Monday, July 6, 2009

Last Full Day-Everyone

Hello all-
Thanks for following our blog-we’ve had the best mix of adventure and learning on this trip. We sincerely appreciate the support you give these young adults, and we tried to return the favor by providing a great experience. We spent the morning doing some last touring on the island (the dreaded shopping and some quality beach time), and everyone has been slaving away on their final reports all afternoon. We made considerable research progress over the 2 weeks. The fish group found that different species of butterflyfish have significant differences in a liver enzyme (catalase). Catalase acts as a natural chemical defense against free radicals, and differences in catalase among species is probably related to differences in diet among the fishes. The lizard group found that the House gecko is LOTS faster than the Mournful gecko when running vertically. Other researchers have noted they are a bit faster when running horizontally-but no one has measured vertical running (which is what they do most of the time). Being faster may have helped House geckos overtake Mournful gecko territory throughout the South Pacific. The second lizard-group found that antibiotics do not help lizards regenerate their tails (lizards drop their tails when threatened). We hope these results convince you that these students have been working hard (in addition to playing hard)! We leave tomorrow about 230PM for a 10PM flight from Tahiti.
Below I have asked each of them to leave you with their final impressions:
Drs. Londraville and Niewiarowski

We are winding up our last day here at the CRIOBE station and I think it is starting to hit us that soon we will be on a flight back to reality. My time here was exceptionally well enjoyed but alas too short. The food has been good, our hosts very gracious, and the island is astoundingly beautiful. Our projects have come a long way since those Wednesday nights in the ASEC biology building. I don’t think any of our projects went exactly according to plan, but I think we all adjusted well. I look forward to seeing everyone I miss back home, but after that I’m sure I will be wishing I was back here on a beach in the South Pacific. This might have been the fastest 2 weeks of my life, but it’s also a 2 weeks that I will never forget.

Well the time has finally come for us to head back stateside. This trip has been absolutely amazing and I am very happy that I decided to take this course. The entire landscape around Moorea is nothing short of beautiful and I wish that I could wake up to it every single day. Now that the trip is over I look forward to seeing everyone back at home once again. Thank you so much Dr. Londraville and Dr. Niewiarowski for making this trip a possibility. These past 2 weeks have passed by very quickly, but I have taken many pictures that are sure to last a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to venture to Tahiti and Her islands I strongly suggest it; you are sure to not be disappointed.

With our last night of mosquito nets and bunk beds quickly approaching, I believe we are all feeling a bit bittersweet about our upcoming departure. We will certainly miss the beautiful island, the dynamics of our diverse group and the excitement of completing the research we have worked so hard on. I do believe however that the airport gates in LA should be forewarned… there will soon be a large group of students rushing to find their first taste of American food in two weeks! My guess is that hamburgers will be the target food item.
I believe we have all had a wonderful time here and learned a lot about research, culture and teamwork- a trip well spent. Thank you to all who have followed our blog and to our professors who have worked just as hard as we have.
See you soon!

Well-this is my second trip to CRIOBE and Moorea, and I have been very impressed by all the improvements to the station. This time around I am not a student but enjoyed helping the fish group spear their specimens-and seeing the tired faces and frequent yawns reminded me of all the hard work and long hours it takes to complete a research project in such a short time. The hospitality was wonderful just like last time- and the trip was once again great overall. This trip may even have been better-the diving was amazing, the food was awesome, and the weather was great allowing us to enjoy every minute we spent here. Thanks are owed to Frank for being such a talented boat captain and for entertaining us with his fire eating skills. A special thanks to Rich and Peter for putting in all the time and effort to organize and execute such a great trip- I know everyone has had a memorable experience. This is truly the best class that one could have the opportunity to take. Thanks for a great time everyone! I feel lucky to have had this be my final trip with a UA group-I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!
-Brittany Heflin

This has been a truly amazing trip, one I will never forget. For me, it was a very fun and relaxing vacation, but those in the class worked day and night to overcome obstacles, collect data, crunch their data, and interpret their results. It was great to get to know everyone who joined from UA and the researchers here at CRIOBE. To those of you who helped make this trip possible – thank you. To those of you who wish you were here with us – start saving your money; it is an experience you will never forget. The people you will meet, the sights you will see, the amazing biodiversity cannot be put into words. You must experience it yourself. Going home will be bittersweet tomorrow, but I hope to someday return to beautiful Moorea. And finally, thanks to Rich and Peter for making this trip possible. It was simply magical!
- Ashley Ramer

Just want to say that this has been the best experience of my life. I have always wanted to travel everywhere so this is the first stamp in my passport. I had a great time here in Moorea and everyone was really hospitable and friendly. I was able to learn new things here, snorkeling is one of them. I was able to gain experience in doing field research and all the headaches that can come with that. I don’t want to leave and return to my regular life at home, but it time to return. I hope to one day return to Moorea. I would like to also thank Pete and Rich for making this trip possible and an experience I will never forget.
- Jen

Hey! Here to say this has been a great experience for me, one that I will never forget! I have learned quite a bit on this trip, things that I can actually use in the real world. I now have a good research foundation to build off of! I want to say thanks to Rich and Pete for organizing the trip and teaching me things that will help me in the immediate future.
- Nick

I’m going to really miss staring at Rotui every morning out our dormitory door. Well, that and the amazing food. This trip has really opened my eyes to how research works, how different cultures can be, and even stuff as simple as how big and different the world really is. I couldn’t be happier to be involved in all this. Thank you so much Dr. L, Dr. N, both the research teams, and everybody at CRIOBE. It’s been an absolute blast!
- James Williams

Well, it’s our last night in Moorea and I am not ready to leave! I’ve had such a great experience here and would like to stay for more. The fish group has completed several drafts of our paper so our work here is almost done. I’m going to miss the “island lifestyle!” Thank you to everyone at CRIOBE for helping us to have an exceptional experience and also to Dr. Londraville and Dr. Niewiarowski for making this opportunity possible for us!
-Ashley Koenig

Wow, this went fast. It seems like yesterday we just arrived from a day full of flights. Going back will be interesting. I’ll miss the view the most. There really is not anything like waking up to what each of us saw. I want to thank my classmates, teachers, and the people at CRIOBE, for making this an experience I will never forget.
-Briana Chambers

One more night in paradise before we leave for what is going to be a long trip back to Ohio, and I’m not really ready to come home yet! It’s a shame we don’t have more time, but I’m very happy that I got this chance to experience biology field work and another culture for two weeks. Thanks to Dr. Londraville and Dr. Niewiarowski for making this amazing trip possible and fun-I’ve learned a lot. And thanks to my fellow classmates for the great memories and new friendships, and thanks to everyone at CRIOBE for, well, everything!
-Brandon McClung

I am so sad to have to leave Moorea. I have to say this has probably been one of the best experiences of my life! I have learned so much from this trip and have been able to get to know some amazing people. The culture is very interesting and the scenery here is so beautiful. The chance to be able to experience the island and further our education has been a great opportunity. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in biology field research to take advantage of this trip. Thank you Dr. Londraville and Dr. Niewiarowski for being great professors and teaching us so much! Thanks to my classmates for making this trip so fun, thanks mom and dad for allowing me leave :), and thank you CRIOBE!
-Holly Snyder

Traveling to Moorea and staying at CRIOBE has truly been an experience for me! Not only was I able to learn how to prepare for a research project and carry one out, I also was able to be immersed in an entirely different culture; this class not only was a scientific experience but also a cultural one. Pete and Rich made this experience an amazing one! They answered questions and were also available to help when a problem arose. They showed us the different aspects of a very beautiful country and what it had to offer. This experience will be one that I will never forget and am very glad that I was able to be a part of the class!! And thank you CRIOBE for allowing us to stay for the past two weeks!
-Angela Santin

Traveling to Moorea is truly a trip any student should take if they have the opportunity. Being submersed into a culture that I knew nothing about is truly an experience that I will forever enjoy. Rich and Pete have to be two of the coolest teachers I have ever met, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for starting up a program like this. Working with the Butterflyfish and snorkeling just about every day is by far the sweetest thing in the world. Learning how to operate in a field work station with limited supplies truly keeps you on your toes mentally and physically. These last two weeks have been one of the greatest times of my life. I have a story to tell that I will be never being tired of. Thank you so much to CRIOBE for their hospitality and to everyone at home who helped to get me here. Thank you so much! I love you Mom, Dad and Bubba! I will see you all very soon!
-Wade Fernkorn

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Day 11-Holly

Happy 4th of July from Moorea!!

Today we had beautiful weather for the holiday. The scuba divers went diving in both the morning and the afternoon. They even saw flying fish, sharks and a sea turtle. Today both groups worked hard on their papers. Occasionally we would take breaks to the bay (which Pete forbids) to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We sadly have to count down the days till we have to leave. We would like to thank all the people that helped us get here, we are so thankful for this experience! We had amazing food today and at dinner we managed to drag out of everyone what they plan to do with their education. Brandon would like to get his masters in Forensic Science, Jen also has an interest in Forensic Science, Cory and Nick are planning to attend Medical School, Briana’s major is Biology, but she is undecided on what she wants to do next, Alyssa is working on her PHD in Integrated Bioscience, James would like to be a hardcore biologist, Wade would like to get his masters in Zoology, Brittany is attending the University of Toledo Medical School in the fall, Frank is attending the University of Cincinnati Medical School also in the fall, Ashley K. and Angela are in BS/MD program and will be attending NEOUCOM, Ashley R. works as lab coordinator for the Biology Department, and I am planning to attend Veterinary Medical School.
By the way the picture is of a Moth Skink (Lipinia noctua).

Day 10-Jen

Today was another beautiful but busy day for both groups working on our papers and finishing final trials for the lizard groups. The divers went out for an early dive this morning at a different sight than usual. They saw some cool new things. We had a really good lunch of fruit salad, rice dish, and a Tahitian version of meat and potatoes. After lunch we all went back to work on our projects, finalizing our data. Today was a bad day for James. He went to the local store on a bike, the chain froze up and he took a bad fall off the bike, scraping his hand and knee. This is adding to our ever growing collection of bumps, bruises and cuts. Many of us are also wishing we had packed extra, extra bug spray because the mosquito bites are adding up too. Dinner was also very good, like all the meals here in Tahiti, rice and a chicken like stew dish. We are all tired but making the most of our last few days in Tahiti. Happy Independence Day everyone! :-)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 9-Wade

Today was another beautiful day in Moorea. After last night’s night snorkel I don’t really know what could top that until the Fish Group went down to Public Beach and saw the beautiful reefs full of gorgeous fish. The highlight was the giant school of Scribbled Rabbitfish (picture), seriously there must have been a couple thousand of them, it was a solid wall. Poor Angela, got scared out of the water by the “wolf pack”, lol! Thanks to Frank, who is sweet at life, helped the fish group collect more fish. He captured 12 of them for us. Thank you! The lizard groups are doing great, all of our groups are doing great! We are all starting to feel the crunch, our papers our due here in a couple days and it is getting close to the wire. But everything will be okay, because if worse comes to worse we can always go and get more of the very delicious sorbet up at the agricultural school, yummy! I just want to say to everyone at home that I love you and I miss you and thank you so much for helping me get here! This is truly an experience that will never be forgotten. Have to get back to work, I have one more fish to dissect before we can get started on our rough draft proposals. See you all very soon! Isshoni! Oh yeah, the Scribbled Rabbitfish are extremely poisonous, found that out after the fact. Oops!

Day 8- Ashley

The wind was really crazy last night! Many of us woke to loud winds that sounded as if the buildings would blow down. Things calmed a bit in the morning though which enabled the fish group to go snorkeling promptly after breakfast. Although the water was only one degree cooler than the day before (81˚F) we were all pretty cold in the water. There didn’t seem to be as many fish out today and the ones that were there seemed to know we were coming. We were not as successful as we were on other days but the divers did manage to get two butterflyfish and a puffer fish. When we returned to the station, both groups continued to work on their projects, running trials, doing research, and writing our papers. After lunch some people decided to go shopping while others decided to go to the nearby ice cream shop. The ice cream was delicious so the rest of us plan to make a trip there tomorrow. For dinner we had another great fish dish (several people thought it was chicken). The highlight of the day was the evening night snorkel which many of us participated in. We went to the White House Reef where most of us are more comfortable and paired up to swim through the dark water. With just a small dive light each, we could only see a beam straight ahead of us and little else around us. The experience was scary but incredible! There are different fish out at night, including the poisonous Lionfish. Fortunately we all made it out unharmed and had a great time doing it!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 7-Frank

Another day winding down in the South Pacific; another beautiful day with clear skies but choppy water. Today was the big hike up one of the mountains led by Dr. Niewiarowski. We left in the van right after breakfast to our starting point, a lookout over the two bays (this is where we took the picture on day 1 of the blog). The hiking was strenuous with lots of variation in altitude and the path was riddled with rocks and tree roots. The scenery along the route was enjoyable with many exotic plants, trees, and flowers. We crossed 5 or 6 small streams by carefully stepping along the protruding rocks; to the delight of many and the dismay of a few, no one fell in (although there was no shortage of soggy shoes today). Our fearless leader fearlessly led us in the wrong direction twice along the way which was humorous at first but all the backtracking led to many grumbles about exhaustion and sore legs. We stopped for a breather in a bamboo thicket where I was coaxed into climbing a bamboo shoot. The trek to the top was indeed the most strenuous activity I (and I think many of us) have done in years (we don’t get enough exercise because we are such diligent students and we’re always studying)! By the time we were back to the van everyone was dripping in sweat and excited it was over but glad they had accomplished their goal. There was much chatter about ice cream, cold drinks, and swimming on the ride back to CRIOBE. When we returned we devoured our lunch and half of us took a nap while the other half went for a snorkel. The waves were choppy because of high winds but the water has been incredibly and consistently warm throughout the week. The snorkelers saw a Pufferfish and two people lost parts of their fin straps from being knocked into coral heads in the surf. The gecko tail regeneration project continues with dosing their drugs and trying to find bugs the geckos will eat. The gecko running team finished their vertical running trials and concluded that house geckos are about 3 times as fast as the mournful geckos, which might be why they are so successful at invading their territory. The project continues tonight with horizontal speed trials. The fish group continues to run their assays on the butterfly fish we have been collecting and preliminary data should be available later tonight. It was found that the gut length of herbivorous butterfly fish is 3-4 times as long as carnivorous species. Tonight we will be doing fish printing (painting a fish and sticking it on a t-shirt) because the internet will be down as CRIOBE has a conference call with France. I think our group is bonding well and everyone has found a part of a project that they have taken charge of. Not everything has gone according to plan, the internet is lousy, and weather has complicated out projects but there’s not a more beautiful place we could be having these problems! Cheers from Moorea.

Day 6-James

NOTE-We're having lots of trouble with the internet on Moorea-sorry the blog is late!

Unsurprisingly, it was another gorgeous day on Moorea. The wind was blowing and the sea was choppy, but it looks to be pretty hard to upset the natural beauty here. It’s a holiday as well, something of an Independence Day for French Polynesia. This was found out after a bit of research as to why the people in the house up the hill from Criobe had been partying for around 36 hours straight. If any of us missed popular music from back home, we don’t anymore.
Lizard group just got started on their trials for the night, adhering to the geckos normal sleep cycles. The motility researchers are slated to finish up the last of their vertical running speed trials this evening, and the regeneration team continues feeding and dosing their animals, as it’s too early to see any tail growth.
Fish group spent the morning splitting up to assay fish and catch them at once at White House, and following lunch the divers went out to Coconut Grove and managed to spear more. It was also decided today that the lionfish that was caught earlier would be donated to Criobe’s aquarium.
Tomorrow Dr. Niewiarowski is leading a four-hour long hike up one of the island’s mountains. We’re settling in to the rhythm of data collection and analysis here, so it should be a nice break. It’s supposed to be fairly strenuous, so there ought to be plenty to report tomorrow. Until then, thanks for following our blog!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 5-Nick

Whats up?! Today everybody woke up to the usual sounds of a Tahitian house party going on next to the station and a rooster crowing! The groups started out by getting some breakfast in the absolutely dismal weather we were having. The fish group needed to collect more fish to work with, so we headed to white house beach to sling some more! I caught four long nose butterflyfish, and the divers helped us out by catching another five! It was a productive work day for both groups as our projects are beginning to develop. The lizard group started out by finding a tree in the woods that had multiple geckos on it, completing their collection! The fish group brought back the fish we had caught to begin dissecting and running assays on the fresh tissue. Meanwhile the lizard group ran some of their lizards through different tests before we all came together for dinner. For dinner we had one of my favorites, carbonara! After dinner the two groups had a meeting to discuss what both groups are doing and what we want to accomplish before the end of the trip. The night is ending with more work. The lizards group is doing more tests, and the fish group is cutting up fish to do more assays!

Day 4-Briana

Greetings from Moorea! Around 8:30am the whole group went out to the Motu, where we swam with rays and sharks. The gecko group and fish group made progress today on their assignments. The gecko group processed the ten geckos they caught yesterday and housed the geckos they needed. They also did some practice runs with the equipment. After dinner we caught seven more geckos to add to our collection. The fish group, out of the four fish they caught yesterday, euthanized two. They dissected them and used the stomach and liver to assay catalase, which gave them a positive result. Around 8pm, the group jumped into the van and traveled to Tiki Village Theater, where we learned about Polynesian culture through dance and song. Even a couple of us danced along with them, Frank being the star of the show (eating fire and all). Coming back we are all a little sleepy and ready for bed thus ending another successful day in the South Pacific.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 3-Angela

Hello everyone!! Today was an exciting day for both groups. After breakfast this morning, the fish group headed out to test using the spear guns made of a spear and a rubberband type sling to catch the fish needed for the experiments. Catching the fish with spears was a truly thrilling experience. Ashley was the first to catch a fish. Wade caught four fish (He is shown in the picture). Rich caught a fish as well. The gecko groups processed twenty-four of their animals and ran pretrials for their experiments. This evening they caught ten more. All the fishing and processing of geckos was done before lunch. For lunch, we had raviolli and some other sidedishes. After lunch the gecko group continued with the processing, and the fish group began running their tests. During this time it began to rain. The rain here is completely different from the rain back home. Also, the clouds just sit on top of the mountains for a long time until the weather finally comes in. In the late afternoon, the divers headed out to be checked out for the first time to be able to dive. The others who were not able to dive spent some time at White House snorkeling for an hour or so. Once arriving back at Criobe, we had dinner that consisted of rice with a chicken and peas dish. After dinner, both groups did more work for their projects. Thus far, we have been very successful and are heading in the right direction to come to some data for our projects. Everyone is having a great time and as a whole group, we are bonding quite nicely!

Day 2-Brandon

It is day two here at the CRIOBE Station on Moorea and it’s been a long, but great, day. Group breakfast was early and then we were headed for a hike up to check out one of the waterfalls near-by. Before embarking on our quest up the mountain the group stopped in town at a place called “Tiki Village,” where we got a tour of some traditional Polynesian culture and a glimpse of where most of us will be Saturday night; the traditional Tahitian Fire Dance. After getting some culture, we started our hike up to the waterfall. The ocean scenery and enormous mountains all around us seemed almost too surreal and unbelievably beautiful. The hike itself was a bit steep and slippery but was well worth the trip. The waterfall, since it’s currently the dry season, wasn’t pouring water, but it was still pretty amazing. Some of us cooled off in the water at the bottom of the waterfall, and even though it was stunningly cold at first, it was nice to cool off after a long trek in the jungle. After the hike we stopped at a few scenic spots and got some fantastic pictures and then it was back to the station for lunch, which as we’re beginning to learn, is always delicious. After lunch we were off again and this time since the cruise ship was docked, the locals set up a market to sell pearls and jewelry and t-shirts to tourists like ourselves. After an hour or two of shopping and bargaining we met with our individual research groups (Gecko group and Fish group,) to figure out our next step in our proposals. The fish group went snorkeling at one of the local beaches and my group, the lizard group, set out to hunt to some geckos. We returned after a few hours of collecting and had caught ten geckos total, not bad for a few hours work. The fish group on the other hand…not so lucky. They back from their adventure with a poisonous lion fish and a new respect, I think, for the lizard group, but I’m sure they’ll have more luck tomorrow. Dinner was next on the itinerary and we had some spaghetti and fresh fruit salad waiting for us when we got back, Dinner with everyone ended and then it was more research. If things keep going this great, I’m not sure I’ll make it back to the states!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 1- Cory

We have arrived! Our plane touched down in Tahiti around 6:30 Tuesday night after a long day of multiple flights. To the surprise of many of us, it was almost completely dark by the time we landed, so not much could be seen on our drive from the Moorea airport to the Criobe lab we are staying at. But, waking up this morning and realizing that we are staying at the base of a mountain was amazing! The entire view surrounding the Criobe lab is a sight to behold. After getting ready for the day, we all trekked along a trail that led us to two great photo opportunities; a small waterfall and a vantage point overlooking both of Moorea’s bays. Then it was time for lunch where we had two different tuna dishes that we prepared by an island native. And they tasted delicious! After letting our food settle we went to the bank to exchange our American money for French Francs to use on the island. After returning and resting for about a half hour we then went snorkeling at the nearby public beach for a couple of hours. As for it being my first time ever snorkeling, I had a blast. The marine life on the reef was awesome! We then returned to the lab and ate dinner as a group outside. Once again it was fantastic, and I am enjoying the ability of trying new food every day. Moorea is an incredibly beautiful place; words cannot even do it justice. This is going to be a trip to remember

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome to the UA Tahiti 2009 Blog

Students from the University of Akron Department of Biology will travel to Moorea, French Polynesia (near Tahiti) in summer 2009. They are taking part in a research class-and the goal is to do original research on fish and lizards in Tahiti. Part of their assignments include this blog-where they can share their experiences with you. PLEASE COMMENT on the blog-we love to hear what you think.

-Dr. Richard Londraville

-Dr. Peter Niewiarowski