Sixth form/ High School
Fiji – School Expeditions
Structure of the expedition
The expedition starts in one of the Natewa villages at 4pm on a Sunday. The students will be staying in homestays for the first two nights in a traditional Fijian village. On the Monday the group will be participating in a Fijian culture and environment course which gives them an introduction to the natural history and cultural history of the mountains and forests of Fiji. Training will be given in identification of the important tree species and their uses, the major agricultural crops including taro and kava, the history of the landscape and how to identify some of the common bird calls.
On the Tuesday morning the group will trek up the mountains (approx. 2 hours) to a camp in the heart of the Natewa National Park. After a week in the national park the group will descend to the coast (2 hrs) and will be based in the Natewa Bay Marine Research Centre for the second week of the expedition.
Week 1 – Forest week
During their 5 nights in the Natewa National Park the students will complete the following:
- Forest measurements: Students will be working in teams completing measurements of 20m x 20m quadrats to collect data on the diameter at breast height (DBH) of all woody species, canopy height, quantity of vegetation at different heights from a touch pole, canopy density, evidence of disturbance (e.g. cut stumps) and sapling density. These data will then be used to calculate carbon levels and degree of disturbance of each of the sites.
- Arthropod surveys: These surveys are designed to collect as wide a range of invertebrate as possible to help build catalogue lists of these taxa. Techniques will include sweep netting, use of suction devices, Malaise traps, pit fall traps and light traps. Students will be involved in setting and emptying these traps and then under supervision will sort the specimens collected into Orders. The samples will be exported for identification by various international specialists and from genetic bar coding.
- Bird surveys: Students will be working with an experienced field naturalist completing point count surveys where all birds seen or heard are identified. Mist nets will be used to gather data on under-storey bird communities. In addition, from a bird banding programme taking place in the park, students will be able to access data to derive patterns and trends in breeding, moult patterns, longevity and movement between years.
- Herpetofauna and mammal surveys: The surveys for herpetofauna will be done from standard timed searches along transects and pitfall traps with drift fences. After dark amphibian species will be surveyed using spotlights. Species will be identified and GPS coordinates taken. In addition small mammal trapping will be used to determine the distribution of invasive mongoose species.
- Bat surveys: In the evenings students will be helping with mist net surveys to determine bat communities. How captured bats are removed, handled, identified and morphometric measurements recorded will be demonstrated.
In addition to the above practicals the students will also complete a course (in camp) on Pacific Island Ecology including lectures on island biogeography, threats to island wildlife, recent extinctions of Pacific species and conservation initiatives in the Pacific.
Week 2 – Marine week
During their marine week the school will be completing one of the following options:
- PADI Open Water dive training course: This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives, and open water dives to gain an official SCUBA qualification.
- Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course: This consists of lectures and in water practicals either by diving (if a qualified diver) or snorkelling. The lectures which cover an introduction to coral reef ecosystem, coral and algal species, mangrove and seagrass ecology, economically important invertebrates, identification of coral reef fish, reef survey techniques, threats to reefs and marine conservation. Following each lecture the students will then complete an in-water practical by diving (if already qualified) or by snorkelling.
- PADI Open Water referral course: For this option students need to arrive having already completed their theory and pool training components. This course takes three days to complete, after which students will join the Indo-Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course practicals.
On the last day before flying home, the students will be joining the local Fijian villages to play sport and local games and learn about local cultures and customs.
The first two nights will be spent in a homestay in a Fijian village but the rest of the first week will be in a forest camp. The camp will be set up with hammocks, tents and communal eating areas. Field toilets and washing facilities are built at each of the camps. The experience of living and working at these remote forest camps is one that few people forget. The Natewa Bay Marine Research centre where the students will be based for the second week has bunk bed accommodation in dormitories, showers and flush toilets and is a fully equipped dive training centre.