Tuesday
Feb042014

ARO Blog: Cameron Hookey

What a week for diving! Early on in the workweek we had some of the best visibility since I have been here. Perfect for spot tests. With pretty much everyone survey-ready, we now have a week of data collection ahead of us.

We also have three new advanced divers in Brandon, Celina and Lewis. Greg came over midweek and completed the next level of training, teaching them about underwater navigation, buoyancy control, and even throwing in a cool wreck dive. Greg being here was a means for celebration, so our fearless leader Kris treated everyone to a highly anticipated chicken dinner.

Last week was also the grand opening of the FJM Tuck Shop, providing little pieces of luxury for the volunteers at a low price. So far we can’t keep Pringles on the shelves. Even the pizza flavor are selling, granted only when all the other options have been snagged up. All the proceeds of the Tuck Shop will be used towards camp upgrades, possibly a cooker?  The thought of it makes our mouths drool.

All the animals are doing well. KJ the pig has officially broken his carabineer, so congratulations to him. He has also learned that if he escapes and THEN takes a quick mud bath, he is much less likely to be rounded up immediately. The puppies have taken to idolizing the big dogs, competing in grossly unbalanced wrestling matches and putting on their most intimidating bark when an intruder comes around. They still won’t go near the cats.

We have also added another source of entertainment to the camp, a beautiful volleyball net. Now all we need is for Fiji to cool down a bit so we can use it properly. We also need to get better, as Mala continues to embarrass us on the court, along with his 6 year old son.

By Cameron Hookey, Marine ARO

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.

Wednesday
Jan222014

ARO Blog: Cameron Hookey

Another successful week for the Fiji Marine Conservation Project. Calvin and Cara have been “spot on” with their underwater tests, and are knocking on the door to be survey-ready. Kim, Felix and Ali are surveying with their eyes closed, figuratively of course, and Lewis and Celina are working with staff and peers to learn the indicator species and become qualified “marine nerds”. Someday they too will be able to bring up obscure tropical fish species in conversation, impressing friends and family with their awesome marine lingo.


The animals are all doing well- Lucy the pig has become adept at shaking her collar, prompting Kris and an unlucky volunteer to have to wrestle her to the ground while she screams bloody murder. Ali has proven himself a worthy pig wrangler. Our puppies are still kicking it, and have acquired the names Trigger, Puffer and Damsel. Get it? If not, study your fish!  Kim wants to call Damsel “gooooat”, a classic dogs name- tensions run high. Everyone has a love/hate relationship with Trigger- she has the most personality, but likes to incessantly cry through the night for various reasons. Last night she got her head stuck in between two stairs like a wailing whack-a-mole, and Ali the pig wrangler had to dawn a new hat and become the puppy rescuer. That’s something to add to the CV.

Kris has been busy the last few days working on the data and getting the volunteers excited about the findings. It is always nice to see your hard work being turned into usable data that actually makes sense, and could benefit the area in the long run. For only having 6 months worth of data, we are already starting to see some pretty cool trends.

With the weekend upon us now, it is time to relax. With a few new volunteers to welcome, it will be nice to sit around and play a few games. There is nothing like Monopoly to make (or dissolve) friendships. I guess that will be an update for next week. So far Brandon has won all of the games, so there might be an anti-Brandon alliance in the works.

If all goes as planned and the weather holds, next week should bring on a few more Advanced diver certifications, Calvin and Cara getting their Rescue Diver, and a busy Felix working through his Divemaster.  It will be a busy week full of rescue scenarios and adventure dives on top of our regularly scheduled programming, the surveys. Hopefully there will be sharks and rays abound, fingers crossed.

By Cameron Hookey, Assitant Research Officer

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.

Wednesday
Jan222014

Volunteer Blog: Felix & Kim

Felix and Kim at your service. The weeks been awesome. Saw some fish, caught some rays, saw a few sharks, got a bit burnt – you know the usual Fiji banter.

Image courtesy of Shannon Elizabeth, Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving volunteer

So the new guys are alright it turns out! They’ve been bashing through their spot tests (some better than others) over the last week. Some are even almost ready to survey with us! While spot tests we’ve seen some pretty gnarly stuff such as looooaaads of white tips, turtles (Kim finally saw her first one after 14 weeks of disappointment), MASSIVE trigger fish, a huge eagle ray, AMAZING visibility and of course Felix has seen millions of Nudibranches too.

We have been doing unsuccessful workouts… press ups some nights… Felix looks hunkin’. Ali’s man boobs are getting more pec like (THANK GOD) but sadly he leaves us on Wednesday… :( the tremendous trio will be no more (Felix, Ali and Kim).

We seem to have acquired 3 more dogs, now at a grand total of 7 dogs! Trigger (the cutest), Puffer (the fattest) and Gooooooat (the goatiest). All of them are adorable but not when they cry all night (Trigger I’m looking at you).

Kim (surprisingly) is now the brownest Scot on camp but there is not all that much competition… Felix is the most buff (no surprise there) and they are the two best looking on camp also. Sorry, not sorry. Celina looks ok.

The kittens are causing havoc as per, peeing where they shouldn’t and pooing in Kris’s clothes and fins (haha). Watch out they like porridge.

Infection has run wild on camp especially in two spots, Kim and Emma’s knee. Everyone has been very helpful treating the wounds with iodine and love. Kim’s knee exploded on her way down to the boat and so much puss came out it was unreal, it was like a volcano of puss and minging stuff. Emma’s knee exploded mid dive and not as much mingmong stuff came out. Kim wins.

Sunday was a Cava hangover day, so we watched movies all day. Movies including Blood Diamond (ya ya bru), The Other Guys (goodnight Sheila, goodnight Terry), Sex Drive (no brother of mine will take it in the chilli ring). Fantastic day to top off the week.

After Kris went shopping we finally have enough MILK POWDER, toilet roll and crackers for the long lost CRACKER PARTY! The week definitely ended on a high. Filled with love, crackers, movies and sharks……and nudi’s…..and Ali’s naked dive…… and Kim’s turtle.

Stay Classy Fiji Marine.

Over and out, put that kettle on.

By Kim Guthrie & Felix De Wattripont, volunteers

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.

Wednesday
Jan152014

Marine PI Blog: Bring on 2014!

It has been an exciting start to 2014 for the Fiji Marine Conservation team.  In the last two weeks we have welcomed 5 new volunteers into camp, and have gladly avoided a visit by the vicious Cyclone Ian. As things start to get into a groove, we are relying on our three experienced volunteers- Kim, Felix and Ali- to show the other guys the ropes. Before you know it we will have a full team of survey-ready divers!

Camp has continued to build, with plenty of DIY projects cropping up as the book spines fall apart from wear. Just last week we built a very classy dive equipment shed, and believe it or not, dug a pool. Well, Ali pretty much dug the pool while the rest of us watched. We are on our way to a fully functioning dive center!  The pool not only provides us with a much needed place to relax out of the hot sun, but it allows us a convenient area to wash our dive kit, and a great place to hide to scare our new volunteers. The pigs will soon love the idea, as we draw on all of our pipe engineering skills to route a constant flow system of water to create a nice drainage puddle for them to do…what pigs do.

Big welcome to Calvin, Cara, Brandon, Lewis and Celina- all are currently undergoing vigorous lecturing and testing to make them survey-ready. By the end of their time here, they will be correctly identifying tropical fish in their sleep, by family AND species. Calvin, Cara and Brendan have already begun their spot testing, being challenged by our experienced and weathered volunteers to correctly identify species in their natural habitat. Celina and Lewis will be out on the reefs soon to face a similar fate.

Out of the water, our farm continues to grow. Along with our two charming pigs and our 15 rambunctious chickens, we have three kittens and their hard working single mother Snow, and three adopted female puppies.  If only we could teach all of our animals to survey reefs, we would have control of a small army.

When all of our new volunteers are confident identifying fish species and families, they will then learn how to properly set up and use a transect line, and will begin to contribute to the growing dataset on the reefs surrounding Beqa Island. The project is also approaching a very exciting transition, as we aim to begin surveys on coral and invertebrates in the near future. All of the research we do is collected with the goal of providing a baseline on which past and future datasets can be compared. This might eventually allow us to understand the impacts of human and environmental stresses on the reefs surrounding us.

On a final note, it is the beginning of shark season here in Beqa, and while family and friends at home might be nervous, everyone here is very excited! Bring on the shark sightings!

By Kris Miles, Marine Principal Investigator

Find out more about the Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.

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