By Alan McNarie
Want to experience life on a genuine desert island?
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is looking for a few volunteers who are aren’t daunted by the prospect of living for six months on a patch of sand with only five or six other people, about 100 to 125 monk seals, and several thousand sea birds for company. The volunteers would be doing field work at Kure Atoll, the northernmost atoll in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, from mid-March until until the end of September next year. Kure, part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, is located 1,400 miles from Honolulu. A bird sanctuary since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, it serves as the nesting ground for 18 species of seabirds including shearwaters, petrels, tropicbirds, boobies, frigatebirds, albatrosses, terns and noddies, and plays seasonal host to migratory birds from North America to Asia. Though it has only one tiny permanent island, Green Island, its 80,000 acres of reefs host 28 species of stony coral and a huge variety of fish, from sharks and groupers to knifejaws and masked angelfish, including rare and endangered species seldom seen in the main Hawaiian islands. The reefs are dotted with several historic shipwrecks.
“The ability to live and work in close quarters with a small group of people for an extended period of time is of the utmost importance. Fieldworkers are given their own 8’ x 10’ room within a 16’ X 32’ wooden bunkhouse, or if necessary within the main building. The main building has shared kitchen and office space, as well as living space,” notes a DLNR press release about the job. “The seasonal field teams consist of 6 to 7 people…. Contact on Kure is limited to text only e-mail (no pictures or attachments) or satellite phone. Calls are limited to 20 minutes/month. There is no Internet or cell phone service available.”
The main task of the volunteers would be battling invasive plants, which threaten both native plants and the habitat of the birds that nest there. Other duties could include “big-headed ant monitoring and treatments; Laysan duck monitoring; native plant propagation and out-planting; bird surveys, nest counts, and banding; Hawaiian monk seal monitoring; vegetation surveys; marine debris removal; data collection and entry; weekly meetings; management includes weekly and seasonal summary reporting.” Those on the team would also be expected to help with camp maintenance and chores outside of work hours.
Requirements include the ability to “walk 10 miles per day with a 40 lb. pack over uneven terrain, lift 50 lbs, work for long hours in hot/sunny, rainy/cold conditions, and bend or stoop for long periods of time; volunteers would also need to know how to swim, have 20/20 or corrected vision, and possess “knowledge of Hawaiian plant species and plant identification skills.” “Desired” skills or experience include “invasive species control; native plant propagation and out-planting; avian reproductive monitoring; shorebird and seabird monitoring and identification; binocular/spotting scope use” an “data management” as well as “familiarity with Excel and ArcGIS; GPS usage,” carpentry, solar equipment maintenance, and small boat experience. The hours aren’t 9 to 5, but workers would be expected to put in a total of about 40 hours per week.
Volunteers would need to supply their own transportation to O`ahu a week before deployment; DLNR would provide transportation by ship and plane to the site. The state agency would also apply field clothes and gear. Because of the danger of contamination from more invasive species, any clothing or other “soft items” (shoes, straps, etc.) that volunteers bring along would need to be purchased new and frozen for 48 hours prior to departure. “Hard” items such as cameras or musical instruments may be allowed if they pass inspection, but may also be frozen, fumigated or quarantined if the need arises.
“Invasive plants are a significant management concern because they displace native plant habitat and seabird nesting areas, entrap seabirds in dense vegetative mass, and out-compete native plants. This position is a unique opportunity to protect and recover seabird habitat,” notes the press release.
Those interested should send a resume, cover letter and three references to Matthew Saunter at email@example.com.
For more information about Kure Atoll, see the Kure Atoll Conservancy website:, Kure Atoll Facebook Page, and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument website: