Welcome to the Kure Field Blog by Cynthia Vanderlip

Aloha mai Readers,

Welcome to the Kure Atoll field camp blog.  This blog was created to peek into the world of living on a remote atoll by sharing the thoughts and insights of current field campers.  I will kick the blog off by sharing some of my experiences on Kure and how we got to where we are today.

My relationship with Kure started in 1989 as a volunteer for NMFS “Head Start Program” for monk seals that was designed to increase young sealsʻ survivorship. During my many 2-week stints, I stayed in the United States Coast Guard (USCG) visitor barracks and ate in the galley with the twenty men that worked the LORAN C station.  Back then, travel to Kure was an easy trip on a C-130 that landed on a 4000ʻ white coral runway void of plants or birds.  It was unknown to me then that it would be another 20 years before I would go down that same runway carrying a pick to dig holes for native plants as a means to improve it for wildlife.

In 2002, after a 5-year stint on Midway Atoll, I accepted a position with the State of Hawaii running 3-5 month summer field camps on Kure. The job had many problems and a steep learning curve while developing priorities for habitat restoration in a low-budget, post-USCG landscape.  But by 2005, it was clear that one particularly destructive weed, called Verbesina encelioides, posed an immediate threat to the native plants that provided breeding habitat for seabirds, monk seals, turtles and arthropods.

During my first three field camps on Kure I had already witnessed storm erosion of the dune structures, evidence of rising sea level and rapidly deteriorating landscape caused by non-native plants. In order to address these critical threats, I began planning year-round field-camps. By 2010, despite many challenges to raise funds, we were able to raise enough support to start year-round camps. The aging USCG facilities were improved with solar electrical, solar freezers, satellite communication devices, water catchment and a new 4-person wooden bunkhouse that could house the extra people needed to embark on this ambitious project.

After six years of year-round habitat restoration the native flora and fauna emerged resilient. By 2016, the fields of Verbesina had turned into 188 acres of diverse and abundant native plant assemblages that could support the rapidly growing seabird populations. The transformation effort to restore Kureʻs unique and diverse ecosystem is directly due to the people working on Kure each season. It is those people whose thoughts you read here that blog the day-to-day activities that accomplish our management priorities. It is my hope that readers will be inspired by how-and-why ecosystems are restored, and then seek to support and protect native ecosystems in their own communities or maybe even apply to work on Kure!

It is with great honor and respect that I give you the voices of the individuals healing and restoring Kureʻs unique biocultural ecosystem.

Cynthia Vanderlip

Kure Atoll Biological Field Camp Supervisor (DLNR/DOFAW)
Executive Director (Kure Atoll Conservancy)