Our time on the Ridge to Reef Study Abroad has come to an end. The 2019 Cohort wants to communicate our gratitude and appreciation to our faculty leads, community partners, Palau Community College and Palau High School Students, and the Palauan Community.
A special thanks to Ebiil Society, Ann Singeo, Elchung Gladys, Ilima Kloulechad, Patricia Kloulechad, Roseberry Kinto, Francisca Blesoch. Our time at Ebiil Society was eye-opening, memorable, and life altering. We will forever hold a special place in our hearts for Ebiil and those we met there.
Palau Community College (PCC), PAIR Program, and Dr. Chris Kitalong. Thank you for sharing your research and labs with us. With your support, our time in Koror has been enriching. It was an honor to participate in the thatching process for the Bai at PCC. Best of luck at the National Institute of Health Conference this week.
Thank you to the PCC and Palau High School students: Raimunt, Junior, Jose, Kobe, Ya-Ya, Bubbles, Mederang, and Mereng, Lus, and Jesse. We really appreciate how you all took us in and taught us about your culture and country. You all gave us an opportunity to learn more about Palau that we couldn’t otherwise have experienced. We hope you all continue to pursue your passions.
To our faculty leads, Bryan Endress and Scott Heppell, thank you for facilitating such and incredible program. Your guidance has given us new perspectives that we will take forward into our education, careers, and life.
Sofia Baum, Business Administration and Sustainability, Graduating Spring 2020
We started our day bright (well sort of bright) and early by rolling out the door at 7:15am in route to Rock Islands Kayak Expeditions for a full day of kayaking Risong Bay. Arriving hopeful with peeks of blue sky (with mostly solid wind and rain in the forecast) we pulled into our kayak tour company’s lot to meet our guides and start the day.
However, we were so thankful that massive gust and rain passed relatively quickly. We got a break in the storm and took our chance to venture out to sea to continue our kayak day with Mack, Kobe, and Jeff with RIKE.
After getting a peek of the bay and water that we’d be spending the day in, our guides took us to an undisclosed local lake within the bay to see more jellyfish. This location is not open for tourists. There were not as many jellyfish in the lake in comparison to the other lake we went to a few days ago, but we were pleased to get out of the boat and check it out!
After our many muscles were so from paddling, swimming, and such we headed back home with a quick boat ride and current float to hopefully see Lolita, the Manta Ray coming in with the current. No such luck there, but we did manage to see a couple massive Cuttle Fish!
We cleaned up ourselves and stuff and went to meet Ann from the Ebiil Society for a final goodbye and thank you dinner. After stopping at several restaurants with no luck or room for our large group, we got lucky at The Carp. Big portions, low prices, and great company! What a wonderful way to wrap it all up.
We had a long day of kayaking, with cool but sunny weather, seeking out new things to be seen. Pleased (and exhausted) with our kayak adventures and last snorkel here in Palau, we had a lovely sit down with Ann, her kind husband, her patient daughter, and a bonus El (from Ebiil). We were coming to realization that our time here is just about over. Sentimentals soon coming, but attempting to save them for tomorrow.
The PCC crew had reached out and wanted to have an evening out with us and talked us into at first what we thought to be Karaoke, then a local Palauan band (then to find out only a DJ playing ‘eh’ American music). Only Sofia and Katherine were set on going, but capably talked the rest of the crew into joining as it was many of our last nights in Palau. Upon arrival, the dance floor was bare. We tightened down our sandals, sipped our waters, and got the party started. Twas a good ol’ time laughing, dancing, and enjoying our last night together. We were thankful that El and Kobe joined us, however having it not be Palauan music, they were there to enjoy the scene at a further distance. Upon departure, the music floor became bare once more and we thanked the Taj staff for a pleasurable evening and headed back to the Dreamhouse.. to do just that.. dream.
Destiny Pauls, Natural Resources- Conservation Law Enforcement, Class of Spring 2021
Day 12 on Palau consisted of snorkeling, stone money, and ethnobotany! We headed out on a boat to patch reefs outside Koror. After snorkeling for about 20 minutes, we had to pack up and head to a different location because the sea was becoming too rough. (Rumor has it that a typhoon is developing over Yap, a small island near Palau, and headed this way.)
After snorkeling, we hiked up the Balang trail where people from Yap used to travel to harvest Aragonite, a type of stone only found on Palau, to make their stone money. Stone money pieces are huge (sometimes up to 12 feet in circumference) donut -shaped slabs used as women’s currency in Yapese culture. One of these slabs was left on the island after being cut and sculpted because it was broken during the moving process and therefore worthless.
After hiking the Balang trail, we snorkeled in the reef right off the quarry. Within the Rock Islands, the water is more protected from storms and was much more calm than our previous snorkel that day. During this snorkel, we saw some human-made trash, unfortunately. Even in remote areas like Palau, plastics and littering are still an issue for marine and terrestrial life. Our team picked up around 20 pieces of trash from just that one snorkel site. It can be easy to disassociate yourself from your garbage when you don’t have to witness what happens with it afterwards. However, seeing the plastic bags and Coke cans on the bottom of the ocean floor, with fish swimming in and out of them can be eye-opening. The FW 391 gang would like to remind you to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!
One of the discoveries made on this snorkel trip was a wild Day Octopus, pictured at the beginning of this blog. Student Tate originally found this octopus hiding in a hole in a mound of coral. As the octopus moved to different parts of the coral, its body shape, texture, and color would change to match its background. If you took your eye off of it, you would probably never find it again.
After leaving the snorkel site near the Balang trail, a storm hit the ocean. Intense, cold rain poured down on the gang and we had to get creative.
The day ended with a lecture in ethnobotany by Dr. Chistopher Kitalong. His research focused on using traditional Palauan plants as medicine to help treat diabetes on the island. He discovered that the traditional ways are more effective for treating the islanders than the modern Western medicine.
All in all, it was successful day! We are very grateful to our boat captain for navigating us through the storm, our instructors for their insight and advice, the PCC students and Dr. Kitalong for allowing us to sit in on their lecture, and to all of Palau for granting us a 12th day on this beautiful island.
Simone Burton, Oregon State University, Marine Biology major, Graduating June 2021
Katherine Healy, Oregon State University, Women and Gender Studies
Today we headed out to the state of Melekeok to see the largest lake in Micronesia! We met with some of the park rangers who were there to tell us about the creation of the park. In 1997 it was made the first terrestrial protected area in Palau.
Some of the land had received damage in World War 2 and burning from people in the local area is creating large savannahs that experience high amounts of erosion and sediment runoff. The state rangers are working to replant these areas to slow the rate of erosion.
Along the trail we stopped to find a carnivorous plant called the Sundew. It traps insects with a sticky sap that it produces.
The rangers allowed us to plant some trees in one of the areas where they are trying to reforest.
On their way out the PCC students noticed that one of their tires was flat. With the help of the park rangers they were able to get it fixed in no-time!
After Lake Ngardok we visited an area to snorkel but we discovered it was low tide during a new moon which was making the tide even lower than normal. We decided to do some Palauan tide pooling instead.
After the tide pools we went back to PCC to help build more segments for the roof for the traditional Bai.
Savannah Hesidence (Oregon State University, Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences major, Graduating Spring 2022)
The tenth day of the class began with a brief visit to the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF) to listen to a presentation on the impacts of climate change on the islands of Palau by Dr. Pat Colin.
After the presentation, we headed to the Palau International Coral Reef Center where we hopped on a boat and went on a bumpy 30 minute ride to Jellyfish Lake.
Once we arrived at the lake, a bit beaten and battered from the boat ride, Gerda Ucharm, a research biologist for CRRF, gave us a brief overview of what we would see in the lake and the life cycle of their world famous jellyfish.
Once everyone was ready and had their snorkel gear on, we jumped in the water and were greeted by the most amazing scene we had ever seen.
Jellyfish are not, however, the only residents of the lake. There are also a few endemic species of fish and anemones, of which, three are pictured below.
After snorkeling Jellyfish Lake for about an hour, we went and had lunch on a nearby beach and then went for a short snorkel.
After we returned to dry land, we headed over to Palau Community College (PCC) where we learned how to weave palm fronds into pallets to be used on the roof of a traditional bai, or men’s meeting house. According to the president of PCC, they need approximately 2,000 pallets to cover the roof (I was only able to make two in an hour).
After working up a big appetite making pallets, we ended our evening at the Rock Island Cafe where we had pizza, pasta, burritos, and sundaes.
Dylan Heppell, Environmental Sciences, Class of 2022