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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 Temporarily Terrestrial Tropicbirds: Courtship and time budgets of white-tailed tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus) on Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Temporarily Terrestrial Tropicbirds: Courtship and time budgets of white-tailed tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus) on Mo'orea, French Polynesia

(2009)

Land breeding sites are important conservation priorities for the preservation of seabirds that cannot breed over the ocean. An example of a seabird that must breed on land is the white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus). This bird is frequently seen on the island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia, but little is known about whether this species spends time there for the purpose of breeding. I hypothesized that these birds are breeding on Mo’orea and therefore conducted a study that included (1) observations of group interactions; (2) time budget construction; and (3) number surveys. My group interaction observations revealed courtship behavior previously described by the literature but I observed no definite evidence of cliff‐face nesting. The time budget results showed that the tropicbirds spend a significant portion of their time flying over the land by themselves (73%), and at low elevation near vegetation (61%). The number survey revealed that the birds preferred to be on land at mid‐day and favored one valley, ‘Opunohu, over the 2 others I surveyed. Because of the amount of time the birds spend by themselves and the absence of definite nest site data, I am unable to conclude that white‐tailed tropicbirds are breeding on Mo’orea at this time of year. However, their courtship behavior and extensive interaction with vegetation that may indicate potential nest sites in tree hollows lead me to conclude that Mo’orea could be a land breeding site for this species at other times of year.

Cover page of Maturing Motu? The Geomorphology of Motu Tiahura with a focus on Human Impact

Maturing Motu? The Geomorphology of Motu Tiahura with a focus on Human Impact

(2009)

Geomorphological changes occur on a range of spatial and temporal scales. In the past, they have been primarily driven by abiotic factors like storm events and wave action. More recently, human impacts have begun to affect geomorphological processes. It is critical to understand where and how humans impact such processes in order to minimize environmental impact of activities like boating and adding infrastructure. I studied human impacts on the formation and continuous alteration of Motu Tiahura, Mo'orea, French Polynesia. By studying velocities, sediment distribution, beach profiles and wave heights in areas with and without human activity, it was found that humans are in fact having a geomorphological impact on Motu Tiahura.

Cover page of Opting for Expiration: Efficacy of bioactive secondary compounds in affecting herbivore feeding preferences of medicinal Leguminosae species in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Opting for Expiration: Efficacy of bioactive secondary compounds in affecting herbivore feeding preferences of medicinal Leguminosae species in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

(2009)

Secondary compounds, often found in medicinal plants, are believed to have evolved as chemical defenses for many species. These bioactive chemicals have been shown to protect the plant from their numerous insect predators and pathogens through a wide variety of mechanisms. The purpose of this study is to examine the effect these secondary compounds have on the amount of predation towards medicinal species. Looking at the amount of leaf herbivory and an antifungal bioassay of six species of Leguminosae, the main objective of the study was to find a correlation between predation and medicinal properties. Herbivore feeding preference appeared averse to medicinal leaves, although no relationship between leaf damage and yeast inhibition was found. A feeding experiment conducted using common herbivores inadvertently demonstrated the antifungal properties of the medicinal species, and gave further indication of an herbivore aversion to leaves with bioactive secondary compounds.

Cover page of Long-term implications of coral use in the construction of royal coastal marae on Moorea, French Polynesia

Long-term implications of coral use in the construction of royal coastal marae on Moorea, French Polynesia

(2009)

Early Polynesians created monumental structures called marae, using coral as a major element in the construction of the ahu. This study will analyze the relative frequency of coral genera found in the ahu of three different royal coastal marae sites on Mo‘orea and evaluate its correspondence to the composition of adjacent coral communities. Volumetric measurements of the ahu and its constituent coral genera composition were calculated. Transects were performed in both the fringing and barrier reefs surrounding the marae sites in order to record size and frequency of the coral genera present there. Some marae site survey results revealed a strong correlation between the usage of coral as a major element of construction in marae, and modern coral genera distribution and abundance in the surrounding fringing reef. The barrier reef environment suffered minimal impact resulting from marae construction. When all coral genera were combined, there was a significant difference in coral composition between marae site reefs and control site reefs. Additionally, coral measurements revealed a positive correlation of increased coral diameter with increased distance from shore. Using coral head size as a proxy for age, the presence of younger coral communities closer to shore may be the long-term result of older, larger corals being collected nearer to shore for use in the constructing of marae.

Cover page of Balancing anti-predation and energetic needs: color polymorphism in the giant clam Tridacna maxima

Balancing anti-predation and energetic needs: color polymorphism in the giant clam Tridacna maxima

(2009)

Color polymorphism has been implicated as an important component of cryptic coloration in organisms inhabiting complex environments. Recent studies have suggested that mantle color variation in Tridacnid clams may serve various functions, including as a mechanism to achieve background matching. The mantle color variation of Tridacna maxima was examined in a series of experiments, including a background-matching photo survey, a predation experiment, and a zooxanthellae count. The results of the photo survey showed a significant correlation between T. maxima mantle and background color. T. maxima which did not match their background experienced a significantly greater rate of predation. Finally, the population of zooxanthellae was seen to increase for the same size of mantle area with age. These results suggest that balancing photosynthetic efficiency and anti-predation needs can be addressed by mantle color variation throughout the lifetime of T. maxima.

Cover page of Tropical Island Invaders: Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) Behavior and Seabird Predatioin on Moorea, French Polynesia

Tropical Island Invaders: Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) Behavior and Seabird Predatioin on Moorea, French Polynesia

(2009)

Islands of the south pacific are fragile ecosystems, home to native land and sea birds that evolved in the absence of predators. On Mo’orea, French Polynesia the first humans arrived around 600 AD bringing with them invasive vertebrate predators. This study examines one of these predators on Mo’orea by observing swamp harrier (Circus approximans) habitat preference and behavior to determine if it has changed in comparison to its source population. Also it will examine their role in seabird predation on Mo’orea through a series of animal waste sample collections at high elevations. Since swamp harrier introduction in 1885 their habitat preference has not much changed from their Australian source population. The majority of its time and foraging is spent over low vegetation, though some expansion into other habitats has occurred since there are no other raptors on the island with which to compete. Feral cats (Felis catus) are also prevalent on the island and along with the swamp harriers are preying upon the native seabird populations on Mo’orea. Tahiti petrels (Pesudobulweria rostrata) and Audubon's shearwaters (Puffinus lherminieri) are being preferentially eaten by these predators over the invasive songbirds at high elevation. Feral cats appear to be the more significant predator of seabirds and without their control nesting seabird colonies may cease to exist on Mo’orea.

Cover page of TERRESTRIAL GASTROPOD DISTRIBUTIONAL FACTORS: NATIVE AND NONNATIVE FORESTS, ELEVATION, AND PREDATION ON MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

TERRESTRIAL GASTROPOD DISTRIBUTIONAL FACTORS: NATIVE AND NONNATIVE FORESTS, ELEVATION, AND PREDATION ON MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

(2009)

The factors contributing to biodiversity of terrestrial gastropods on Mo’orea, French Polynesia are investigated. Gastropods are sampled from four native forests of predominately Hibiscus tiliaceus, and four nonnative forests of predominately Falcataria moluccana within two elevational ranges. It is determined that the type of forest has an effect on the species composition of that habitat. Additionally, it is determined that elevation is a determinant in relative species composition. An additional variable possibly contributing to species distribution is the predatory detection of the introduced flatworm, Platydemus manokwari, by two predominant species of this study. This is primarily a study on the current biodiversity of a vastly neglected group of molluscs on island of Mo’orea.

Cover page of GASTROPOD DISTRIBUTION IN THE SHALLOW WATERS AROUND A MOTU OF MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

GASTROPOD DISTRIBUTION IN THE SHALLOW WATERS AROUND A MOTU OF MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

(2009)

The gastropod communities around motu Tiahura are currently under various stresses, both natural and anthropogenic. Distribution studies can help understand how these pressures are affecting gastropod communities. The shallow waters around motu Tiahura were partitioned into six distinct habitats. Transects were examined in each habitat to observe gastropod abundance and diversity. Results show that the waters off the conglomerate platform are the most diverse, while the lagoon is least diverse. Three of the habitats were relatively similar in gastropod community, while the other three were distinct. Night transects revealed that burrowing gastropods form a distinct nocturnal community. Differences between gastropod communities may arise from biotic interactions and unique physical factors in each habitat.

Cover page of COMBATING THE PURPLE BOTANICAL PLAGUE: EVALUATION OF COLLETOTRICHUM GLOEOSPORIOIDES F. SP. MICONIAE FOR BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF MICONIA CALVESCENS IN MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

COMBATING THE PURPLE BOTANICAL PLAGUE: EVALUATION OF COLLETOTRICHUM GLOEOSPORIOIDES F. SP. MICONIAE FOR BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF MICONIA CALVESCENS IN MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

(2009)

Classical biological control aims to actively manage threats that cause immense losses in biological diversity. The introduction of a biological control agent Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f. sp. miconiae (Cgm) in April 2000 to Tahiti, French Polynesia was intended to control the massive spread of an invasive weed Miconia calvescens. However, while Cgm has subsequently spread to Mo’orea, its impact on reducing M. calvescens remains uncertain. The main objectives of this study are: (1) to quantify the amount of the fungal pathogen infecting the M. calvescens plants at three elevation ranges on Mo’orea, (2) to understand the impact of moisture on the proliferation of disease development, and (3) to test the influence of endophytic fungal communities on the competitive ability of Cgm. Results from quantifying leaf damage showed that at higher elevations, Cgm disease development is more rampant. In laboratory experiments, varying moisture did not significantly affect the health of the seedling. While Cgm growth rate correlates with competitive ability, endophytic fungal growth rate does not, leading to speculation that other modes such as chemical interactions allow for endophytic competitive ability. Lastly, data supports the hypothesis that Cgm becomes a better competitor against the endophytic fungal species at higher elevations. Results of this study suggest that other microclimatic factors such as temperature and humidity may play a role in disease development. While Cgm may decelerate the growth of M. calvescens, Cgm alone is not likely to obliterate the massive damage M. calvescens has done on the native flora of Mo’orea and its surrounding islands. Conservation biologists must urgently attack this pest, or the fragile ecosystem of the islands will lead to massive losses in biological diversity.

Cover page of Sea Urchins on the Move: Distribution Change of Echinometra in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Sea Urchins on the Move: Distribution Change of Echinometra in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

(2009)

The island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia functions as a model system to study the biological and ecological concept of niche differentiation, whereby two or more species are forced into different habitats so as to avoid competition with each other. In the waters surrounding this island, two species of sea urchin within the genus Echinometra live in distinctly different habitats. Previous studies document Echinometra sp. A located exclusively on the fringing reef and Echinometra mathaei located exclusively on the barrier reef. This study investigated three short-term factors (available space, nutrient supply, and predation) that might be influencing this spatial distribution. None of these factors appear to be causing the separation of E. sp. A and E. mathaei. In fact, they all support the distributional findings of this study that showed non-mutually exclusive distribution data on the two reef types.