Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Student post: Brad Wells - Tuesday, December 30 (Day 2)

From Haldre: 
Day two of the course consisted of lectures on Ecology and Economics (Dr. Fred De Torres- Northern Marianas College), Ecology of Bird Loss (me), and several exercises to help students develop potential research questions. After this, the students and instructors each proposed one to several research questions, which were posted on the board. Then, students signed up for their top five questions, and Ross, Evan and I sorted them into their groups. We unveiled the groups and the projects officially began after lunch! We have five research projects, with 2-3 people in each group. We'll post more details about these projects over the next 2 1/2 weeks. For now, check out University of Guam Marine Lab student, Brad Well's thoughts and pictures from the course, below. 

Brad Wells

Roughly 20 days ago I was not sure I wanted to join the EBL Island Ecology course. I thought it might be a bit more intensive than I would like, but a course alumnus changed my mind. Having just finished day 2, I have found that the course is much more intensive than I anticipated, but much more rewarding than I imagined. The best part has been the opportunity to experience Saipan. The wildlife and the views here are incredible, but the lectures and field work have also been invaluable. We will be visiting Tinian on Friday, and completing group research projects within the next two weeks. It was definitely a good choice to participate.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Student post: Jolly Ann Cruz - Monday, December 29 (Day 1)

We just finished the first full day of the 3-week Island Ecology course. Each student is responsible for writing one blog post during the course, so you'll be seeing lots of updates on this site. Today’s blog post is from Jolly Ann Cruz, a student at Northern Marianas College on Saipan.


Hafa Adai from Saipan!

Today was day 1 of our Island Ecology Course and what a day it was!  With 14 students, 3 instructors, and 2 teaching assistants we began the morning with lectures on the course overview and an introduction to entomology. In the afternoon we headed to the Forbidden Island Conservation Area where we got hands on experience collecting data. We also learned how to identify plants, and were quizzed on how many species of plants we could identify. In groups, we completed an exercise where we recorded the number of seedlings in a 1 meter squared quadrat, the number of adults within 2 meters, the most common plant species in the surrounding area, and whether the adult trees were flowering or fruiting.

The day was one well spent and we look forward to the rest of the course. Stay tuned for more of our activities, as we'll be posting blogs daily!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Avian Research Biologist position

We have an open position for an Avian Research Biologist. The avian biologist will be responsible for a research project focused on determining the effect of gut passage on seed germination. This person will: i) assist with protocol development; ii) manage the construction of aviaries; iii) maintain birds in captivity, which includes daily diet preparation and provision; iv) collect fruit from the wild, expose fruits to experimental treatments, plant seeds in the nursery, record germination; v) train other crew members in the care of captive birds, vi) communicate regularly with project leaders based in Houston, TX, Fort Collins, CO, and Switzerland; and vii) manage and analyze data and write up results in a scientific paper. 

The deadline for applications has been extended to December 20th. See our jobs page for more information. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

EBL Jobs

We just posted another two jobs (Field Crew Leader and Research Coordinator) on our jobs page- check them out!  Applications are due December 9th. Note- the fieldwork for these positions is primarily focused on plants.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

EBL Research Presentation on Saipan

Last week, Nadya Muchoney, intern extraordinaire, gave a presentation at the Asia Pacific Academy of Science, Education and Environmental Management (APASEEM) about recent results from our forest gaps project. Check out the Marianas Variety for a mention of the talks at this year's symposium. Thanks to Nadya for a great presentation, and to the APASEEM organizers for providing a venue for sharing results of Marianas research.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Postdoc needed!

Position: Post-Doctoral Fellow – Seed Dispersal by Native Birds on Saipan, Mariana Islands

Location: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

Appointment: 2-years

This research position is part of a larger collaborative project between J. Savidge (Colorado State University), H. Rogers (Rice University, www.ecologyofbirdloss.org) and J. Tewksbury (University of Washington) aimed at restoring ecosystem function (specifically seed dispersal) to Guam’s forests. Virtually all native seed dispersers have been extirpated from Guam, largely due to predation by the invasive Brown Treesnake. We will be determining the impact of seed disperser loss and the potential for different dispersers, both native and non-native, to restore function to Guam’s forests.

This 2-year position, based in Saipan, will focus on the potential role of 4 native avian frugivores (White-throated Ground-Dove, Mariana Fruit-Dove, Bridled White-eye, and Micronesian Starling) in restoring seed dispersal to Guam’s forests. These species are extirpated or nearly extirpated from Guam but still common on Saipan. The research aims to determine their diets and movement patterns to understand which tree species benefit from each bird species and predict the area over which an individual bird could provide seed dispersal services. The successful candidate will lead the experimental design and field data collection and have primary responsibility for analysis, presentation, and publication of the research. The incumbent will work collaboratively with others involved with the project and help supervise a field crew. Applicants must be able to work in rugged terrain and in hot, humid conditions. Airfare and some relocation expenses provided.

Required: 1) Ph.D. in a discipline related to the research described above, 2) Practical experience in the design, conduct, and statistical analysis of ecological field studies, 3) Demonstrated ability to prepare and submit professional manuscripts in refereed journals, 4) Excellent written and oral communication skills. 
Desirable: Experience in 1) Analysis of avian habitat use and movement patterns, 2) Radio-telemetry, 3) Avian seed dispersal, 4) Mist-netting and banding birds, and 5) Collaborative projects.  Additionally, past experience supervising a field crew, and working in challenging conditions is desirable.

Start Date:  Anticipated February or March 2015

Application Procedure: To apply, upload a cover letter that includes how you satisfy the required and desirable qualifications and your research interests; curriculum vitae; transcripts from all universities attended (copies acceptable); relevant publications; and contact information for at least 3 professional references to the following address: http://warnercnr.colostate.edu/employment-opportunities.html.  Applications will be accepted until the position is filled, but to ensure full consideration, applications should be submitted by December 8, 2014.

For more information contact: Dr. Julie Savidge, julie.savidge@colostate.edu, 970 491-6510. 

Reflecting departmental and institutional values, candidates are expected to have the ability to advance the Department's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Colorado State University is committed to providing an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment based on race, age, creed, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or pregnancy. Colorado State University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action employer fully committed to achieving a diverse workforce and complies with all Federal and Colorado State laws, regulations, and executive orders regarding non-discrimination and affirmative action. The Office of Equal Opportunity is located in 101 Student Services.

Colorado State University is committed to providing a safe and productive learning and living community. To achieve that goal, we conduct background investigations for all final candidates being considered for employment. Background checks may include, but are not limited to, criminal history, national sex offender search and motor vehicle history.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Island Ecology Course 2015

Applications for the Island Ecology course are due by midnight November 16th, 2014 CST. To apply, email a cover letter, resume, and your unofficial transcript to Dr. Haldre Rogers (haldre@rice.edu). Your cover letter should describe why you are interested in the course, and how it fits into your career goals. The course is open only to students from universities in the Marianas or Palau and FSM. The course is subsidized, so the only cost incurred by students will be tuition at University of Guam if the course is to be taken for credit (optional). For more information, see this page

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Island Ecology Course 2015

We have re-scheduled the Island Ecology course to run from the evening of December 28th through January 15th. If you are a student at Northern Marianas College, Guam Community College, or University of Guam, interested in learning more about natural resources, conservation, and ecology in the Mariana Islands, you should apply! Participants will spend the first week and a half on Saipan, with a day trip to Tinian, and then will spend the last half of the course on Guam. On each island, they will conduct a research project in small groups, and then will present their results in a symposium at the end of the course. The course is supported through a research grant from the National Science Foundation, so costs for travel between islands and for stays on islands away from a participant's home island will be covered. Stay tuned to this blog for information on how to apply. 

Observations from the field

When Kenji was in the field yesterday, he found this curious little caterpillar (or something?). He approached the nail with the tree tag, noticing a strange stick attached to the nail. He brushed it with his clipboard and it easily bent, and then returned to it's rigid position afterward. Cool huh? Any ideas on what it might be?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Guest Post from Allie Schaich, Rice University senior and summer REU participant

I have to admit, when I initially saw an opportunity to apply for a summer research position on Guam, I had to Google the location of the island, just out of curiosity. If the abundant images of beautiful, white sand beaches and colorful jungles weren’t enough to spark my interest, the chance to study such a unique ecological system certainly did. So, even though most of my friends and family assumed I was going somewhere in South America (instead of somewhere in the Pacific Ocean), I couldn’t be happier that I made the decision to spend my summer on Guam.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect about either life on Guam or what working there would be like. Although I had never worked a field job before, I was very excited to be able to work outside instead of being trapped inside a lab all day. When I first arrived, I had a pretty vague idea of what, exactly my project would be on, and I didn’t really connect all of the dots until I actually saw the field sites. My project was to study whether slower regeneration in recent treefall gaps due to lack of seed dispersers (in this case, birds) reduces the abundance of mycorrhizae belowground, in turn making it more difficult for seedlings to grow, further slowing gap regeneration via a negative feedback loop. Essentially, I collected seeds, planted them in soil collected from gaps of varying ages at each of five field sites on Guam, let them grow for several weeks, then measured the aboveground biomass and mycorrhizal associations on the roots of the plants. What I really enjoyed about the project as a whole was that it allowed for a decent amount of fieldwork, leniency for me to make my own decisions regarding exact procedures and what, specifically, was studied, and the opportunity to help develop and refine completely unfamiliar lab techniques.
Honestly, though, I think that my favorite parts of my entire experience were fieldwork and life on Guam in general. A little bit of background – I thought that I would like the routine methodology of labwork, so I spend the entirety of last summer working in a microbiology lab. While I am thankful for the opportunity to learn bacterial lab techniques, after just a few months, I was ridiculously tired of spending the entire day inside a windowless room. I felt the exact opposite about fieldwork. While it took me a little while to get used to the huge abundance of spiders larger than I had ever seen before and karst that literally seemed to jump out of nowhere, time in the field always seemed to go by much faster than I ever expected it to.  
Finally, although I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into at the time, life on Guam was awesome. Being able to spend weekends at the beach and hiking in the jungle is something that I will definitely remember fondly for the rest of my life, and while it has been nice to sleep with air conditioning again, I definitely wish that I had been able to stay on Guam for a few more months!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tropical Storm Halong

We had a close encounter with a typhoon (Halong) last week, but it stayed relatively mild (approx 65 mph winds), never reaching typhoon status in the Marianas. It is now a supertyphoon headed towards Japan! Out of our research islands, Rota was impacted the most, with lots of downed trees. Our sites and equipment made it out relatively unscathed though, with only a few downed trees and two overturned seed rain trays. Counts of fruit on trees on Rota were extraordinarily low across at least one site, which makes sense, given the visible abundance of fallen Premna, Psychotria, Neisosperma, and many other fruits that were on the forest floor.

This year is an El Nino year, and as such, it has already been more active in terms of typhoons/tropical storms than any recent year. The last big typhoon in Guam was 2002, and 2004 in Saipan... I wonder if we'll make it through this year without a hit. Stay tuned.

Thoughts from the field...

Here's a post from a field crew member, Kenji Tomari, about field work in the Marianas: 

Hiking through the forest, warily stepping on jagged and precarious karst stones that conspire your downfall, we enter an extrinsic realm apart from the peri-urban landscape we emerged from. As a botanist you might experience encounters with forests and wildlands differently from the casual flaneur that explores nature on a whim. We imagine mosaics and patches of varying habitats; and the paths we cut through them excite our senses and imaginings. We take special notice of disturbed habitats impacted by human action with particular acuity--segregating what we see in these disturbances from what we suspect are more native assemblages in our transitory mental notes. These near daily excursions into the tropical dry forests here are eminently engaging as an off-islander, where we encounter differing aggregates of plant species and unfamiliar flora constantly.

On different islands out here, or even in proximate yet differing forest sites on the same island, a journey through it yields extraordinary diversity both within, as well as between sites. This is personally one of the most satisfying experiences of my time here in the Marianas. Typically, after a morning of data collection through observing what bird species eat what types of fruit, I continue my observations, yet in a haphazard and qualitative manner--or, in other words, stumbling around and exploring areas new to me! We want to decipher the habits, trends, and tendencies of these birds so we can get a better idea of their role in reproducing the trees in the numbers we see and in their peculiar configurations. It's important to always find new fruiting trees to observe and explore different patches to get a broad sampling of this variegated jungle. I traipse and tumble, leap and hop over small boulders, and slip sometimes on damp slopes. Frankly, I need gloves to get through these hikes as I climb over surfaces that seemingly slice through your skin with pernicious schadenfreude. The point to underscore here is that these forests contain layers and layers of distinctions and peculiarities that have consequential impacts on biodiversity, and I hike and clamber to get some sense of it!

Once past the ostensible grove of coconuts, a few steps in at this one site yields a sweet aroma emanating from the decaying breadfruit. A myriad of fruit flies swell over this carcass, yet its' perfume doesn't readily drift to your nostrils; the air is so still it's as if you have to first cross through a spheric forcefield containing this concentrated breadfruit bouquet in order to discover the otherwise hidden fruit rotting away. Its' odiferous presence instantly constructs a sense of this place, and informs you that breadfruit trees must reign above. The characterization of this place continues as you gather a mental list of what plant species reside in the vicinity, giving you some idea of one assemblage, one configuration of the plant community here. This is my typical mode as I explore: what's here and with what?

One day, tired of the relentless mosquitos and my unfamiliarity with this new field site, I decided to scale the sloping cliff that bounded the site on one side. I slowly ascended, inspecting each promising tree for fruit, but finding little of merit. After some time, I found  a relatively flat area next to a large tree, a fish-kill tree, with little understory growth. From below the tree's dense canopy and fern covered branches, you can look out past the patchy leaves of neighboring trees where small vistas open up here and there; you get glimpses of the ocean from here, and the forest canopy along the base of the hill. A cool, and notably mosquito-less breeze would gently roll through this spot. Here, I found a fig tree with bountiful fruits. It helped demystify some confusion we had been having about the fig species. Later, I descended, going down a different route; I was in a rush, but I managed to get down safely. I did, consequently, have my first encounter with the notorious boonie bees: ubiquitous wasps that form small nests under leaves, typically hidden from view. I felt a sting on my arm with some discomfort, and I was confused at first what had caused such an unpleasant sensation. Then, I got lost for a bit. Eventually though, I found my way back to the car, crawling out from some thick understory. My colleagues gave me an inquisitive look, as if to say, why the hell did you come from over there?!

Although this small adventure was no epic saga, it was just one among a great many. Hiking off the beaten path and encountering the forest with a particular lens exposes you to new curiosities that others might not incidentally notice. It instills something of a child-like wonder in your thought process and brings you a sense of significance for this forest, this particular assemblage. These moments are what make fieldwork so worthwhile.