Yesterday morning, we met with our partners at WCS to discuss the planned work for the next weeks and the contacts to the communities we plan to work with. Afterwards, the ecologists went to the campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP), another of our local project partners. We met with the head of the School of Marine Sciences, Prof. Ciro Rico, for a long and stimulating discussion of the ecological research and how to integrate best with ongoing research at USP. In a number of fields (e.g., shark and sea cucumber ecology), a close collaboration is planned with a number of student projects jointly supervised by USP and ZMT.
In the afternoon, Janne left for Ovalau island, where the former capital of Fiji (Levuka) is located. The rest of us met with the leaders of two communities for our official introduction (and even enjoyed a small amount of kava ourselves). Thanks to the efforts and support of Akuila, who has excellent connections throughout Fiji, aligning our work with the appropriate stakeholders and following protocol is greatly facilitated.
Following the ceremonies, we were all set to jump into the water this morning and to explore their tabu areas (community-managed section of the lagoon closed to fishing)… However, before we could leave to the villages, we received our shipment of research gear from Bremen – 6 boxes of dive gear, lab equipment and a variety of sensors and measuring equipment. Except for the weather, everything is in place now for several months of exciting field work!
The final part of our Fiji team (the MSc students Andreas, Ryan and Steven) is set to embark on the wonderful long journey to join us tomorrow, so we wish them much better flights than us and look forward to their arrival!