The People Aboard NOAA’s ARC: Teams Pearl & Hermes and Kure

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.


Map of Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

Team Pearl and Hermes

With over 450 square miles of coral reef and less than 1/4 square mile of total land area, Pearl and Hermes Atoll is dominated by vivid blues (rumored even to have inspired paint colors). The Pearl and Hermes team spends a lot of time out in the cerulean waters traveling between islets to survey the atoll’s seal population.



Pearl & Hermes Team: (L-R) Caroline Cummings, Alix Gibson, Darren Roberts, Megan Roberts (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

Darren Roberts (6th season) – Now a hardened field biologist alternating seasons between the NWHI and Antarctica, Darren’s first degree was actually in music theory, and he has even performed at Carnegie Hall.  We’re waiting to hear his theme song for camp Pearl & Hermes!

Megan Roberts (3rd season) – Growing up in rural Idaho, Megan didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing till she was 16.  No wonder she adjusts so well to life in this remote island camp!

Caroline Cummings (1st season) – Caroline recently completed her Master’s degree studying seals in Scotland, she also learned to love kilts and beer.  She’s excited to learn about another seal species.

Alix Gibson (1st season) – Alix has been nurturing marine life at many levels – she’s got rare skills in raising moon jellyfish.  This summer she’ll gain a whole new skill set to help monk seals!


Pearl and Hermes camp, just 12 feet above sea level at Southeast Island (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).


Teamwork! The monk seal camp team and staff from the State of Hawaii’s Department of Forestry and Wildlife pitch in for the hard work of hefting water and other gear to set up field camp (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

Team Kure Atoll


Map of Kure Atoll.

The farthest point in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Kure Atoll is home to an old U.S. Coast Guard post turned field camp. The Kure monk seal team is small, but they enjoy sharing the camp with members the State of Hawaii’s Department of Forestry and Wildlife team.

Ilana Nimz (4th season) – Ilana claims she can’t smell – I guess that means she’ll be collecting the scat samples this season. Besides being a talented scientist, Ilana is also quite the artist. She turns glass balls, woods, and any other debris she can get her hands on into works of art.

David Golden (1st season) – David started honing his outdoor skills as an eagle scout.  Hmmm we should probably make some merit badges for all the way these field biologists can save seals over the course of a season (disentanglement, antibiotic injections, vaccinations, reuniting moms and pups, moving pups away from shark predation, and more!)


Kure Team: (L-R) David Golden, Ilana Nimz (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).


Monk seal camp at Kure Atoll, one of the only monk seal inland camps and it rests in the center of Green Island (Photo: NOAA Fisheries).

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