From Raratonga to Aitutaki

My first couple days in Rarotonga was similar to what I had expected – beautiful people, extraordinary marine life and white sand beaches. Our home was in a missionary boarding house, directly across the from beach. I made a few friends with the local dogs and pigs.

 Above: backyard of the missionary in Rarotonga.
So forth during this trip we have spent a short period of time snorkeling to adjust to our on-hand equipment and observe our candidates for the next week and a half. As we snorkeled we saw many parrot fish, moorish idol, sea cucumbers, ghost crabs, eels and much more.

To top it off we had the chance to experience the 50th Independence Celebration where the community engaged in either the dancing, music or speculation thereof. The costumes of the dancers were intricately made: most woman wore belly shirts and skirts while men were had a bit less coverage, as culturally accepted during dance and musical celebrations. I was amazed by the talent and short period of time they had to practice (approximately a month). Each individual island and village was competing against the other, choosing a dance to perform to the viewers, although it felt more so that each island was in it together sharing the excitement and energy of the celebration.

Aitutaki has been an adventure of it’s own. Most of our equipment didn’t make it on the plane, although we are hoping to receive it tomorrow morning, the 30th. No worries. Luckily, an ok amount of our work can be done without all the materials we brought such as the S-BRASS monitoring. As of this morning, being on Aitutaki has presented us with much more time to explore these lagoons and their aquatic species as well. Cheers to the next 11 days here on the island.


So excited!

I am so excited to go to the Cook Islands! I am looking forward to everything on this trip! I love learning about different cultures and am so excited to add research to the mix. I am looking forward to learning about and seeing different species I have never encountered.

I am also eager to compare different management techniques I have learned from the Coastal Managment class with management techniques used by the Cook Islands. It will be interesting to learn more about fishing rights, coastal protection, and future conservation plans for things like sea level rise.


Rarotonga_beach (1)

Cant just choose one!

I have to say that I’ve never been much of a traveler but always aspired to be – so cheers to my first journey. I anticipate that there will be many sleepless nights as I do my best to adjust to a lot of exciting changes, but I also anticipate that I will be learning more about values and norms of the people, alongside significant information regarding ciguatera and the lagoons/reefs biota, ways of agriculture and societal organization than I ever thought I could.  I cannot emphasize how important I think it is to understand other peoples culture. Coming from a small town in Missoula, Montana you don’t see much culture. The more I’ve gotten to see the significance of  it living here in Southern California and the outstanding ability it has to explain the way people think and behave, the more I want to know.

The fact that there has been little previous research makes this opportunity even more special. The marine life is probably absolutely spectacular. I’m hoping that my love for culture and my interest in exploring the cause of ciguatera might be useful for our team. I can’t wait to get my feet in the dirt! Thank you so much for lending me this opportunity, Sean and Clare! How cool is this little guy?


Looking Forward

Going on this trip to the Cook Islands, I am most looking forward to the overall experience I will be getting out being given this opportunity. First, I am not a very experienced traveler, so I feel like the traveling on this trip better prepares me for future endeavors where large traveling is required. Also, I am anticipating the “way of life” out of the islands. I cannot wait to just take in all of the societal norms of their culture, as well as be there for their 50th year anniversary of independence. It is an honor to be able to observe and be a part of such as significant celebration that many others will not get the chance to see. Likewise, I am excited to be doing research out there, especially as an undergraduate. I am very much looking forward to doing hands-on studies and being able to say that I did field work out on the Cook Islands. In addition, I will be taking this trip with one of my best friends; I am really excited to share this kind of opportunity with someone close because it will only make our friendship even stronger.

When thinking about the trip, I am curious to experience their culture. I am very inexperienced when it comes to foreign countries and their lifestyles; therefore, I am eager to be immersed in such a different culture for two straight weeks. I am interested to learn more about the marine protected area the Cook Islands established, too. It would be interesting to know how much the average resident there knows and cares about the MPA, as well as how involved they are in the MPA. Moreover, I am interested in learning about the dynamics of any research that they are trying to do on the islands that is not heavily influenced or involved with outside sources, such as our CSUCI group. I am curious to know if they are trying to do any analyses on local biotic and abiotic factors, even if it happens to be unorthodox or outdated methods.



Looking Forward

When I first found out I was selected for this trip I immediately started looking up the Cook Islands’ biodiversity.  I found bird checklists and I found that my favorite species of crab, the fiddler crab, could be found in the Cooks.  I also found that two species of albatross frequent the islands.  I cannot wait to find bird and invertebrate species I have never seen before on those islands.  I am looking forward to running CI’s sandy beach protocol on the beaches of Aitutaki and finding what kind of diversity lies on the coast. I look forward to learning about the country’s agricultural methods and land management, especially in relation to the conservation and maintenance of the islands’ ecological health.
I am also fond of experiencing new cultures and I love listening to world music when performed by natives of that culture.  I am therefore eager to experience the celebrations of the Cook Islands’ independence.