Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Island Dreams

The Farallones is a very intense place. When you first arrive out here, you are surrounded by sights, sounds, and some choice smells that most people have never experienced. After a hard day of fieldwork, people tend to have some pretty elaborate dreams, most of them about the island in some fashion. For the past 20 years, we have been recording these dreams in our nightly Farallon Journal.

While the stuff of these dreams is ample material for a whole PhD on the psychology of field biologists, I have found during my 10 seasons out here that most dreams fall into one of two major categories – Invasion Dreams and Anxiety Dreams.

The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge is closed to public access. This is done to protect the sensitive wildlife populations that call this special place home. While trespassing violations are extremely rare, the threat of them has made for many exciting “Invasion Dreams” had by biologists over the decades. These dreams are often hilarious; a quick scan of the journal reveals dreams of island attack by aliens or a band of pirates led by Uma Thurman. I specialize in these sorts of dreams, and tend to have a few choice ones every year. Here is a sampling from my own personal invasion dreams- the Russ Bradley collection

– I had to prevent tourists from feeding popcorn to Common Murres
– Everyone I ever knew showed up on the island, disturbing wildlife
– A 2 story house full of people washed up on the beach
– A Super Villain joined our volunteer Farallon Patrol and tried to take over the island
– Hundreds of people showed up at the “Farallon Cruise Ship Terminal”
– A Harrier Jet landed on West End Island – a completely closed Wilderness Area – and dropped off a huge group of rock climbers
– I found 2 palm trees and had to cut them down and remove them (a plant invasion dream…)
– There were small children and dogs running everywhere on the island, crushing seabird burrows and causing mayhem. I have this one all the time.

While these invasion dreams may seem absolutely ridiculous, they do remind us of how special and sensitive the Farallon Islands are.

Now for the anxiety dreams. These often involve interns thinking they have conducted a study wrong, and will soon face the wrath of us supervising biologists. One intern dreamt he had forgotten to check half of the Ashy Storm Petrel breeding sites all season. Another walked out to her gull plot to find it full of chicks, and she had missed the laying and hatching of eggs entirely. Another dreamt she accidentally left the island early on the wrong boat, and that I was furious with her for missing out on cormorant banding. Here is a scan of a dream sent to us by one of our former interns, a year after she had left the island. She talks about improper banding of Pigeon Guillemots, and how potential interns were forced to swim in shark infested waters to prove their worthiness to work on the island.

Again, just a tad extreme, but there is a moral here. Despite the sometimes mad world of dreams, everyone takes their work out here very seriously, and want to make sure they do their best to ensure good science and conservation are being done.