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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCB Moorea Class: Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands is an intensive field course (13 units), taught every Fall semester by UC Berkeley. A highly selective group of 20-22 undergraduate students spend a month on campus in Berkeley for lectures and labs five days a week, then go to the Richard Gump Biological Station on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia for nine weeks to carry out an intensive research project and to do some general educational field trips and labs, supervised by a number of professors and graduate student instructors. They learn all the stages of scientific research from conception of a project to giving talks and and writing. These papers are the result of their research.

Cover page of Feeding behavior of the Yellowtailed Coris (Coris gaimard) in the lagoons of Moorea, French Polynesia

Feeding behavior of the Yellowtailed Coris (Coris gaimard) in the lagoons of Moorea, French Polynesia

(2007)

Animals must be locally adapted to their habitat to optimize use of available resources. In highly variable environments, behavioral change allows animals to optimize resources quickly enough to keep pace with their environment (Luttbeg 1999). The factors that determine the animal's behavior are often difficult to uncover. Coris gaimard (Quoy and Gaimard 1824), a species of wrasse, exhibits different foraging frequencies across its range. This study attempts to determine what biotic factors may affect the foraging behavior. The study compares the behavior of two populations of C. gaimard in two similar lagoons around the island of Moorea, French Polynesia and a population in a previous study done in Japanese waters (Shibuno et al. 1994). Standardized timed observations from Moorea showed an increase in the amount of foraging behavior at the site with a smaller prey base. The behaviors, however, maintained the same relative frequency as the behaviors seen in Japanese waters where the prey base was larger, but had a different species composition. These observations indicate that prey quantity determines the amount of foraging, but the type of available prey determines the foraging strategy. Additionally, C. gaimard engages in heterospecific feeding relationships, but the presence of other foraging species does not significantly affect its foraging behavior. These results indicate that prey populations are a mjor biotic factor in determining foraging strategies.

Cover page of The Effects of Pineapple Farm Runoff on Diatoms in Freshwater Streams of Moorea, French Polynesia

The Effects of Pineapple Farm Runoff on Diatoms in Freshwater Streams of Moorea, French Polynesia

(2007)

Pineapple farms dominate the agricultural landscape of Moorea, French Polynesia, with over 250 hectares of pineapple farmland. Agricultural runoff has been well known to affect stream ecosystems, in particular, photosynthetic organisms such as diatoms. Few studies have looked specifically at environmental effects of pineapple farm runoff. This study looks at how 1) pineapple farms affect stream chemistry, 2) pineapple farms affect diatom assemblage, and 3) individual effects of herbicides (atrazine and diuron) and fertilizers on diatom populations. No significant differences in stream chemistry or diatom assemblages in farm affected and unaffected areas were observed. Herbicides and fertilizers did not have any significant effects on diatom species richness and abundance.

Cover page of SURFACE ZOOPLANKTON ABUNDANCE AND DIVERSITY, AND THE SALINITY TOLERANCES OF THE SUBCLASS COPEPODA AND CRUSTACEAN NAUPLII IN MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

SURFACE ZOOPLANKTON ABUNDANCE AND DIVERSITY, AND THE SALINITY TOLERANCES OF THE SUBCLASS COPEPODA AND CRUSTACEAN NAUPLII IN MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

(2007)

Surface plankton tows were completed at select reef passes and lagoons over five weeks on the island of Mo’orea, French Polynesia. Differences in zooplankton species richness and abundance were analyzed based on location, salinity, and tide. Reef passes and lagoons varied in the average abundance of zooplankton as well as having different species prevalence. Lab experiments tested individual groups’ tolerance to varying salinity levels that were found in Cook’s Bay. There was a significant drop in copepod and crustacean nauplii populations when exposed to lower salinity levels.

Cover page of Thermal ecology and habitat selection of two cryptic skinks (Scincidae: Emoia cyanura, E. impar) on Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Thermal ecology and habitat selection of two cryptic skinks (Scincidae: Emoia cyanura, E. impar) on Mo'orea, French Polynesia

(2007)

I studied the habitat selection and thermal biology of two cryptic South Pacific skinks (Emoia cyanura and Emoia impar) in order to determine whether or not differences in thermal preference affect habitat partitioning. I measured sun exposure and thermal characteristics of microhabitats selected by each skink, and then quantified preferred substrate temperatures and preferred body temperatures in a laboratory thermal gradient. Compared to E. impar, E. cyanura inhabited areas with open canopy cover, and selected significantly warmer substrates in the field and lab setting. E. cyanura also had a significantly higher preferred body temperature that E. impar. Furthermore, E. cyanura had significantly less variability in preferred body temperature than E. impar. These findings up hold Huey and Slatkin’s (1976) theory on the costs and benefits of lizard thermoregulation, and support the hypothesis that differences in thermal preference provide E. cyanura and E. impar with a mechanism for habitat partitioning.

Cover page of Epiphyte Distribution with Resect to Microhabitats in Moorea, French Polynesia

Epiphyte Distribution with Resect to Microhabitats in Moorea, French Polynesia

(2007)

Epiphytes contribute significantly to the biomass of forest canopies; however, in the tropics, epiphytes have been greatly understudied. This study seeks to better understand the effects of forest edge on the distribution of epiphytes as well as describe general characteristics of epiphytic communities on Inocarpus fagifer in Mo'orea, French Polynesia. It was found that species richness was relatively similar throughout the study site. While there was no significant difference between locality on buttress root or trunk of the host tree, moss communities in particular were significantly affected by distance from forest edge and proximity to perennial streams. Ferns were found to be somewhat correlated with their proximity to streams while liverworts and lichens were not greatly affected. Overall, location of epiphyte communities relative to edge or at different heights on the host tree did not play a large role in the establishment of epiphytes.

Cover page of SEED FATE OF THE TAMANU TREE (CALOPHYLLUM INOPHYLLUM): VIABILITY, DISPERSAL, AND PREDATION AND ITS ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE IN MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

SEED FATE OF THE TAMANU TREE (CALOPHYLLUM INOPHYLLUM): VIABILITY, DISPERSAL, AND PREDATION AND ITS ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE IN MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

(2007)

The growing concern for threatened or endangered species has made conservationists recognize the need to accurately assess the status of small populations. In order to do this, the survivorship and fecundity of each life stage must be established to determine the population’s overall growth rate. A small population of the evergreen tree Calophyllum inophyllum can be found on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia. This tree is an excellent study organism because it has been internationally recognized as an endangered species and its large spherical seeds allow it to be traced easily. It grows along the coast, and the seeds float in water and continue to be viable for over three months. Determining the fate of the seed is one important step in developing useful models for conservation managers. The factors tested are survivorship, loss, and fecundity in the seed to seedling life stage. A seed-sowing experiment yielded 36.24% germination, which is much lower than past germination rates of this tree. The terrestrial crab, C. carnifex, was found to be the primary predator of the C. inophyllum seed, causing a 59% loss of seeds. This high predation loss could be impacting the population growth rate. The long-distance dispersal study provided evidence that the seeds were capable of moving past the reef. This has important implications in the studies of island colonization.

Cover page of Distribution and habitat features of the sedge Kyllinga nemoralis on the Polynesian island of Mo'orea

Distribution and habitat features of the sedge Kyllinga nemoralis on the Polynesian island of Mo'orea

(2007)

This study focuses on the current distribution and habitat preferences of the sedge Kyllinga nemoralis. It is a weed on Mo'orea but an invasive to other islands of hte Pacific. Annual precipitation, temperature, water availability, soil moisture, soil type, canopy cover and elevation are shown to influence the distribution of this species. A minor transplant study affirms its preference of full sun locations to those with low light due to canopy cover.

Cover page of The diversity and dispersal of estuarine infauna in Moorea, French Polynesia

The diversity and dispersal of estuarine infauna in Moorea, French Polynesia

(2007)

Studies examining benthic macrofauna of estuaries are becoming more prevalent in the scientific community but none have yet been conducted on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia. The present field study surveyed four estuaries on the island: the Papeahi, Paopao, Urufara and Vaihana Rivers. Organisms were collected and abiotic factors (including sediment type, depth, temperature, water flow, salinity, pH and dissolved oxygen) were measured to find correlations between species diversity and species abundances and the physical conditions that surround them. Abundance of taxa varied considerably among estuaries. Correlations were found between diversity and temperature and between gastropod abundance and depth/salinity. Many correlations reported in previous studies were absent; however this is most likely due to low abundances, small sample sizes and time constraints.

Cover page of The distribution and role of an invasive plant species, Lantana camara, in disturbed roadside habitats in Moorea, French Polynesia

The distribution and role of an invasive plant species, Lantana camara, in disturbed roadside habitats in Moorea, French Polynesia

(2007)

Invasive species are known to displace native habitat and threaten biodiversity. Lantana camara has invaded over 60 countries and island groups and is one of the top invasive plant species in French Polynesia. Few studies discuss the relationship between L. camara and anthropogenic disturbances, though it is known to be associated with disturbance. I surveyed the major roadsides of Moorea, French Polynesia for L. camara cover in association with environmental factors, resulting in an estimated L. camara roadside area cover of 1.99%. L. camara presence was significantly correlated to roadside habitat types, highest in areas of agricultural disturbance. L. camara presence and area cover were positively correlated to soil moisture and slope. Faunal species richness was higher in areas where L. camara was present. Germination experiments reared no results over six weeks. However, in a vegetative growth experiment, cuttings had greatest height growth over two weeks under the heaviest shaded light treatment. I predict that the current range of L. camara on Moorea could expand to shaded areas with sufficient soil moisture, slope, and intermediate disturbance, conditions typical of higher elevation habitats on Moorea.

Cover page of Environmental factors affecting microbial mat distribution in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Environmental factors affecting microbial mat distribution in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

(2007)

Communities of photosynthetic prokaryotes are found around the world in a huge variety of locations, one of which is hypersaline mudflats. The estuary in Tamae, Mo’orea has been mostly filled in by a golf course and severely cut the population of microbial mats. Microbial mats in the Tamae mudflats in Mo’orea, French Polynesia were studied. Eight different morphologies were described and mapped. Additionally, their microhabitats described based on salinity, temperature, number of crab holes, and ground water depth and all but temperature saw certain significant differences. Transects were run from one end to another, and using the same environmental parameters, changes over the entire mudflat were observed. There were no trends with temperature. All of the other parameters exhibited trends and seem to have an influence over mat distribution, however there is not concrete evidence to support the claim that these are the factors that limit these microbial mat distributions. This ecosystem is very complex and it is probable that many more factors affect their distribution. If this habitat is to be conserved it will need to be studied more.