The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii are now accepting applications for the crew leader of the 8th Crazy Ant Strike Team (CAST VIII) Expedition to Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Johnston Atoll NWR is located in the central Pacific Ocean, 717 nautical miles west-southwest of Honolulu. The refuge is managed for 14 species of breeding seabirds and 5 species of wintering shorebirds in addition to its diverse coral reef and marine organism assemblages, including the threatened green turtle. The atoll comprises four small islands (696 acres), which constitute the only land area in over 750,000 square miles of ocean. The emergent land associated with this refuge provides critical, rat-free habitat for central Pacific seabird populations and its coral reef ecosystem is an important marine resource. The refuge is uninhabited except for the 5 members of the strike team.
In January 2010, an infestation of Anoplolepis gracilipes, or yellow crazy ants (YCAs), was found affecting approximately 130 acres of the 630-acre Johnston Island. Yellow crazy ants, named because of their manic behavior when disturbed, have wreaked havoc on ecosystems and bird habitats in other parts of the world; therefore the presence of this infestation is cause for great concern. Local impacts to wildlife already observed on Johnston Island include the apparent desertion of the entire affected area by ground nesting birds (Red-tailed Tropicbird and Wedge-tailed Shearwater) that previously occupied those areas and a possible reduction in density and numbers of tree-nesting bird species (Red-footed Booby and White Tern) inside the area colonized by YCA. The potential for even greater impacts to the terrestrial ecosystem at Johnston Atoll is substantial if the infestation of YCA is left unchecked.
Efforts have been ongoing since August 2010, and YCA numbers have been reduced by 99% and the seabirds have begun to return. A crew leader is being sought to lead a team of volunteers to continue the eradication effort and destroy the last 1% of the ants remaining on the island, monitor the returning seabird populations, and conduct other management activities.
Candidates for the Crew Leader position will need to be available in early/mid-April 2014 to assist with trip preparation in Honolulu, Hawai’i, followed by an approximate 6-month deployment to the CAST field camp at Johnston Island starting in mid-May.