Fiji - School Expeditions - Operation Wallacea

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 Monday, the students have the opportunity to participate in the activities that make up daily life in a Fijian village, starting with cooking their own lunch in an earth oven. They learn about the traditional crafts such as mat weaving and tapa making through hands-on workshops with the local women, and then have some free time in the afternoon to play volleyball or the local game of pani with the children. The day concludes with a farewell party that usually includes singing, dancing, and if the weather permits, a bonfire. By this point, the students have gotten to know their host families and some of the other Fijians well and the goodbye is bittersweet.

On the Tuesday morning the group will trek up the mountains (approx. 3 hours) to a camp in the heart of the Natewa National Park.  On the Saturday afternoon the group will be taken by vehicle to the marine site and will be based in the Natewa Bay Marine Research Centre until leaving early on the following Satruday morning.

Fiji Schools Booklet 2018

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. In addition surveys of the woody plant sp[ecies are being undertaken.
  • 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.  However, there are relatively few reptile and amphibians at the site because of predation by the introduced mongoose species.  One of the main focuses of the programme is to look at the most cost effective method of trapping out mongoose and to look at the abundnace of this species.  In the evenings students in this group 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 and these are often aimed at assisting the stereo video surveys and the 3D reef modelling.
  • 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.

Facilities

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 is set up with tents and communal eating areas. There is a communal washign block with flush toilets and showers. The Natewa Bay Marine Research centre where the students will be based for the second week has tented accommodation, showers and flush toilets and is a fully equipped dive training centre.