1) Protect your feet from thorns/sharp rocks/stonefish, etc.
2) Protect your body from bugs and the sun
3) Don't overheat
An important point the blog post didn't cover that pertains directly to point 2 is sunscreen!
If your ancestors came from a place further away from the Equator than Palau, you might have a tough time with the levels of sunlight here. Even Palauans who work inside have told me that they get sunburned if they spend all day out on a boat. For those of you with fair skin, the only way you're going to be able to come away from this course without injuring yourself is to wear sunscreen when we're outside.
However, a growing body of research has begun to show that many of the most common active ingredients in sunscreen can be toxic to invertebrates and potentially contribute to coral bleaching. Ingredients that have been linked to detrimental effects on aquatic life include:
Octyl methoxycinnamate (EHMC)
4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4MBC)
Some research has also shown that the very small particles of metal oxides (zinc and titanium) used in some sunscreens/sunblocks can also be detrimental to invertebrate health.
Since this research is relatively new, it seems that many companies that manufacture sunscreens haven't quite gotten the memo yet, so there are still lots of options on the shelves in the US and Palau that include these active ingredients. I checked two of the local dive shops here, and one of them carries a brand optimistically called "reef safe," but it has Avobenzone as one of the active ingredients. The other dive shop had a less deceptively-named sunblock that included Ocinoxate. The only sunscreen I was able to find that didn't include any of ingredients that are suspected to be harmful was this one:
Which has zinc oxide as the physical sunscreen barrier. If you have to buy sunblock in Palau, this might be the lesser of several evils, but as I mentioned earlier, the zinc nanoparticles are still potentially problematic for marine and freshwater invertebrates.
Anuschka, our guest instructor from Hawaii, has asked around, and says that Stream2Sea
is a favorite among some of the graduate students. There are others that could work as well, potentially including
Beauty by Earth: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KFNDWSY/
The Honest Company: https://smile.amazon.com/Honest-Company-Mineral-Based-Sunscreen/dp/B01E2327PG/
We'll bring some sunscreen to share, but it would be really great if you could get some environmentally responsible sunscreen, and perhaps even try it out before the course! This is a conservation biology course, so we want to make sure we minimize our potentially negative impacts on Palau, while minimizing the sun's potential negative impacts on our bodies.
I haven't ever assigned a reading from "Vogue" before, but this is a pretty good, to-the-point article about sunscreen ecotoxicology:
Jellyfish Lake in Palau, because it is small, somewhat hydrologically isolated, and potentially visited by up to 100,000 tourists a year, is a particularly sensitive area. As it's one of the primary draws bringing tourists to Palau in the first place, this is really where the interests of conservation biologist and ecotourism have the potential to conflict. Our friends at the CRRF and some of their collaborators conducted this study a few years ago:
Other, more technical sources include: