot of rice, but not as much as this, and I was also expecting some wonderfully seasoned rice dishes that would put the Uncle Ben’s dirty rice minute rice packets to shame. Unfortunately, the rice here is served plain in a dry form or a wet porridge-like dish (vary sosoa), and is quite bland. Meat is served at every meal, and has also proven to be an adjustment challenge. Zebu, the ubiquitous cattle, is eaten the most, followed by tough and skinny chickens. To my dismay much of the zebu meat is not in the form of familiar steaks and other beef cuts (which are considered the least valuable part of the zebu), but usually in the form of the various internal organs. So far I’ve had the dubious opportunities to sample tongue, kidney (very common), and intestine. Zebu intestine is one of the vilest things I’ve had the misfortune to taste, with the chief horror resting in its pale, slimy, quivering appearance and texture. Rice water (ranampango (spelling?)) is served quite often as a drink, and as one of the girls in our program stated, tastes the way old people smell. Vegetables are close to non-existent, and I would kill for green beans or leafy greens. Fruit, however, is plentiful and delicious, and even if the food has been difficult to work through at least everything is extremely fresh (I can see the abattoir from my house and I pass through the market every day where everything is fresh as of that day).
     Classes on my program are all day affairs, quite a difference from my loosely scheduled college classes, with Malagasy, French, and conservation science classes all day. However, we are given the opportunity to do some fascinating excursions during our time here. We visited a conservation zone around the QMM/Rio Tinto ilmenite mine. The mine is around ten years old and has been a major focus for the first part of our program. While Rio Tinto has some appalling mining projects elsewhere in the world, they have chosen to use the QMM mine as a poster child for net-positive impact mining. They have made extensive efforts to recompense displaced persons, provide alternate income sources for those whose land has been impacted, conserved existing forest fragments around the mine while planning to restore 10% of native forest after the mining machine sweeps through a region, and finally planting fast growing exotic plants to provide an alternate source of charcoal and building supplies. However, many people have felt that QMM Rio Tinto has taken advantage of them, and that the mine is greenwashing their image with quick and cheap projects that have little impact. Furthermore, the mine has completely crashed the tourism business in Fort Dauphin, and there is a dichotomy in town between the workers who live in a gated community and the rest of the populace living in the labyrinthine town.
     It was while visiting the mine that I began to feel quite ill. I had taken anti-diarrheal medication to take care of some annoying traveler’s diarrhea, but with the unfortunate effect of preventing my system from flushing out whatever bug I had and making me extremely dehydrated and verging on heat stroke. As the naturalist Gerald Durrell noted when he visited Madagascar, I would have gladly pawned off all of my internal organs to the first person who asked. I was rushed by the ever-indispensable program coordinator Mamy (which means “sweet” in Malagasy) to the clinic where my body was pumped with IV glucose, saline, Cipro, and several other mysterious bags which felt wonderful. I felt better within two hours and went home vowing to never ever take anti-diarrheals again. The only other guy on the program, Jake, also fell really ill with dehydration and heat stroke recently on our camping trip to Sainte-Luce, a protected area of littoral tropical forest where we were doing vegetation surveys. It’s amazing how much water you lose here by sweating. The difference with his case is that we were a good four hour taxi-brousse (bush taxi) ride along appalling roads to Fort Dauphin, and had to be driven home once again by Mamy.
    Travelling by road in Madagascar is an adventure all in itself. The National Highway leading north from Fort Dauphin is little more than a rutted, potholed dirt track through villages and heavily degraded savannah where drivers rarely speed above 25mph an hour. Therefore short distances of 30km take hours to complete, and is, as Barry our professor stated, a bone-jarring full body massage. When we went to the fishing village Evotra to interview fishermen, we took a fleet of SUVs, but when we went to Sainte-Luce we took a wonderful taxi-brousse painted red, gold, and green and was emblazoned with the name “No Problem” across the front. No Problem was basically a small tractor-trailer (camion in French) with a few benches screwed into the back deck with our bags strewn over the rest of the truck bed and foam mats placed on top for lounging. This mode of transportation, while still jarring and tiresome, was still a great experience, as we were joined by our Malagasy counterparts from the Libanona Ecology Center (CEL) for this trip and so we were all sprawled out on the mats and watched the rugged Malagasy countryside bump on by through the open sides. While it rained torrentially during most our stay in Sainte-Luce, making the tent camping uncomfortable, it was great to get out into such a unique system that is the littoral forest. I saw my first troupe of lemurs (Red-ruffed brown lemurs if I remember correctly), chameleons, and a lot of interesting other critters.

There is so much else that I could write about which I just don’t have the time or energy to do, including going to a football (soccer) party and a zebu slaughter. We are leaving soon for a week-long village homestay in the Faux-Cap region in the extreme south. This region is in the rain shadow of the Anosy mountains, and is quite dry. There is currently a drought and impending famine in this general area (we are assured we will be fed), and so it will be interesting to see this compared to the wet climate and abundant food of Fort Dauphin. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Internet service in Madagascar is difficult to find, and when one does find it, impossibly slow. So this entry is the accumulation over several days in Madagascar and is a result of a jet-legged, sunburned, but excited mind. Hopefully I will be able to upload photos, but in the off chance I can’t I hope the descriptions paint a picture of Madagascar as I have seen it so far. I hope to write about food, culture, and wildlife in the future, but for now I want to recount the hectic past week.
“Tsy misy finoran….” I stuttered , frantically searching for the impossible string of “ana”s that will lead me to the phrase “you’re welcome.” The two Malagasy guys my age start grinning as I proceed to butcher the key word and start laughing hysterically. Learning Malagasy has turned out to be an extremely organic and slow process, mostly through talking to the people who invariably appear out of nowhere to see the circus of American vazahas (white people) rolling into the town of Menatentely, just south of Fort Dauphin. It is impossible to travel through Madagascar as a vazaha and not be stared at or engaged in conversation. And here I am at the river by the village washing my clothes from my 19 hour flight in the river surrounded on all sides rice terraces and manioc fields, with huge stone massifs blanketed in rainforest and brush in the encircling the small village, with several Malagasy watching my every move. It’s not rude, just a part of their culture to which we are all still adjusting. In the end I managed to stutter out “Tsy misy fisaorana.” Misaotra. Thank you. Tsy misy fisaorana. You’re welcome.
Flying to Madagascar was difficult enough in of itself, with a layover in Paris followed by the 11 hour flight to Antananarivo, the capital located in the central highlands. The three other SIT students and I landed at 2am Tana (short name for the capital) time, which was god knows EST time, and were whisked away to our hotel to meet the 9 other students. In the morning we awoke to find our rooms overlooking the sprawl of Tana from our vantage point in middle town. Tana is composed of the upper town, on the top of a Y shaped hill, the middle town, on the flanks, and the lower town spreading out for miles in all directions. While I have been in developing countries, they have mostly been throughout the Caribbean and subsidized by large tourist resorts. Here, one finds true sprawling poverty. On our taxi ride back to the Tana airport in preparation for our flight to Fort Dauphin, the route took us through the chaos of the lower town. Small shacks serve as houses and stores, in front of which the throng of Malagasy humanity pours out in a colorful river. The people ranged from strutting well-dressed young men to small barefoot children picking through trash heaps. But the most striking thing about Madagascar are the smiles. Everyone is smiling. Everyone is happy. Life is tsara be, very good.
Fort Dauphin is hotter than Tana, N’aina the language instructor informs us as we all stand sweltering in the Fort Dauphin airport waiting for our luggage. But the ocean breeze makes everything a little better. We bump along in the ubiquitous taxi brousse, the bush transport, to Menatentely, where we will stay for a few days to regroup and explore the countryside surrounding Fort Dauphin. The mountain chain that runs the length of Madagascar comes to its southern terminus right here in Fort Dauphin, covered with the remnants of virgin rainforest and looming over the azure waters of the town. Here inland in Mantentely we hiked up a valley with a forester to see the protected area surrounding the peaks. We hiked through miles of forest mosaicked with terraced rice fields and manioc fields. Our long train of vazahas attracted the surrounding populace, everyone from three year old toddlers to older farmers eager to practice their English on the group of Americans. So as we hiked up the valley, burning in the brutal southern hemisphere sun and gulping down liters of water, a farmer named Noel strode comfortably next to me and tried out his English on me. He has been taking English lessons at a school in Fort Dauphin, and hopes to get a better job after learning English. Farming for the Malagasy living in the country has become more and more difficult in a hard economy.
We finally arrived officially in Fort Dauphin to find a calmer, more laidback city on a peninsula jutting out into the Indian Ocean with crystalline beaches flanking on all sides. The 13 of us walked on our first day from our hotel to the Centre d’Ecologie a Libanona, where our classes will be conducted. We met the other members of the SIT staff, including Mamy, Sosony, Madame Martine, Jim the lanky Montanan program director, Barry the Irish ISP (Independent project) coordinator, and of course N’aina. In the afternoon after class we went to the beach just below the center and drank our inaugural Three Horses Beer (THB), the national brew of Madagascar which comes in satisfying 50cl bottles.

Currently, I have just moved into my homestay family’s house. The father, M. Ravelonandro, is the secretary general of the Anosy province (no. 2), and the mother Mme. Soanomenjanahary is currently staying home with their year-old daughter Abigail. So for Malgasy standards they are quite well off, and have just moved into a beautiful house on the outskirts of town near the foot of the mountain, which unfortunately means a long walk to and from class but a quiet neighborhood and beautiful views. Despite speaking what I believe to be advanced French, the language and culture barrier is there and real. However, I hope within time my Malagasy will improve beyond the few pathetic phrases I have managed to commit to memory and that I can assimilate into their culture. Until next time I find wifi, Veloma!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Drew goes to Madagascar: Part 1: Packing

I would like to think of myself as someone who doesn't need a lot when travelling. I imagine myself as being capable of packing a change of clothes and a camera into a backpack and being able to whisk myself away. So it is with mild alarm that I began packing my two backpacks for my semester abroad to Madagascar and discovered that I, on one hand had, entirely way too much stuff to fit into my bags, and on the other how little I was actually taking.
Behold the chaos: my sister's room becomes a staging area. Everything will fit into those two packs.

I will be in Madagascar for three and a half months, during which my housing will supposedly range everywhere from homestays glamorously equipped with mattresses and mosquito nets to primitive camping in the bush. So in addition to having to weigh whether I want to bring an extra pair of pants or seven pairs of underwear (I eventually downgraded to five), I am trying to wedge a two person tent, water filters, a sleeping bag, a med kit stocked enough to last me it seems several successive waves of the bubonic plague (which funnily enough is actually a problem right now in Madagascar), and other various accoutrements I've thrown together on the off chance I might need them. Do I need a camp pillow? Probably not, I decided. Do I need my large DSLR camera with three separate lenses? Probably yes. Stepping on the scale with the two packs revealed around 70 pounds of gear I'd be hauling around, and I anticipate more problems trying to run to my gate in De Gaulle than having to carry everything I own around with me.

As I've revealed to people this past semester where I in fact will be studying abroad, they have responded in three ways. One response entails the person reverently shouting LEMURS as their eyes grow wide and glaze over at the thought of the critters they saw on Planet Earth. That ends the conversation relatively quickly. In the second response, they make a crack at the movie "Madagascar," a movie which I have seen only because I was Best Buy with my dad in 2006 buying a TV and I ended up watching the entire movie on the hundred flickering screens while he discussed the finer points of financing and the like for an eternity with the salesman. That's the one response I haven't figured out what to say about. With the last response, someone informs me with a worried expression that they read on the top right news blurb on facebook that there's bubonic plague in Madagascar. Or that won't I get Ebola??  Fortunately, I have been assured that the plague isn't in an outbreak currently. but that it comes around every year like the flu, and it only made the news this year because some personality from the capital died. Also, Ebola being in West Africa currently, is several thousand miles away from Madagascar. In addition, as my friend Alex told me, in the computer game Pandemic where you are a virus trying to take over the world, Madagascar always immediately quarantines itself and being an island nation, is almost impossible to infect and win. Oh well.

Jokes aside, I will be spending my semester in Madagascar studying biodiversity and natural resource management in one of the most biologically unique places in the world. Madagascar has become an isolated island paradise where radiation of a few key organisms (such as lemurs, chameleons, and orchids) has exploded into many specialized species. Around 90% of all organisms on Madagascar are endemic, which means they are found no where else in the world. This is (or at least was) a proverbial paradise with rainforests, savannah, temperate forests, and desert all on one island brimming with unique and wonderful organisms. However, the arrival of people on Madagascar only around 1500 years ago has destroyed much of these ecosystems. The Malagasy are the seventh poorest people on the planet, and rely on tavy, or slash-and-burn agriculture in order to survive. In recent memory (1990) a drought devastated the south (where I will be staying), and a bloodless 2009 coup shook the already weak government and stopped outright many aid imports from the US in response. As a result, the few remaining pristine ecosystems on Madagascar are under dire threat from exploitation, and yet to protect them from all human activity would spell ruin for all those in the region. It's a tough situation, and the program I will be on in Madagascar will attempt to examine these issues and look for solutions.

It is my hope that I will be able to update this blog relatively frequently with photos and text, but I've been assured that the internet is extremely weak even in internet cafes. I will do my best to post photos and at the very least experiences I've found worthwhile. If you would like to contact me while in Madagascar, please use facebook or email. If you want to send me letters, let me know and I will give you my address. But right now, it's back to deciding how many shorts I really need and making sure I can access my malaria medication without disemboweling my entire pack

Friday, August 1, 2014

Post-field work, Pre-data analysis report

So now that I have left Kent Island, data collection has (obviously) stopped, though I have left all of my plates in the water for a later data collection expedition in September. Where does this leave my project?

The main part of my project was to examine the effect of current on species diversity in settlement communities by looking at racks of plates suspended all around the island. Below is a map showing placement sites (now I realize that all this time I have been referring to places on Kent Island without actually providing a reference map!)

High Flow treatments were in two locations as indicated by green placemarks: the extreme southern end around the giant tide pool exposed to high surf conditions and the extreme north between Kent and Hay Islands where tidal current rips through. One low flow treatment is at West Beach as indicated by yellow placemarks. Red placemarks indicate missing or lost plates as of 07/26/14.

After six or seven weeks (depending on date of original placement), no growth of any target organisms was seen on the plates. A biofilm of alage, diatoms, and ostensibly bacteria was present on all plates, and on several snail or nudibranch eggs were observed.

Pictured above and below are Plate 3 from the Narrows High Flow treatment rack at week 1 and week 7 (above and below respectively). Note extensive algal growth and snail eggs below but no target settlement organism growth. These plates are representative of what I am seeing after 7 weeks, but obviously other trends exist. 

So what does this mean? Why aren't organisms growing? So far I am hypothesizing that water temperatures around Kent Island are too low to trigger spawning and settlement of planktonic young. Temperatures averaged 8 degrees celsius for most of June and only began to approach 11 degrees in July, generated by the cold Nova Scotia current from the north-east. This is not cold enough to disallow growth and spawning overall, however, since I counted at least 28 settlement organism species in my quadrat plots. However, the warmest water temperatures are not reached until late August/early September, when I predict most organisms will spawn (to be confirmed with background research). Furthermore, most of the invasive tunicates I am looking for are actually spawning intolerant below 14 degrees C, indicating that perhaps Kent Island will escape the hordes of invasive solitary and colonial tunicates that are taking over in warmer waters just a few miles west in Eastport and further south as well as the unusually warm waters in the Northumberland Strait by Prince Edward Island. It is very probable that this 14 degrees C threshold will be reached at Kent Island, but the time window would be quite short, limiting the amount of larval recruitment that could actually occur. I would predict, however, that as ocean temperatures rise in the coming decades due to climate change that we will see earlier and earlier spawning-tolerant temperatures around Kent Island, perhaps triggering a sudden invasion around the island. I would hope that some kind of monitoring program could be set up around Kent Island to track this progress.

Preliminary temperature graph at 1m depth at High Flow treatment south pool, Kent Island, for the dates 06/10/14-07/23/14.  Gap in data from 07/01/14-07/08/14 was due to logger removal during a hurricane to prevent logger lost. Title is incorrect in dates, note time shown extends from June 10 to July 22.   

I hope to update this blog with final results as they come in September and October, but overall it has been an incredibly difficult but rewarding time here on Kent Island. My project in its current manifestation is perhaps not too well suited for the Kent Island environment (that is, there exists a major physical barrier preventing my experiment from preceding), but I am quite interested in the advancement of invasive organisms onto Kent Island and I hope students examine this issue in the future.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


   I am writing this from back in Brunswick at Bowdoin, since the last few days we had on island were either too foggy for internet or we were too rushed to bother with computers. I will follow through with another post summarizing my research as it stands, but I'd rather just upload a last batch of pics.

We went on a whale watch a week or two ago, which also proved to be ample opportunity to take photos of the birds following in our wake. 

A herring gull beating up on a common shearwater

A humpback tail-slapping. We saw only finbacks and humpbacks, but we got pretty close.

A herring gull got its foot caught in a slot on the top of a weir pole one day, and had tried to fly off but only succeeded in hanging from its foot. All the other goals were circling and screaming bloody murder as they tried to figure out what was attacking this individual.

Liam rescues the gull. The gull had a broken foot, and it's prospects even off the pole aren't good.

We are constantly given amazing stars on Kent Island

Mating Acanthadoris pilosa

Another Flabellina verrucosa
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rainforest Connection

Photo credit: Rainforest Connection

Not exactly related to my project, but I discovered this very cool initiative today called Rainforest Connection which aims to make a fast notification network for deforestation. They have developed a device out of old Android smart phones and solar cells, attached to tress high up in the canopy which records the surrounding rainforest in a 300 hectare (or appx. 1.16 square miles) circular area. A live feed of these recordings are then sent over cellular network (which is apparently strong enough in even the most remote locations) analyzed for the telltale chainsaw sound patterns, which can then be sent to a responsible law enforcement agent with the exact location (within those 300 hectares) of the suspected illegal logging activity, all within 5 minutes of the first chainsaw sound. This is a brilliant solution to the difficult problem of patrolling and enforcing protected areas, since the alternatives of waiting weeks for satellite images (AFTER deforestation has already occurred) or having to employ a massive patrol force (which is costly and inefficient, especially for developing tropical countries where deforestation is most of a problem. A panopticon, of sorts - instead of trying to chase illegal loggers around the forest, make the forest the eye. Other than the problem of the cellular network, a similar model could be utilized in marine protected areas (notoriously difficult to patrol) to check for the sounds of boat engines. You could even develop a roster of approved vessels in an area, and so an alarm would not be set off if an approved boat follows an approved course through the protected area - ideal for research vessels, ecotourist cruises, and for limited amounts of fishermen through a lottery system. Perhaps satellite receivers would be better than cellphone service for a marine application.

A great project, if you can support their kickstarter to set up a large scale experimental run in Indonesia.