The places I usually get to work are in Fiji and Vanuatu, but our lab, the Ticktin Ethnoecology and Conservation Lab, carries out many different kinds of research projects both individually and as part of Dr. Ticktin’s on-going collaborations right here at home. One of the projects my fellow lab mate, Zoe Hastings, is working on with Dr. Ticktin is a dispersal, predation, and germination study of the lama tree (Diospyros sandwicensis) as part of a larger, long-term study looking at the population dynamics of common mesic (moist) forest trees in Hawaii with the Board of Water Supply.
This past month, Zoe and another labmate, Reko Libby, drove across island to the leeward side to collect lama fruit in a protected valley, which aptly look like mini persimmons, their far away cousin, and set up plots to assess what happens to them over time.
Some of this fruit was de-pulped, or the flesh taken off to expose only the seeds, while others were left whole. This was done to see if the fruit germinated more readily if it was left whole, or if some removal of the fruit was helpful to it. Next they placed the fruit or seeds either in cages, to keep rodents and birds out, or left them out in the open to record what kinds of insects and other animals interacted with them, if any. These scenarios are called treatments and are monitored over time. The four treatments being: whole fruit in a cage, whole fruit with no cage, de-pulped seed in a cage, and de-pulped seed with no cage. Each of these plots are spaced out at a set distance from each other and randomly assigned a treatment.
The following week began the fun part, observing what happens! Which I happily got to help with. The last two weekends of November I came along with the team to help remonitor the plots and record what kinds of activity had gone on since they set up the experiment.
The first week, Zoe and I observed some exciting changes to the fruit and seeds. In some cases it looked like small rodents had nibbled at the seeds and fruit in the cage-less plots, and in others, ants and other insects had started to de-pulp the fruit as well.
This remonitoring will continue each week to look for additional predation and de-pulping, as well as germination of the seeds. However, I will have to take a break from assisting on this project for the next few weeks as I return to Vanuatu in December and will be continuing to work on a natural forest regeneration study post-cyclone Pam of March 2015. I’m looking forward to updating this blog after I return and sharing all about that project.