Introduction by Cynthia Vanderlip

Aloha mai Readers,

Welcome to the Kure Atoll field camp blog.  This blog was created to share the thoughts and insights of current field campers as a way to peek into the world of living on a remote atoll that is located “in the Heart of the Pacific”.  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. I was a volunteer for NMFS “Head Start” monk seal program that was designed to increase young sealsʻ survivorship. During my 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 out plantings as a means to increase native wildlife habitat.

In 2002, I accepted a position for the State of Hawaiiʻs Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR/DOFAW) that was responsible for running 3-5 month summer field camps. 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 there was one particularly destructive weed, called Verbesina enciloides, that posed an immediate threat to the native plant ecosystem that monk seals, turtles, arthropods and seabirds depend on to thrive and reproduce.

During that short time, I had already witnessed the process of storm erosion, the problems with rising sea levels, and the continued habitat degradation by non-native plants. In order to address these critical threats, I began planning for field-camps to be extended to year-round status. By 2010, despite many challenges to raise funds, we were able to raise enough support to start year-round camps. With the help of many people, the camp was able to improve with solar electrical, satellite communication, water catchment and a new 5-8 person bunkhouse.

So now here we are, after six years of year-round habitat restoration, and the native flora and fauna has emerged resilient. By 2016, the fields of Verbesina have turned into nearly 200 acres of diverse native assemblages that support growing seabird populations. This transformative 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.

For all the people that have contributed to this project, it is with great honor and respect that I give you the voices of the current individuals healing and restoring Kureʻs unique biocultural ecosystem. .

Cynthia Vanderlip

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