We spent 7 days on Oahu and 5 days on the Big Island of Hawaii. While on the island of Oahu we spent multiple days either at the Bishops museum or with Marques, the cultural advisor of Hawaii. While on the Big Island of Hawaii we spent several days hiking the volcanoes of the Big Island with experts in volcanology and geology.
One part of the trip that made a big impact on me was when we did restoration work on an ancient fish pond on Oahu. This is an 88-acre fish pond that the ancient Hawaiians used to support their population of roughly one million people. The pond has since been forgotten, but a small group of native Hawaiians are working to restore it. Our group volunteered at the pond for a few hours moving boulders by hand. We moved roughly 8 tons of rock in the span of a few hours, that was used to rebuild the border wall of the pond. During our work break one of the employees explained to us how the pond actually functions. The ancient Hawaiians built double gated through ways that allowed small fish to enter the pond to safely feast, grow large enough to survive outside of the safety of the pond, then return to the pond to mate. This cycle created a sustainable fish farm that the ancient Hawaiians thrived on and modern Hawaiians are working to restore in order to thrive off of.
Our in-class lectures prepared us for some of the technical aspects of volcanoes, which was very useful during our guided hikes of the volcanoes of the Big Island of Hawaii. The lectures and reading on the culture of Hawaii was useful for our time spent with the cultural advisor of Hawaii. He took us around the island of Oahu to multiple cultural/sacred ancient Hawaiian spots. The readings we did helped me to understand the significance of some of those sites and appreciate the value of what I was experiencing.
What interested me the most was learning about the ginger infestation in the forests of Volcano National Park. Tim explained to us how the ginger was brought over as an ornamental and then went rampant and spread throughout parts of the forest. This invasive ginger has an extensive root system that chokes out the roots of the other trees in the forest. They don’t cause the existing trees to die but they do prevent new trees from growing in their place. The ginger is almost impossible to kill, so the rangers have volunteer groups cut of the tops of the plant then they come through and put a drop of a special herbicide on the exposed stem of the ginger which will kill the plant. The ginger can be controlled in a way but it is a very time-consuming process. The real debate between the rangers has been whether or not the forest is worth saving. The chances of Kilauea erupting again and destroying the forest is fairly good, so the question becomes about whether putting all the time and resources into removing the ginger would be worth it. The ginger situation interests me so much because these are the types of conservation projects that I want to work on one day. I think that hearing both sides of the situation, the why and why nots to conserving that particular forest illuminated the fact that not every forest can be saved or is worth saving, in that particular instance. These are the kinds of problems I want to work to solve in parks across the nation. Invasive species have become such a threat to our ecosystems that without people to try to stop their spread, our biodiversity will continue to be threatened, and these are the types of things I want to help figure out. I think this part of the trip helped me to realize what part of the field I want to work in.