On the Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, conservation biologists are in the midst of a massive, unprecedented experiment. They are trying to rid this remote island of all but a few coconut palms (Cocos nucifera). The gangly tree is an icon of idyllic tropical islands, but also an aggressive invasive species that crowds out native plants and animals. By removing 99% of Palmyra’s millions of palms, biologists hope to create more room on the atoll’s three dozen islets for indigenous forests and seabirds, including the world’s second largest colony of red-footed boobies. The island is a nature reserve, managed by both the nonprofit Nature Conservancy and the U.S. government. But Palmyra’s transformation into a laboratory for ecological restoration marks yet another twist in its rich history, which has included serving as a U.S. Navy base during World War II and a coconut plantation. More recently it was eyed as the potential home of a tropical nudist colony, a nuclear waste dump, and a launch pad to shoot rockets into space.