Summer weather is finally here in, with blustery squalls occasionally passing by on warm, balmy days. Last night a massive thunderstorm passed across the north end of the island. We had no rain on Onetahi but sat front row on an amazing lightning show that lit up sky, land, and lagoon. We feel very fortunate for these gifts from nature, and indeed this has been a year of generous giving. With covid finally behind us, our research teams came back in force this year, and our rat eradication program kicked back into gear and eliminated rats from all of the motu by early July. This was a gargantuan task that was taken on with great enthusiasm by our Island Conservation partners, our staff, and an army of workers and volunteers. As covered in our Nature Notes this month, the island ecosystems are already responding to the lack of predation after six months, and our Tetiaroa Atoll Restoration Program research teams are happily monitoring this recovery.
We are also very happy to welcome this year new research projects on deep sea fish (U. Victoria and U. Melbourne), and the effects of microplastic on corals (U. Washington). These researchers join our long-term teams doing green sea turtle monitoring (Te Mana o te Moana), mosquito control (Institute Louis Malarde), shark ecology and behavior (U. Washington), and archaeology (Australia National. U). In all this has been a very busy and productive year for research and conservation on Tetiaroa.
Our education program also came back to life this year and we have had some wonderful and engaging field courses from both local and international schools. UC Berkeley came this year with the first ever Island Sustainability program which was very successful and is already booked again for this coming January. Local schools once again brought students to learn about and be amazed by the natural and cultural heritage of Tetiaroa.
We have been very fortunate this year to continue and grow our close partnership with The Brando resort – exemplifying the best of what eco-tourism can be. The Brando family trust has also once again been true to its commitment to the island by generously supporting our work. And our local government, from the Mayor of Arue, to the Territorial Government (with a special shout out to the Minister of Environment and Culture) have been amazing partners in support of our work on Tetiaroa and the Blue Climate Initiative.
Lastly, we would like to thank all of you reading this last newsletter of 2022. Your support means that we can keep working to save Tetiaroa and save the world. We are looking forward to this coming year, to new challenges and new successes, and we hope to see you here.
Nature Notes | Happy Tales of fiddler crabs, masked boobies, and white terns
These beautiful little crabs are found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific and have a major impact on wetlands, sieving out detritus and aerating the sediments. They have almost certainly been present on Tetiaroa for a very long time, but must have been a favorite delicacy for the rats. Now that the rats are gone, the Fiddler Crabs are back and we can expect them to repopulate mudflats across the island. This is very good news, but it is only the beginning.
Earlier this year we reported that a pair of Masked Boobies had laid an egg on one of the northern beaches of Tetiaroa. This was news since this has never been observed before. We had high hopes that a new (or returning ancient) species might be added to our seabird population.
We are a long way from a White Christmas here in Tetiaroa, but White Terns are decorating the island like we have never seen before. On motu where rats have been eradicated, our bird research team is reporting a more than 100% increase in nesting for this species relative to last year.
Education Updates: Sustainability & the Rising of Matariki
We kicked off another school year with two field courses in recent months. The Lycee Samuel Raapoto came to visit for 4 days and despite some seasonal rains had amazing educational adventures. They learned about the sustainable infrastructure of the resort and interviewed visiting researchers about their work. In return they put on a wonderful show for all of the onsite staff.
The Universite of Polynesie Francaise made their second trip to Tetiaroa this year. The focus of this trip, along with all of the usual nature, culture, and sustainable practices, was to witness the rising of the Pleiades (Matariki) at the start of the traditional season of plenty. Weather cooperated and with songs and dances the group welcomed the rising Pleiades as the sun set in the west.
After Sunset on the Coral Reef
Most coral reef studies are done in the daytime, when scientists are up and about. But action on the coral reef goes on 24 hrs a day. So what happens when the sun sets and the moon comes out, or when the moon doesn’t come out?
Professor Jeff Shima of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and Steve Swearer spent a month on Tetiaroa recently to begin a new research project to use Tetiaroa as an outpost to study this amazing interaction of reef and deep ocean species.
We have all heard the news on the surprisingly large presence of microplastics in our environment. It turns out that Tetiaroa, with virtually no onsite input, is a great place to study the incoming flow of this pollutant. Recently University of Washington researcher Jacqueline Padilla-Gamino and her team started a project to study the presences and effect of micro-plastics in the coral of Tetiaroa. They began with detailed collections of sand, coral, and water to determine the presence and abundance of microplastics. Further work will focus on how coral metabolize plastics and what effect that has on their growth.
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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.