2019 Summer Travel Grant Series: Soil Nutrient Analysis in Ta’u, American Sāmoa and Falefa, Sāmoa

Summer Travel Grant 2019 Recipient
Dolly Autufuga
Graduate Degree Fellow
MS in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences

Hiking a steep trail six days a week, for three straight weeks to get to the study area and spending 8-9 hours on Mount Lata daily depending on the weather, were the most challenging parts of my field work in Ta’u, American Sāmoa. However, I was able to accomplish so much from this field work physically and mentally, but most importantly, the amount of data collected.

Surveying archaeology structures such as terraces, mounds, stone walls, enclosures, etc., to confirm lidar images was very interesting. Botanical survey of agricultural plants that existed at each sample point was possible with the help of the local workers. Excavation uAutufuga01-ExcavationUnit_Ta'units were challenging as digging a 1×2 hole for 2-3 days is tiresome; however, a good amount of charcoal and stone flakes were found from these units. Soil sampling was challenging also as the soil was very rocky. However, with patience, good sampling areas were found where we were able to obtain a sufficient amount of soil. Soil samples were taken from selected terraces and terrace slopes, excavation units at different soil layers, bulk density samples and east-west transect samples at both lower and higher elevation. Although this field work was physically challenging, I have gained much experience in archaeology work, proper data recording and soil sampling but, most importantly, the knowledge on this island from conversing with the people of Ta’u.

Falefa is a village in the island of Upolu and is considered the largest valley in Sāmoa. The valley field area studied was approximately 10 km with land areas owned by different villages. Similar work was carried out for Falefa Valley to that of Ta’u; however, I was only involved with the soil sample collection of this field work and not so much on the archaeology work. Due to different villages being involved in the project, authorization should be granted from each village Matai or chief before working on an area; therefore, I was not able to obtain all my soil samples. With the help of a local worker who understood the area well, I was able to complete soil collection on one transect and botanical survey. Some of the challenges faced during this work in Falefa Valley – most sample points were in family lands, on their plantations or cattle farms, and the distance from one sample point to another was far with daily temperature being 29°C. I am blessed to be a part of this project in which I have learnt more about my island, complications arising from village chief systems, the soil and farming practices, and the history involved with these lands that I did not know before.

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