Greetings from Tetiaroa,
This is our first newsletter of 2022 and it brings with it the hope for a great year of conservation, education, and progress in the battle against the climate crisis. On Tetiaroa researchers and volunteers are catching up on delayed field work, and preparing for the rat eradication event in June. The Education program is back in full swing both on the island and in the schools of Tahiti and Moorea. The Blue Climate Initiative is rolling ahead with the summit in May this year and has just announced the winners of its prestigious Ocean Innovation Prize. Since we have turned over a new year, our "Nature Notes" is discussing "time" and what it looks like from the atoll's perspective. Time on our human scale has also seen two of our long-term staff move on to new adventures and two new ones take over their work.
As always, we thank you very much for your support, especially all those who responded so generously to our "Giving Tuesday" letter, and we are looking forward to seeing you and your family and friends back on the island in the near future.
What's Time to an Atoll?
So, what is time to an atoll…? In the scheme of all things geologic, oceanic islands like Tetiaroa and Tahiti and Hawaii are young landforms. Over the roughly 2.5 million years that Tetiaroa has been an island, it has experienced multiple changes in sea level. So the living coral reef would have shifted up and down with sea level, leaving a geological remnant wherever sea level paused long enough for calcium carbonate to accrete.
We tend to think of the coastlines of our lives as being somewhat permanent. But think again... Tahuna Rahi and Iti, are sand cays that have no cemented base so the whole islet moves and changes shape over time. In this map (Stoll, 2021) you can see the 1955 area of Tahu Iti and Rahi in green, as well as another Tahuna off the north shore of Rimatu. By 2017 there are only 2 Tahuna left and they have changed size and positions dramatically.
Tetiaroa Society is really happy to welcome two new Guides onto our team - Kealoha Wilkes and Teva Salmon. These guys bring their experiences and passion for learning to work everyday.
UC Berkeley - Island Sustainability Program focus on biodiversity & reef resilience
Ever since 1991 UC Berkeley students have visited Tetiaroa as part of an annual field course. But in the past this has always been for just one day. This year Tetiaroa Society was pleased to welcome a field course from UC Berkeley that stayed on the island for almost three weeks. This is a new semester-long program focused on Island Sustainability and it visits both Tetiaroa and Moorea. Their first stop was Tetiaroa and their work here focused on Biodiversity and Reef Resilience and Ecosystem Services. As part of their program they received lectures from TS on our research and conservation programs, and the history of Tetiaroa. They also were given a Green Tour by The Brando resort so that they could see the sustainable infrastructure of the hotel. The students also participated in Tetiaroa Society programs by:
Conducting fieldwork on invasive ant distribution for the Tetiaroa Atoll Restoration Program.
Doing a detailed clean-up of macro and micro-plastic on Motu Reiono.
Surveying algal growth along motu shores for signs of freshwater seeps.
Planting native vegetation on the Paepae Roa marae complex on Onetahi.
Planting taro in the traditional motu plantation (maite).
Helping survey mosquitoes on Onetahi with Institut Louis Malardé.
By all standards this first visit was an outstanding success and we look forward to this field course for years to come.
Our partners at the Blue Climate Initiative have just announced the winners of their $1 million dollar Ocean Innovation Prize. These inspired entrepreneurs are using the power of the ocean to save the planet from climate change.
Scientists Continue Critical Shark Research on Tetiaroa
As apex predators, sharks directly and indirectly affect all levels of the food web, maintaining a healthy ocean environment for many species. Unfortunately, today many shark populations are on the decline. The loss of these amazing animals could prove devastating to our oceans and our planet.
Scientists from the University of Washington led by Dr. Aaron Wirsing were back on Tetiaroa, working to protect sharks by better understanding their behavior and movement patterns.
The team is working to protect sharks by better understanding their behavior and movement patterns. In 2020, the team contributed and published a first-of-its-kind study in Nature reporting the conservation status of reef shark populations worldwide. The results were startling; reefs sharks have become rare at numerous locations that used to be prime habitats, and in some cases, sharks may be absent altogether.
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.