Surfing Shipwrecks in Aunuu (when our fieldwork was done)


We took the alia ferry to Aunuu today to catch some fun waves! Sorry I didn’t get any photos of the waves, I was too busy surfing! Aunuu is a small island off of the larger American Samoan island of Tutuila. There is a small village there. Many of the residents commute to the larger island using the alia ferries in order to go to work daily. We met the IT specialist for American Samoa Community College, Dawn, in the lineup. He lives on the island with his family and commutes to the college for work every morning. Not a bad life being an IT specialist here in Samoa (or a field researcher!).

Meeting Luna: The Samoan Pe’a, Flying Fox

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We were lucky enough to meet a real native Samoan pe’a on our second day in Samoa. Pe’a is the Samoan word for Pteropus samoensis, or the Samoan Flying Fox. Native to Fiji, Sāmoa, and Western Sāmoa. Every morning and evening in Sāmoa you can see these diurnal feeders flying out and back home again, on the hunt. Unlike the insectivorous Hawaiian Hoary Bat, or ʻōpeʻapeʻa (Lasiurus cinereus semotus), Samoan Pe’a is a fruit bat who lives on fruits, flowers, and nectar. The Pe’a is also much more abundant and commonly seen.

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Afio Mai! Welcome to Samoa

Our team of scientists assembled on the shores of Pala lagoon to discuss our plan of action for this study site. On the shore you see Lydia Baker, our microbiologist from the University of Hawaii Oceanography Department, Dan Amato, phycologist, ecologist, and recent graduate from the Manoa Botany Department, and Chris Shuler,  University of Hawaii Geologist.


Our first day in American Samoa was spent surveying study sites. Our first visit was to Pala Lagoon, our most impacted site. Our friend and collaborator from the University of Hawaii geology department explained the characteristics of the lagoon to us. A large watershed housing a large population of people drains directly into Pala Lagoon. The lagoon has also been dredged, and is partially artificially enclosed by  American Samoa’s airport runway. The waters of the lagoon are heavily sedimented. Pala Lagoon’s wetlands are designated as a special management area.


On the rocks of Pala lagoon we found a species of green algae that could be useful for isotopic nitrogen studies.


We were lucky to have rented a very nice research vehicle along with our housing rental, it was really great for carrying equipment and personnel. Our next stop on our island tour was Faga’alu, where we found more of this promising green algae species.



We managed to visit, designate, and visually survey all of our study sites on the first day.