Day 4: The Search for Sea Cucumbers

CurryFish waiting to be tagged and outplanted.

Our second day at The Ebiil Society we had plans to go to a nearby island and learn about various animals and archaeological history. We met early to discuss and learn about the basics of calculating population density before departing from the local port to the Island of Ngerkeklau to perform transects on the eastern side of the island to determine the population densities of the Curryfish (Ngimes) and Lollyfish (Chouas). After 12 transects we calculated the results and determined there are approximately 0.85 Curryfish (Ngimes) per square meter and 0.12 Lollyfish (Chouas) per square meter. After the transects we took a short break for lunch.

Lunch in the Sea.

Following lunch we alongside Palau Community College Students and the Pacific Academic Institute for Research had the chance to learn the methods of turtle monitoring and megapode nesting by Joshua Eberdong and Ann Singeo of The Ebiil Society.

We continued to hike along the Island and began to wind our way inland on trails made by the first inhabitants 800 years ago. We found old pieces of pottery and tools that they used as well as coral walls they had built.

Two pieces of pottery and a stone tool.

The trails led around the island back to the summer house that we used as our home base for the day, we regrouped and packed up before getting back in the water to collect Curryfish for tagging and transport.

PCC Student Kobe Moses and OSU Students Dylan and Simone with Curryfish before transport.

The group headed to the western side of the island and gathered Curryfish before departing back to Ollei for tagging and outplant near the local dock.

We tagged the Curryfish at the local dock to determine populations estimates and how long they stay in a certain location. Following the tagging of the Curryfish we took them to a set location just south of the local port, with that we came across the carcass of a sperm whale.

Sam preparing the Yellow Fin Tuna he caught

After we finished putting the Curryfish back we returned to The Ebiil Society to find our dinner being processed. Sam, Ann’s husband had caught a Yellow Fin Tuna and was cutting it into steaks. It made a delicious fish soup and tuna steaks. After a long yet successful day and a wonderful dinner we are looking forward to tomorrows adventure learning about fisheries in Palau.

Tate Scarpaci (OSU)

Kobe Malsol Moses (PCC)

Welcome to our 2019 FW391 Palau Ridges-to-Reefs blog!

For the next two weeks this blog will detail the learning adventures of Oregon State University’s FW391 students in Palau! This class is designed to explore natural resources on small islands and how both communities and ecosystems can be resilient with appropriate management approaches. In addition to the seven students from OSU, we have four Palauan students joining us from Palau Community College and three more from a local high school. This mixing of students provides great opportunities for peer-to-peer student learning, and sharing our learning with the Palauan students -who have a great wealth of cultural and ecological knowledge about their country, will contribute greatly to the richness of the class. We will also be joined by Dr. Chris Kitalong, a Palauan scientist at PCC.

Each day two students will post a narrative of our adventures, talk about what they’ve learned, and share videos and photos to round it all out. For our first blog, Bryan Endress, who organized the course, and Scott Heppell, who is a co-instructor, are taking on the task. So let’s get started!

Most students arrived a day or two before class to take advantage of the amazing recreational opportunities that Palau has to offer, including world-class scuba diving. Here’s Dylan Heppell, Simone Burton, and Destiny Pauls getting up close and personal with some of the underwater denizens of Palau’s amazing coral reefs:

Our first official day of class was great, too! Our goals for today were to get students thinking about Palau, its natural resources, and its culture. First of all, who doesn’t love a syllabus review to start the day?

Following that rousing activity, we visited the Belau National Museum, where we learned about the several thousand-year history of the islands, some of the important cultural features of Palauan society, and a bit about Palau’s recent efforts in conservation. Having the Palauan students along was a fantastic way for the OSU kids to learn more about the various topics than what could be read on the placards. Outside was a traditional Bai, a meeting house for chiefs in the community.

After a quick break for lunch we were headed off for our afternoon activity -a visit to the Aquarium followed by afternoon snorkeling to round out the day.

And every day in Palau ends with a fantastic sunset…

It was a great way to start the class, and it’s just the start of what will hopefully be an amazing two weeks.  So please follow along!

Last Day of Class

Today we wrapped up the class by reflecting back on our time spent here. Palau is a beautiful country that has complex issues surrounding the use and protection of their natural resources. This class showed us both the cultural and scientific sides of the story, which served as a lesson that there is never one straight forward solution to a problem. A large part of conservation work is learning how to communicate efficiently with stakeholders that might hold complete opposite views and how to compromise so that both sides walk away happy. More importantly, if the community is actively involved in the preservation of natural resources then the regulations put in place are more likely to stick.

We would like to give a special thank you to our amazing instructors, Bryan Endress and Scot Heppell, for putting together this course. Without them this amazing class would not have been offered.

Thank you to Ann Singeo and the Ebiil Society for hosting us for a week during this trip. The amazing women that work here are making huge strides in education the youth of Palau so that a whole generation is brought up knowing the importance of protecting natural resources.

Special thanks to Obak, a chief of Ngetkib, who donated his valuable time to us to drive us in his boat around to the different rock islands.

Our MVS (most valuable students) were Daemi and Balang. We were so fortunate to have you both participate with us! Thank you so much for sharing Palauan snacks with us, showing us around, being our moms/chauffers, joining us in the taro patch, and providing modern context when we had questions.

And last but not least, thank you to Chris Kitalong and Palau Community College for sharing your knowledge and time to teach us more about this wonderful country.

Our last group activity – the night market


Music, dancing, loads of food, and some beautiful handmade jewelry. Nearly every vendor in Koror, and a variety of others brought a huge variety of food. This was probably the event that we saw the most tourists at. Taiwan had a fairly strong presence, with a few booths of imported fruits and veggies from Taiwan, and someplace was handing out postcards with “Best Friends Forever – Palau and Taiwan” written on them. The dancing was wonderful. The first group was all women with two younger girls. Second was a group with some more contemporary dances with men and women, that were pretty hilarious. Last was a group of women who accumulated several children standing close by and occasionally trying to mirror their dance.

Last but not least, the best part of the night was when Hannah went up and danced with a man we later found out was named Daniel… Dani Daniel? It was hilariously amazing. He was completely thrilled that she danced with him and showered her with compliments for her efforts. She’s an expert Palauan dancer.

Day 6: Taro patches!

Here is our vlog for today–where we learned about taro cultivation and taro patch management.  When Ann is sharing her knowledge with us about taro patches, the audio is low, so turn up the volume. We also fit in a visit to some stone monoliths and a bit of snorkeling. Check it out: