Big Island Biology Blog 2019
No amount of blog posts could do justice to the amount of knowledge we’ve absorbed over the past two weeks. Seriously, it feels like we’ve been here for a year. When we’re not engaged in group workshops or at the beach, Chris, our loyal bio director (and snorkel guru / local hero / firefighter / heavyweight ARM WRESTLING — i.e. “game of angles” — champion) has been introducing us to various biological phenomena on the island. One of our favorite lessons, co-taught by our beloved WWOOFer, Evan, was on marine life and coral reef health. We learned that corals are living organisms composed of polyps that share a symbiotic relationship with various types of algae. The problem of ‘bleached’ reefs has to do with corals becoming unsuitable hosts for algae; without algae, they lose their vibrant colors along with their source of food. Sometimes bleached coral can be reinhabited by algae, but often times, having lost their main source of energy, the coral die off and cannot be recovered. Two major chemicals that contribute to the destruction of reefs are octinoxate and oxybenzone, both of which are ingredients in many sunscreen products. That afternoon we did our part in taking care of the reefs as well as our own bodies by making our own sun-protective concoctions (check out the recipe at the end of the blog!). The next day at the beach, we snorkeled for hours among green sea turtles and fish of all shapes, colors, and personalities, knowing that we weren’t causing any harm to their habitat. Among the reef, we were able to identify Parrotfish, angel fish, two types of puffer fish, and trumpetfish.
Moving onto shore, we’ve discussed Hawaii island’s impressive array of climates and biodiversity, and we’ve even dipped our dirty toes into some geology. From arid desert on the west coast to tropical wet climate on the east coast, with the periglacial peak of Mauna Kea standing tall with Pele Pride in the middle, Hawai’i island represents ten of the world’s thirteen microclimates. It’s enough to keep our mosquito-hunting director, beach-bound Californian, scarcely-sees-the-sun Seattelite, sweater-deprived New Englanders, and desert-obsessed Tuscon boy scout all feeling content.
During the semester we took the time to learn about the various volcanoes that created Hawaii Archipelago, specifically the ones that created the Island of Hawai’i (aka the Big Island). We learned about the five volcanoes above sea level that make up the island as well as the single underwater volcano, Mahukona that complete the string. Afterwards we visited a lava tube to apply what we learned in class. While exploring the lava tube we were able to observe a pahoehoe lava flow that made up the floor of the tube and continued throughout the tube. We also took our fresh knowledge of volcanoes and took a field trip to Volcanoes National Park. There we took the Crater Rim trail which overlooks the Kilauea Caldera which was a sight to see. We also observed steam vents and plumes along the same trail. We were all surprised to have the opportunity to actually enter the crater of the volcano! Keep in mind, this was the beast that erupted just last year. We paid our respects to Pele by chanting E Ho Mai and embraced the jungle that overtook the northern face of the volcano.
Our Bio group has also taken on two projects to get to know our surroundings even better. Throughout the semester, our biology group managed to create an outlet to research the surrounding ecological phenomena present within the island of Hawai’i. The outlet allowed us to create experiments such as our compost garden, in which we tested the growth rates of papaya sprouts dependent on the type of compost present within the soil. Due to the size of Big Island Farms, the natural resources present within the area offered us a wide array of different environments suitable for collecting insects to better understand our farm. Due to the changing climate of the area, our investigations were conducted amidst observations that were easily visible on the island. For example, one problem our group ran into when collecting insects was the fact that most were gone due to the recent lack of rain. We then ran into this problem again when preparing our compost bed. The features of the island acted as great resources for our research, however the obstacles present allowed us to pursue our experiments while learning to work with the land.
Coral-Reef Safe Sunscreen lotion recipe:
1/2 cup coconut oil (Can do 1/4 cup coco oil + 1/4 cup Sea butter)
1/4 cup beeswax
2 tablespoons high grade NON-NANO, UNCOATED Zinc Oxide (Wear mask when working with)
1 -6 tablespoons cacao powder (add to your desired shade of tan or brown)
Up to 1 teaspoon Red Raspberry Seed Oil
Up to 1 teaspoon Carrot Seed Oil
1-2 drops of aroma enhancing vanilla essence OR lavender essential oils (Do not use citrus essential oils as they increase sun sensitivity)
1) Mix all ingredients except cacao and zinc oxide in a medium metal bowl.
2) Create double boiler, by putting a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water onto medium heat and place the metal bowl in the pot. The bottom of the bowl should not reach the water, it should be suspended, the body of the bowl supported by the pot.
3) Stir the ingredients occasionally in the bowl as they start to melt.
4) When the mix is completely melted, turn off the heat and stir in the powders. Cover your mouth with a mask or your shirt as you work with the zinc to avoid inhaling the fine particles.
5) Mix evenly and then pour into small jars or tins. (Do not use tubes or pump bottles, this is a thick lotion made for finger spreading. Best container is a dark glass jar.)
6) The oils this mix contains are photosensitive, so keep your sunscreen out of the sun and store in cool places to avoid it melting. If it does melt, give it another stir and pop in fridge to quickly set.
Chris Roeting (Director Supreme): If you need someone to annihilate another person at a heavyweight arm wrestling competition, this is your guy. If you need someone to tell you pretty much anything about mosquitoes, this is also your guy. He’s got a degree in biology, and he’s gonna use it to singlehandedly address the worldwide invasive species problem.
Brianna “up and coming ukelele musician“ Arnold: Born of unfiltered drive and dedication to her own curiosity, Brianna Arnold is our in-house Fernologist / Paleo-Botanist. Can physically speak to any known bee, she is pursuing a major in Plant Science with a minor in Anthropology. Hailing from the far north of Vermont, she was actually in Hamilton… Played AS THE GUY!! HAMILTON!! She writes her own music and has ventured deep within the jungles of Ecuador and Utah. She holds a blackknot* in Capoeira.
Emma Rosso (also known as “Kit” or “Radar”): Knows each and every animal on planet earth personally. Shamu, Koko the gorilla, Steve Irwin’s ghost, and Keanu Reeves are all on speed dial. Unfortunately, due to private matters, Emma no longer chooses to speak with Shamu. Watch out, because she is also relentless with her New York (or Vermont IDK)-style sarcasm. However, if you’re on her good side, she will use her connections to the underground Bronx cannoli scene to be the ultimate plug. (Marron!)
Cyrus: *enough said*
Daniel Velasco: Our favorite anthropologist boy scout (Who’da thunk it?!), he will easily repel into anyone’s heart. He probably has the best music / fashion taste, especially if you’re into retro. (unconfirmed citizenship) You can catch him in Hilo, jamming with Uncle Uke with his Jerry Garcia D’Angelico memorial guitar. You can also catch wandering the Hawaiian plains, smoking his [REDACTED] and listening to the Smiths with his merry band of cowboys..
Emma Goldberg: She’s gonna be a boss in college. I mean, she’s doing what we’re all doing but at a younger age, so she’s a prodigy, right?
Brooke Nichols – The Wannabe Canadian, takes every chance she can to visit the great white north. Brooke bonds with Kit over Lizzo, so they are the ultimate allies. Brooke says she runs every morning, but what she really does is patrol the perimeter of the farm, warding of any potential enemies or bad vibes. She fears nothing — except Tyler, he’s sooooo cute — and is feared by everything.