I have been on the island of Mo’orea, French Polynesia for 10 days now, which is the typical stay for most of the vacationers here. Myself on the other hand, has 63 more days on this island in the middle of the South Pacific. What has brought me here for such an extended stay you might ask? Why, my job as a Graduate Student Instructor for the Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands course taught on the UC Berkeley Gump station here in Mo’orea. Most teaching positions I’ve had haven’t taken me out of the Valley Life Sciences Building, let alone a tropical island.
The first three weeks did consist of lectures held on the Berkeley campus, but last Sunday, 20 students arrived at the station ready to dive in! And that’s exactly what we did this week; a whirlwind tour of the island with explorational forays into its various reef, forest, stream, mangrove, and developed environments. By now, the students have a sense of the kinds of organisms and habitats available to them to develop independent projects around, and this week they’ll be tasked with narrowing it down and developing proposals for the projects they will pour their blood sweat and tears into for the rest of the semester.
There’s not much to report yet, except that the entire bunch of students is delightful, and I am looking forward to getting to know them better and encouraging them to follow their ideas and make the most of their time here. Luckily, I have two other TAs to help share this responsibility (Seth Kauppinen and Jason Hwan).
Although the three of us are the only instructors that remain on the island for the entire duration, four professors co-teach the course and I’m pretty sure at least one of them will be here at any given time. To kick things off we have Brent Mishler and Stephanie Carlson, and later on Jonathon Stillman and then Vince Resh will arrive, each bringing with them a wealth of experience with the island and expertise in taxa and systems ranging widely across marine, freshwater, and terrestrial systems.
My goal here is to keep you updated on the course as it progresses, and hopefully give you some windows into the projects the students are pursuing. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with! Also, for updates in the moment (or at least within a day or so) I’ll be tweeting with #Moorea2014 from @jenna_judge.