Palau Day 8: Diving and Day Off

After a long first week, we had a day off from our usual class. A few of us went diving, while the rest of the class relaxed, ran errands, and worked on their projects. The few of us that went diving went to a dive site called Sandbar, where we finally saw some sharks. We were able to see white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks. The second dive site was called Ulong Channel, which was a deep channel with a sandy bottom and walls of coral on either side. There we saw a school of juvenile grey reef sharks and around four Hawksbill sea turtles. The last dive was a Indonesian fishing boat wreck, which was covered with a diversity of corals and fishes. 

Hannah diving at Sand Bar
The heavy downpour did not discourage the divers today
Triggerfish that attempted to attack multiple divers
Juvenile grey reef sharks
Ulong Channel
Giant clam in Ulong Channel

After a satisfying day of diving, everyone met back at Sam’s Tours for happy hour and food. Overall, today was restfull for some and very eventful for others, but great for everyone. It was a nice break, but we’re all excited to start a new day of learning and adventure tomorrow.


Palau Day 7: Ollei’s Reefs and Fisheries

Today was our last day in Ollei, and we were very sad to leave. It was a fun and relaxing day on the water spent fishing and snorkeling. In the morning, we went out on the boat for a couple hours learning to fish with hand lines. Overall, we caught around 20 fish of 7 different species, including the orange lined trigger fish, yellow striped snapper, coral grouper, red snapper, gold saddle goatfish, blacktail snapper, and lyertail grouper.

Heading out to fish in the morning



Bright smiles as some of us catch our first fish ever (except for Alec, who caught many)



Daemi and Alec were our star fishers for the day

After catching and cleaning the fish, we learned how to properly identify, measure, and weigh them. The fish were then scaled and filleted to be prepared for dinner later.

Sorting through our catch of the day
Tino showing us how to differentiate between sexes

Following our fishing excursion, we ate a tasty lunch of fish sandwiches and took a short break before heading back out to snorkel at Ebiil Channel. Everyone had a great time admiring the massive array of diverse fishes and beautiful corals. After an hour or so of snorkeling, we headed back to Ebiil  to wind down and begin packing for our return to Koror.

Crown of thorns starfish
Mooray eel and cleaning wrasse

Pink anemonefish
Orangefin anemonefish

Huuuuuuge sea cucumber

We would all like to thank the Ebiil Society, all of our mentors, and our boat drivers for a spectacular week of fun and educational activities. We learned a lot about traditional Palauan management practices and we now have a greater understanding of how culture and science interact. Thank you!!




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:


Day 5: Tree Planting and Mesekelat Watershed

Today we helped plant 80 trees ( Pterocarpus indicus, Millettia pinnata, Casuarina equisetifolia, Terminalia catappa), and 50 Lemongrass plants in the degraded soil of Ngaremlengui state. We also explored the Mesekelat Watershed, where we hiked through a forest, and visited a waterfall. We ended the day visiting another endemic tree of Palau, in the Mesekelat Conservation Area.

Below is a photo diary of today’s events!

Pictured is a Parkia tree, which is endemic to Palau, and one of the most rare species.
Ann tells the group about how local people learned of the degrading water quality, and reached out to her for help.
The soil in this area is mostly clay, which is very infertile for crops. The goal of today is to add trees that have roots that can hold water for a long period.
Pictured are students working together to plant various tree species.
Pictured is students planting Lemongrass to help fence the forest from soil erosion.
In the Mesekelat Watershed, we stopped at a waterfall.
Today’s bloggers enjoying the waterfall!
This a map of Ngchesar state, and Stephanie is pointing to the Mesekelat Conservation Area
Another endemic tree of Palau, Calophyllum pelewenese P.F. Stevens, found in the Mesekelat Conservation Area. The trunk of the tree is round enough for four people’s arms to reach each other.
Students visiting the Mesekelat Conservation Area.

Stay tuned for our next blog post!

– Jesy Rodriguez and Daemi Ngirmidol

Palau Day 4: Snorkeling in the Mangrove

On our second day in Ollei, our class snorkeled through nearby mangroves. A mangrove is a tree or group of trees and shrubs that grow in saltwater. They provide many ecosystem services to coastal communities such as: protection from storms, regulation of water quality, provision of breeding and rearing habitats for many species, and supply wood and other forest products to local populations. Mangroves are also a source of energy for nearby ecosystems such as seagrass beds and coral reefs. They also act as a major carbon sink.

Below is a photo-diary of todays events!

The mangrove forest we went to was a short hike from our campsite along the North shore of Babeldaop
The path we took to our destination during low tide. In a few hours it would all be underwater.
During low tide it is common to see small organisms traveling across the sand. Above pictured is a mudskipper.
At various spots along the hike to our snorkel spot, Bryan, Scott, and Ann stopped to give us more information regarding mangrove land use and ecosystem services.
This is the sprout of a mangrove tree that drops when its ready to be planted. The top brown piece helps it float farther away and eventually pops off, allowing the sprout to sink and form a root.
Pictured is the roots of a Bngaol Mangrove, most common in the area near our campsite. These crop roots shoot our horizontally and spread far and wide from the base of the tree.
Some mangrove species have an interesting adaptation that locals call a “sacrificial leaf”. Living in salt water can be tricky for plants since they require fresh water. Mangroves can send the majority of the salt they take into a few select leaves. These leaves turn yellow and eventually fall off the tree and back into the ocean.
Pictured above are students snorkeling in the seagrass.
Above is a crocodile fish
Portuguese Man o’ War seen while snorkeling. It was scooped up in a mask to prevent any stinging.
On the way back to the village after snorkeling, we found some discarded net. We brought it back with us so that it was not littering the mangrove anymore.
After we returned home from snorkeling we had lunch. After lunch, most of us hopped on our kayak’s and a raft to return to a mangrove and learn more about women’s fisheries, specifically clamming.
After clams have been successfully harvested, they are brought back home to be cleaned, shelled, and prepared to eat.
Some of the days events were cut short due to inclement weather. Sudden winds and heavy rains are common in tropical environments and it served as a learning tool for how mangroves can provide shelter during storms.


Stay tuned for the next blog post!

– Nathan Hakzen and Jesy Rodriguez

Palau Day 2

Hello everyone!

Today was a busy and exciting day in Palau. We hiked to a waterfall, visited a beach, and made it to Ollei where we will be staying for a week. Along the way we learned about land use and forest ecology, and had a lot of fun in the water. Amy and Alec made a video of today so check it out!


Palau Ridges to Reef -Day one!

Welcome to our Palau Ridges-to-Reefs blog, which will follow our Oregon State University group in Palau for the next two weeks! 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 students from OSU, we have a number of Palauan students joining us, including five students from Palau Community College. This mixing of students provides great opportunities for peer-to-peer student learning, and the incorporation of the PCC students -who have a great wealth of cultural and ecological knowledge about the nation that they can share- will contribute greatly to the richness of the class. This is hopefully a first step in creating a joint OSU-PCC class in the future!

Each day two students will post a narrative of our adventures, talk about what they’ve learned, and share some videos and photos to round it all out. For our day one blog, Bryan Endress, who organized the course, and Scott Heppell, who is a co-instructor, are taking on the task. We are also joined by Chris Kitalong, a Palauan scientist at the Pacific Academic Institute for Research at PCC. And what a great first day it has been!

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? You can’t start a class without covering expectations for the class, after all.

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

After a quick break for lunch we were headed off for our afternoon activity -a boat ride out to east side of Airai,

Where we got in the water for some snorkeling,

followed by a brief stop on a sandbar exposed at low tide,

and then a short hike up the Yap Money Trail to see a bit of the forest and some really large coins -not the type you’d plan on carrying around in your pocket. Many thanks to Clarence Kitalong for the use of his boat and for serving as captain for the day!

We ended the formal events for the day back at the museum, where we were served traditional Palauan fare including grilled fish, taro, tapioca, dragon fruit, mangrove clams, and other delicacies.

It was a busy day, and it’s just the start of what will hopefully be an amazing two weeks.

We’re sure the students are in their rooms right now, diligently working on their daily journal entries and packing for our trip tomorrow. We’ll be spending the next several days on the north end of Babeldaob in the village of Ollei, where we’ll be hosted by the Ebiil Society. We’re very much looking forward to it! Stay tuned for more adventures (and learning!) to come.