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    Spring 2022 Student Experiences

Spring 2022 Student Experiences

So, how did it go?

We asked the students in the Spring Semester 2022 session for feedback on their experiences on Moorea & Tetiaroa. They had quite a bit to say...


Time well-spent on Moorea

Making tapa cloth
tapa making at Atitia Center on Moorea
Sunset at Gump Station

Adelina’s lesson on Coconuts!

"Today was all about coconuts. Adelina led class and we met at the cultural center where coconuts of all stages were set on the ground. We were taught how to de-husk, break open with one strike, scrape out the meat, use the bark cloth to strain out the milk, and put it in our hair! We were showed which coconuts were best for what: green-coconut water/meat, brown with liquid inside-coconut milk, and finally brown with stem growing out of it-coconut oil. After collecting our milk (and drinking over half of it) we poured it into each others hair and made multiple massage trains to get the oils deep in our scalps, it felt amazing and my hair felt so nice the next day!" - Nina Lowry

Massage train from our coconut lesson!
in the Moorea mountains

Moua Puta “Mountain with Hole”

"To my dismay, Julien woke me up at 4:30 AM the next morning for the big hike. We were to summit the mountain with the hole. That hole had been staring down at me for months now. It was still dark out and I was very upset. I scrambled up the mountain, on the top ridge, we climbed on ropes. It was noon when we reached the top and I was decidedly less upset as I stared down at Gump Station, a long bird's flight away, and couldn't believe that I was standing on top of the mountain with the hole. We needed a guide but our guide, Victor, could barely make it up. It had been three years since he had hiked and he had muscle cramps. The area on top really only fit six or so people and was sheer in all directions. I could finally see the island from above. It looks like a silly angel. There is some background on Moua Puta. The legend is something about an archer who shot an arrow and created the hole. The arrow anchored in the Tuamotus. I need a refresher on the story but I promise it's a good one. Scrambling down the mountain was terrifying." - Eva Elfishawy

Three Weeks on Tetiaroa Atoll

at the marae


Dear Tetiaroa Society,
Thank you so much for hosting the first class of the Island Sustainability Program from University of California Berkeley. This trip has been, for most of us, our first time exploring Oceania. It’s incredible that we spent the first leg of our program on Tetiaroa – one of the most pristine places in the world – exploring the wondrous motu. I remember looking at the program itinerary and thinking, “what’s Tetiaroa? Hopefully someplace cool”. Now I can say that “cool!” is an understatement. The views from our arrival on Air Tetiaroa can be described as nothing less than wondrous. For those of you who are reading this newsletter, I’m sure you know exactly what we’re talking about. We couldn’t turn away from the window, admiring and marveling at the different hues of blue in the lagoon. The reef protected and encompassed numerous motu, with which we would become intimately familiar over the next few weeks. Our daily boat ride across the lagoon to explore the motu was the best commute to class that I have ever had in my life.

One of our first lectures was given to us by Frank Murphy, who taught us about the geomorphology and history of the atoll. The incredible Hinano Murphy graciously gifted her knowledge of Polynesian culture throughout our time on Tetiaroa, orating legends on the marae, in the taro plantation, and on the beach under the bright stars. Watching Moana in Tahitian and hearing from Hinano and Frank’s experience consulting for Disney can now be listed as one of my favorite film experiences. 

We were a group of 21 undergraduate students, and for 3 weeks the Eco-Station became our home. We got to know each other extremely quickly living together in the dorms and through our various field excursions to the motu. Even after a week, it would be hard to believe that we had only met each other 7 days before. We received hands-on field experience by participating in ongoing Tetiaroa Society research. We aided with monitoring mosquito populations with Herve Bossin of ILM. Guided by Jayna De Vore, we surveyed for invasive yellow crazy ants on the motus. We also conducted our own class fieldwork in which we compared terrestrial biodiversity on multiple motu, becoming more comfortable in the water learning about the lagoon.

In the three weeks we lived on Onetahi, we learned so much – from fellow classmates and program instructors, the TS rangers and guides, and the Brando staff. It was bittersweet leaving the atoll as we continued on to our next leg of our educational journey at Temae Beach and then the University of California Gump Research Station in Paopao Bay on Moorea. We sincerely cannot express how grateful we all are for our time on Tetiaroa. It was a transformative experience like we’ve never had before, and one we wish that many more ISP students will be able to have in the future.

Kathryn McNeal & Tia Pappas
Island Sustainability Program, UC Berkeley, Class of 2022

digging in

Amira Belhedi

cultural insights from Hinano
island sustainability program spring 2022
coconut leaf weaving