My brain functions on numbers and details and I readily remember statistics or the exact date each species of albatross arrived on and when their first eggs were laid. Doing math equations before Pre-K, it seemed destined I’d be bound for a life in mathematics but math alone didn’t hold because it lacked the tangibles, or say details to keep my attention. Biology seemed to mold the best together and seabirds clearly became the thing I was most interested in.
The great thing about our work here on Green Island isn’t that it’s just hands-on and that you can see physical results from the work you do, but that numbers still readily describe what all is taking place. Though you can see the abundance of albatross here but not there, the slackened presence of Big-headed ants in most areas, or how clean a Restoration Area is after the last time you treated it, there still has to be a way to say that in writing. In a long-term project, you need to see how all the steps add up and how things trend over time. Thankfully there is enough immediate reward to strive towards but it’s not just us as our numbers join a long list of others before and more to come.
Visual observations are crucial but can’t always fully quantify the things we do especially for those people outside who never get the chance to look themselves. With rotating camps and the majority of planning taking place on Oahu, numbers can best say what’s happening and what to adjust for. Thus for almost everything we do there is some sort of data metrics to document and tell the story of the work done throughout Kure Atoll.
Our primary list of data is what we here call spray data. After completing each RA, we gather as a group to write down and add up how much we’ve sprayed, how much verb we found, what other species of weeds we encountered, time spent working in the RA, time spent pulling seed heads, the number of crushed burrows if any at all, and so on and so on. It sounds like a lot and in truth it is. To stay focused enough to find every weed present and then remember all these additional things as they add up takes a great deal of mental effort let alone amongst all the other cute little distractions you also readily face, i.e. albatross chicks. Thankfully for us, we have an apt data man in Andy who often and with pride manages to collect, check, and enter most all our data with an apparent ease.
For the particular metrics we most often collect, we get an idea of the effort and progress of working in each RA. You can see the seasonality in presence of certain weeds and when you might finally clear an area of a selected species. For Verbesina alone, we want to see how many plants we’ve removed from the seed bank as they sprout if any plants are found seeding and thus not attended to as quickly as we’d like, or the ideally rare case of if one has dropped any seeds and if so where at. Right now we’ve seen a prolific jump in the number of non-seeding verb throughout the central plain as we started working through on our third RA schedule rotation. For what we originally encountered as having maybe 10 to 50 Verbesina between us all, we’re now hitting numbers of upwards of 2 or 3,000 sometimes. Never more has it felt better to realize the effect of the work we’re doing had all those plants been allowed to grow let alone think of what it would look like had the seed bank been as full as it once was. Each plant gone is a small step forward. One day that count will read zero.
As the project approaches the critical point of its final years of the original 10-year eradication plan, our numbers are key in seeing how much more has to be achieved in order to reach that goal. Though my time will rest at a mere 7 months here, it’s good to know and see in some way where our time and effort played into this whole story of the presence of verb here on Kure. From the collection of data sheets, entry logs, file folders, and Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks, one could find it easy to get lost in the numbers here at Kure. But if you ever need to find me, I’m under all entries labeled RJP.
And to give an idea of the current numbers in my mind here’s a list of some I quite frequently dwell and look upon:
25,000+ pairs of breeding Laysan Albatross
3300+ pairs of breeding Black-footed Albatross
4,234 Verbesina in Aina `Anunu
27 Laysan Ducks at the Bonin Yard Pond
25 dibbles per Kawelu outplanting tray
21 stations found with Big-headed Ants
18 Bristle-thigh Curlews grouped on East Beach
132 days here on Kure
77 days left on Kure
52 work days
2 1/2 RA schedule rotations down
1 1/4 RA schedule rotations left
12.2 volts when to stop using solar outlets
8-10 days after a full moon to watch for Box Jellies
22 laps on the pier to equal a mile
70 calories per Oreo Cookie
100’s of 5-gallon buckets I’ve carried
4 nights a week I tend to eat cereal
949 pages left to finish War and Peace
2 lifetime species
3 years before finally seeing a Gray-backed Tern again
And 1 incredible journey so far
DLNR Kure crew member, Ryan Potter