In September I was part of an expedition into jungle in the centre of Guadalcanal island in the Solomon Islands, tropical western Pacific. The purpose was to document the plants and animals present. My job was to help with the ferns.
The mountains at the centre of Guadalcanal are rugged, wet, and difficult to access. The plants and animals that live there have been little studied. Both the local Uluna-Sutahuri tribe and scientists are interested in learning more. This knowledge will inform decisions about future land use.
The expedition’s scope was broad, with sub-teams focusing on insects, plants, freshwater fishes and invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, birds, and mammals. It was interesting to see the others at work. It also involved a lot of logistics, with nearly 50 people in the field.
I’ll post separately about our fern findings, but it is fair to say that, across all groups, a lot was discovered, collected, and learnt. There was much talk of new records for Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, and even the world (i.e., completely new species). Specimens have been retained in Honiara as well as distributed elsewhere. In many cases, more detailed scientific examination is required to understand what was detected.
One of the expedition’s discoveries that has already received a lot of interest was the rediscovery of the moustached kingfisher – more from the American Museum of Natural History.
I’ve a family connection to the Solomon Islands. My maternal grandfather was wounded there as part of New Zealand’s 35th Battalion. The lingering scars of World War II around the coast were a pointed indicator of how lucky I was to be visiting in much friendlier conditions.
The expedition was a great success, being productive and conducted safely and in good spirit. The onus is now on the scientists to understand their findings, and then make those results publically accessible (supported by specimens stored in public collections).
It was a privilege to be allowed by the Uluna-Sutahuri to explore their land. Thanks also to the expedition’s participants for their company and friendship, particularly the Solomon Islands and Fijian scientists who organised the logistics. Special thanks to Sarah Pene, Alifereti Naikatini (both University of South Pacific), Myknee Sirikolo, David Boseto, Patrick Pikacha (all Solomon Islands), and to Marika Tuiwawa (University of South Pacific), who was leader of the plant team but was able to join us only during preparations in Honiara. The expedition was led by the University of South Pacific, American Museum of Natural History, and Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership, with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Foundation.
My participation was funded from Te Papa’s acquisition budget. Thanks to Sabine (acquisitions), Anna (travel), Kirsten (finances), and Jason (emergency plan) for helping me to get there.
Te Papa blog post: Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the camp.
Te Papa blog post: Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the ferns.