The PICI and ALMP team are back from Aitutaki! We have lots of news to share over the next couple of weeks, so watch this space. I (Tiffany) had the pleasure of spending the last week of the project on Akaiami and in the field with the team. The time included both high points (like picking fresh papaya for lunch) and reminders of real life in the field (like being splattered with over-ripe papaya from tree height).
For me, one of the highlights of the week was our visit to Araura College and primary school.
We were invited to present our work at Araura College by Rere Mataiti, the owner of the boat we have been using for surveys. We were invited to the primary school by principal Gene Bartlett. Meitaki!
It was interesting first off just to see the school facilities. The schools are long buildings with outdoor ‘hallways’, a nice tropical convenience: each room has only one door to the outside; the ‘hallways’ are covered walkways along the sides of the buildings. Most people just walk on the grass outside. The college and the primary school are separated by a large grassy field, actively enjoyed by several groups playing when we arrived. The students were as bright and happy as their uniforms: crisp white shirts and red skirts for the older girls, green pinafores for the younger girls, with the boys all in white shirts and shorts.
We talked briefly about coral reefs, then described some of our surveying methods. Some of the students used quadrats and transect lines in an example survey using shells and dried specimens that we had collected on the beach. When we count the species in the lagoon, we need to know not only what we found but also where and how much we looked. We keep track of the area we survey using 1 m2 quadrats, sampled along 10 metre transects.
We could just say how many animals we saw, but that number depends on how clear the water was, how much time we spent looking, who was looking, and so on. The survey methods show many of a given species there are per square metre of the coral reefs in the lagoon. This way, the numbers can be compared with other surveys conducted by different people in other areas or other times.
We also brought along a SCUBA tank and system. Mareike and Jess showed the kids how to use the gear to breathe compressed air, which was a big hit! Some bravery was required by the first few students, who laughed and said that the air seemed cold. Most of the young kids tried it and were pretty excited!
At the end of each of the two classes of older students, a student stood up and thanked us for coming to the class and sharing our knowledge. We appreciate this gesture, and we’re so pleased that the students were keen to learn about the SCUBA equipment and ask us interesting questions about the lagoon.