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California State University, Long Beach
CSULB Geospatial Research and Mapping (GRAM) Field Program
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Day 8: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Posted on June 19, 2012

The local rooster woke me up with a friendly “cock-a-doodle-do” early in the morning.  After breakfast, we were greeted by a gaggle of drivers that chauffeured us around Kauai.  I was lucky enough to have David Burney, the Director of Conservation at the NTBG, as my driver.  He provided us with all the information we would ever want to know about Kauai and the gardens!

Our first stop was the Botanical Research Center that overlooked the Gardens.  It is a beautiful facility that will definitely come in handy as we prepare for further research in our projects.  After touring the facilities, the real fun began as we ventured into the gardens.  We found our way to the edge of McBryde Garden where a small waterfall feeds a small stream into the Pacific.  The plants around this area are either native plants reintroduced by the Gardens or invasive species that endanger the livelihood of other plants.

We continued our tour to a beach, which I’m positive is the source of all the default display backgrounds for your computer.  After navigating through a vine tunnel, dodging the huge breadfruit trees, skipping through the giant flower meadow, and crossing over a turquoise river, I found myself in Paradise.  I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory combined with Alice’s Wonderland.  The tall, vibrant flowers were in various stages of  life: some were closed up, while others were fully embracing the sunshine, but each was standing beautifully in a a lily pad pond.  The wooden bridge provided a perfect vantage point for both the river lined with tropical palm trees and the ocean crashing into the cliffs and bubbling onto the shore.  I used to say I was more of a “mountain person” than a “beach person,” but I may have to rethink that now…

After we (sadly) left the beach, we made our way to lunch at a second site that housed about a dozen turtles.  These turtles really do save the day in Kauai.  They naturally “mow the lawn” around the island by eating invasive plants and shrubs while allowing the native species thrive.  I have to say, it’s awesome to meet these Maryland Terps making the world a better place, one invasive plant at a time! Go Terps!

After leaving my new terrapin friends, we trekked up to the top of a cliff and launched a kite for obtaining aerial imagery.  It was extremely windy, so the kite flew, but I was mostly focused on making sure that I didn’t fall into the sink-hole below the cliff.  The kite flew successfully, so we went down to some agricultural fields near an abandoned sugar cane plantation.  We attempted to fly a remote controlled plane.  Our first attempt failed, as the wind was blowing extremely fast.  After a few miserable wind gusts that blew dirt storms our way, we finally got the plane up and running.  We had a video camera attached to the plane, so after about ten minutes of flying, we landed it and are hoping for some decent footage of the agricultural fields below it.

My first full day in Kauai was full of adventures and spectacular sights that few people get to experience in their lifetime.  I can’t wait for what lies ahead!



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