Class Field Trips: Snorkeling and Kula Eco Park

Certain classes here at USP get to take field trips.  This may or may not be a big draw for international students to take them.  🙂  The Geography courses in particular take trips for several days and stay in villages.  A few of my friends did these trips over the study break.  The Tropical plant ecology class also does a couple day trip over study break.  This is really fun and a good experience for students but sadly doesn’t allow for as much other travel over the study break.

A Fiji Banded Iguana and I

I am in two classes that take field trips: BI304 Conservation Biology and MS306 Coral Reef Ecology.  This may or may not have been a factor for me choosing them as courses… For Conservation Biology we went to the Kula Eco Park.  This is a conservation park similar to the World Bird Sanctuary in Lone Elk Park that I volunteered at in St. Louis (if anyone goes to the St. Louis area and wants a day trip outside I highly recommend going there: eagles, peregrine falcons, owls, hiking).  Two species that Kula Eco Park has conservation programs for are the Fiji Crested Iguana and the hawksbill turtle.  It also has many other endemic species to Fiji on display along with a variety of other animals.  There is a nice wooden boardwalk that visitors can hike along.

Hawksbill Turtle: These ones are waiting til they are big enough to be released to the ocean.

It was a fun field trip getting to see everything.  However, it is 2 hours away from USP and we left at noon and were supposed to get back to USP at 5pm, only spending an hour at the park.  This was a little silly as I would have liked to spend more time at the park and felt a little rushed.  I would definitely recommend it as a full day trip from Suva.  One could probably spend a few hours there.  Our class paid for our entry so I’m not sure how much it would cost for individuals to go.

Coral Reef Ecology gets to take a lot of field trips to practice surveying techniques.

Suva Barrier Reef: A transect survey with soft corals

First we went to Suva barrier reef which was much more alive than I thought it would be.  However, the reef flat was lacking in hard corals and diversity, but it did have lots of sea urchins (important herbivores that keep algae from taking over a reef) and did not have many Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish (corallivores or starfish that eat corals and can easily wipe out a reef).

Makuluva cay sea star with dead coral in the background

Next we went to Makuluva Cay/Island.  This coral reef we really disappointing, most was dead or rubble, but some was indeed alive: mostly hard corals.  But the island itself was smelly and had lots of algae.  Pretty gross.  This is partly because it’s near the mouth of a river which dumps sediment (which smothers corals by blocking out light needed for photosynthesis) and nutrients (which feed algae which will then smother coral reefs).  This is why there aren’t many coral reefs near the mouth of the Mississippi or Amazon rivers.

Muaivusa Reef

Finally we went to Muaivuso Marine Protected Reef.  This means that people are not allowed to fish in this area and it has certain regulations upon it.  There were tons of fish here.  We practiced surveyed butterfly fish which was pretty fun.  This was a much nicer reef and apparently we’re going back for our last survey.

The coral reef field trips are fun, but sadly it’s often pretty cold on the boats and even in the water which makes things a little less than pleasant.  It often rains as well.  But so far we’ve been fairly lucky in terms of weather.


About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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One Response to Class Field Trips: Snorkeling and Kula Eco Park

  1. Jean LaFollette says:

    great pics of the iguana, turtles, and sea star!

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