Fiji Arthropod Survey

Funded by the National Science Foundation

Cagi Tokota'a

Fiji Staff -

Akinisi "Cagi" Caginotoba Tokota'a

Akanisi Caginitoba Tokota’a, known affectionately by her friends as Cagi (pronounced Thangi) is a bottomless well of excitement when it comes to the world of spiders and insects. A native to Lami Village on the island of Viti Levu, Akanisi joined the Wildlife Conservation Society team with her husband, Moala Tokota’a, in 2002.

Despite her wizardy for logistics, it wasn’t long before Akanisi’s enthusiasm for insects took her from the office of Suva into the forests of Fiji. In a baptism by fire, Akanisi’s first field assignment was to accompany the intrepid trio of Dr. Evert Schlinger, Dr. Michael Erwin, and Moala Tokota’a across the interior of Viti Levu in search of rare flies. Since then, Akanisi has worked tirelessly with her husband on a survey of Fiji’s arthropods that was initiated by the Schlinger Foundation and recently expanded by the National Science Foundation.

Always cheerful with a big smile and a quick laugh, Akanisi looks happiest staring into the optics of a dissecting microscope. Sitting at the lab bench with a dish full of pickled insects on the scope tray – watchmaker’s forceps in one hand, a Peterson’s field guide in the other, and a pencil tucked into the back of her traditional Fijian hairdo – Akanisi’s eyes glow in reverie as she sleuths out the identifications of the mysteries before her.

Often the first in the lab, Akanisi jokes that she keeps long hours to get a break from her two sons, Moala Jr. and Manueli. Balancing the demands of traditional Fijian life with the demands of work in an entomology laboratory is no easy task. The traditional customs are strong and there is pressure to participate in the funerals, weddings, and anniversaries for a staggering number of relatives and chiefs. While many of Fiji’s women are busy with laundry, cooking, and childcare – Akanisi will be coordinating the parataxonomist team, writing reports to the government, and managing Fiji’s national insect collection.

The next chapter in Akanisi’s life will begin when she boards a flight to Honolulu. There, at the Bishop Museum, Akanisi will be the benefactor of a two-week intensive training session where she will learn the tricks and trades of managing an insect collection. When she returns Akanisi will be in charge of incorporating the old Forestry collection into the brand new drawers and cabinets recently installed in the entomology lab. As scientists from around the world begin shipping back voucher specimens from the survey, we can all rest assured that they will be delivered to the most capable hands

This page last revised 17 July 2005


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