The latest blog entry from Toni Caldwell, USFWS Biological Science Tech. Volunteer on Laysan Island
Photo credit: James Watt
How quickly the time flies out here in paradise. This summer we were sent a three person crew from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) - Sarah Chinn, Carrie McAtee, and Whitney Taylor. During the last five weeks, they’ve been making daily runs around the island perimeter surveying the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, (Monachus schauinslandi). The largest breeding population can be found here at Laysan Island with over 200 identified seals. Twenty eight velvety black pups have been born this year of which 24 have weaned from their mom and are now frolicking playfully upon our shores!
Before I came out here I only thought of these seals as cute and pudgy marine mammals, but after almost five months of sharing my bathwater with them I have found their sneezes and vomit inducing bowel movements quite endearing. You laugh, but I am not the only one. Literally running around Laysan at least twice a week under timed survey protocols to monitor male aggression for behavioral studies, breeding success, and heath of the population - while opportunistically collecting seal scat - and still be ridiculously excited about your job takes a special kind of person. These young researchers are well trained, and because they’re awesome and enjoy their work, the entire team has returned to our island for the second year in a row.
This weekend marked an exciting event for Laysan, a special Hawaiian monk seal translocation of two weaned pups from French Frigate Shoals (FFS) to our island, where they have a better chance of survival. For the past few years the pups born at FFS have had a tough time reaching adulthood for many reasons, including shark depredation and lack of food, but these two special weaned pups have now been released into the calmer waters of our northwestern bay. From now through October they will be followed by one of our own U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field volunteers, Claudia Mischler. Their movements will also be tracked by attached satellite transmitters, allowing NMFS to monitor their progress.
The beach in front of camp seems bare now that the NMFS camp is gone. Our Sunday shared dinners will be a bit lonely without the giggly antics of our missed friends. Just another reminder that our time here is fleeting. Lots of love sent out to some of the best people on the planet - Sarah, Carrie, and Whitney - may the next year bring you prosperity and happiness.