The sky turns pink as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. This beach is one of the most active nesting sites in Hawaii.

“Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep.”

My watch alarm blares on my left wrist, jerking me awake and signaling the end of another short night of sleep. After a brief sigh, I groggily jab at a button and turn my alarm off. I dig my fingers under the alien grip of the Timex, rubbing at the soft skin that had been ornament-free for the past few years. I hear Laura, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, stirring in the bed above me. After staring blankly into space, pondering the meaning of our existence, we both crawl out of bed at 6:05 am, rubbing the fatigue from our eyes, preparing ourselves for another long day in the field. I reach over to the shelf adjacent to my bed, and grab two yellow Rite-in-the-rain data notebooks. My eyes wander past the contents of the small, wooden shack that we both spent the past night in. Fold-up chairs, fold-up cots, a stove, propane tanks, CO2 canisters, over 30 jugs of water, sardine cans, a cooler, and miscellaneous backpacks and boxes are strewn in an orderly fashion across the floor. The rising sun is already piercing through the tiny square window above the stove, casting an orange-pink light on the dusty, sandy shelf next to our bunk bed.  We both pull out our blue pens. Laura gives a cat-like stretch, a yawn and a sigh, puts on her glasses, flips open her notebook, and says,

“Okay, today’s date is May 25th, 2017…”

I have been in Hawaii for fifteen days. I am a monitoring intern for the Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project (HIHTRP). Located on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, the project is stationed in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, about a 45-minute drive south of Hilo. Hawksbill Sea Turtles are listed as critically endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As usual, the cause of their decline is mostly anthropogenic in nature. Bright lights confuse nesting turtles and hatchlings, drawing them inland away from the ocean. Beachfront development destroys crucial nesting habitat, a devastating blow as hawksbills lay eggs only twice every ten years on average. Invasive species such as mongoose, rats, and feral cats prey on nests as well as hatchlings on their way to the ocean. Fishing nets trap adult hawksbills with painful regularity, and plastic bags and micro plastic are often found in dead turtle’s stomachs, starving them to death and causing internal bleeding. Due to these avoidable human-induced problems, the hawksbill population has steadily declined in recent decades.



Strong waves pound the rocky shore of Apua Beach, a backcountry nesting site for the Hawksbill.

The Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the world’s biggest populations of hawksbills, with 80% of the local population nesting at beaches on the southern coast of the Big Island. These beaches are where I am going to be monitoring until August 20th. I have already monitored on six of these beaches, and our two-week orientation is finally coming to an end. Instead of a six-person group, I will soon be paired with various interns for the rest of the summer in an attempt to efficiently monitor all of the potential nesting beaches, and give this declining, mysterious species of sea turtle every advantage during their breeding season. The future of the hawksbill is largely dependent on our work as monitoring interns, and I cannot think of a more noble and worthwhile job. I would like to thank my parents, my Grandma Liu, and the Dickinson College Internship Program for making this summer financially possible. In return, I hope to preserve one of Earth’s biological legacies, the Honu’ea.

Written on May 29th, 2017 , Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Protecting the Hawksbill – Connor Liu

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park