Monday, June 29, 2009



Jake and I shadowed Tommy, a masters student working in Laupahoehoe Park which is about 45 minutes north of Hilo along the coast. It’s heavily invaded by Strawberry Guava (SG) at low elevations, but becomes progressively more and more dominated by native species as the altitude increases. The hike itself was BRUTAL – huge mudpits in the trail and incredibly dense SG on either side so we couldn’t avoid getting our shoes and calves covered in mud. I definitely sunk in to my knee level a couple times, and slipped on my hands/butt as well. It was quite a hike to say the least.

We stopped periodically to find pre-marked plots and add litterfall traps and “collars,” which are 8” PBC pipe segments that are nailed into the ground to collect rain and litter and provide more information. That part was always an adventure since our GPS wasn’t working and we had to rely on trail signs and our intuition to find them. Luckily, we found all by 3 of the plots and got everything done a little early!!

The reason that the experience was so fun was in large part because two of Tommy’s college friends from Oklahoma were on vacation visiting him and came along for the field work (see photo of them carrying a ton of gear. HAHAAA!!). It was HILARIOUS watching the three of them talk – they’re all about 23, 24 years old, still definitely college guys, and all super clever about making fun of each other. They were building off one another the whole day and I don’t think I ever really stopped laughing. Also, Tiffany, they all did crew at some point (*wink*) haha it just made me think of you!! I will admit, they were all pretty cute. It was reeeeeal nice. And the view coming downhill was amazing! The uphill was hellish and reminded me that I’m really not in great shape – but it was worth it for the fun and for the view as we left Laupahoehoe.

After we got back to the car, we realized we were running early (since when does that ever happen??) so we stopped by a waterfall off the road on the way back. We didn’t realize it would be an epic hike to get there – we had to use ropes to lower ourselves down, and then haul ourselves back up an almost vertical river bank. There were also TONS of mosquitoes!

BUT THE WATERFALL WAS SO WORTH IT. The water was the perfect temperature, and the view was gorgeous. I was hesitant to get in because I hate swimming when I can’t see the bottom, but the guys convinced me and I ended up swimming all the way to the waterfall, swimming under it, and then climbing on the rock behind it to look out. It was phenomenal, and SO exhilarating. We dove through the back of the waterfall back out towards where we had started. I’m so proud of myself for getting in the water, and I’m so glad that I did it because it was GREAT. SO GREAT.

We also searched for some shaved ice on the way back – apparently there’s a great place hidden in downtown Hilo where they put ice cream into the shaved ice and it’s delicious. Unfortunately, all the shaved ice places were closed. Apparently 5:30 PM on a Monday night isn’t a hopping time to get shaved ice for normal people, but it was kinda a bummer.

Jake and I are planning to go to the Mauna Kea Astronomical Observatory with Tommy, Chris, and Ronny tonight to see the stars, so I’m hoping that actually happens and we can see the sights! I’ve wanted to go up there since I got here, and Tommy said that a lot of his friends are leaving town so he’d be happy for Jake and I to hang out with him when we’re free.

Basically, today was everything I hoped for and more! Great people, cool research experiences, lots of bruises and scrapes (seriously I look like I’ve been slashed by a crazed whomping willow), waterfalls, hopefully some stars too, and a local to show us the sights later on. YAYYYYYYYY!!!!!

Oh, and my camera appears to be working again!! Let’s hope it lasts!!!

P.S. My ears are unplugged =)

Sunday Funday! Kinda...

Today Tad and I went to Richardson State Park, which has the best snorkeling around Hilo. The water was really nice and warm and the coral was beautiful, although the water wasn’t super clear. It was sunny and hot and an all-around great day for being at the beach, and there were tons of fish swimming around.

I took my camera into the water to take some sweet coral shots… and the fun ended there. Apparently “waterproof” doesn’t mean that it is actually waterproof, since my camera fizzled and is now refusing to function. GARRRR!! For those of you mostly look at the photos in this blog, I hate to disappoint but there were be a significant decrease in (or complete lack of) photos posted! It’s really frustrating – I bought the camera because I knew that I’d be snorkeling, hiking in the rain, etc… and it’s supposed to be absolutely waterproof up to 10 feet and shockproof up to five. Given that I was floating right at the surface of the water, the camera should have been working just fine. *sigh* So now I have to deal with shipping it to CA to get it replaced, having it sent back, etc… and packages can take forever to get to and from Hawaii so we’ll see how this process goes. Major frustration! I took all the component pieces out of the camera and am letting it dry a bit more – maybe, just maybe, it will recover overnight! The odds are slim but I haven’t given up all hope just yet. Even though I realize that if it isn’t fixed by now, it probably won’t be by tomorrow. *sigh again*

I’ve also discovered that I tend to get water stuck in my ears, which is an odd sensation when it lasts for a long time. Using an alcohol astringent doesn’t seem to be working, so again I’m hoping that tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and magically regain hearing in both ears! Hey, it could happen. And hopefully it will because it’s starting to give me a headache!!

In other news, I saw a gecko chilling on my window screen! The light attracts lots of moths to my screen, and the gecko was walking around eating them. It was pretty awesome, and I tried to get a photo but – oh wait, that’s right, my camera isn’t working! So you’ll have to imagine it. It was SO COOL!!!

Tomorrow we’ll be shadowing another project that’s working on the invasive species Strawberry Guava. Should be exciting!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Last night we ended up going to a great Thai restaurant, and the eggplant stir-fry was AMAZING. It was a great meal! I introduced Eric to the movie Stardust, which Jake had already seen (and liked) and Tad wasn’t interested in watching. I forgot how much I like that movie!

Today Jake and I went to Kona with Devin and his girlfriend Christina. It was SO GREAT! The drive takes about 2 hours and we went to Hapuna Beach, which is apparently the best one on the island for waves, and we just splashed around and body surfed for about 4 hours. Everyone got pretty sunburned, especially Jake, but I’m just pink in the face and shoulders (per usual). I took my camera out into the waves to see how it works. It survived with no problems and I can’t wait to take it snorkeling in Hilo where there are less waves and better fish/coral life. Woot!

We could see Maui from the beach – apparently Devin and Christina have only seen it twice from Hawaii because it’s usually too cloudy, so that was really cool (see photo, you may have to enlarge to see Maui in the left portion). The water was so warm that I actually had to get out to cool off after I’d been treading water for awhile. It’s quite a change from California beaches! And it was really windy so the waves shot back out towards the ocean after they broke (see photo below). I tried to capture it on my camera, with limited success, but it was just gorgeous.

We also went to Costco afterwards because there’s one in Kona, and I stocked up on some necessities: a beach towel, Famous Amos cookies, peanut butter, and Babybell cheese. All important for fieldwork lunches, and for being in Hawaii. For dinner, I had a frozen lasagna and I’ve now decided that lasagna is always delicious. If the $1.25 frozen lasagna is both tasty and filling, then it really can’t be screwed up. I also stir-fried some bak choy and am feeling good to go. After putting on some lotion, I think that today was very successful and I am sosososo happy that Devin and Christina let Jake and I tag along! People here are SO nice and giving. It’s really extraordinary and I know I’m so lucky to be here in the first place that it seems unreal how everyone is also so nice. I love the beach!

Tomorrow, we may check out the snorkeling beach in Hilo. Maybe not – Jake was pretty red and he might not be up for it. But if the weather is still clear then I really want to get out there! So more updates later.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh Rats!

Today was a bit rainy, which we’re learning to accept might be the norm this summer even in the kipuka. We had quite the entourage because Aaron, a rat researcher, came out with us to talk about how rats might affect our research. There was a lot more discussion of ongoing, past, and future rat research than I ever expected to hear about or even knew existed. Go figure, they're kind of a big deal here! Eric also came because the graduate student he works for is currently drafting a NSF (National Science Foundation) grant proposal and so he didn’t have any supervision for work to do at Volcanoes. We put in a bunch more litterfall traps and saw some gorgeous ferns, per usual, which look so prehistoric when they’re dripping wet and lush and green!

I also saw a creepy root exposed – it looks like skin, muscle, and then bone! But it’s not, it’s just a root!! CREEEEEPPPPYYYYYY!!!!

So Eric is staying at our apartment tonight since it’s quite a bus ride back to Volcanoes and he was planning on coming back to Hilo tomorrow anyways! Yay for couches. We might all go see a movie, I’m backing Transformer’s II, and possibly try some restaurant around town. We’ve all been cooking since we got here so it might be nice to get out and see what Hilo has to offer for food options. Yummy yummy! And Tad is coming, meaning we'll have a ride. Things are looking promising!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The conference yesterday was even better than the first day!! Just like yesterday, we started off the morning with some delicious donut-like pastries. I'm not sure what kind of food they are, but they're super sugary and filled with raisins. There were also some without raisins, which were a bit lighter (relatively speaking, anyways) and still sugary and delicious.

The morning session was dedicated to group meetings, so we broke up by interest and I joined the Ecohydroloy/Paleogeochemistry group. A lot of the people in the group were discussing a specific project that’s testing core samples in a cloud forest (aka a forest located in the cloud layer) to see how climate change is recorded in plant pollination. I didn’t really understand the technicalities – a lot of the discussion was about which solutions could get rid of suspended sediment that was interfering with the desired leaf samples and the project was pretty esoteric. But I was sitting next to a man from University of Hawaii at Manoa who is both an oceanographer and a geologist! That’s like my life goal!! So we talked a bit about what oceanographers do, and I may pursue biological oceanography. This is technically different from Marine Biology because it’s more focused on microorganisms and the physical dynamics of the ocean affecting populations rather than just population relationships. But in real life, they're the same thing. I love oceans!

I also saw an amazing talk about work being done in the southwest pacific to look at mangrove contributions to carbon sequestration. Apparently on some islands, mangroves that account for only 10% of the coast can contain 30% or more of the island’s carbon. This means that degrading or removing mangroves can release a hugely disproportionate amount of carbon into local and world systems. So when I get to Australia and have to do a research project, I may work on the mangroves and see what their carbon content is, both in the wood itself by looking at density cores and then by checking layers of the surrounding soils. So I gained a research project idea and a longer-term idea of what I can do with my life! A job well done, I would say.

We went to Peter Vitousek’s house after the conference for a small-ish dinner. He lives in Volcano Village, which is right by Kilauea and Volcanoes National Park, and his house is BEAUTIFUL. It’s also a LOT colder there because of the elevation and because it’s near the dry side of island so the cloud cover isn’t as insulating. The drive is maybe 45 minutes from Hilo and it was torrentially raining on the way there but it was beautiful once we arrived. The food was great – Peter’s wife, Pam Matson, is the Dean of the Earth Systems department and she’s quite a lady. I mentioned that I really liked her potato soup and her response was, “Yes, it’s great, isn’t it? I first tried when I had a terrible hangover. It totally works!” HAHAAAA that’s awesome!! So she gave me the recipe, of course, because I'm a college student and who doesn't want a hangover cure? Everyone was super nice and I met more graduate students and researchers who are friends with Peter and Pam.

After dinner we drove to Kilauea crater to see it glowing because the hot rock/lava is only visible at night. We couldn’t see any directly flowing lava from our vantage point, but there was clearly a lot of hot rock going on and steam vents all along the road to the crater. SO COOL!


Today there was a gorgeous rainbow awaiting us when we awoke!! And above it was a much more faded one. Both were beautiful and it was a good omen; we went into the field and finished rigging 6 trees and setting up 2 edge plots by 1 PM!! That's definitely record-speed and we were prepared for rain today so it was a very comfortable experience overall. I had some sweet rain pants so I didn’t even notice the mist (see photo. Please. I looked like a crazy kind of candy). I also found out Hilo is the rainiest city in the US. Yeah, I could have guessed that after being here for a couple weeks.

We also finished making litterfall traps and now I’m at home, full of fried rice and peanut butter M&Ms, watching the rain fall!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hawaii Ecosystem Conference, Day 1

Today we listened to 43 talks in 6 hours. That’s a lot of talks, and a lot of sitting listening to talks. But they were AMAZING!! The research being done around the Hawaiian islands is absolutely fascinating and covers pretty much every ecological niche imaginable. It’s crazy seeing so many of the concepts from Earth Systems and Human Biology being applied in the field – things like the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) were very theoretical when I learned about them in class, but researchers are using that to measure photosynthetic properties of regenerating native ecosystems. It’s been a really good experience to see all the options available for research, and a lot of the phD students who presented had really creative and inventive experimental designs. This is giving me fodder for any potential honors thesis or masters work! Yay!

I met several other Stanford students who are working on the island – Eric is working under Peter Vitousek in Volcano village, which is about 30 miles south of Hilo in Volcano’s National Park. He and I took a geology and earth systems class together so it’s really nice to see him here! I had no idea he was on the island. And he’s also going to Australia!! I also met Eugene and Linley, who are working with a Stanford phD on the Kona side of the island. Linley was in HumBio with me so we commiserated on that experience and then celebrated the end of the core.

Jake and I plan on staying with Eric in Volcano village one weekend since there’s a hostel right by the volcano crater and you can see the lava flowing at night which would be AMAZING. It’s also possible to hike to the coast and see the lava flowing into the ocean! So hopefully we’ll be able to see at least one of these phenomena, if not both. And we also want to go to Kona as soon as I get scuba certified to do a night dive with the manta rays. Apparently they’re huge and it’s an indescribably incredible experience, so I plan on making that happen if it all possible.

I also saw Don Swanson give a talk! He was one of the lead volcanologists at Mount St. Helens – and for those of you who don’t know, I just finished taking a class focusing on Mount St. Helen’s 1980 eruption. So listening to him speak was really amazing and unexpected, and I tried to find him after but he split as soon as he finished his presentation. I don’t think he cared much about all the ecological mumbo-jumbo. But maybe I’ll run into him when I go to Volcano Ntl. Park! He also had an awesome beard. I think it’s a requirement for all major volcanologists to have facial hair – Rick Hobblit, another volcanologist from Mount St. Helens, had a fabulous mustache when we visited him on our class field trip. So go figure, the trend continues to prove itself true.

After the conference, we went to the beach and had a fantastical Hawaiian dinner with the rest of the conference attendees. The food was really good, there was tasty beer, and live Hawaiian music. All in all, it was a really nice mingling event and a great way to get to know the other interns and researchers we’ll be working with. And since the community of Hawaiian researchers is pretty small, everyone knew everyone else and it was a very friendly dinner! We also got to see the sky change colors as the sun set and the clouds rolled in. It was great, and I topped it off with a handful of peanut and peanut butter M&Ms when I got back. I’m really looking forward to our research, and Tad mentioned that we’ll also be trading around interns so that we can see other people’s projects and other interns can see ours. This means that Eric, Linley, and Eugene will probably be around for a couple days in the field, and Jake and I will get to see what they’re up to at their respective locations. I love this job! It’s SO GREAT!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tad Arrives; So Does Inclement Weather

Tad arrived yesterday and proceeded to make curry, enough for Jake and I to share a bit. YUM! I had some leftover fried rice so I mostly just enjoyed the smell of his cooking, but I fully approve of making tasty meals in excess.

Today we began field work at 8, and by 1 we decided we’d had enough. It rained pretty much constantly the whole time, and I didn’t’ have rain pants!! I was wearing my zip-offs, which are water resistance but certainly not extended-rain-proof. We were all a bit chilly and soggy at that point, although we managed to rig two trees and set up an edge plot before nature shepherded us off her mountain. I shot the crossbow for one of our tree rigs and it TOTALLY WORKED! VICTORY!!! I also observed some crazy rolled-up fern leaves (see photo). They remind me of Doctor Suess, as does much of Hawaii's vegetation.

I also managed to cut my finger – the picture looks worse than it is because thumbs bleed a lot, but it still stung a big. I was trying to shape the stakes we use for litterfall traps and my hands just slipped because it was so wet. I first tried wrapping a bandaid around it, but my finger was too wet for it to stick so I used some of Jake’s athletic tape to fully cocoon my finger. It looked a bit foolish and I felt like I was devolving because I couldn’t use my thumb like a human being. That’s what Hawaii has done to me – turned me back to my more primitive self. Soon I’ll be wandering like some wounded dinosaur through the tarantula ferms (see photo below).

Sidenote: the ferns are super creepy because the leaves bend just like tarantula legs and are covered in a very fine reddish fur that rubs off on you as you walk by. WAAAAH!!!

We came back to the apartment and changed into dry clothes, went out and bought proper rain pants (yay Army Surplus Store!) and made more litterfall traps back at the US Forest Service station. I found an awesome radio station that Jake described as “catering to the 80+ year old crowd” – lots of kitchy Hawaiian music, some obscure oldies, and bluegrass. Totally bizarre, but I liked it and no one cared enough to change the station after I’d picked that one.

All in all, this has been a moderately successful and extremely soggy day. We have to rig 6 trees and place 4 edge litterfall plots on Thursday so we’ll have our work cut out for us, but I believe in us. And I won’t underestimate the power of positive thinking!

Tomorrow and Wednesday we’re all going to Peter Vitousek’s conference on Hawaiian research, which is being held at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (the same school I’m staying at). Peter Vitousek was actually one my two professors in EARTHSYS 111 (Biology and Global Change) this past winter quarter and he’s a cool guy. It should be good! He basically invites any scientists doing research on Hawaiian ecosystems, natural processes, etc… to come and give 10 minute presentations on their work so that everyone knows what’s going on around the islands.

Jake, Devin and I will just be observing, but Tad is giving a talk about our work and we’ll be cheering for him! I voted for making a poster since it’s been too rainy to body paint, but apparently that’s not really popular at scientific meetings. Who knew…? Anyways, will update more after the talks!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weekend Welaxation

YAY! I love the weekend!! I slept in on Saturday and today, and woke up both mornings to the sound of rain falling outside. Rain showers tend to last maybe half an hour here, and can be a mere 10 minute of heavy downpour, so by the time I had eating my pancakes and papaya the sky was already brightening.

Yesterday I went to the farmer’s market, per usual, and restocked on papaya. I also got some bak choi and tomatoes – can’t beat the produce!! There’s actually a public orchard near my house, where you can get a free permit to pick all the fruit you want. I’m going to go after work if I get off early, because word on the street is they have Lichee trees and other tropical fruits in season! Yummm.

I also stopped by this awesome organic food store in downtown. I missed it the first few times I walked through because the entrance isn’t very conspicuous, but the inside is awesome. A women outside was giving out samples of fresh organic fudge made with coconut oil – a combination I wouldn’t have tried, but which ended up being delicious! Inside they had all the typical organic food products, as well as some awesome stickers and a huge variety of drinks. I may have to stop by and grab some of their more exotic fruit drinks. Amanda, you would LOVE this place!!!

The farmer’s market is the best combination of art fair, fresh food stalls, jewelry, clothing, and Hawaiian culture. It makes me feel better about missing Tapestry Arts in San Jose.

Sunday involved switching out my phone with my grandma’s and now I can see my whole screen! So exciting! I no longer have to forward texts to myself to be able to read them. I also bought some ice cream, which seemed like a good idea except I had to bike back with it. I hope it resolidifies… when I took it out of my backpack, it was goopy and melty. Therefore I HAD to eat the top layer, so it didn’t get too messy, but I put the rest back and am crossing my fingers that it will return to normal form. It’s a chocolate chip cookie dough, with the Nestle cookie dough… SO DELICIOUS!!! I now feel completely settled in.

Tad arrived today and I think it’s going to work out really well. He also has a car, meaning that I won’t have to worry about melty ice cream as long as he’s around! And it will be easier to get to the beach, since the best ones are about 5 miles down the road. Jake is already scuba certified but I won’t be until August, so I have to stick to snorkeling. Look forward to some cool underwater photos in the next few weeks, because my camera is waterproof to 10 feet. Hopefully it’ll work! I may have to play around with the settings – I love that it’s shockproof and waterproof (both are TOTALLY necessary given my line of work and the way that I beat it up), but it’s not very smart. Meaning that I have to manually adjust the lighting, etc… pretty often, but I’m getting the hang out it!

Hope all is well with you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rainy Rainy Day!

Day two dawned early, but it definitely wasn’t bright. It was raining pretty hard in Hilo, and although we hoped that the air would clear as we moved up the mountain, the mist continued all the way up to the kipuka. Luckily my rain jacket is a trooper and kept me nice and dry for the hike to the forest. The lava rock was all a’a rock, meaning that it was super brittle, broken, jagged, and rough. I think we’re getting gloves for hiking over the a’a because it really hurts to put your hands down. Thank goodness for hiking boots – I can’t imagine doing this job without them! And we brought the crossbow.

When we got to the kipuka, we set up more edge litterfall traps and rigged more trees. The edge plots are easy to make at this point, and we worked a lot faster today than yesterday. I’ve figured out how to work the metal for making the litterfall trap stakes. And I also shot the crossbow!! WOOOOOO!!!!! IT WAS AMAZING!!! So much power, and so much accuracy! We had to use it for the really tall trees.

We basically shoot a weighted arrow over the desired tree branch, and then retrieve the weight. We replace the weight with a rope, and pull the thick rope over the tree. That will allow Devin and Bernice to climb the trees later and collect samples of the upper canopy. Woot! We figured out a new process for getting the weight to fall correctly, since the arrow usually flies over 4 or 5 trees and we only want it to fall over the first one. It involves lots of easing, cajoling, and sweet-talking of the weight. We’re working on it! (P.S. LOOK HOW AWESOME THE CROSSBOW IS!!!!)

My stuff is still a bit soggy, but luckily it doesn’t get cold. Even up the mountain, the air is warm enough that getting a bit wet isn’t a bit deal. I think I have half a tree stuck in my braid, because we had to fight so much through the brush. Bandanas are wonderful, I used one for a headband and it kept my hair from collecting too much shrubbery. I think I’m going to have to wash my hair more often here than I’m used to… could be a good habit to get into, the whole personal hygiene thing.


Today we had a half-day because Jake and I had to be at the apartment between 12:30-4 so someone could set up our internet. We got started at 8 and made a bunch more litterfall traps, then had our driving test. I may or may not have gone a wee bit fast (tee hee), but it wasn’t a big deal, and Jake and I are good to go for driving in 4 wheel drive and regularly on the road. The USFS (US Forest Service) is super stringent about any scratches on the car, which will probably end badly because we’re putting so much gear in the truck bed.

The internet is now set up and I feel so FREE!!!! The whole world is at my fingertips!! And Jake, in his extravagance, bought a sweet motorized scooter that can go up to 30 mph, so we should be able to get to Walmart, Safeway, Farmer’s market, etc… and bring back many spoils of war (especially a wireless router). I’ll be the last one at work every day, because I’m biking, but such is life. And maybe it will encourage me to get into shape. The fastest way to work is through the University of Hilo campus, so I’ll probably get somewhat familiar with the school by the end of the summer.

I think I’ve fallen into a sleepy vortex, in which all I want to do is read “Lord of the Rings” and intermittently nap. Maybe my body is just trying to catch up on the minimal amounts of sleep I’ve gotten during the last… oh, 3 years or so. I’ve also been eating lots of delicious chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter and syrup, tasty egg concoctions, and stir fry. I love cooking!! YAY!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First Day In The Field

I have the best job. Ever!!!

We rolled out around 8 AM this morning to go to the kipuka. Devin picked Jake and I up in the blue Ranger (as yet unnamed, but we’re working on it), and we drove about one hour to get to the site. The first 40 minutes were paved road, no big deal, but the last 20-25 minutes was BRUTAL. The road was jagged lava rocks and we bottomed out about 5 times even though we never surpassed about 2 miles per hour. Suuuper slow going. We were mainly hiking on pahoehoe (Chris, ring any bells?) which was pretty easy since it wasn’t too broken up.

We finally made it to the first set of kipuka and learned how to set up our litterfall traps on the center and edge of the kipuka (it’s slightly different based on location). We also had to mark trees for climbing so we can sample the canopy, which involved a sweet slingshot. I wasn’t half bad! Although, to be fair, I wasn’t half good either. Devin just sat back and watched Jake and I fail miserably for awhile before he ended our misery and set up the last few trees. It works by slingshotting large metal nut over a tree branch using fishing wire and the slingshot, lowering the nut, and then replacing it with a thicker climbing rope and pulling the whole mess back over the branch and tying that down.

I learned how to program sites into the GPS, which is critical because all the lava rock looks the same when you leave a kipuka and all the trees look the same when you enter. We mark each litterfall location and the different edge locations on the GPS so we can search later to get back to them. We visited 4 kipuka today, which is pretty good, and tomorrow we’re going to set up 3 more. There are some tasty berry plants in the kipuka and Jake and I nibbled as we worked. Apparently they taste like Huckleberry, although I’m not a good judge of that since I haven’t actually had Huckleberry before.

The weather was WONDERFUL up the mountain – we were at about 7,000 ft and the air wasn’t muggy at all. It got pretty warm around 2, but there was a cool breeze and the kipuka were nicely shaded. It’s definitely pretty wild in there though, and we had to fight with a number of trees, shrubs, and branches to get where we needed to be. We also avoided rain because clouds usually don’t make it that far up the mountain. Granted, I’m sure we’ll have to deal with our fair share before the summer is over, but it was a pretty perfect first day. The locations were so nice!

And Julia, thank you for the hand sanitizer – I’m not usually a big fan, but apparently there are number of rat diseases that can cause discomfort, fevers, and neurological damage (no big deal, right?), so disinfecting hands before eating is recommended. Devin didn’t seem too concerned, but I think I’m going to make use of the Purell since I have it!

After work I biked to the café and as soon as I left it started misting. It was probably the nicest bike ride ever!! The mist here isn’t warm, but the air is still so warm that it feels great.

I've taken tons of photos and I hope you like the ones I've uploaded!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yesterday I woke up early, per usual – I’m still getting used to the time difference. I ventured back to my café and Skyped a bit with Angie, which was really fun!! I went back to downtown Hilo and explored the shops again, and stopped to look at another little inland lake (see photo). There are a couple used bookstores, and I ended up getting the Lord of the Rings trilogy in all its glory, because those books will keep me busy for awhile at least. And I also found a Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Murder She Wrote book for 35 cents each, so I should be set in terms of reading material. I lay out by the beach and read for a bit, soaking in Frodo’s discovery that he owns the One Ring. Pretty epic! There were also some cute bracelets at the farmer’s market, which is apparently set up every day (although Saturday is the biggest day), so I picked out a sea turtle one and plan on getting a fabulous bracelet tan to match my watch tan!

Jake arrived around 5:30ish and we ventured to Walmart yet again. I discovered a Taco Bell, so I plan on visiting and seeing if it’s up to snuff sometime in the near future.

On Saturday, I met a geriatric man named Gary at Long’s because he needed help reading a label. We got to talking, and he mentioned that he usually hires University of Hilo (UH) students to do gardening at his house. I said that I already had a full-time job, so I couldn’t help him out – but it also came up that he had a bunch of extra microwaves from University of Hilo students who had worked for him, moved away, and left their microwaves for him to deal with. So Jake, Devin, and I drove over to his house and saw that he did, in fact, have 3 microwaves and he let us take one! YAY!! (Dad, I just want you to know that I realized the potential sketchiness of this situation, which is why I brought my two burly man-friends).

Gary also showed us around his garden, which should more accurately be described as an oasis. I wish I’d taken pictures… he has his own river running through his backyard, and a koi pond (they were at least 2 feet long), and a goldfish pond, and a guppy pond, and an aviary with incredible tropical parrots, and two of the CUTEST DOGS EVERR (besides Beanie, of course). They’re a mix of border collie and some sort of sheep dog – their faces look exactly like Beanie, and they were a little sleeker and ADORABLE and wonderful. Anyways, it was a crazy experience to come out of just talking to someone at Long’s, and we got a microwave and an awesome tour of a sweet garden!


Today was my first day of work, and it involved lots of paperwork/training. Jake and I had to watch a 2 hour video about driving safety from the U.S. Forest Service, which was a lot of scare tactics mixed with terrible 90s fashion. There were 3 mullets, lots of high-waisted jeans, and some awesomely huge glasses.

We also made 33 litter-fall traps, which (as the name implies) are used to catch the debris that falls from the forest canopy. These will be used as proxies for the forest productivity in each kipuka. I took a picture of Jake using his $45,000-per-year education to do some extremely academic work (har har) and it wasn’t nearly as annoying as expected. We basically attach mesh to plastic frames using gauge wire, which is a bit hard on the hands but not too bad, and we’ll collect them 1 week after setting them up to see what the forest turnover is. It’s really cool!! We also had some awesome Hawaiian slack guitar playing in the background, and then some reggae, so we were entertained.

To define my terms:

“Kipuka” is the term for forest fragments, and we’ll be placing traps in 32 kipuka on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

“Malaise traps” are used in the canopy to trap insects, which we’ll later sort and have classified to see how species density and diversity change (see the attached photo).

I also have an access code for the Forest Service building!! AHHHHH THE POWER!! Tomorrow we’re actually going into the kipuka, so I’m going to try to take some good photos, and Devin has informed me that the crossbow will be accompanying us. Exciting!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yesterday was pretty relaxing, I went back to the café and biked a bit more around Hilo. I stopped by this lake that is primarily used for fishing, and apparently there are specific types of spears that are legal to use for fishing. I didn’t realize that spear-fishing was the cool thing to do… but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Crazy!

I snoozed on and off all afternoon, alternating between snacking on pretzels, reading, and sleeping. I left my Gameboy at home, thinking that I was going to be mature and grown-up and not revert back to my Pokemon-master ways, but I already miss it *sigh* But I firmly believe that this deprivation will make me stronger!!

I discovered this amazing program called “Comic Life” on my Mac and spent about 2 hours playing around with it. I ended up making a 14-page comic of Spring Break with Angie, Duchi, and Shravan, it’s pretty epic! I love fun programs like this and will probably spend lots more time playing around with the extra features. Here's the first picture... if you want to see more, just let me know!

I also made my first stir-fry of the summer. Thank goodness for garlic, I used like 3 little cloves of it just for my chicken and more for green beans. Yayayayyyy!! And I made scrambled eggs with baked beans and cheese. Angie, you would love it =)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Downtown Hilo is very friendly, and very small. There’s one main street, called Bayfront, which faces the beach and contains a good number of shops and restaurants. It also boasts a fabulous Banyan tree, of which I took several photos in a very tourist-y fashion, and I attached one here. I also saw a really bizarre-looking fruit/flower (see the second photo) and I’m not sure what it is, so I’ll ask Devin next time I see him. I biked to the end of downtown and stopped to look at the beach. It’s all fairly rocky here, with small sections of black sand
beaches, so it's a bit different than the stereotypical Hawaiian shores on postcards. It was super stormy-looking, with huge billowing clouds, and beautiful. I love the weather!

I started at the far end of the street and worked my way back towards my apartment. There are some great used bookstores, and I picked up “The Lighthouse” by P.D. James. Shockingly enough, it’s a murder mystery and sufficiently creepy to make me wish that I had roommates moved in already. And I got a helmet, so I can be a safe and conscientious bike-rider. There’s also a small museum on the coral reef ecosystem, so I read up on some cool information about the Hawaiian reefs. I signed up to get SCUBA certified starting in July, and should be done before I leave Hilo! They take us on 5 dives, which is probably more than I would’ve been able to do in Hawaii if I’d been certified before I got here, so I think it will work out nicely and get me lots of reef time.

I also discovered that every Saturday there’s a wonderful farmer’s market in downtown Hilo. Papayas were 8 for $1!!! AHHHHHH!!! So of course, I had to buy 8, and have included a picture of the 7 remaining ones after I got home and gorged on a fresh, juicy, sweet papaya. There was also Spam sushi (see photo), freshly made and still warm, which is super tasty and salty, and there were stalls for clothes and other produce. In other news, I was mistaken for a native by one of the vendors! Of course, a native would have known that she would need a huge backpack for carrying around her papayas, whereas I didn’t prepare properly and ended up biking back to my apartment with a hugely heavy bag of fruit banging against my bike. I guess that means I’ll have to eat my fruit quickly before it bruises too much. Oh well, if I must then I must!

I’ve spent most of my remaining time wishing I had steady access to the internet, reading my book, and eating papaya. Woooo weekends! It started raining around 9 PM and the accompanying breeze was fantastic.

Also, Angie, thank you ever so much for the Jazz music!! I’ve been listening practically non-stop and it’s great!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed


The flight over involved lots of snoozes, so I missed much of the widely varying ocean beneath the plane. Oh well, life goes on... it's been about 80 degrees since I arrived and it's been consistently overcast, which is gorgeous. Here's a photo I took from the plane window of Mauno Kea (where we'll be working)! Hopefully we'll be working at a high enough elevation that it won't be too cloudy, because I'm not looking forward to daily showers. But at the same time, the rain makes everything so beautiful. Hilo is SO GREEN. Everything is oozing with different shades of green and the flowers are at least 10x brighter than anything at Stanford. It's such a beach town, and all the houses have slightly faded paint jobs and the shingles are stained with salt. It's wonderful. I got a pink bike, some groceries, and found a nice little cafe that has free wi-fi since my apartment doesn't have it set up yet.

Hawaiian hospitality is so great! Devin, the graduate researcher, picked me up from the airport and babysat me as I struggled through Walmart, finding a microwave, dish rack, pots and pans, etc... for the apartment, then went grocery shopping. We stopped at a little restaurant to get burritos, and mine came with PAPAYA salsa. YES HAWAII!! Haha it was a little odd, and entirely delicious. I've set up a lot of the apartment and unpacked my stuff - I attached a photo of our kitchen. The apartment is so nice!! It's a new building, so no one's lived in in yet and the some of the chairs still have plastic wrap over the seats. None of my apartment-mates have arrived so it's a little lonely though. I loved living in a quad and having people around (although I will admit to enjoying the privacy for a brief period), so I'm looking forward to Jake, the other Stanford student, arriving on Monday.

I also found out that I'm going to learn to shoot a CROSS-BOW!!!! Because that's what we use for setting up bug traps. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! I will definitely include a picture as soon as I get one. I was getting into Devin's car and noticed my seat was occupied by a large spear-like contraption, which I will soon be master of. I am so excited!!

This weekend I plan on biking around Hilo and getting to know where stuff is. I have a rain jacket and a plastic bag for my computer, so hopefully I'll be prepared if it starts to downpour. Yesterday we were eating and then it was pouring outside, and then it stopped. Just like that. Yay tropical weather!

And with that, I leave you to venture to the great green yonder!