Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Damselfly in Distress?

Anela, out in the field collecting damsefly eggs from local vegetation.
Credit: USFWS
Anela Wisenhunt is a student at University of Hawaii, Manoa, but unlike most students her age, she spent this summer on the island of Oahu catching tiny Orangeblack damselflies for translocation.

The damselfly story
Though common on other Hawaiian islands, this damselfly, a candidate species for Endangered Species Act listing, is only found on one part of Oahu. After almost five years of planning and funding, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service began translocation of these damselflies, a project which Anela was eager to participate in.

She discovered the internship opportunity through a school colleague and shortly after found herself in the field using giant nets to capture and tag damselflies. She also helped collect their eggs via samples of vegetation. After the flies were collected, they were translocated to the Waimea Valley. This area is a historic site for damselflies and after working with landowners it was determined to be a suitable habitat to begin a second population.

Close-up of the tiny Orangeblack damselfly species.
Credit: David Eickhoff

A fulfilling summer
Spending days exploring the natural islands of Hawaii sounds like a pretty great gig for a student. "My favorite parts were just being out in the field capturing the damselflies. Sometimes it would take a while before you would see any, and being in the serene quiet parts of the stream away from everything else and concentrating on finding something so small was awesome," she describes, but there were some challenges too. Aside from strategically planning the  time of day, sunlight and wind so it is just right for capturing damselflies, "the stream at Tripler has many mosquitoes," Anela states.  It seems about right that a summer internship spent outdoors could only get as bad as a few mosquito bites.

Anela finds the perfect time of day best for
capturing damselflies.
Credit: USFWS

Passing along her story
When Anela wasn’t out in the field, she spent her days connecting others with the efforts of the Refuge and damselfly translocation project. She expressed her happiness to explain her project to curious visitors, some from all over the world, in an effort to pique their interest in nature. She even gave her own presentation to a group of visiting students from Chaminade College.

At the end of her summer internship, Anela looks back with hope that the damselfly translocation project will prove successful. And when asked about her overall experience as a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Intern, Anela shares, "The experience alone was wonderful. Having the opportunity to work alongside some amazing biologists such as Lorena Wada was a benefit for me in itself. She really showed me the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to undertake these projects. I’m looking forward to seeing how the damselfly translocation project plays out in the future. Hopefully we will have been successful in our efforts and I hope to see the rewards of our hard work by seeing more damselflies at Waimea. The work we did was an experience that I will always remember and one that I am very happy to have been a part of."

For more information on internships like Anela’s and other volunteer opportunities with the Service, please visit here.

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