Challenges in Paradise

 

Ally Campo doing measurements of Tridacna shells in Mo‘orea, French Polynesia, Summer 2015

Ally Campo doing measurements of Tridacna shells in Mo‘orea, French Polynesia, Summer 2015

For my project I originally intended to go into the lagoons and do systematic surveying of modern Tridacna and Turbo shells in French Polynesia. I hoped to get size measurements for these marine animals to increase the comparative data for archaeological found shells. This would allow me to do regression analysis to look at potential cultural depletion by early Tahitians or sustainability and renewal of the lagoons. Unfortunately, three weeks prior to coming to French Polynesia I had to have an unplanned foot surgery. The already daunting task of doing measurements and recording while out in the ocean suddenly became unfeasible. Luckily, between the help of my professor Dr. Kahn and collaboration with local Tahitians we found a compromise. There are popular beaches on the islands of Mo‘orea and Raiatea where people harvest Tridacna from the lagoons and come back to shore and separate the animal from the shell. People leave the shells behind because they people tend to do big hauls at one time due to the effort necessary to get to the Tridacna and the shells are very cumbersome to carry.

For the first round of measurements, my colleague, Summer Moore; a local couple, the Tahiata’s; and I collected the Tridacna shells left behind on the popular beach in Mo‘orea and brought them back to where we were staying. We had planned to just do the measurements on the beach, but we got caught in the middle of a rainstorm that came on quickly. When I did collections on the island of Raiatea the same happened! My digital calibers started freaking out even with just the beginning drizzle, so I had to bring the shells back with me again. Thank goodness for pick-up trucks! I would have preferred an even greater sample size of Tridacna, but the effort and resources I had at the time did not allow for more than 50 at each site.

I was originally concerned about having skewed data due to the fact we would be only looking at Tridacna shell selected by people for eating instead of all the ranges found in nature. After discussing my concern with Dr. Kahn, she pointed out that the same skew will be found in the archaeological record because the Tridacna shells we find archaeological at house sites are those people selected from the lagoons for eating. So from an unexpected surgery to collecting shells in multiple rainstorms, things did not as smoothly as hoped. Fortunately a close relationship with the local community and a helpful support system of Dr. Kahn and Summer allowed the project to continue fairly smoothly. Provided that my foot heals quickly, I still hope to do systematic surveys of the lagoons for both Tridanca and Turbo shells to get more comparative data. Hopefully my next update will be about such!