January update

On my last blog post (two weeks ago!) I highlighted the arrival of two foreign field assistants to the field site. Remi and Phil are joining a field team that consists of myself and four local biologists. I’ll introduce a couple of them here.


Serena Ketaloya is a biologist who worked with Conservation International for several years on outreach with environmental issues throughout the province, particularly on the islands. She first started working on this project in 2011 and has been pivotal to the success of our research ever since. She lives at the home pictured earlier in this blog with her three children and several other family members. Serena trained as a bird bander under Jordan Karubian when he first initiated this project and is proficient in all modes of data collection on the project. In addition to her skills as a field biologist, she coordinates all of our outreach work throughout the province and manages the local field crew year round. We’re lucky to have her as a part of this project! For some other recent neat news about Serena, see this blog post:

In Papua New Guinea, conservation efforts overlook crucial group: women


Also pictured in this image is a bowl of sago soup that she recently made for us. Sago Palm is a local palm that is used for a wide variety of things here and is particularly useful for constructing roofs and walls and makes a filling meal when other veggies are scarce (such as years like this during a drought!).


Doka is a biologist who first joined the project in 2014. Along with Serena, he manages the population of banded fairywrens at our Porotona field site year round. He is extremely proficient at identifying the local bird species and coordinates our monthly transects that record fairywren abundance and local bird diversity. This year I also learned that he is a remarkably skilled carpenter. In his free time, he is constructing a new house for his wife and kids and recently has been heading up construction of the aviaries that will house fairywrens for our experimental work. Here are some photos of the construction of these aviaries! More on these tests in the near future, but for now be impressed at the impressive cages that have been created almost entirely out of bush materials!


Finally, I will end with a short selection of recent photographs taken by myself, Phil, and Remi (from Remi):


We recently made the move down to our primary field site at Garuahi, where some small rain has filled up the water tanks, enabling us to spend time here. We are staying in a local government house that is quite comfortable. Here is a shot curtesy of Phil:


The other day we tried to get offshore in the heat off the afternoon to check out some seabirds, but only minutes after leaving the shore the engine began emitting smoke and we had to paddle back to shore. Nice view of the field site from afar though!


Serena with some of her various animals (from Remi)!


Always take time to hang out with the kittens and puppies (from Remi):


One of the benefits of working right on the ocean is an abundance of marine life right offshore. This may need a blog post of its own, but here is a nice shot of the reef that is just a short swim in the ocean away (from Remi).


Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds are pretty common at our site and we regularly come across amazing bowers such as this (from Phil)!


A Blyth’s Hornbill to round things out (from Phil)!




Thanks for reading!


Arrivals from abroad

This week we welcomed Phil and Remi to Porotona where they will be helping with the research over the coming months. Both are biologists who have been working with fairywrens and other Australian birds over the past year. We are lucky to have them on board!

Here they are knocking star fruits from the trees for an afternoon snack.


Much of our time lately has been focused on constructing small cages for our upcoming aviary experiments with the fairywrens. We’ll hold them in captivity briefly while we study the aggressive and mating behaviors of both sexes. Local biologist Doka has taken a lead on constructing an impressive construction for this purpose using only various materials cut from the bush (and some copper mesh).


We have also spent time locating fairywren nests and have logged a dozen for the year so far. Despite high predation rates, we are able to collect some useful data from the nestlings and by using cleverly disguised Go Pros to document feeding rates from the adults.


Our meals here consist of almost exclusively locally grown veggies, fresh caught fish, and coconut flavored rice. Preparing these meals takes quite a long while and effort. Here is Serena flavoring a few saucepans of veggies with coconut.


Recent collections from the garden has resulted in an abundance of tapioca, which the locals laboriously prepare and bake bread-like food items.


Finally, we have begun to see some rain over the past two weeks! The river that runs by the house has started to trickle by and we are all crossing our fingers that it will fill up and become a raging torrent soon.


I’ll end with a shot of Phil and the enormous Blue-tongued Skink he found on his first night here: