Patrick Kociolek's blog

Collecting on Moloka'i

 On Moloka’i we joined Jeff Johansen from John Carroll University and Carrie Graeff, from CU, who had been on the island for the 2 previous days.  We traversed some great countryside, quite unlike Lana’i in many ways.  We drove up to about a 4,000 foot point, and then hiked in to several aquatic habitats, part of the Pu'uali'I Natural Area Reserve. 

We climbed the Hanalilolilo Trail, and tree ferns were everywhere, and numerous were mosses, liverworts, lycopods and even hornworts (a little known group part of the “bryophyte” tree of life). 

At the beginning we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the hike.

Getting to and collecting from 5 different sites, we collected over 50 samples, from streams, pools and wet walls (some of our favorite habitats—see a previous posting about why we are the lookout for wet wall habitats).  Our modest lunch of PB&J, and Funyons(!--- as I said previously, no dieticians here) gave us the energy we needed for the next part of our journey, going through a relatively long tunnel to get to the next watershed.  The tunnel was short, narrow and very dark (it curved and there literally was no light at the end of the tunnel).  Anyway, we were rewarded with great collections at the other side.


After the hike back (including through the slimy tunnel), we had a quick dinner and then started processing the samples.  After 15 hours from beginning our day, we had looked at only ½ the samples.  Included in these samples were many acid-loving species; the water they came from were rich in organic acids and brown-stained.  Some of the species looked like ones from South America, a theme that continues to echo across several groups in our samples.  It has been suggested by folks studying arachnids and other animals that hurricanes from the Americas might be responsible for transporting immigrants from the Americas to Hawaii.  We will be interested to see if this pattern occurs across other diatom taxa.


Upside Down


Sorry for the late posting; we have been out of email/internet communications for a while.
We started our day on Lana’i heading up the Munro Trail, four-wheeling it to the highest point on the island.  Our goal was to get up into the clouds, where the tall pines of the island would catch and bring freshwater to the ground.  As we ascended we saw some wonderful panoramas, and the Hula Girl again served us well as a steady guide (too much shaking meant to slow down).  We found a much more tropical environment up in the sky, with many ferns and mosses, as well as flowering plants in abundance.  We made several collections and we happy for the experience to see a more lush part of Lana’i.
The Munro Trail yielded many great experiences along the way.
 Looking for algae wherever we can!
We were without Rex on this leg of the trip  Suffering from “Guido’s Revenge”—a spicy chicken calzone from 565 Café with a gift that kept on giving (I had the Philly Cheese Steak sub with marinara sauce with no side effects).  Calzones?  Philly Cheese Steaks?  In Lana’i?  We are diatomologists, not dieticians!
Anyway, Alex, Melissa and I were then ready to hope on a plane to Moloka’i by way of Honlulu.  But the 20-minute flight to Honlulu was delayed by 3 hours (I still have not figured that out and Island Air would not explain anything to us), and we would miss our connection to Moloka’i.  So, we quickly got our luggage from the airline and hopped on a ferry to Maui (and for the three of us, this quick stopover to Maui means we will have hit 5 islands on this trip), and then a ferry to Moloka’i.  Ferries are great, and the trip to Moloka’i was at sunset—quite spectacular.  However, “the sea was angry that day, my friends…” and the ferry was feeling like my stomach, reminding of the Diana Ross tune, “Upside Down”.  Even so, the ferry rides wer a pleasant counterpoint to today’s airline travel.
  A fine ship for getting folks to the islands that are close to one another--and no airport screenings!
 A great sunset on the way to Moloka'i!
We met Jeff Johansen at the dock, and headed right off to sleep (though we looked at a couple of samples the first Moloka’i team had collected earlier that day—GREAT!) and quenched a thirst (or two).

Lana'i: In search for freshwater algae where there is no permanent streams

First day on Lana’i, Cathy, who rented us our car, told us about freshwater springs right at the ocean.  We checked that out, and had great luck collecting a variety of algae, including diatoms.  We saw many bees and wasps taking water at this “watering hole” and found many diatoms and other algae.

 former Dole plantation
  Spring of freshwater coming from a cave right on the coast
Bees and wasps are drinking from the freshwater spring.
We then took off towards another part of the coast, looking for caves and a “bog” labeled on the map.  Guided by our Hula Dancing Hood Ornament, we covered some challenging ground, and were glad to have a 4WD vehicle.  We stopped off at Lanai City, and ate at the Blue Ginger Café (run by a Coloradan)—we topped off the meal with a “pig in the blanket”.  Mmmmmm.
 Hula Girl provided excellent directions
 Rex and Pat ended up just following the Hula Girl
Rex enjoying a pig inna blanket
We took off for other collecting habitats, and ended up collecting moss and lichens, and although being very dry, they also yielded great samples.  Diatoms are in some of the most unlikely places.
  A great valley view looking at a small, dry river.
After the hot day in the field, we cleaned up, had some dinner, then processed samples.  In all, a great first day on Lana’i.
Laura and Alex processing material from the day's collections


Back In Hawaii!!

 Well, we are in the field again in Hawaii!  Our tasks are quite different this trip, and our team has expanded thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This trip, we are looking at two of the smaller islands, including Moloka’i and Lana’i.  Lana’i supported pineapple plantations for a long time, and it is purported to lack any permanent flowing water.  Moloka’i is much richer in terms of habitat types, and including flowing rivers, bogs, and other interesting habitats.
Part of our team this trip are undergraduates Alex Valigosky, a junior at John Carroll University and Laura Miscoe at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  These students have been funded by the Research Experiences for Undergraduates at NSF.  They are joining us in the field, and they’ll share their thoughts on this blog along the way.
We will also be heading to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, too.  So, Aloha, we are glad to be back and to be hunting the elusive freshwater algae in the beautiful state of Hawaii.


From Underground To Above The Clouds

 Well, the last couple of days we went “below ground” looking for algae.  Today, we took a trip to Mauna Kea which, at 13, 796 feet, is the highest point in Hawaii, to look for algae.  Near the summit of Mauna Kea is Lake Waiau, sitting at just over 13,000 feet.

To ascend Mauna Lea, we passed some rough terrain, and saw some great old cinder cones.  The road was steep, at some points over a 17% grade.

 The road to Mauna Kea is steep, with a great view!

The landscape looked more lunar that on planet earth.
The origin of this lake is unknown.  It is about 300 feet by 180 feet, and only about 8 feet at its greatest depth.  While it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit in downtown Hilo today, there was a small amount of ice around the border of Lake Waiau.

 Rex at the margin of Lake Waiau.

The color of the lake indicates that it is very productive.
Our trip into the lake was challenging, as some of us fought altitude sickness. But we were greeted with a lake margin, and open waters, chock full of algae.  Given the dry nature of this “wet” season (across the island near Kona there are large fires still ablaze), this might have represented the most water we have seen in any one site.
Jeff, Rex and Pat enjoying a view of the world from 13,000 feet.

Above the clouds on Mauna Kea!
Tomorrow we will look at springs, falls and streams around Hilo, and then prepare for our trip back to Honolulu and then off to our institutions.


Going Underground for Algae?

Over the last two days, we have been “going underground” in search of algae.  Sound strange?  Here on the Big Island we have been investigating both lava tubes and caves as unique habitats for algae.  The openings of these two environments offer enough light for microbes that require sunlight for photosynthesis, and provide a relatively constant temperature and high humidity.  Lava flows, from which tubes and caves were created, vary quite a bit in age on the Big Island, from a few hundred to thousands of years.  We are interested to know what types of algae grow in and around these habitats, and whether the algae differ from caves/tubes, especially as related to age and disturbance (some tubes are visited by the public, others are more or less “pristine”, having only been found by scientists on the island).


Entering a lava tube on the Big Island

Rex using a extending device to collect algae from a lava tube wall

Jeff and Pat entering a large cave.
Another rare habitat is standing water.  The mountains are so steep here, that it is difficult for water to pool up.  But we found such a place today, and the algae we so different from the streams we have been collecting.
In addition to exploring subterranean environments, and any unique habitats we can find, we have been taking in the sights above ground, and looking at the flora and fauna (native and introduced) of the area.  All are fascinating.

Crater releasing sulphur dioxide, closing roads and trails in Volcanoes National Park.

That is not steam coming from Pat's ears, but from vents in the background.

Spider across a stream north of Hilo.

Two non-native members of the Big Island fauna.
We are wearing down a bit, after long days of collecting and nights of evaluating and processing the samples.

 Jeff after a long day's collecting...
We have a couple of days left on the Big Island, before we leave for Oahu.  We will visit sites around Hilo, where, it turns out, most of the flowing water turns out to be.  I will report in on our travels as we go.


On to The Big Island

 We left rainy Maui this morning, and arrived on the Big Island, full of sun and humidity, early in the afternoon.  The Big Island looked great from the air, and the deeply-cut river canyons were evident.  We stopped in a great place, The Planet, for lunch.  Everything fresh and delicious.



images of the big island from the air

Amy ordering at a local cafe,  The Planet, in downtown Hilo.  Yum!
Then we were off in two teams to just North of Hilo.  The sampling was of streams, wet walls and water falls.  We sampled until nearly dark.  Many of the sites were difficult to get into, but the algae were abundant. 

Some of our sampling sites today on the Big Island
 We just stopped looking at the samples, at nearly 11PM our time.

We are starting to see repeating patterns, and we can even predict what we might collect in certain habitats.  No small feat, since the organisms we are predicting are microscopic!  It is nice to see consistent patterns.
 Tomorrow we are off to Volcanoes National Park, for a little sight-seeing and to look at lava tubes.  The whole team will go together, the first “joint venture” of this expedition.

Our final collecting day on Maui

 On this final day of collecting on Maui, one of our two teams stayed along the Hana Highway, collecting the waterfalls, seeps and streams that are part of the lush and beautiful landscape.  Wet walls are a focal point for our research, since they might represent a less impacted habitat, a refuge, for native algal species.


{View along the Hana Highway}

{Melissa and Jessica near a wetwall along the Hana Highway}
The second group bid adieu to the twists and turns of the Hana Highway, and went off to the Southwest.  Along the Highway, we took a short detour through Haiku, Maui.

Inspired, we penned a couple of poems as we thought about the algae:
Algae are our friends
Blue-green, brown, green together
They share many stories
Scum is not a crime
To the eye, in many ways
They provide for us
Glass houses with holes
Moving, floating in water
Challenging but fun
Compared to Hana, the Southwest is very busy.  Busy, and this time much drier.  Our drive today was so much different than the Hana Highway: close to the coast, with wide expanses of agricultural lands visible.  We saw large fields of coffee, bananas and pineapples from Hana to Laihaina.  Water is so much more scarce in natural streams (though flowing through viaducts for crops).
[view out the front window of the coast] 

[coffee plantation]
One of the early patterns in our research data suggests freshwater algae from Hawaii may have their closest allies in South America.  This is surprising, since Hawaiian many plants and insects, for example, have their closest relatives in Asia.  We are anxious to se if this pattern seen in the diatoms from Kauai and Oahu holds for our Maui and Big Island collections.
Tomorrow we head off to Hilo, on the Big Island.  Lots of places to go and collect: lava tubes, volcanoes, many streams, waterfalls and seeps.  From the hot and dry to the very moist.  We will bid farewell to Carrie, who is heading back to Boulder, to get ready for classes.  And we’ll welcome Rex, a dear friend and co-PI on the grant.  Rex is a professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University.  We will also welcome, Ken, who will be starting grad school at UH and  providing help to the whole group on this expedition, especially the UH team.

Collecting on Maui

 Hey Everyone, welcome from Hana, Maui, Hawaii.

After some technical issues, we are starting up our blog from Hawaii.  This is our second field season, after our first foray to Kauai and Oahu, this winter we are visiting Maui and the Big Island.  Since the summer we have been looking at algae from our summer collections (over 250 samples), and the preliminary reports are that we are finding many new species, and many new records for Hawaii.

Beautiful first night on Maui.
On this leg of our trip are Jeff and Melissa from John Carroll University, Amy and Jessica from UH and Carrie and I from CU.  While our Summer trip was a "wet, dry season" right now we are experiencing a "dry, wet season".  A first trip to Poli Poli Springs found most sites dry (there is no springs at this site, by the way, but, as an aside, there are lots of Eucalyptus and even redwoods here; with the dust and these elements of the vegetation it felt, and smelled, more like California than Hawaii).  The hot day was soothed by some non-dairy coconut-based ice cream.

local-made ice cream--yum
We then headed off along the Hana Highway, with an all day collecting trip on yesterday.  Things were much wetter, with many waterfalls and streams.  Wet walls, waterfalls and streams were the focus of our attention.  After a delicious meal prepared by Jeff, we worked until midnight on the 90+ (!) samples taken, making observations on the algae with the microscopes we brought.
Today, we collected beyond Hana, where the road is amazingly rugged and narrow, the sites of the ocean and shoreline amazing (a bad combination, actually), and the algae plentiful at some sites (and absent from some dried out sites).  As I write we are back at the 'scopes, making sure we have made good collections and processing them a bit so that our work back in our labs is reduced--making the best of our time.

View from the car(!) on our collecting trip today

Folks processing samples after today's field work.


Our Last Collecting Day of the First Expedition

Our last day of extensive collecting in Hawaii for this first field expedition was great.  Rex and Jeff headed up Waimea Canyon, and collected dry walls, waterfalls and streams.  The collecting was very productive.  Along the way they took time to spend a few minutes with some of the feral chickens that are all over Kauai.
  Beautiful Waimea Canyon!
Jeff Johansen collecting dry wall algae.
Some feral chickens enjoy the fruits of Frito Lay
Pat, Carrie and Amy tackled the Alaka’i Swamp.  Situated at about 4,000 feet elevation, we started at beautiful Pu’u o Kila Lookout, and ended up some 4.5 miles later at Kilohana, looking at to the North Shore and Hanalei.  The algae were fantastic, and the trip a most memorable one.
View to Kalalau Valley at trailhead to Alaka'i Swamp
Alakai'i Swamp--Purportedly the highest swamp in the world

View from Kilohana towards Hanalei
Carrie and Amy enjoying the view from Kilohana--only 4 miles back from here!
Alison and Melissa took on the task of the necessary processing of samples--we have taken so many samples, it is tought to stay caught up with processing them all.  They did a great job making sure we are staying on schedule with the important sample processing.

We leave for Lihue Airport early in the morning heading back to Oahu.  We will spend some time back at the University of Hawaii throughout the day on Friday, and then each of us will start to peel off to Honolulu Airport and the mainland.  We are exhausted from all of the hiking, collecting, viewing and processing.  Once back at our respective labs we will begin the real work to process the samples for culturing, dna sequencing, light and electron microscopy.

Mahalo for checking in with us along the way.  We’ll look forward to seeing our loved ones as well as friends and colleagues  back on the mainland and/or back at home soon.

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