Prepping for Fiji Fieldwork

Prepping for the field!! Always an exciting, yet slightly stressful endeavor. I am a Master’s student in the Drew Lab, and will be spending 2 months in Fiji for fieldwork along with fellow MA student and friend Molly McCargar, and our amazing undergraduate student, Elora Lopez (who will be blogging in the field as well, at our undergrad research blog sister site, CUEBS). We’ve been preparing for this trip for what feels like ages, starting way back in January when we started putting together a symposium for a conference we’ll be attending in Fiji, began communicating with collaborators at University of the South Pacific, and started the whole process of getting permits and research visas. But when the semester finished in mid-May, the planning ramped up a million notches, and now we’re only 3 days away from heading off! Ah!! Are we prepared? Are we ready? Probably as much as we can be. As Kaggie showed us all earlier, you never know what is in store when you’re in the field – and cliché as it is, you always must expect the unexpected.

Testing out the 99 cent GoPro rig I made in California - it works! Doesn't float though...

Testing out the 99 cent GoPro rig I made – it works! Doesn’t float though…

I’m actually currently writing this in Columbia’s IT office, as I wait for all of eternity for a tech to troubleshoot our little field laptop – one of the many small but time-consuming tasks we’ve had to cross off our list to get ready for the field. Other to-do items have involved visiting police stations, printing and laminating colorful pictures of fish, and buying items like a mini liquid nitrogen dewar and pH/salinity meters. We’ve had to get medical clearance for our research permits and prep dive gear and field equipment, buy odds and ends for cameras and technical gear, and we’re all prepping our personal gear as well. And then there’s all the email correspondence with people in Fiji to make sure we have permission to collect samples in certain villages and get everything in order for some of the more remote sites we’ll be visiting, like the Lau and Yasawa island groups. Needless to say, it’s been a busy few weeks.

Field notebooks in bulk!! The best.

Field notebooks in bulk!! The best.

We have a couple more exciting things on our agenda in addition to fieldwork and sample collection – first, I will be teaching a week-long marine conservation course at USP with our principle investigator, Josh Drew, (which we named Fiji WISE) and second, our group will be leading a symposium and doing talks at the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania Section conference in early July (called SCBO 14 for short). We’ll be spending three weeks in Suva, Fiji’s capital, prepping for and running Fiji WISE, and meeting with various people before enjoying the conference. I’m really excited to meet up with our WCS Fiji contacts and the US Embassy peeps who are helping us run Fiji WISE, as well as doing a few talks at local high schools to maximize our outreach. We’ll also be working on a few manuscripts for publication, and I’ll be blogging and posting videos for people to follow along! (Shameless plug: if you’re on twitter, make sure to check out #CUintheField14!)

A visual of how much gear we schlep around while in the field

A visual of how much gear we schlep around while in the field

THEN after all the Suva business is over, the fieldwork begins! We’ll be visiting four locations around Fiji – Nagigi in Vanua Levu, Neselesele in Taveuni, Vanuabalavu in Lau, and Yasawa Island in the Yasawas. Four weeks of sample collection (which involves diving, spearfishing, sediment coring, gut dissections, and interacting with fisherpeople – so stoked!) and then we’ll be back in Suva to obtain permits and pack everything up before heading back to the States! Phew. It’s going to be amazing.

Map of our sampling sites! (ignore the lowest dot in Kadavu, we had to remove that one in March)

Map of our sampling sites! (ignore the lowest dot in Kadavu, we had to remove that one in March)

The Lau island group, aka literal paradise.

The Lau island group, aka literal paradise.

Stay tuned for more updates from Molly and I in Fiji, and from the rest of our cohort as well!

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