Friday, February 15, 2013

Some more pics...

Coast of Tinian

House of Taga

Really foggy at Mt. Tapochao.

Found a snail!

Spider Conchs!

Catch up

The moonrise on the beach near Bird Island

Beach near Bird Island
Sunset with Bird Island
Panoramic of the Saipan lagoon from Mt. Tapochao

Bunnies at the zoo :)

Mrow ;)

One of the 4 Mariana Fruit Bats at the Saipan Zoo

Old headquarters for the sugar mill on Tinian.

Old tank on Tinian

This was a Japanese building that was taken over by the US and used as administration during WWII.

Going and checking out old ammunition sites.

Inside the old admin building.

Mt. Tapochao in Saipan from the coast of Tinian.

Monday, January 28, 2013

New years and stuff...

I am really awful at remembering to update this thing. However, it's a good thing I post stuff on Facebook once in awhile so I can look back at past statuses as reminders. We've finished up our terrestrial survey and also preformed a water survey. Some really neat sea creatures were seen, some students even saw some sharks. Also- New Years was a couple weeks ago. We ended up hanging out at our apartment complex, swimming, setting off fire works and drinking. I am excited to see what might be coming up for the Chinese New Year- supposedly it is a big deal around here.

Anyhow, about a block from the apartment complex is the Saipan Zoo. I finally made it out there yesterday for the first time where I was surprised to find out the owner has a pet corgi named Bear. He was so friendly and adorable. It was nice to be able to be around a dog (especially a corgi). The zoo has loads of different types of chickens, some goats, a couple types of monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, some fruit bats and several large cats. One of the girls here is going to working with fruit bats and makes her way over to the zoo several times a week to feed the little guys. It was pretty surprising to be able to reach through cages to feed animals, and even pet a tiger.

The internet has been really awful recently so I've not been able to upload pictures. Hopefully soon I will be able to post collectively pictures from the zoo, some of the surveys as well as our most recent trip to Tinian! Goal of the week: at least one more post (w/ pics), read a book (non-school related) and email the professors at UH (more about this soon)!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Crabs and snails- oh my!

So just to elaborate on the last couple pictures in the previous post- one of our big projects for the winter semester was working a federally funded project to survey and determine preferred habitat as well as population sizes for several species of crabs and snails on the island. We are still crunching numbers and writing up the final draft- but it was definitely an amazing experience. We learned how to use machetes and different kinds of fancy field tools to measure the critters we catch.

Anyhow, we just recently got back from Rota a couple days ago. Rota is a smaller much more rural island about 70 miles away. The vast majority of the inhabitants are traditional chamorros and are by far the nicest people I've ever met. It was exciting to meet and talk to these people and was a huge step in the right direction. The local people do not trust outsiders coming in and trying to enforce things they might not necessarily support. The biggest challenge for conservation in this area is gaining the trust of the locals by truly understanding and being able to see from their perspective. They love wildlife and nature as much as we do- and hopefully over time they can understand the efforts being made are for the benefit of everyone.

But the people of the village we were staying in- Song Song, threw us a big bbq. We were might with huge smiles, hugs and kisses on the cheeks. Throughout the night the kept urging us to "never stop eating". There were so many delicious dishes and amazing conversations. To put this all in perspective- this is a small island with ~2300 people living on it. The economy is basically non-existant. Most families rely on farming to feed themselves. Not many hold jobs and overall there are only 3 restaurants on the whole island. So for these people to work all day and offer us so large amounts of food...was really quite a big deal. I can honestly say though- I've never met a nicer group of people and so far our trip to Rota has been my favorite part of all of this. It was such a nice change of pace and very eye opening to experience life from a local point of view.

Me and my professor in the tiny little 10 seater plane on the way to Rota from Saipan.

One of the first sites they took us to. The waves were crashing up all around us.

Mochong Latte Site

A lagoon near our hotel. I think it was called Twixberry?

The view from our hotel.

We went to see a bat colony from this cliff overlooking all the trees. Really weird to be able to see birds on the tops of trees below you.

A watershed area that supplies the majority of the freshwater to the island.

First couple days in Saipan

Unfortunately, it has been sometime since I have updated the blog. Things sure go fast out here and we have been keeping fairly busy (also the internet has been kinda slow). Anyhow the first couple days out on Saipan were spent getting used to our surroundings. Our instructor took us on a tour of the island ("Saipan 101"), it was about a 6hour tour where we were able to view a lot of important historical landmarks as well as beautiful scenery.

One of our first stops was a marina over near Capitol Hill. Off in the distance is a small island called Managaha. The island is a well known tourist stop with a ferry running out to it several times a day. Having flown in at night it was amazing to see the water for the first time and to see how clear it was.

This was located at one of our stops along the tour. It was built by the US government during the cold war. It was used as a scare tactic and is no longer in use. Pretty neat and Star War-sy looking.

One of the stops was at Last Command Post. There were several Japanese bunkers in the area. The above picture is a Shinto shrine (I think) in memory of the fallen Japanese.

One of the Japanese bunkers with a huge hole in it from a tank.

So, we were lucky enough to have a tour guide (hah) that knew a lof of the history of the island. Saipan played a large role in World War II and the day was laid out in such a manner that we were able to see the climax and end result of the war from the view of the Japanese and locals. Many Japanese jumped from two cliffs in Saipan after hearing that the Japanese had been defeated it was spread around that the Americans would do horrible things to any Japanese found in Saipan, so many of them leapt from the cliffs. This picture is the view from Suicide Cliff, looking to Bonzai Cliff.

One of our last stops on the tour was the Grotto. It is a really neat swimming spot and cool place to go snorkeling and see some neat marine animals.

Bird Island- a neat protected area on the North East part of the island.

Fresh green coconut! Probably the most delicious thing I've discovered since moving out here is the coconut. Many places around town you can buy a coconut with a straw in it for $1! Perfectly refreshing!

And while all of the above pictures look like so much fun- there had been a lot of work done. Directly above is some of the gear we were getting together for our snail and coconut crab survey.

Our bait traps for coconut crabs. Suffice to say- there were a lot! However- it paid off (for some) and we were able to catch some of these elusive critters.

(Hopefully I'll have some more free time to do some more update and uploads. I have hundreds of pictures and so many stories but unfortunately the internet and being so busy limits my ability to upload everything). Next up: our trip to Rota.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Just some background...

So just the basics- my name is Brittani and I am a senior (kind of) at NAU. My roots are in Phoenix, Arizona although I have managed to live and travel to quite a few places. 
As of right now, I'm about to start my second full day in Saipan, CNMI. So while most students go abroad to study in the big European countries…here I am somewhere in the Pacific over near Japan on an island that is about 45 sq. miles in area. I actually had not intended to travel abroad during my undergraduate career. I had taken off some time before college and wanted to get my four years over ASAP and as cheaply as possible. However, things fell into place perfectly.
I was beginning my second semester at NAU and was intending to do pre-pharmacy. I was signed up for human physiology that semester to meet requirements. However, about 2 weeks into the class I realized it was not what I was interested in. While I love science, I could not sit through a class that requires memorizing all the bones and major muscles in the body in detail. I withdrew from the course and was uncertain where I would go from there. My academic advisor was not very helpful and I was really struggling trying to find where I belonged and what I wanted to do.
The following semester I signed up for only general biology courses that were required. I knew I wanted to do something science related- but was unsure in which direction I would go. The semester after that I was required to take either microbiology or ecology as my junior writing level requirement course. This decision had lead me to go back to the drawing board and attempt to make a defined decision on where I was going.
I finally settled on ecology and while overall the course was not particularly interesting- the lab for it definitely changed everything for me. The lab TA for the course was this wonderful woman named Nashelly Meneses. The lab gave me a small taste of how to gather data and work in the field as well as working with statistics. I had taken a statistics course previously and was really hoping I would never see or use that knowledge again. However, while challenging- it was just as rewarding to be able to process all of this information. I really enjoyed the lab and the TA. After some talking with her she had suggested I check out this one course a colleague of hers taught… animal behavior.
The following semester, I enrolled in animal behavior with Dr. Benford. I can honestly say I don't remember much of the courses I took that semester other than that one. Towards the end of the semester Dr. Benford offered extra credit to attend a seminar he was giving. After his talk about his beloved Pinyon Jays, he began speaking about something he was working on getting the funding to do out in the Pacific. I was immediately taken with the idea. In the weeks following I began speaking to Dr. Benford about the logistics of the trip.
There was not a concrete date or semester I could look forward to, or even a price range to budget for. So while I put the idea of the trip on the back-burner, I continued to take courses dealing with wildlife and conservation.