Although we generally like to post all the fun details of our project, doing fieldwork internationally is hard. Mountains of paperwork and preparation go into our trips (much of it often stressful and last-minute), and when we arrive, we generally don’t know the local corals very well, don’t know the language as well as we think we do, and don’t know the area at all. We’re learning as we go about all the best ways to make our trips go smoothly.
But for now, as I sit in the Paris airport on my way home, I’d like to give a shout-out to all the people who have helped make this particular trip happen. One of the first contacts Jerome made on the island was with Le Club de Plongee Suwan Macha – an organization of SCUBA divers that works like a co-op, buying and maintaining resources that are shared by members at a very affordable price. This system worked great for us as a way to get many customized dives in and seems like an awesome set-up for scientific diving in general. We even borrowed a few tanks of air for some of our ‘labwork’, unrelated to diving. After we joined the club, the acting president, Pierre Grisoni, volunteered his time to drive the boat and refill tanks for us for all the dives we did on the West coast of the island. These dives were essential to our collections and formed the core of our trip! Merci beaucoup à Pierre and the rest of the club!
Another important contact was Dr. Jean-Pascal Quod, president of Reef Check France and manager of Pareto Ecoconsult. Jean-Pascal and the diving club SUBEST were instrumental in our collections on the East side of the island, and showed us some really great reefs over there.
Perhaps the most important local entity was The Natural Marine Reserve of La Réunion (RNMR), which provided us with local collections permits and prepared our CITES export permits. Dealing with this paperwork is often the most difficult part of our work, and being able to work with the local management authority is essential to our project.
Many other people have been helpful on this particular trip. For starters, I bummed a ride to and from the Portland airport with my parents, which is excellent. I also left my car with them and got lots of other help from them before leaving. I believe Amelia’s mother also took her and Jerome to the airport, after quickly sewing together my BCD weight pocket for me. Ummm, awesome!! Then there’s Jerome’s mom, who on multiple occasions hosted us all for outstanding dinners while we were in Reunion. Everything’s easier in life with parents like these!
We also met many of Jerome’s friends and family while there, and a number of them provided us with delicious food, too. Thank you to all of you for showing us your island and making the trip great!
Since we first started planning the trip, there has been one person who made the right contacts, spoke the right language, and put in a lot of effort to get all the permitting and paperwork done on the French end of things: our postdoc Dr. Jerome Payet. In addition to pre-trip organization, he also acted as our guide, facilitator, translator, and co-director throughout the trip. I’ve worked with Jerome a lot in the last couple years, and he has been an integral part of the lab for a bit longer than me, but working on this particular project was generous of him. This trip came at a special time for Jerome, as well, since he is now moving on to work with a different lab at OSU. The work he put into it is thus very much appreciated. Thank you – we will miss you!!