The People Aboard NOAA’s ARC: Team French Frigate Shoals

Get to know the bold field biologists stationed on remote islands for NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Assessment & Recovery Camps.

Every year (since the 1980s!), the NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program has deployed camps in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to monitor and help recover the population of endangered Hawaiian monk seals. These assessment and recovery camps, or ARCs, are deployed from large NOAA research vessels. Large vessels are necessary because they need to transport everything that field staff at five camps will require for their three to five month season in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. You can follow the latest deployment cruise on our Story Map. We thought it would be nice for you to get to know the dedicated biologists of our monk seal ARCs and will introduce them over a series of three blogs.


Unloading buckets of camp gear and food at French Frigate Shoals (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

Team French Frigate Shoals

French Frigate Shoals

Map of islands in French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The French Frigate Shoals team tackles one of the toughest sites in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands when it comes to monk seal research and conservation. The seal team must survey many islets across a large atoll and spend much of their time monitoring shark predation activities at Trig Island and the Gin Islands. They pay special attention to pups at these islets and scoop them up to move them to another location in the atoll before they become prey for resident Galapagos sharks. To read more about the shark predation issue check out our webpage. The turtle team on French Frigate Shoals will attempt to survey the largest nesting area for Hawaiian green sea turtles. Both the seal and turtle teams will survey the declining infrastructure that was used to create Tern Island and now poses an entrapment hazard for seals, turtles, and birds.


Meet the Team at French Frigate Shoals: (Back L-R) Josh Carpenter, Sean Guerin, Shawn Farry, Jan Willem Staman, (Front L-R) Ali Northey, Alex Reininger, Marylou Staman (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

Hawaiian Monk Seal Team

Shawn Farry (14th season) – Shawn been working at French Frigate Shoals long enough to remember when there were 800 seals at the atoll (now home to less than 200) and no digital photos or photo databases – he can make a perfect sketch of a seal’s identifying marks in moments! 

Sean Guerin (4th season) – Sean was part of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program for several years before following his dream to learn the art of zymurgy (brewing beer). He brewed 900 barrels of beer last year, and will now spend the summer on a dry island in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Josh Carpenter (1st season) – Josh’s most recent marine mammal necropsy was a blue whale. We hope he doesn’t need to bring that skill set to this field season.

Ali Northey (1st season) – A gymnast from the University of Washington, this is Ali’s first time away from Washington for more than two weeks. May it be a homey camp!

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Team

Marylou Staman (1st season) – In three years of turtle research on Guam, Marylou saw 30 nesting females.  She’s looking forward to her first mass nesting site (she’ll beat 30 in no time)!

Jan Willem Staman (1st season) – Jan is making the big transition from being a full-time soccer player with the Guam national team to turtle wrangler on the French Frigate Shoals team.

Alex Reininger (1st season) – Alex has mostly known nesting sea turtles from those that strand and wash up on Oahu, she’s looking forward to seeing them alive and well on their nesting grounds.

Wish these campers a good season at their Tern Island camp at French Frigate Shoals!

Tern Island

Hawaiian monk seal and turtle camps set up along the decommissioned runway on Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals. The runway and buildings are from previous days when the island was an outpost for the U.S. Navy (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

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