1 year of fieldwork

Just got back into Fiji on August 23rd 2016. Here for one year of fieldwork, till August 2017. This could be extended to December 2017 which naturally hinges on progress in fieldwork. Specifically, on my ecological surveys of Marine Protected Areas that are established for 100 nights following burials. 100 nights is a little over three months and I need to survey at least five of these Funerary Protected Areas (FPAs).

First things first. Before starting fieldwork, I had to have a catchup of local, fresh food. This called for a trip with my wife to the local market in the capital on Saturday  (August 27th at around 6am). Oh the abundance of fresh food which are way better priced than in Hawaii. 

Things we got:

  1. Lumi wawa (seaweed) that will be blanched in hot water, doused in coconut milk and topped with chilli. To be had with cassava.
  2. Lots of vegetables 
  3. Also got ready made kokoda (raw fish that had been marinated in lemon juice, now swimming in coconut milk with chilli). A container of ready made octopus lunch, similar to the kokoda was next to it. So, can’t buy one without the other. Lol. Also got cooked cassava to go with it 
  4. Underground oven (lovo) baked Grated cassava for breakfast

The meals that followed this market trip was some of the best meals we’ve had in a while. It takes getting us out of the country for 2 years to 

Research in Fiji’s newspaper

News article below was in Fiji’s newspaper, The Fiji Sun (August 14th 2016)

Page 22

#cost, #data, #death, #economics, #fiji, #funeral, #indigenous, #itaukei, #phd, #research, #ron-vave, #somate

First infographic release

Attached is an infographic containing preliminary findings of my research on ‘costs of indigenous Fijian (iTaukei) funerals in Fiji’.

Goals of this infographic are to:

  1. raise awareness on my research on funerals till 2018 or 2019 which can often be quite awkward,
  2. generate discussions and gather feedback and comments on infographic
  3. and equally important, to gather more iTaukei funeral financial data from across Fiji, from those who managed financials for their loved ones funeral. No pressure 🙂 If you’re willing to share funeral financial data with me, your name and the names of your loved ones will be, by and large, kept confidential. The only exception to this confidentiality clause is with the Universities Institutional Review Board and my Primary Adviser. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at ronvave@hawaii.edu.

Given the possibility that images posted on Facebook, such as this infographic, often end up with a lower resolution and could therefore be unclear, I have uploaded a high resolution version of this inforagphic which can be downloaded from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7XJ8syUUvF8SWRvRm53dldMRFU/view?usp=sharing

Special Notes:

  1. These are preliminary findings
  2. They are based on a very small dataset (30 funerals so far). Thanks to those who have contributed funeral financial data for their loved ones and to those who have assisted in connecting me with those who have managed funeral finances.
  3. Very important, this preliminary findings contain only a very small part of my research on iTaukei funerals. The economics chapter of my dissertation will cover more than just monetary contributions and include non-monetary contributions as well (such as those from condolence or reguregu). It will also look at what funds are used for. Other chapters of my dissertation look at the iTaukei funeral sociocultural practice (and the changes, drivers of change etc); on the changes that occur in tabu areas (what I’m calling “Funerary Protected Areas”) that are established on the reef, river and/or plantation, following the burial of a loved one (Note: this is only a practice in some parts of the country, one that I’m still mapping); and on the harvest of the Funerary Protected Area. So, the important point here is that, while I’m only presenting preliminary results of ‘costs of itaukei funerals’ in this infographic, it is but a very small piece of this research and will, in the next few years be connected to the social and ecological aspects, that will make the story, somewhat whole.

Vinaka vaka levu, Mahalo and Thank you. God bless, ron

#cost, #culture, #economics, #fiji, #finance, #finding, #funeral, #indigenous, #infographic, #itaukei, #phd, #preliminary, #reguregu, #research, #result, #ron-vave, #somate, #vave, #viti

Government research on itaukei funerals


Yippee!! Finally got IRB approval on revisions

Finally received approval from the Universities Institutional Review Board (IRB) yesterday (Thursday, July 28th 2016, 3:33pm), on changes to my research methods/protocol which was first approved on October 23rd 2015. Changes include the use of an infographic and my blog to raise awareness on my research and through that process, find willing research participants and gather data as well. Mediums of sharing include Facebook, email and of course, via the blog itself.
Infographic has frequently undergone numerous transformation over the past 3 weeks and contains preliminary findings on ‘costs of indigenous Fijian funerals in Fiji’.
Over this past 3 weeks, the infographic was sent out to select people in Fiji and abroad, for feedback and comments. To those who had provided data for this infographic, Vinaka vaka levu, Mahalo and Thank you. Some of the feedback was used in the revision of the infographic while others were taken as advice on things to think about for improving dissertation (either in the data collection stage, analysis and/or writeup).
Infographic will soon be available for release.

#blog, #change, #funeral, #infographic, #institutional-review-board, #irb, #research, #research-protocol, #university-of-hawaii


Since finishing my Comps last Friday (July 1st) and passing (Woohoo!!!), Thank you Lord, I got straight into two things:

  1. Physical exercise in preparation for the qualifying tests for the Universities Scientific Diving course and
  2. Developing an infographic (my very first) on one small component of my dissertation chapter on indigenous Fijian funeral economics

The goal of this infographic is to visually share preliminary results (based on only 13 funeral financials) and in that process of sharing, generate awareness, interest and discussions. In this infographic, I’m also requesting for more financial information on indigenous Fijian funerals.

Examples of infographics.

Why am I resorting to an infographic?

  1. Because it seems like images and videos are shared widely via social media and I could get more reach that way, than blog only and/or directly communicating with people.
  2. Because visually presented information may stick better in peoples minds

The process now

  1. Draft 1 of infographic has been sent to my Dissertation Committee members and select people in Fiji to gather their feedback and comments.
  2. Infographic will be revised based on comments, followed by one more final round of feedback and revision
  3. Final infographic with explanation of revised  process for raising awareness and information collection, will be sent to the Universities Institutional Review Board (IRB) as an amendment to my previously approved research protocol
  4. Once approved by IRB, I’ll then post it here on my blog, share it on social media and email it widely to relatives, friends and former colleagues. Then it’s a waiting game in which I’ll start to draft other infographics.

#culture, #death, #fiji, #funeral, #indigenous, #infographic, #itaukei, #phd, #process, #research, #ron-vave, #vave

My steps to making a poster

I’m sure there’s many processes out there to making a poster. People have their own styles and preferences too which could make their process slightly different. Here’s my process and a web link to my poster.

Before starting on the poster, make sure to read the guidelines as given by the conference organizers. These would include things such as size or dimensions of poster, preferred format, fonts etc.

As to the software for making posters, it’s possible to make them in Microsoft PowerPoint and save them as JPEG or PDF. For this poster, I used Adobe Photoshop CS 6.

Okay on to the process for making my recent poster:

  1. Knowing my research and the audience, what are 1 to 2 key messages I’d like people to get from the poster?
    1. wrote this out in short bullet points
  2. Develop a catchy title based on key messages
  3. Using key messages (the bullet points), what visuals (graphs and images) do I need that could relay the key messages thereby reducing the amount of text I need
  4. Insert visuals into poster
  5. Start drafting text for each visual
  6. Each major change in text and visual, I saved as a new version. My original was version 1 and had v1 in the filename. 2nd version had v2 and so forth. I created many such versions because there has been instances before where, for example, I’m on 12th version of poster and figured that version 6 was probably better. So, it’ll be easier to revert back to that version. This would not have been possible if I only had one master file and kept on overwriting any changes made. For my recent poster, there was 13 versions.

By the 11th or 12th version, a draft was sent around widely for comments. Lots of great feedback was received so there was some more revision done. The looming deadline to print poster and have it put up in conference venue will help, push people like me, to wrap up changes and print.

Lastly, there is no one way to make a poster. They are as diverse as we are so choose whatever works for you.

Good luck!!

#condolence, #conference, #cpue, #cultural, #culture, #dalo, #diver-operated-video, #dov, #ecological-resilience, #economic, #fiji, #fiji-locally-managed-marine-area, #fijian, #flmma, #food, #fpa, #funeral, #funerary-protected-area, #harvest, #itaukei, #locally-managed-marine-area, #mats, #mpa, #natural-resource, #pacific, #phd, #plantation, #poster, #process, #reef, #river, #social-resilience, #socioeconomic, #south-pacific, #taboo, #tabu, #taro, #tradition

Conference poster

Its been a while since I’ve had to make a poster. Thank God for times I’d spent playing with and in the process, learning Adobe Photoshop. The skills and knowledge gained from that was initially just used on photographs, but now, in the making of my poster (high resolution poster available at this weblink).

As I worked on my poster, day and night (sometimes in the early mornings), I wonder how difficult it must be for others who need help with the making of their poster. Having to wait around for that person to be available before you can actually make changes to the poster. This poster of mine has gone through more than 30 revisions.

A lesson to offer: Every time I make a revision, either in the graphic or major changes to text, I save it as a new version. Because I never know, if further down the line, I change my mind and prefer the older version. So, rather than constantly overwriting earlier versions of the poster, I continue to make new editions and save it as a new file.

Although this poster was made in Adobe Photoshop, the graphic on the lower left, was made in Microsoft PowerPoint. I’ll write in my next post how this poster came about.

My poster will be different from many posters in this upcoming conference for two reasons:

  1. its not presenting results of my research but what I’m planning to do my research on (actually, its underway)
  2. There’s a mixture of posters and oral presentations in this conference. Mixture in the sense that, some are purely about the natural and physical science aspects. Some are a combination of the science and local communities. Mine falls into this second category but with greater emphasis on cultural associations of indigenous Fijian funerals with sustainable resource management and conservation.

Tomorrow (Sunday, June 19th 2016) starts the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), here in Honolulu (Hawaii). This conference is held every four years. I was blessed to have been a part of the 12th ICRS which was held in Cairns, Australia.

#chief, #condolence, #coral-reef, #culture, #custom, #death, #diver-operated-video, #ecological-resilience, #feast, #fiji, #fiji-locally-managed-marine-area, #fish, #flmma, #food, #fpa, #funeral, #funerary-protected-area, #indigenous, #itaukei, #lmma, #locally-managed-marine-area, #mangrove, #marine-protected-area, #mpa, #passing, #phd, #reef, #research, #ritual, #river, #social-resilience

Preparing for Comprehensive exam

Preparing for my Comprehensive exams (University catalog; Wikipedia) which is in less than 3 weeks by going through the list of readings that have been given by my five Dissertation Committee members. As with most who have done their Comps, the readings expands greatly beyond what was assigned. An assigned reading could refer to another paper with an interesting finding or concept so I read up on that, and now I have to (choose to?) remember the author, year of publication, title of that article and their findings because at the Comps, with no notes or written material, I have to recall ‘who did the research’, ‘where research was done, including on what or who’, ‘when it was published’, ‘title of the article’ and ‘their findings’. My poor brain. The memories I make, more like “forced to make”, while reading, all feels like ‘bubbles’. So damned fragile everyone of them. hahaha. Several readings down and I’ve forgotten or, and this is what commonly happens, I’m mixing up the year of publication (was it in the year 2000 or 2002?) for similar research or same lead author, or because several studies were done in the same country, for example Papua New Guinea, that I get the studies mixed up or the sampling protocols. Grrr!!!

Also, it doesn’t help that some authors names are long, foreign and hyphenated. Can i refer to Fraser Januchowski-Hartley, as just Hartley? Probably can but shouldn’t. God forbid my committee members are interested in the Hartley paper that I just talked about and can’t find it because I had truncated the name. LOL. I’m sure Fraser’s a great guy and he did an awesome, awesome study on the effect of Periodic harvest closure on fish behavior. Cool stuff but just remembering to pronounce his name correctly is a pain in itself. Sorry Fraser. At least your name is unique, so it helps a bit with remembering.

The many readings are so interesting. Okay, some are not. Some readings would be the equivalent of being ‘dragged through hot, burning coal’ or a ‘bed of nails with the tips pointing up’. Oh the joy. Not!!! But thankfully, these are, touch wood, the only readings that were a pain. “Dear Committee members, enough eh. Please”. As my nephew at his young age would say “kerekere, please”. Other readings that I’ve been through though have been enjoyable. So, if my committee members are reading this or will read it later, “Thank you”. Its been a while since I’ve tried to cram so much stuff into my brain and hoping it’ll hold. Well, it’s already bursting at the seams. Like the infomercials you see on TV, “But wait, call now and you’ll get an extra unit for free. So, that’s two for the price of one”. hahaha. My poor brain is bursting at the seams, not able to store it all, “but wait, here’s more”. Met with the Chair of my committee two days ago and he gave me more articles and book chapters. Yay 😦 Hahaha. God bless his heart.

Different strategies work for different people. What works for me in helping remember information are:
1) to “understand” and not just “cram” the information. This gives the finicky ‘memory’ bubbles a slightly stronger surface so they don’t bloody pop so easily. LOL

20160610_0834512) Also, sticky notes of main findings, graphs and concepts (with author, year published and article title), are starting to fill the walls of my room. During breaks, I look at them and make connections with findings from other readings which is another tactic I’ve found that helps in remembering.

3) I’m starting to amass a lot of A4 papers with drawings and short notes, and arrows between them. This could start at the center with an idea such as ‘management effectiveness’ and the next connection is to ‘definition’ where i write short note on author, year, publication title, of who defined it. Next connection from ‘management effectiveness’ could be ‘metrics’ and these could include all the various measurements used (more connections) and relationships. Again, I write author, year, title, finding for each connection that i can remember. As I go through more readings, if I come across a new metric, I draw a new connection (and put in reference and finding). So, imagine an A4 paper with circles and arrows, in red and blue pen, with some in font size 9 or 10 text. Its a mess. Hehehe. My mess, and it works for me 🙂

4) Looking forward to my practice comps with fellow students who have been through the process

5) Lastly, taking a break every now and then, to watch a movie online or just do and think nothing (anything other than readings) helps give my poor brain a break. Imagine my brain to be a pressure cooker slowly hissing away as it releases pressure while I’m on a break.

Well, I think I’ve vented enough and need to get back to the readings. Right now, it seems like, passing the Comps would be already similar to getting the phd. LOL. One bridge at a time. Philippians 4:13. Thankful also to my very understanding, supportive and prayerful wife and family. #bringit.

#comprehensive-exam, #comps, #memories, #orals, #phd, #ron-vave, #strategies, #university

Awkwardness of researching funerals

Haven’t posted in a while. After doing my last set of courses in Spring 2016, I am now preparing for my Comprehensive exams or Comps (more in next post). As it is now the Summer break, meetings/workshops were conveniently planned into it, so it was off to Santa Barbara (California) and Fiji (my home country) for meetings. The meetings was on Biocultural indicators (a working group project under the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), with the goal of assessing and identifying indicators for the various metrics in the social and ecological realms that are appropriate and/or culturally relevant to a place (and its people). But at the same time, transferable to and can be integrated into national, regional and international indicators. Thought it was going to be easy but I realized that being brought up with western style philosophies and teachings, especially during years of tertiary education, my mind needed to be decolonized. To tear myself from the western teachings and view research that has been done on my people, even including my past work and research, with a new lens. The indigenous lens. In discussions and self reflection, it brought me to realize the marginal identity that I now struggle with. An indigenous person but also a researcher founded on western philosophies.

Do i have to choose? Can’t I be both? Would faculty members in my department look kindly on and give a chance to unknown, less studied and/or non-conventional ideas?

And this is what I like about my dissertation committee members and the Marine Biology Graduate Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, that they are open to new ideas. As for my Committee members, radicalists themselves (if i can call them that), working on interdisciplinary research, bridging various disciplines and trusting me with the path I’ve chosen. I know there was some hesitancy (from others, not my committee members) when I first spoke about what I wanted to research for my PhD who said things like

“Don’t think it’ll be enough for a dissertation” to “all you’ve described as the potential six chapters of your dissertation could be condensed into one, maybe two chapters”.

But as time goes on and there is increased understanding of what I want to do and how I’d like to do it, people are coming around. Can’t win everyone. As for my committee, Open to and very supportive of ideas and process but at the same time, raising cautionary flags when/where needed. Not to stop me from charting new paths but to alert me of the literary understanding of the time, the various stances that some factions maintain and the potential push-back that could be faced. And I appreciate them for this role, especially with the extensive experience, knowledge and skill set that they bring. Anyways, Funerals and marine biology. It’s not an alien topic. Might sound far fetched but it really is part of this world and is now my world of research.

Even now, with plans to start my field work this August 2016, as an indigenous person, researching the funeral rituals of my people, I worry. Imagine those who have just lost a loved one, where the hurt is still raw and this little nugget of a researcher (aka, “me”) seeks permission to do research. I imagine myself in their situation, that I’ve just lost a loved one and someone comes to ask if they could do their research on my loved ones funeral. My immediate reaction would be “Bugger off”. Seriously. So, its not an easy research to do. Despite the good intentions, despite the cultural sensitivities, despite plans to request permission to do research at the funeral in the traditional way with ‘kava’ or ‘yaqona’, my research is fraught with challenges at almost every step. So, I’m thankful for the Universities Institutional Review Board (IRB), to my committee members, my relatives, friends and family for helping me be mindful of the ethical and moral obligations of doing my research. One of the greatest benefits of challenges, especially with new dreadful ones, is it gives us, reason and opportunity to innovate.

A potential solution to the awkwardness of approaching grieving families to do my research on their loved ones funeral is to raise as much awareness as possible, on my research, in advance. This blog serves part of that purpose. If people who read it, those who I come into contact with and talk about my research, know about my research on funerals beforehand, maybe, just maybe, I will spring to their mind when they have a funeral in the family. Maybe, just maybe, they might contact me as opposed to me contacting them.

To indigenous peoples doing scientific research and our friends who work with indigenous peoples, I’d highly recommend the book “Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples” by Linda Tuhiwai Smith (review). There are, i believe, two editions out there. Awesome, awesome book to read and must have for researchers working with indigenous peoples. I’d also recommend just being real and telling it like it is (without the ‘fluff’). Here’s an example from one of my committee members, Dr. Mehana Blaich Vaughan in a publication titled “Aina (Land) , that which feeds: Researching Community Based Natural Resource Management at Home

#blog, #challenge, #ethics, #fijian, #funeral, #indigenous, #itaukei, #phd, #research, #ron-vave, #somate, #support