Day 4 – Over the hills, through the woods, and down to the river we go!

Immediately after breakfast we loaded up the truck with over 100 native plants grown by the Ebil Society. These plants consisted of; kisaks, ukall, las, blacheos, btaches and rebotel. All plants are either grown from seed or cuttings at the Camp Ebiil greenhouse.

Native plants grown at the Ebiil Camp

After loading the plants, we drove to meet the Ebiil Society Staff at the bauxite mines in Ngardmau. Prior to WWII, the Empire of Japan began mining for Bauxite ore (used to make Aluminum), which caused severe deforestation and soil degradation. This left the area eroded, bare, and infertile, making the terraced hillsides the subject of restoration efforts.

Walking towards the old mining sites

Misinterpreting the directions to the planting site, we had the pleasure of our very own jungle adventure. We forged our own trail through the dense vegetation of a ravine. Despite the detour, we were grateful for the experience, ultimately discovering the remains of a boxcar system and coming out at the planting site covered in orange mud.

“Detour” through the forest

Reaching the planting site, we found the Ebiil Society staff ready with all of the saplings and planting supplies. Prior to our arrival, they had dug holes in a grid pattern across six different plots. We were provided a demonstration on the planting technique. The first step was to add a base layer of mulch, an organic compost mixture produced by the Ebiil Society, in the bottom of the hole. Next, we carefully removed the plant from the growing container and placed it on top of the mulch layer, trying to keep the roots intact. Then, we filled the rest of the hole with mulch and surrounding soil. Once the saplings were in the ground we placed coconut husks around the base in order to reduce competition and  provide slowly released nutrients. After a plot was completely planted, we placed palm fronds between rows of plants perpendicular to the slope. This helps to slow the corresponding flow of water during rain events, helping reduce erosion and increase uptake of water by the new plantings.

After we finished planting and had a lunch break, we traveled over to the nearby watershed that consisted of a stream that led to several pools of water and into a waterfall. We all enjoyed this refreshing water after a hard day’s work in the hot sun. Many of us sat in the pools, washing off the mud we had gained from our earlier excursion and admiring the freshwater shrimp.

Later on, some of us went to enjoy the sunset from a nearby lighthouse built by the Japanese, which, with the help of WWII destruction, has since degraded. There, we asked questions about the northern islands of Palau and the local dugong populations. After a delicious dinner, we enjoyed each other’s’ company, talking and laughing into the lightless hours.

A beautiful end to another great day

Day 3 – Catch, Harvest, and Cook

Our day started with the majority of us waking up right around 5:30 to experience the calm sunrise, full of anticipation for the day ahead. Around 8:00 we made our way to the boat ramp where we met the fishermen who would be taking us on their boats. Before heading out we had an introduction on how to handline, something most of us had never done before. We split our group into the two boats and motored out about a mile into the reef, only to discover we had forgotten the weights for the handlines. Luckily we were rescued by the Ngarchelong State Rangers who delivered us with plenty of weights. Before we even got a line in the water we noticed a Hawksbill Sea Turtle not too far from the boat. 

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We baited our hooks, and dropped them to about 90 feet. Before any luck on our lines, the first fish of the day jumped straight into one of the boats! It only took a couple of minutes before the first tug on the line. Jen had the distinction of catching the first fish, and we all watched with anticipation to see what she was going to pull in. As it approached the surface we saw its dark orange color, and after getting it in the boat, it was identified as an Emperor. No one could wipe the smile from their face, and before long, others started hooking into fish. 

We only had a couple of hours to spend on the water, but quickly, we found ourselves with a cooler full of 13 fish. There were a couple of fish that had to be released; Allie caught an amazing 2 ½ foot Shark Sucker, Jake caught a small Camouflage Grouper as well as a massive chunk of coral. The fish that were kept included multiple species of Emperor, Sabre Squirrelfish, Red Snapper, Midnight Snapper, and a Black Banded Snapper.

“Nothing matters, just the ocean.” – Jen

We headed back to land around 11:00, and met around the fish cleaning station for a lesson by the fishing guides who took us on the water. We learned about the digital fish measuring system which collects data of fish caught to be used for research by The Nature Conservancy, helping to monitor the status of the species in the area. We also had a discussion on other methods of determining fisheries health. 

It was now time to get our hands dirty! We broke out the scalers to remove the scales from our fish, followed by gutting. Cleaning our own fish allowed us to gain a deeper appreciation for these animals, and made our dinner that much tastier. After cleaning up the station, we gathered up our fish and headed back for some much needed lunch.

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Lunch consisted of fried chicken, fresh apples and oranges, rice and taro. After fueling up, we journeyed over the hill to a taro field where we met with Ann Singeo and Rose, a mechas who has spent many years working in the taro fields. She graciously shared her wealth of knowledge, and invited us to join her in her taro patch. Carefully making our way through the muddy paths created by the irrigation channels, we circled the taro patch and the women were instructed in how to harvest the taro. Gender roles restrict men from working the fields, as they have always been managed by women. It was an incredible privilege for the men in our group to be allowed to even step foot in the field. While the women harvested taro, the men observed the diversity in the field and the intentionality in the surrounding forest which was cultivated with the community, and children especially, in mind. The taro fields are traditionally very communal, with the women sharing labor and coming together to work and support each other. Great importance is placed on introducing younger generations, and encouraging young women in continuing the culture.


One aspect of the taro fields we greatly admired is the irrigation system and the methods used to ensure equal access to water. There is a main irrigation channel surrounding the field, which is diverted and returned to the river; each taro patch is surrounded by channels which also act as safe walkways to prevent harming the young taro plants. Taro requires a specific amount of saturation to cultivate the highest quality taro. Too much water can cause rotting, too little and it will dry out and most likely won’t survive. Many times, the woman chief would have her patch at the bottom corner of the field to regulate water use. If the chief’s patch was not receiving adequate water, she would ask the women, “where’s my water?” and they would all work to fix the issue to avoid getting penalized. In this way, she ensures equality in access to resources.

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Before leaving the taro field, we walked around the perimeter to take it all in one last time. We walked back to Ebiil Society where we were instructed on how to scrape the taro and prepare it for our dinner that night. 

Afterwards, we enjoyed some free time. Some of us chose to snorkel, others paddle boarded to the mangrove forests, and a few enjoyed some much needed rest. We gathered for dinner, and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. The fish we caught was served with a delicious sauce, and the taro was cooked in coconut milk. They also provided rice, fried taro leaves, and a sweet tapioca dessert.

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The evening ended with an opportunity to talk about fisheries management with traditional fishing expert Tino. Ann provided some context for his lifelong experiences with the ocean and fishing, sharing stories about his passion for the marine environment and conveying his extensive knowledge of Palau’s marine systems. We were able to ask any questions we had and to have an open conversation about changes to the fisheries over time, conservation, policies, and the challenges in management they are working to address. He ended the conversation by extending an open invitation to reach out to him at any time during our stay with any other questions we may have, and an offer to share his knowledge of Palau’s marine life.

It had been a long and eventful day full of new experiences, and though it had been a great time, our energy had run out. After Tino left, we all quickly found our beds, hoping to get plenty of rest and prepare ourselves for the next day’s adventures.

Day Two… Plan C!

Day 2 in Palau began early at 7:00 am. We all piled into the vans prepared to go sit in on a traditional leaders conference back in Koror. However about an hour into the drive Bryan got the text that the chiefs had closed the conference to an outside audience. We pulled over under a bridge to reconvene while Bryan and Ann Singeo came up with plan B–taking a boat out to Ngereklau island to learn about coral reefs, invasive species and more–after which we took a trip into Koror to grab some breakfast at the local grocery stores.

We ate some delicious food during our trip back to the Ebiil Society, and dropped a hefty sum for some expensive gas along the way. Upon arriving at the Ebiil Society, we learned that plan B would no longer be an option. Because it was a full moon, the tide was too low for our boat trip to the island, so we settled for plan C–to freely explore the area. A majority of us decided on snorkeling, so we grabbed our gear and headed out to the docks directly down the road from the Ebiil Society.

Once out in the water, it became clear that the visibility wasn’t conducive for a great snorkeling experience. With the tide so low and the water so cloudy, corals became a hazard for experienced and new swimmers alike. Despite this, the day was beautiful and occasionally a bright fish would pop out from the murky depths.

After about an hour snorkeling around near the docks, we came back to enjoy a lunch of marlin burgers and veggie wraps. Another plan was set in motion soon after, when we discovered that the Ebiil Society had 10+ paddle boards and 2 kayaks for a trip out on the water. A lot of sweat and a popped board later, we were ready to take off. Two groups were formed; one that went to see the mangroves, and another that left to find a sunken WW2 Japanese plane.

Three hours, mosquito bites, sunburns, and a broken oar later, we all made it back for a fantastic dinner of marlin steak, tapioca, pumpkin, rice, chicken soup and vegetable stir fry. We wrapped up the day with a little reflection time, where we talked about how the trip was going so far and played a getting to know each other game called NACHO’s. Each person spoke about things they were either appreciative of, concerned about, or proud of based on their experiences so far on the trip.

Exhausted after another busy day we all called it a night at around 9:00pm, ready to enjoy the activities waiting for us tomorrow. 

Welcome to Palau!

Day 1 in Palau began with a trip to the Belau National Museum (BNM). We were excited to learn about Palauan culture, history, and art. BNM taught us that Palau has a diverse history influenced by western Europe, eastern Asia, and Melanesian traders, colonists, and voyagers. This has resulted in an extremely beautiful country with very unique traditions, customs, and politics.

After our trip to BNM, we enjoyed a bento lunch of teriyaki beef, pork, fried chicken, fried rice, and the most delicious bananas on the planet, provided by a local restaurant, Yano and Son’s. When lunch was over, we departed for the island of Babeldaob. Along the way, we stopped at Ngardmau Falls, a former Japanese bauxite mining site. We followed the rail tracks to beautiful natural water slides and pools. Continuing the trail through the jungle, we were refreshed by a sudden rain storm. At the end of the trail, we waded under Ngardmau Fall, enjoying the cool water before our long trek up over 500 stairs.

Upon our arrival in the fishing hamlet of Ollei, we were delighted to learn we would be hosted by the Ebiil Society on a scenic oceanfront. After settling in, the Ebiil Society staff provided us with our evening repast, a dinner of fried marlin, marlin poke, stir fry noodles, coconut milk taro, tofu salad, and rice. Many of us realized for the first time how incredible fresh fish could be, despite life long aversions to seafood. 

Later, we met in the classroom to discuss plans for our week in Ollei, and have a formal introduction to Anne Singeo, the executive director of the Ebiil Society. She spoke passionately about marine management, the opportunities we have here as students, and the village’s eagerness to share their knowledge about fishing and resource management over the coming days. 

Exhausted and well fed, we turned in early to prepare for our next day of adventure in Palau. 

Day 14: Last Day

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

Tate Scarpaci

Day 13: Kayaking Risong Bay with Rock Islands Kayak Expeditions

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.

Mack, one of our kayak guides for the day, is giving us the lowdown on the area we will go to today.
Our welcoming wind and rain at the Kayak tour location. (You should have seen the look on our faces…)

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.

Our moods extremely lightened seeing our pristine view upon arriving in the Risong Area.
Getting anxious to get in this beautiful water!

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!

We found one!
Bit of a closer view, these one have spots too!
There were also many vibrant clams put there to view too!
Majestic swimmers
OH and here is the floor jelly that does give a good sting, that you’ll want to view at a distance.
Beautiful Anemone captured by Dylan
Group is all smiles now that we have left the rain and wind and found the cove of smooth waters, jellyfish, and sunshine!
Whoo! We are off to play, Savannah and Sofia with the lead!
Tate and Destiny ready for synchronization
Katherine and Simone, getting it!
My (Destiny’s) view at times
Stoke level for our group = HIGH
Unreal waters and real Tate
Mack took us into a Mosquito ridden (ask Dylan) mangrove to seek out baby sharks and the Black Tips did provide!
In Shipwreck Bay, finding the Japanese shipwreck
Lunch break after hoping to see a Dugong
Mack pointing our our next route to Mandarin Fish Lake
Group Session, prepping for our splash game
Mandarin Fish Lake beauty, now to find the minuscule Mandarin Fish!
Found a Spade
Dylan prepared for action
The infamous (forgotten the name) pesky fish that seemed to want to attack at all times
FOUND ONE! (3 in total) So pretty!

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.

Friends, peers, students, teachers… now family.

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.

Published by:

Destiny Pauls, Natural Resources- Conservation Law Enforcement, Class of Spring 2021

Day 12: Snorkeling, Stone Money, and Ethnobotany!

Pictured is a wild Day Octopus found while snorkeling near the Balang trail.

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.)

(Left to right) Savannah and Destiny enjoy a ride on the bow of the boat.
The beginning of a stormy day.
Boss Bryan diving deep in a patch reef.

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.

The gang poses next to the abandoned stone money piece.
Another day in the life of Simone.

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!

The snorkel spot right off of the Balang trail.

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.

Dylan sneaking up on the Day octopus. Can you spot it in the mound of coral?
Savannah feeding the wildlife (Tate). Don’t try this at home.

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.

Destiny preparing for the storm.
The squad builds a makeshift shelter to protect from the freezing rain. Tate oversees.

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.

Dr. Christopher Kitalong lecturing the OSU students.

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.

Written by:

Simone Burton, Oregon State University, Marine Biology major, Graduating June 2021

Katherine Healy, Oregon State University, Women and Gender Studies

Day 11: Lake Ngardok

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.

Group Photo
listening to the steps taken to make the lake a protected area
In the greenhouse where the park rangers care for native tree seedlings for replanting
Jose, Katherine, and Dylan smiling with one of the park rangers of Lake Ngardok

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.

Group photo at Lake Ngardok
Making faces for the camera

Along the trail we stopped to find a carnivorous plant called the Sundew. It traps insects with a sticky sap that it produces.

Destiny and Sofia getting up close and personal with some carnivorous plants

A picture of a Sundew

The rangers allowed us to plant some trees in one of the areas where they are trying to reforest.

Hiking out with our chosen trees to plant
Dylan caring for his plant

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!

The pit crew for the PCC van’s flat tire

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.

Katherine and Tate hoping on raised sand beds back to shore
A new moon low tide

After the tide pools we went back to PCC to help build more segments for the roof for the traditional Bai.

Students listening to Bryan talk about plants

Written By:

Savannah Hesidence (Oregon State University, Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences major, Graduating Spring 2022)

Day 10: Jellyfish Lake and Roof Building

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.

Interested students learning about the effects of climate change on Palau

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.

Happy students before we hit the open ocean and the bigger waves

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.

There were thousands upon thousands of golden and moon jellies but don’t worry, they have lost the ability to sting humans.
There were so many jellies it was difficult not to kick them with our fins
Simone capturing the beauty of all the jellies around her.
Destiny doing her best impression of The Matrix to avoid hitting the jellies

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.

An endemic cardinal fish
An endemic anemone
An endemic blenny

After snorkeling Jellyfish Lake for about an hour, we went and had lunch on a nearby beach and then went for a short snorkel.

A school of moorish idols swim over a beautiful forest of coral
A curious pufferfish

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).

One of the PCC volunteers teaching the gang how to weave the string through the fronds to make a tight pallet to keep rain out.
Bryan was the first to try it on his own
Tate and the rest of class got better and faster at the weaving as we made more and more pallets.

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.

Savannah and Simone were very pleased with their purchase.

Dylan Heppell, Environmental Sciences, Class of 2022

Day 9: Meet, Greet, and Learn with Local Students, Researchers, Officers, and Program Coordinators

As we start our time back in Koror, some of us are relieved for a mellower day (healing sunburns and staying mostly dry) indoors attending presentations by the Palau Conservation Society, the Palau Community College’s PAIR high school students, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, and the Division of Marine Law Enforcement.

It’s as if we are headed to school, backpacks and all. Here we come PCC!
Due to previous break-ins the Palau Community College had to reinforce their entrances in a serious fashion.
Both PCC and local high school students work within this program alongside Chris Kitalong.
Tate, Simone, and the rest of the class listen to Chris, who passionately tells us about Palau.

We arrived at the Palau Community College around 8:30am to listen to a couple of the PAIR high school students present their research and get some feedback before they leave to present in Washington DC at the National Institute of Health Conference. In preparation to hearing them, Chris Kitalong was happy to fill the time gap with personal history and research of his actions in Palau, with the college, and with his own experiences and research. He is a Palauan scientist whom leads the PAIR program and guides local youth to be involved and learn about their community from a science perspective.

Ya-Ya briefly giving us an overview prior to our 10am departure to the next presentation.

After some technical difficulties, we were able to view the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle poster and learn briefly about some of the research on the effects it’s having here in Palau with the coconut trees. Quick description includes: The beetles have been found to be killing the coconut tree (a very resourceful plant here in Palau) in the Pacific islands, with Guam no longer having the tree and Hawaii losing it’s population quickly. Research shows that in the lower populated areas of the Palauan islands have less tree damage ,while the areas that clear vegetation for building have more tree damage due to having more downed trees for beetle reproduction areas. These CRBs (Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle) have been narrowed down to two types with one type being susceptible to a virus that kills them after injection and release back into the vegetation. The research is very important to preventing the future death of the coconut tree and Ya-Ya will be presenting this in Washington DC next week.

After our quick morning at PCC, we arranged to come back later in the afternoon to view the rest of the presentations and provide feedback. We hopped in the vans for a drive over to the Palau Conservation Society to meet with the executive director- Abolade (Bola) Majekobaje, project coordinator- Bernie Besebes, and John, the once Protected Areas Network Coordinator and law enforcement ranger and now legislator and PCS program coordinator.

They provided such fun and interpretive materials with their conservation work with the locals nationally. As well as explained some of their neat international partnerships working to improve and conserve Palau for future generations. Check out the video below for a fun way of seeing some of the successful projects come to life!

Happy departure photo with some of the staff of PCS!

Pictured above is the Okeanos Sailboat in the port that some of the PCC students sailed on during their recent research of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle damage on southern islands. Be sure to check out the rad (once Australian Navy) boat the Marine Patrol now uses behind it!

Elsei, the Education and Outreach Officer for PNMS welcoming us!

Elsei Tellei with the Palau National Marine Sanctuary provided a wonderful presentation of the PNMS work within Palau and the Marine law enforcement. Covering the importance in topics such as the fisheries, food security, education, tourism, and even some of the fishing laws in place and ones that will soon take effect.

Jim Kloulechad with the Marine Law Enforcement discussing their work on the waters.
Global tracking of fishing boats within Palau waters and beyond.
High profile surveillance room sneak peeks!

After an engaging discussion and view of the patrol boats and surveillance room with the PNMS folks, we headed back to PCC for more student presentations and possible Bai roof help work.

PCC President talking to us about tomorrow’s Bai roof building help we will assist with. They ran out of leaves!
The roof we will be helping build!
Lastly some feedback with one of the student’s and her presentation on fruit flies! They’ve captured the first female fruit fly ever and have been trying since the ’60’s- how cool!

That just about wraps up our long day of classroom like sessions. Dinner, leftovers, and homework ends the evening splendidly. Jellyfish Lake tomorrow and we can’t wait for more snorkel adventures. Until next time.. 🙂

Published by:

Destiny Pauls, Natural Resources- Conservation Law Enforcement, Class of Spring 2021

Day 8: Off-day

Today was our day off from regular class activities. The group split up and went to do various activities around Palau. Destiny, Dylan, and Scott went diving with Sam’s Tours; below are some of the photos taken on their dive trip.

Destiny on the first dive at Big Drop-off
A juvenile midnight snapper
A dwarfgoby on a fan coral
A wire coral goby on a wire coral
The fuzzy red thing is an orangutan crab
A tiny whip coral shrimp
A longnose hawkfish
A spotfin lionfish
An extremely cryptic decoy scorpionfish

After our first dive, we went to a beautiful secluded beach for lunch.

For our second dive, we visited Ngerchong Reef, a slow sloping reef still recovering from a typhoon that came through six years ago.

A school of bumphead parrotfish returning from spawning
A rust-spotted guard crab hiding in a coral

Once we were finished diving, we visited a few souvenir shops, got some coffee, and then ended the evening at burger shack.

The remaining members of the class spent the day visiting PCC, going souvenir shopping, swimming in a freshwater creek, and snorkeling near a reef. We started off the day at Palau’s community college in Koror to visit their rhinoceros beetle lab.

Simone holding the larva of a rhinoceros beetle

After the lab we wandered around Koror visiting local souvenir shops and eating at a local coffee shop. While at the coffee shop we happened to see Pia Mia, a famous singer from Guam. We then traveled to a swimming hole that is a favorite among Palauan high schoolers.

Simone and Sofia holding on against the current

After the freshwater creek we decided to go snorkeling.

Sofia and Katherine walking down the pier
Pictured above is Tate
Picture above is Sofia
Dark Knee Hermit Crab (Dardanus lagopodes)

We ended in the evening at a local Vietnamese restaurant before returning home.

Last Day in Ebiil: Re-sighting Sea Cucumbers

After a once in a lifetime experience staying in Ollei we have sadly come to the end of time with the Ebiil Society. The schedule for our last day consisted of looking for the Sea Cucumbers (Curryfish) we had tagged prior, and snorkeling through the mangroves. We set out across the sea grass at low tide this morning and after multiple transects found 21 total Curryfish, eight of which were tagged. We also found many crabs, jellyfish, as well as many different fish species, some of which are endemic to Palau.

A Crown Elbow crab found in the sea grass.
“El” transecting for Curryfish.
“Yoyo,” nine years old, helping to move supplies in the Kayak for snorkeling.
A swimming crab found in the sea grass.

After finishing the transects, unfortunately the tide was too low to snorkel in the mangroves; instead we ventured out past the sea grass to the reef for a snorkel. We encountered many different species of fish, clams, nudibranchs as well a Japanese plane that was shot down during World War II.

Chocolate Chip sea star
Coral Clam
Blue Damselfish
Japanese Plane
More parts from the crashed plane.

After returning back to camp, we enjoyed our last lunch at the Ebiil Society. It included the fish we had personally caught. We also had the opportunity to drink fresh coconuts. Saying goodbye to all the staff and teachers was emotional. We are so grateful for the time we were able to spend with them and for everything they taught us.

OSU and the Ebiil crew.


Tate & Katherine

Big thanks to the Ebiil Society for hosting us,

little thanks to Dylan for identifying the fish.

Day 6: Ebiil Channel Snorkeling and Mesei/Taro Patch

An early morning start for all of us, especially Katherine

Starting the day with a morning boat trip to Ebiil Channel. Ebiil Channel is a marine protected site in the northern part of Palau established in 2000. It’s an important site for the spawning of Bumphead Parrotfish.

Sofia and Destiny pictured at bow of the boat.

(pictured from Left to Right) Bryan,Sofia, Dylan, Simone, Tate, Scott, Destiny, and Katherine. This was the 12th attempt at taking this photo.

pictured above is Katherine enjoying the view behind the camera

pictured above is Destiny throwing peace to the fishes
pictured above is Simone and Destiny. Two different priorities
pictured above is Sofia looking for a worthy challenger
pictured above Dylan and Scott having a father and son moment under the sea
pictured above is the majestic Tate
pictured above is Dylan trying to capture a photo of a lobster
pictured above is Jose playing for the MedaBoys in their under water league
pictured above is underwater god Junior
pictured above is Savannah, all “clammed” up for the photo. P.S. there’s a giant clam below her.
pictured above is Kobe trying to recreate the waves of the ocean
pictured above is Bryan looking over his empire

Picture below are some of the interesting animals we encountered on our snorkeling adventure

pictured above is a blue sea star (Linckia Laevigata)
pictured above is a cushion star(Culcita novaeguineae)
pictured above is a smooth giant clam(Tridacna derasa)
Lunch time back at the Ebiil society. We enjoyed fish burgers and potato salad in the summer house.

After lunch we headed to a local taro patch where we learned about its traditional significance. An elder of the village taught us about farming techniques and the importance of the keeping the tradition.

The squad walking to the taro patch
The girls applying coconut oil

We put coconut oil onto our arms and legs to prevent irritation from the taro plants. While we were doing this, we talked about legends associated with the taro patches. One of the legends created a rule where if you forget something at the field, you do not return for it. This was created from a tale of a woman returning to the field for something she forgot and found the field had turned into a lake.

Only girls were allowed into the taro patch

Some of the rules that are followed in the taro patch are that women are the only ones who take care of taro and that you are only allowed to walk in the irrigation path ways. It was believed that not walking in the water ways would curse you or curse the plants.

The guys were waiting at the side with the elder
Current taro patch that has twelve women that tend to it

A traditional field has three different purposes. One part of the field was partitioned for the elder man of the family, one part was partitioned for customs which were funerals and first birth ceremonies, and one part of the field was partitioned for the community and those who didn’t have food.

We were listening to the elder, Ulang, seated on the right, about the history of the field. She said the field had been there since the beginning and that her mother planted in the field and her mother’s mother had planted in the field.

Written by:

Junior Yalap ( Palau High School, Auto mechanic major, Graduating Spring 2021, Pacific Academic Institute for Research)

Savannah Hesidence (Oregon State University, Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences major, Graduating Spring 2022)

Day 5: Exploring Fisheries with the Locals

Ngirayobech (nicknamed Yoyo), an Ollei local, holds a Emperor fish.

For our fifth day in Palau, we hopped on a boat and headed to the outside of Ebiil Channel. The group used bottom line fishing (a hook with bait attached to a line with weight, coiled around a spool, is dropped into the water until it reaches near the bottom).

The bottom line spool with weight and mekebud (sardine) bait attached.

With this tool, the group starting catching fish left and right! Tate, an OSU student, had a bite on the first drop of the day. The group caught 15 fish, but had to throw 3 back because of size limits and 2 groupers because they are not in season.

Tate holds a Longfaced Emperor fish, his biggest catch of the day.

About an hour and a half in, rain started heavily pouring down. We quickly reeled in our hand lines and headed back to the Ollei port. The rain was so heavy that you could not see 10 feet in front of you, much less the islands that are supposed to guide fishermen back to port. The team did not lose motivation in the storm, however. Most of us were all smiles and singing songs.

A glimpse of the stormy weather on the open ocean.
The group turns back to the Ebiil Center while enduring the harsh winds.

After rounding up all the fish we had caught, Tino, captain of the boat, showed us how to measure each fish, differentiate between the males and females, and record the data.

Tino (left) explains to students Destiny, Katherine, and Savannah (left to right) how to differentiate the gonads of male and female fish.

Each student had a turn to scale the fish with fish scalers provided by the fishermen at the port. Starting at the tail, while holding the head, students remove the scales using the fish scaler to prepare it for eating.

A Longfaced Emperor fish being scaled by Destiny.
Palauan student Jose scaling a fish.
(Left to right) Student Jose, Ebiil staff member Surech, student Kobe, and staff member El remove the gills and guts.

After cleaning the fish, we sat down with the local fishermen elders (including Chief Rteruich Katsusi of Ollei) to discuss the issues the fishermen face today with the changes in tourism, culture, and everyday life.

The catch included two types of species, Longfaced Emperor (top) and Yellow Lip Emperor (bottom) reef fish.

In the evening, the Oregon State University students were invited to a celebration of the Todai (lighthouse) in the village of Ollei. The evening consisted of touring the remains of the lighthouse built by Palauans under control of the Japanese administration during World War II. The remains of the Todai showed bullet holes and had remnants of Japanese hand grenades within the foliage from when the Japanese fought the Americans during a battle.

The tower on the right is the original lighthouse structure built by the Palauans and Japanese. Bullet holes are prominent in the lighthouse.

We were then given a dinner of fish, clams, fruit (including dragonfruit), tapioca, and taro. The evening concluded when the local girls of Ollei performed a contemporary dance (the name for the traditional Palauan dance).

Dinner was served in baskets lined with banana leaves.

“Ng meral mle ungil a sils er kemam.” (Palauan for “We had a very good day!”)

Written by:

Simone Burton (Oregon State University, Marine biology major, Graduating Spring 2021)

Raimunt Mesubed (Palau High School and Pacific Academic Institute of Research (PAIR))

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)

Day 3: Tree Planting/Tagging and Waterfall Nature Hike

The Ebiil Society adventures have begun! Today we had a whole day laid out for us with a tree planting project to seeking out a historic road for the people of Babeldaob to cooling off in the Mesekelat waterfall.

Ann telling us the ecological history of our planting site.

Most of us were awake and ready to start the day around 7am and prepared our breakfast soon after with things such as toast, bananas, ramen, boiled eggs, fish, and cereal. After promptly filling our bellies, around 8am we began by loading up the truck with 82 trees, such as Btaches, Kisaks, and Miich to help the society with a reforestation project in an eroded site in Ngermchau Bai, Ngiwal. While driving the route to the site, part of our group stopped to collect lemongrass to plant at the site to help assist in preventing future erosion.

Btaches and Kisaks

After Ann gave us a brief history of the area, we got down and dirty. Literally. Ilima, El, and Surech guided us with the osib in digging a trench and hole to show us how to plant the way they would prefer. After the example, we pitched in and got started. Several of us learned how to properly plant the lemongrass in the trenches to help protect the newly planted and tagged trees. We only tagged a sample of the trees planted to watch their succession over time. Bryan and Scott helped us by cutting the wires with the single multi-use wire cutter that we also used for the clamping part of the tagging. This timely process, El took down the tree info and tag number to keep record of the area.

Tate and Savannah planting Lemongrass
Dylan and Sofia measuring and tagging a tree
El recording measurements from Dylan, Bryan, and Destiny

With the help of the Ngiwal youth and their leaders we were all able to work on an eroded hillside to dig holes, plant the trees and lemongrass, and properly tag and record info for the Ebiil Society’s project. While the ground wasn’t the best, we worked our way with the red acidic clay and gravel with lots of tender loving care. We planted, patted, and gave these little guys all the love and hope we could manage.

Jose and Destiny providing tender loving patting of surrounding dirt to the lemongrass

By this time we were famished, dirty, and ready for lunch and a cool down. Ann took us to Mesekelat waterfall and we ate under shade at the trail head. No photos of our delicious lunch were taken as we were too busy scarfing down our chicken sandwiches, banana fries, and grapes. But do not fret our journey to and from the waterfall was documented quite well!

Group river crossing wet-style

As we ventured down the steps and path to the old Babeldaob road, which is about a few thousand years old, Ann told us about some of the road’s history. We got to see some of the caves that the Palauans took cover in during airstrike attacks, as well as some remains of the Japanese agriculture carts. We identified a few endemic trees of Palau along the road. The road was recently opened and cleared for passage and some of the water crossing were a bit sketchy.

One of the more “iffy” bridges
Ann pointing out one of the many caves that Palauans used to take cover and hide during the war.

At last we made it to our destination of cool, sparkling waters. Upon promptly rushing down the steps, we were all in the water within minutes. Exploration and relaxation at it’s finest happened at the Mesekelat waterfall. We spent a good chunk of time here, cooling down and washing off the dirt from our hard work this morning.

Jesus is back!

On the way back to the Ebiil Society we came across a fire along the road, Ann went to investigate and there was a man claiming to watch it carefully. Fires are illegal in protected areas but this may have been private property.

Dinner was just what we all needed after a long day. It consisted of mashed banana with coconut and coconut glaze, rice, grilled tuna, poke, papaya, mango, kangkum salad, kool aid, and water. We happened to briefly catch the sunset during the feast and it was extravagant! After dinner, Ulang and Osu joined us for a story and Q&A session. We learned about the women’s fisheries and sea turtle issues in this area. Whew! What a day, looking forward to another full day tomorrow!

Ulang telling her stories
Another lovely sunset

Published by:

Destiny Pauls, Natural Resources- Conservation Law Enforcement, Graduating Spring of 2021.

Jose Thomas, Liberal Arts, Graduating Summer of 2020.

Day 2: Travel Day/ Intro to Ebiil Society

Today we transitioned from Koror to Ngarchelong, home to the Ebiil Society. During travel we stopped to examine the four ecological services Palau’s natural environment offer: cultural, provisioning, regulating, and supporting. In the photo below we are discussing Palau’s swamp forests which prevent soil erosion, slow down the movement of freshwater to the ocean, help shelter the island from storms, and provide habitat.

On our hike down to the Ngardmau Waterfall we saw a variety of flora and fauna, including pitcher plants and small frogs.

Hiking down the Ngardmau Falls we were met with red volcanic soil, about 650 stairs, and a beautiful, wet walk through the rain forest.


Bryan and Scott, faculty leads for the program, got especially wet when adventuring through the waterfall.

After arriving at Ebiil Society, touring the facilities, and walking down the pier we encountered many creatures including mud skippers, fiddler crabs, and a juvenile shark.

At the end of the day, before an awesome dinner of rice, taro, fish, papaya salad, fruit, and taro elang, we hiked to an old Japanese lighthouse and watched the sunset. A great ending to a full day!

Published by:

Sofia Baum, Business Administration and Sustainability, Graduating Spring 2020.

Dylan Heppell, Environmental Sciences, Graduating Spring 2022.

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 13: Lake Ngardok (Crocodile?)


Unfortunately, there’s still rain and high winds, so no snorkeling today! However, we visited Lake Ngardok, the largest freshwater lake in Micronesia (but don’t get too excited, its surface area is only 0.04 square miles!). “Ngardok” means “living spring” in Palauan, a tribute to its valuable flora and fauna. The lake lies within a protected area that accounts for 18% of the state of Melekeok (there are 10 states on the island of Babeldoab). It’s an important area to protect because of the wide variety of ecosystems– forests, wetlands, streams– that provide habitat for native and endemic species.

When we arrived, the Ngardok Reserve manager gave us some information on their reforestation methods to restore nutrients to degraded soil areas. To replant the areas, seeds are harvested from the reserve itself and propagated in their on-site nursery. To aid their growth, the staff are experimenting with different organic fertilizers: limestone, coconut husks, and soil from taro patches.

Lake Ngardok

The Reserve workers collect saplings from the reserve forests and raise them in this nursery. Once the plants reach a healthy size, they are then planted in reforestation efforts.

An example of using coconut husk’s as long lasting plant fertilizer. The coconuts take a while to completely break down, which means they provide nutrients to the plant for a while.

The class as we began our journey along the trail through some of the reserve.

No students were harmed in the duration of this hike.

Above: Micronesian Imperial Pigeon. The Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve rescued this bird and is currently rehabilitating it. Once healthy, they plan on releasing the pigeon back into the nearby forest.

One of the many orchid species in the reserve. Unlike many orchids, the flowers on this species are green. Scientific name: Speuderia micronesiaca.

Another one of the several orchids found in the reserve. Scientific name: Dipodium freycinetioides.

This species of fern acts as an epiphyte, meaning it grows on other trees. It is locally known as “Crocodile Nails” due to its shape. It is one of the oldest fern species in Palau.

The Ngardok manager discussing how the ferns can smother newly planted saplings

Bryan informing us about the non-native acacia trees first introduced to help return nitrogen to the poor soil. Introducing non-native plants inhibits the progress of reforesting an area with native species, as well as possibly causing it to become invasive. Now managers are working with native species to support forest recovery.

Not a high quality photo, but it’s picture evidence of what is probably, most likely, and quite possibly an endangered saltwater crocodile!

Day 11: Coral Reef Research Foundation & Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle


Today we met many different people with different expertise. In the morning, we visited Patrick Colin with the Coral Reef Research Foundation. He gave a presentation about climate change in Palau and how that has affected marine life in the past and predictions for the future. After that, we visited the Palau Aquarium.

After a quick lunch break, we drove over to Palau Community College to visit their research lab. They are doing great research with the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) virus, persistent organic pollutants, and health habits in Palau. CRBs have made a serious impact on the coconut plants in Palau, and is disrupting the coconut economy. They are working to figure out why some of these beetles are becoming immune to the virus.

Finally, we visited the US Embassy to have a meeting with Amy J. Hyatt, the Palau Ambassador for the United States, along with Paul Blake with NRCS. Here, we had a great discussion on the politics between US, China, Taiwan, and Palau, along with the work that the Embassy is doing for agriculture in Palau. Unfortunately, we were not able to take any photos due to security.

Patrick Colin presenting his data on climate change in Palau.

Having fun at the aquarium!

Dissecting Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles at PCC.


Day 10: Jellyfish Lake

Today we started our day at the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF) where we listened to a presentation about Marine Lakes and Jellyfish Lake. We learned that a Marine Lake is a body of saltwater completely surrounded by land. They are often connected to the ocean through underground channels in the limestone. There are 55 marine lakes in Palau, and only 5 have golden jellyfish. Of all 55 lakes, only one is open to the public. At CRRF, one of their projects is measuring the population of the jellyfish in the lake and how natural events such as El Niño have caused the jellyfish population  to disappear. For instance, in 2002 there were an estimated 20 million jellyfish in the lake, but after the most recent El Niño they disappeared again. The researchers believe that warm water caused the jellyfish to vanish, among other things such as sunscreen and invasive species. The reason that the population is able to recover is because the polyps (jellyfish larva) are able to survive despite the warm temperatures. Currently, there are roughly 20,000 jellies in the lake (less than 1% of their previous number- but we still saw several!).

Little Jelly!

the native sea anemone, there is currently an invasive brown anemone in the lake as well.


Less common, but still native- moon jelly

One of the CRRF researchers showing us the difference between male and female jellies

Laurel’s selfie with a Jelly!

the most common type in the lake- a golden jelly

After leaving the research center we went out to Jellyfish lake with some of the researchers from the foundation. Currently every visitor to Jellyfish Lake must buy a special rock island permit in order to access it. We snorkeled around for an hour, before departing to a different island for lunch. While at the island, Jesy got stung by a jellyfish (ironically, this happened after we left Jellyfish lake, where the jellies have very mild stings). After lunch we went snorkeling at Fantasy Island. There we were able to witness a wide variety of fish feeding in the coral and a black tipped reef shark! We ended our day at a cove nicknamed Milky-Way, where we used the mud-like sand to exfoliate ourselves!

Amy and Hannah on the beach

the black tip reef shark

fish feeding!

Dussumier’s Halfbeak


Nikki, Balang, Alayna having fun with the Milky Way sand!

Day 9: Airai Protected Area and Biota Aquaculture

Today we began our morning with Clarence again as we headed out on the boat to the Medal Ngediull Conservation Area in the state of Airai. As we talked more about the conservation site, we got to chat with the director of the PAN and the Speaker of the House for the state. They talked to us about some of the biggest problems facing this PAN: sedimentation and overfishing. The sedimentation is a huge issue here because the water flowing into the small bay carried too much sediment from the construction of the airport and local development. Too much sediment harms the coral and seagrass beds here, in turn reducing the populations of fish and marine life. Overfishing of sea cucumbers and rabbitfish have also reduced populations numbers and they aim to bring some of these species back to a healthy number. We asked them how the community responded when they decided to close the fishing for the 5 year term, and they said that the more educated portion of the community was in favor because they understood the benefits, but it was hard on local fishermen whose livelihoods depend on this area.They tell us that by working with the community and following the sediment trails, they are trying their best to reduce the negative effects in the conservation preserve. After chatting with these men, we got the chance to do some snorkeling in the seagrass and coral reefs to see some amazing marine life and different kinds of fish.

The Medal Ngediull Conservation Area in the state of Airai.

View from the island near the protected area, where we waited for the tide to come back in.

Clarence and the director of the Airai protected area talking with us about the issues of sedimentation and overfishing.

While waiting for the tide to come back, we spent time pairing up and measuring the sea cucumber abundance by counting sea cucumbers within each measured transect. We did the sampling to compare the abundance difference outside of the protected area and within the protected area.

Students measuring the sea cucumber abundance outside of the protected area.

Later in the afternoon we visited the Biota Marine Life Nursery, which collects wild spawned eggs from tropical fish in Palau. They mainly nurse and grow tropical fish, small and giant clams and coral for aquarium export, but they also help restock the rabbitfish population as an agreement with the state of Airai for developing a site there. They have restocked the fish in the past, but so far do not have any data collected to reflect their efforts of restocking. They have collected eggs and nursed some very rare fish including the burbonias anthias, a spiny fish found only below 100 meters or about 300 feet in the ocean. Their efforts claim to be sustainable for the waters of Palau, as Palau remains one of the only places that is labeled as having a healthy coral reef.

Baby coral being grown at Biota.

Wild giant clams being grown at Biota for export to aquariums.