Conservation in Ka’u

Recently I was able to attend an ‘After Dark in the Park‘ event at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The speaker that evening was John Replogle of The Nature Conservancy’s Ka’u Preserve. The Ka’u Preserve is a very close neighbor to  Science Camp, and we are working on plans to include programs at the Ka’u Preserve this summer.

Ka'u Preserve

The Ka’u Preserve consists of four parcels of land adjacent to the Ka’u Forest Preserve, which is State-owned forest reserve lands. The Ka’u forest is the largest and most intact native forest in Hawaii. Many rare plants and birds still survive in this forest. The forest itself features ‘ōhi‘a and koa trees which provide a canopy for the lush native understory.

In his presentation, Mr. Replogle presented the goals of TNC (The Nature Conservancy) in the Ka’u Preserve, and discussed the various programs they are carrying out to achieve those goals.

Most of TNC’s efforts are focused on controlling feral animals and invasive plant species. Controlling the pigs and goats that are the forest’s biggest threat consists mostly of the very difficult work of putting up fencing through very dense forest undergrowth.

Once fences are in place, though, the effect is dramatic, as these images illustrate:

understory fence

This image illustrates how quickly the forest can recover once feral pigs have been fenced out.

This image, from the island of Molokai, shows the effect of a fence built to keep feral goats out.

This image shows the effect of a fence built to keep out feral goats on Molokai.

kamehame-nature-conservancy

Also just a short distance from camp is Kamekame Beach. TNC purchased this land in 2002 in order to protect the endangered Hawksbill Turtle (hanu`ea) for whom this beach is the single most important nesting site in the U.S.  Together with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, TNC operates a volunteer turtle monitoring program to protect the nests from invasive predators such as rats and mongooses.

hawksbill_turtle

At Science Camp this summer, campers will have the chance to learn first-hand about the plants and animals that make up these habitats, about the methods used to protect them, about the scientists, environmentalists, naturalists, and volunteers who do this important work, and to participate in that work.

A Day at Science Camp

What is a typical day at science camp like? Here is a sample:

7:00 am: Wake up shortly after sunrise, go outside and spend a few minutes enjoying the sunshine. Pahala Plantation House

7:30 am: Off to breakfast – short five minute walk to the ‘Plantation House’ – banana pancakes on the veranda – yum!

8:30 am: Back to the cottage for clean up and to pack for today’s filed trip, Kilauea Volcano.

9:30 am: Gather at the vans, pile in – here we go!Kilauea Lookout

10:00 am: Arrive at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The resident geologist gives us a presentation about the facility and its history and talks about what they do at the observatory, including what they do when the volcano does something spectacular. On to the Jaggar Museum to spend some time at the lookout over Kilauea Caldera.Thurston Lava Tube

Noon: After eating lunch in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we are walking through Thurston Lava Tube, learning how important lava tubes are to a Hawaiian-type volcano. Amazing to walk through one!

2:00 pm: Hiking the Ka’u Desert Trail.  What a weird place. Saw footprints more than 200 years old preserved in ash. Kilauea Caldera

4:00 pm: Back at camp. This is rec hour. One of the counselors is really good at photography and today she’s taking a group of us out on a photography walk.

5:30 pm: Kitchen Duty today, so I’m at the Plantation House early.

7:30 pm: Showing a film about Kilauea eruptions between 1955 and 1960. Those old guys took some chances!

_MG_7078s8:00 pm: Surprise trip up to Kilauea volcano. Standing at the lookout watching the glow coming from Halema’uma’u Crater. Awesome! And the night sky is incredible.

Big Island Star Gazing

10:00 pm: Lights out!