Do you ever ask yourself, “How did I get myself into this corner?” “How did we go about talking about the future of drones technology to a conversation about judging entire groups of people?” Well, that’s the position that I was in earlier today, albeit in a half-humorous, half-awkward way. “So what do you think about people from Dallas?” A girl from Dallas asked me. Most of the people on this trip, and thus on the tour bus, were from Dallas, and the people in the front half of the bus had been tuning into the conversation up until this point, so I was thinking ‘Jeremy, tread delicately.’ “Oh they are just wonderful.” Nailed it. Needless to say, the people in the bus liked my answer.

As far as my Hawaiian (mis)adventures go, today’s were ok. Today we took two exams, one on animal diversity (a class that I took last spring) and another on ecology. They went alright for me I think, but I’m not being actually graded for this class. I’m more just taking them so that I can get more used to tests and test-taking. We went to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge where we saw many species of endangered birds, then we went for lunch, and then another invertebrates exhibition, this time on a different reef (except we found less stuff which made it less interesting). Though I did thoroughly enjoy debating with people about odd things, like whether or not drones will take responsibility of issuing speeding tickets away from policemen.

Kilauea Point was sick. Atop the mountain was the lighthouse that you could see getting off the bus and looking across the cove. It was atop a fingering cliff surrounded by ocean.

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Some of the birds that we saw include the Nene — Hawaii’s state bird, the red-footed booby, albatrosses nesting, and frigatebirds. A frigate bird at one point flew over our heads, perfectly timed considering the park ranger who was giving us a tour was boring us to death about the history of the department of the interior and its role at the preserve. The frigate bird derives its name from being like a frigate ship in that it can make very sharp mid-air turns. It can also fly for 3-4 months without landing and sleeps while flying. I loved seeing the birds. I actually drew a picture of a taxidermy Nene. I’ve always thought that I couldn’t produce art (or that I could, but at a first-grade, finger-painting level), but later, one of the other students said that my drawing looked amazing. She probably shouldn’t have said that. It only boosted my already swellingly-large ego.

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(Above: Hawaii’s state bird, the Ne’ne. It is very similar to a canadian goose, except it has less webbing on its feet, an adaptation from living mostly on the surface of the water to finding food and eating on land).

Everything up till this point was very awesome, but the thing that just made it super memorable was that I found my favorite plant in the whole world: the sensitive fern. And it was growing everywhere! There are probably a lot of different species that grow in different places, but this one was the same as the one in the greenhouse at Vassar.

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It’s called the ‘sensitive’ fern because it folds all its leaves inwards when the leaves are touched. It is fantastic and I can go home to Philadelphia and die happily now.

Finally, Chris Wall, a Ph.D student in the Marine Biology Program at University of Hawaii, presented his research to us on the effects of stressors on corals. The research involved exposing one species of calcareous (or reef-building) coral to different concentrations of aqueous CO2 to see what impact high CO2 concentrations had on both the creation of the calcium skeleton and the biomass of the corals themselves including just the filamentous tissues on the outside. They found that these corals, known as a species to continue creation a calcium skeleton at the same rate in response to increased CO2, did not change in calcium skeleton growth rate, but did change in terms of rate of biomass growth: biomass decreased. Thus they concluded that this coral has some sort of change in energy allocation in response to higher CO2. Chris Wall was a really interesting guy. We talked for a long time afterwards and I enjoyed hearing him talk about all of the ways that his experiments got screwed up — one species of coral that he ran alongside the coral he presented on got eaten by a nudibranch and sometimes he received electric shocks from the lab equipment.. Maybe I liked hearing about his screw-ups because it made me feel better about the screw-ups in my own research.

That’s all for now, come back tomorrow for more!

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