Pacific Seabird Group to host annual meeting on Kauai

  • Jessica Else/The Garden Island file

    The Nihoku restoration and translocation project, where Newell’s shearwaters like the one pictured and Hawaiian petrels have been relocated to fledge, is one of the field trips associated with the 2019 Pacific Seabird Group meeting.

LIHUE — Kauai is hosting a meeting of the minds this month, a gathering of researchers and experts who will be swapping stories, discussing discoveries and talking technique at the 46th annual meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group.

Though the theme and focus of the meeting is the effect of plastics on migratory seabirds, marine debris is just one of many topics in the five-day event that include conservation biology, and predator control; talks on breeding, foraging, genetics and climate change.

“It’s a coming together of seabird experts and researchers from around the Pacific,” said Andre Raine, chair of the local Pacific Seabird Group Committee, who works with the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project. “It’ll be a good chance to share our work.”

More than 200 people are registered for the event at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort. They represent 24 of the 50 states and 13 countries.

Among topics and presentations that start on Thursday, Raine is most looking forward to hearing about the connection seabirds have to cultures around the world.

“They’re deeply ingrained in cultures of the Pacific as food stores and contributors and creators of the environment,” he said. “They’re in stories and legends. I’m looking forward to hearing that.”

Kumu Sabra Kauka will set the stage with hula and a water ceremony.

Inspiring students is also a big part of the meeting. Established researchers like Raine will talk story with their younger counterparts to help further their research.

“It’s always good to talk with others who are working in your field and learn from each other,” he said.

Presentations and talks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday — Feb. 28 through March 2 — field trips will take the ornithology experts, students, scientists and educators throughout Kauai and to Lehua Island, where they can see firsthand what’s happening with seabird conservation.

“We do a lot of seabird work out here and it’s a good opportunity,” Raine said.

The Pacific Seabird Group members will be touring the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project and Translocation Site, where Newell’s shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels are being provided with a predator-proof, natural habitat in which to grow and fledge.

Other tours also include helicopter trips to see endemic rarities and seabirds, and a helicopter trip to Lehua Island to see the ongoing rat eradication and ecosystem restoration project.

A documentary film festival is also scheduled Friday night and will premiere of “Saving Kauai’s Seabirds,” directed by Ian Nelson and Mike McFarlin. Also in the lineup are documentaries on albatross and on Rapid Ohia Death, a disease that’s attacking ohia trees in Hawaii.

The 2019 Pacific Seabird Group meeting will be the second time the group has been to Kauai. The 2018 meeting was in La Paz, Mexico, and the 2020 meeting is set for Portland.

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

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