Ia Ora Na
Wow, things have been busy here! In May Tetiaroa Society and the government of French Polynesia hosted the Blue Climate Summit and it was an amazing success. While that was going on a dedicated army of staff and volunteers were finishing up rat eradication, and researchers were setting up the most complete study of atoll restoration ever attempted.
Nature Notes | Environmental DNA
Research using Environmental DNA (eDNA) is coming into its own and on Tetiaroa we are leading the global trend. Fieldwork on Tetiaroa using eDNA is already underway. The recent rat eradication work encouraged researchers to see if the DNA of rats could be detected by taking lake water samples. One round of collections was done before eradication and found eDNA signals from both species of rats. Another collection will be done some months after to see how the signal persists after rat removal.
This work may lead to a simple rat detection tool that can be used on islands all over the world. This of course will depend on sensitivity of the eDNA signal. With simple collection methods and many stories to be told, this will be an extremely important tool for the future of research on Tetiaroa and around the world.
After two years of delays, Tetiaroa Society and Island Conservation have finally completed a rat eradication program across the entire atoll. This means that Tetiaroa should be completely rat free, and native flora and fauna can now begin to recover to natural conditions.
Once invasive species are gone from the atoll, it will become possible to reestablish historic populations, like the Tuamotu Sandpiper and the Polynesian Ground Dove, improving species’ resilience by reclaiming their former range and distribution.
Now that Covid-related travel restrictions are beginning to ease up, Tetiaroa is experiencing a flurry of research activity. Most of this is related to our Tetiaroa Atoll Restoration Program since the final eradication work was done in July, and all pre-eradication work must be finished up.
Seabird studies are ongoing with the team from University of Washington and University of French Polynesia.
The Oxford University group has already been working in the Chagos Archipelago and demonstrated that rat free islands have healthier terrestrial and marine ecosystems than islands with rats. Now they are working on Tetiaroa to understand exactly how these ecosystems resume a natural state post-eradication.
Mark Hay from University of Georgia started a new project on the interaction between sea cucumbers and coral. The hypothesis is that coral is more healthy and grows better in the presence of sea cucumbers, which feed on organic detritus in lagoon sediment. If true, this might have consequences on sea cucumber harvest world-wide.
Hollie Putnam, from the University of Rhode Island came to Tetiaroa to compare coral reproduction on an atoll with what she has already documented on Moorea.
In May Tetiaroa Society and the government of French Polynesia hosted the first Blue Climate Initiative (BCI) Summit. The Summit was held in French Polynesia to accelerate ocean-related programs and initiatives, match investors with opportunities, galvanize task forces, and spur major announcements. The Summit provided a unique opportunity for a select group of powerful and effective doers to get together to make things happen. It was enormously successful and we are planning another Summit in 2024. If you are interested in further details the Summit Outcomes Report is here.
Tetiaroa Society receives generous support from The Brando for our core operations, but our ability to carry out innovative programs depends on your help -- any amount is appreciated!
Tetiaroa Society is a US registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (Tax ID #45-1080688). We host scientific research, develop and implement conservation and education programs, and curate the island's knowledge base. We partner with The Brando to establish Tetiaroa as a model for sustainability, where businesses, non-profits, scientists, educators and the local community work together for common goals. Our program objectives are summarized in our Conservation and Sustainable Use Plan, which is available on our website.