Also, scroll down for some other shots from our field work on June 8:
Yesterday, we started out playing in the mud, and we ended up seeing some traditional Palauan singing and dancing at the Night Market. First, playing in the mud: we worked with some folks from Ngiwal state and the Ebiil Society to plant trees and lemongrass to stem erosion near their new state office building. In the wake of the construction of this building, the river downhill had become noticeably impacted by sediments after heavy rains, so it seemed like a great opportunity to try to lend a hand. SUNY-ESF is a forestry school, after all, so the least we can do is participate in a tiny bit of re-forestation while we're here!
Next, we headed down to Koror (our first time there this trip!) to check out the aquarium at PICRC. We got super-lucky and happened to be around when the aquarist was feeding some of the animals, including two Nautili and a black-tipped reef shark. We also got to see the sailing vessel or voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu.
The next day, we spent most of our time at the waterfall in Ngardmau, learning about different stream environments. If you click this link, you should be able to view a 360° view of the Diongradid river, with Brett & Ben sampling in the distance, downstream of the photographer (click the link, and then click on the picture to enter 360-mode in most browsers): https://photos.app.goo.gl/2B2HMwP2oEAKfy9K7
Also, scroll down for some other shots from our field work on June 8:
Today, our students had the honor of participating in what (I believe) is the first bioblitz in Palau: an effort at Ngardok Lake Nature Reserve. Omar Basilius and a variety of different people from Melekeok and beyond participated in the effort to document as many species as we could, using our eyes, ears, and (in some cases) the iNaturalist app. Our students had a great time getting a holistic view of the terrestrial ecosystems of Palau, interacting with a variety of people with knowledge of plants, birds, and the invertebrates of Palau.
After spending several hours at the reserve, documenting species diversity and contributing to our understanding of Palau ecosystems (you can see some observations by us and other folks here), we returned to the village to just explore the intertidal zone and think about what we'd seen. We had an awesome dinner made by Rebecca:
Then they went night snorkeling! (and Jesse wrote this blog post). Not sure what they saw yet, but I'm sure it was awesome :)
Last night (June 3rd) most of our students arrived, and we shared some dinner (takeout from Yano's) across the street from the Melekeok Statehouse. For most of the students, it was the first time they'd tasted taro (a staple starch in many tropical Pacific island cultures), and for some it was the first time they'd been near the Pacific Ocean.
Melekeok is about half way up the east coast of Babeldaob (the largest island in the Palau archipelago), is the official seat of the Palau national government, and is home to a number of beautiful and unique habitats, include Ngardok Lake (where we'll go participate in a bioblitz on 6 June). It's also home to lots of great Palauan people, who we're very thankful for, especially all the great folks at the Melekeok State Office, and the Ngardok Nature Reserve.
In the picture above, the Pacific Ocean is about 4m beyond (to the East of) the students. Melekeok is about 7.5 degrees north of the Equator, which means that it's pretty much all ocean to the east of the students for almost 2,000 km until you get to Chuuk, and then another 2,000km beyond that before you get to Ailinglaplap atoll (Marshall Islands).
Then it's pretty much just ocean for more than 10,000km until you get to Isla de Coiba, just of the coast of Panamá.
Below, you can see the students practicing snorkeling with guest instructor Anuschka Faucci (from Leeward Community College) in the ocean they only heard last night. For the rest of the day, the students will spend time getting comfortable in their new surroundings, and making observations of the nature in and around the village we're staying at.
On Wednesday, we went to the waterfall ("Taki") of the Diong Era Did (sometimes spelled "Diongradid") river in Ngardmau state on Babeldaob island. We spent time with guest instructor Dr. Carla Atkinson learning about some of the different lotic habitats (riffles, runs, and pools), and ways of sampling invertebrates (kick nets, d-nets, shrimp traps left overnight). We found at least five species of freshwater crabs and shrimps, but curiously few insects (only some simuliids, chironomids, a single damselfly nymph, and some small aquatic hemipterans we haven't figured out yet. Neritid snails were also abundant, but we think that by and large, decapods dominate the Diongradid.
(above): Chris and other students walk down the rock pools of the Ngertebechel tributary (below): Jani and Laura cross a suspension bridge on the way to the Taki (a Japanese word for waterfall that Palauans often use to refer to the second image down)
On Thursday, our students had most of the morning and early afternoon to work on their final presentations, and then they heard from our Palauan friends Kiblas Soaladaob and Tarita Holm. Kiblas has a masters degree in Pacific Studies from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and has thought a lot about Palauan culture and identity in the context of other Pacific Island cultures. Tarita has a masters degree in forestry and has worked on a variety of conservation projects in Palau.
Then, sadly, on Friday, we had our last day. As I type this, at about 9:30pm Palau Time, the students are enjoying their last few hours in their apartments. Earlier today, they gave some great presentations on what they learned about conservation biology in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments in Palau.
We asked the students to do some quick reflections about the course, and guest instructor Dr. Anuschka Faucci put them into a word cloud:
It's been an eventful few days here in Palau! On Sunday, we drove up to Ngardmau state to survey their marine protected area for sea cucumbers! This was a follow-up survey to some previous work by PICRC and Ngardmau State.
(Above) One of the members of the genus Actinopyga our students surveyed (for those interested, there were about 1.7 per square meter); (below) Jack heroically swimming against the current near the yellow transect tape.
On Monday, we did some quick freshwater explorations around Ngardok Lake in Melekeok state (the largest natural body of freshwater in Micronesia), and found some fun odonate nymphs and daphnia. We also did some ant surveys of some of the different vegetation types in the reserve around the lake.
(above) An excited Dr. Carla Atkinson checks out some of the aquatic macroinvertebrates (and cane toad tadpoles) we found in Ngardok Lake. (below) A close up of one of the many mosquito larvae we found in the lake, taken in the field through Anuschka's cellscope.
Finally, on Tuesday, we spent the morning planting about 86 native trees in an eroded Bauxite mine site in Ngeremlengui State with the Ebiil Society.
Hi everyone! Whew, I guess it's a little more tricky to make lots of blog posts while you're knee-deep in a field course than I thought!
We're about half way through the course, now, and we've been focusing on learning about some of the marine environments of Palau, as well as the terrestrial critters that live in the limestone karst.
Students who have taken a classroom-based course with Dr. Rundell know that crinoids (at least the little disarticulated cheerios of their stalks) are a very common fossil in the Devonian rocks in Central New York. Far fewer students from SUNY-ESF have actually gotten to hold a living crinoid, like Maddy is here:
Jack is taking a vertical photo onto a 0.25m^2 quadrat for later quantification of coral cover, and Audrey is doing some non-quantitative explorations of the coral diversity:
In addition to some of the marine work we've been doing, we've collected some land snails on the limestone karst, and looked at some really cool archaeological sites, including one of the Yapese stone money quarries in Airai:
Just to wrap things up... here's a diplommatinid in the genus Hungerfordia!
Technically I can't *really* give medical advice, since I'm not a doctor or any other kind of licensed medical practitioner. But if I *could* give medical advice, I might say something like "before traveling to a different country, it's always good to check on the CDC website for what immunizations they recommend, and, like the CDC website says, it's a great idea to check with your doctor." I'd also probably send you a link to the CDC page on Palau: