Learning New Things

July 30, 2019

Janet Bering, 1st Assistant Scientist

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Hi y’all it’s me, Jber, the first Assistant Scientist onboard, and it’s my birthday! I know my parents always think about me a lot on my birthday when I’m at sea, so I always try to write the blog on this day to say hi! Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Plz pet the dog for me.

Ok, so, moving, here we are, 2 days out of Nikumaroro, with about 5 days left in PIPA. This is my third trip to PIPA, and each trip I learn something new, or rather many new things, from troubleshooting a stalled outboard motor to new types of reef fish and deeper truths about the resilience of ecosystems and the great extent of the American influence across the Pacific. This trip, two things have struck me most.

The first one is the dichotomy between the wreckage left behind by the U.S. military on Kanton and the vibrant life in the lagoon and on the outer reef. Walking around on Kanton, it is easy to believe that the world as we know it has ended – abandoned buildings, wrecked plane parts, an overgrown road. Snorkeling in Kanton, it is hard to believe that the world will end, ever, as the reefs are silly with fish, sharks and – the best part - new, healthy coral, which is a rare sight to see in today’s warming world. It gives one hope that our Earth may be more resilient than we know.

The second thing that has struck me is that healthy ecosystems are loud. Walking around on Kanton, you think it is dead quiet, except it’s not, as hermit crabs scuttle and fairy terns screech. Walking around on Orona, overflowing with sooty tern colonies, the squacking is almost deafening. Snorkeling on the reefs, the endless crunching of parrotfish on the coral adds a background crackle. Compared to other, less healthy reefs I have
seen, the noise is very noticeable, a sign that things are working as they should.

I’m sure the next island and the next two weeks will continue to bring lots of learning, lots of adventure, and lots of joy.

- Janet

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