Los Farallones

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

Water Harvesting & New Arrival!

In my opinion, life on SEFI is very rewarding and satisfying. Every day is busy – we work hard and have a variety of tasks to accomplish.  We may be a small community of people but we get along quite well. We make nearly all of our meals from scratch. Most of our waste is recycled, burned or composted. Nearly 90% of our energy is produced through solar. And we are very conscience of our water consumption. Meaning we shower every four days, use tubs to wash our dishes and do laundry sparingly.
Photo showing a large swell that broke over the E.L. platform. These swells were building to 15+ feet. Photo credit Ron LeValley.
Swells breaking through the saddle on Saddle Rock during a winter storm. Photo credit Ron LeValley.
For the past 10 years the entire state of California has felt the effects of an extended drought. Out here on SEFI we have also had a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to our water supply. Rain is precious to us and we harvest as much of it as possible. It has to be – we are a small island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean with no consistent supply of fresh water. We rely heavily on these winter storms to get us through the rest of the year. The process in which we collect and filter rain water to drinking water is detailed below.
 Rain falls onto the catchment pad and runs down hill to flow into the Settling Tank. From there we use a system of pipes and pumps in our pump house to filter and dump water into our Cistern. The Cistern is capable of holding over 100,000 gallons of water and will sit here until we need to filter and pump again to our Gravity Tank located on the other side of the island.
Because our catchment pad is exposed to the elements (and specifically seabird guano) we need to make sure it goes through a rather intensive filtration process. When pumping from the Settling Tank to Cistern we use two in-line GAF filters which have a certain filtration size to take out the larger sediment. While the water sits in the Cistern it is being filtered with an Ozinator (O3) and UV light. When pumping from the Cistern to the Gravity Tank it again goes through two in-line GAF filters with smaller filtration. When the water hits the Gravity Tank it once again is being filtered with Ozinator and UV light.
The Gravity Tank is located up hill in the saddle between Little Lighthouse Hill and Lighthouse Hill. This supplies the pressure we need to move the water through our pipes in the house.
When the water finally comes into the houses there are 6 lines of filtration for most of the house and 8 lines of filtration for the water we drink. We test this water every 3 months to make sure it is safe for consumption.
Not only do we have a lot more elephant seals arriving to the island we also have a new arrival to the winter crew. I happily introduce Vanessa Delnavaz.
Vanessa swimming with a couple of the harbor seals at the Marine Science Center in Rostock, Germany

Vanessa joined the team in early January and will serve as the carry over intern into the first couple weeks of the seabird season. She is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Vanessa worked at the Pinniped Sensory Systems and Cognition Lab at the Long Marine Laboratory. During the summer of 2013, she lived in Germany for 3 months working at a research center with captive harbor seals. Towards the end of her time at UC Santa Cruz, she became involved with field work with northern elephant seals at Año Nuevo. After graduating, Vanessa traveled to Australia to volunteer on a project studying the effects of seismic surveys on the behaviors of Eastern Australian humpback whales. She is excited to join the SEFI team for the winter season and can’t wait to learn more about northern elephant seals as well as all the other incredible animals on the island.

At the day’s end on Friday 16th January 2015 we now have 27 cows and 18 pups on Sand Flat and 14 cows and 8 pups in Mirounga Beach. It was a bit of a slow start for the season but things have really picked up quickly. Tune in for the next blog when we detail more information about the elephant seal breeding season!