Palau International Coral Reef Center-PICRC

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Palau International Coral Reef Center

9 October 2015




PICRC hosts school tour for Maris Stella students


The Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) was busier than usual when over 25 energetic third graders from Maris Stella elementary school came to visit the Palau Aquarium on September 3, 2015. It was a fun filled morning packed with activities for the students chaperoned by their teachers, parents, and guardians. The groups of students were happily received by PICRC researchers, education staff, and the aquarists.


Their visit started off with a presentation given by researcher, Ms. Marine Gouezo on the topic of  marine ecosystems, which was followed by a coloring book activity assisted by Ms. Ines Kintoki. The students were then split into three groups and given a tour of the aquarium given by aquarists, Mr. Jay Oruetamor, Mr. Vincent Abedneko , and Mr. Harlen Herman. The tour of the aquarium took the students into different habitats that included mangroves, seagrass bed, inner reefs, reef crest, and outer reefs. As part of the tour, each of the groups also had a chance to do a touch panel quiz that helped them understand and remember what they had learned during the aquarium tour. Once the tour was over, the students then had a scavenger hunt planned out for them in the aquarium. After the activity, the students then settled back into the Kedarm conference room where they ended their visit by watching the National Geographic (Nat Geo) Pristine Seas documentary film Palau, Return to Paradise that features Palau’s marine environments.


Throughout the visit, the students were very vocal in raising their questions and comments about all the different things they learned during their visit. An important objective of the Center is to be a “major interactive environmental awareness tool” to be “utilized by educators, students, community members, as well as tourists to Palau”. PICRC was delighted to receive these students and would like to encourage more groups to take advantage of the Center’s facilities and expertise in marine environment.




8 October 2015


PICRC visits Kayangel for a community meeting

On the morning of October 2nd of this year, the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) together with Palau Conservation Society (PCS) set out to visit Kayangel State. The purpose of PICRC's visit to Kayangel was to conduct a community meeting to discuss with the community about PICRC's three new collaborative projects addressing the impacts of climate change and the declining of fisheries resources in Kayangel. The community meeting was facilitated by PICRC Department Head Ms. Geraldine Rengiil along with researchers, Ms. Evelyn Otto and Dr. Steven Lindfield, and Kayangel State Protected Areas Network (PAN) Coordinator Ms. Jennifer Ngwal.

The community meeting took place at the Kayangel Community Center, just right off the port. It was all smiles and jokes as the community members slowly trickled into the meeting house. The meeting started at 11 in the morning and continued on for a couple of hours. There were over 30 community members at the meeting that comprised of state employees, Kayangel state rangers, and other community leaders with a balanced age range from young adults to senior citizens. Rich discussions and questions took place about the benefits and the challenges of the projects. Some community leaders expressed their joy to see PICRC and PCS staff travel the long distance to pay them a visit and wished they would continue to visit Kayangel more often so that the community members feel the importance and seriousness of these projects in the North. They feel that the mere presence of the staff, scientists, and researchers will help the community be more involved with the projects.

During the community meeting, Ms. Otto talked about her project, Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment, which will focus on Kayangel's vulnerable areas that are highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Ms. Otto also presented the Socio-economic fishery survey, for which its purpose is to gain an understanding to the extent of dependence the communities have on the Northern Reefs and the economic value of natural resources.  Ms. Rengiil and Dr. Lindfield then presented on the Studies on size of maturity of fishes which will be used to support decisions by the state on what fishery management regulations to implement. Also helping Dr. Lindfield with his project was Mr. Valentino Kloulchad, who explained to the community members that being a fishermen himself, he thought he knew a lot about fishing, but since turning to the science of fisheries, he has learned so much more. He stressed to the community the importance of the balance between the science and the cultural aspects of fisheries.

PICRC would like to thank the Kayangel community members and leaders, PAN coordinator, Ms. Ngwal, and PCS for their help during the community meeting. In addition, PICRC would also like to thank PCS for providing the transportation to Kayangel and their continued support of PICRC's projects. PICRC will continue to work with Kayangel PAN coordinator and visit Kayangel State for the next few months as they conduct their projects.



3 October 2015


PICRC says goodbye to a valuable JICA volunteer

Yuka Yamagami, a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) volunteer at the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) bids farewell to her PICRC family. On her last day of work, September 25 of this year, PICRC held a farewell party to say goodbye and recognize her contributions and accomplishments to the Center. Ms. Yamagami has been with PICRC since October 14, 2013. She was placed in the education office where she focused on projects relating to environmental education.

Ms. Yamagami graduated from an art university in Japan and it was there that she learned that art could attract many people. One of her goals when she arrived at PICRC was to get people interested in the environment through her art. So it was her wish to use her developed skills to get people interested in environmental education and raise awareness about Palau’s environment. PICRC seemed like the ideal place for her to contribute her art skills with her interest in environmental education and conservation. The natural beauty of Palau that she was able to see and experience inspired the work that she was able to do at PICRC. Ms. Yamagami is interested in both environmental education and art and she believes when both are put together, a new interest and awareness is awakened in people.

Ms. Yamagami’s skills in art were further developed in PICRC when she was tasked with designing PICRC flyers, posters, fact sheets, signboards, T-shirts, banners, and logos for PICRC and the Palau Aquarium. Another responsibility Ms. Yamagami had was try to enhance the Palau Aquarium experience for the visitors by designing Fish ID displays in front of each tank in the aquarium so that visitors can get quick and easy information of fishes from them. Some of the pictures on the displays are photos she took herself when she went out into the field to dive or snorkel. In addition, she would also provide some environmental education and fish quizzes in the Touch Panel in the aquarium, which can be read in both English and Japanese that she helped translate. At times, she would also help translate brochures and flyers, etc. from English to Japanese and help out by giving tours to the Japanese visitors to PICRC and the Palau Aquarium. Ms. Yamagami also took it into her own hands to design and translate the Palau Aquarium survey that has helped PICRC improve its functions and services.

Other things she was able to do while working at PICRC was help in environmental fairs and local events. Whenever PICRC would conduct environmental education workshops, she would always try to find creative ways to plan something that would be fun and educational for the participants.  One of the many activities she helped plan was an origami workshop where she used recycled paper to make origami. It was very popular with the kids and adults too. In her efforts to educate and raise awareness to the public about PICRC’s environmental conservation efforts, she made beautiful origami from waste plastic wrappers and papers. She also helped make quizzes and games, which helped the children and adults learn about marine pollution caused by our very own human activities. It is her hope that many people will be aware that trash can be transformed into something that can still be of value to others and can be enjoyed by all. It is through these workshops that she conducted that we try to raise conservation efforts and awareness.

Her kind, humble, patient manner, and hard working attitude will truly be missed by her PICRC family and friends and they are sad to see a very hard working individual like her go. As a token of appreciation to Ms. Yamagami, she was made an honorary PICRC researcher and aquarium member for life.  PICRC wishes the best for Ms. Yamagami in her future endeavors and hope she will come again to visit.



2 October 2015


PICRC and University of Ryukyus begin research on COTS

A new study on crown-of-thorns (COTS) started this month under the Palau Coral Reef Island Ecosystem Project (PCoRIE). COTS, locally known as rusech, are a type of large starfish that feed on corals. The purpose of the study is to understand what factors contribute to COTS outbreaks and the impact of those outbreaks on coral communities. This study is important to Palau because COTS can be a major threat to Palau’s coral reef ecosystem if their numbers continue to rise steadily or if outbreaks occur more often.  The research on COTS is headed by lead researcher, Dr. Haruko Kurihara, assistant professor from University of Ryukyus in Japan. The research team included post-doctoral researcher Dr. Chuki Hongo, PICRC researchers Ms. Marine Gouezo, Ms. Shirley Koshiba, Ms. Evelyn Otto, and assistant researcher Ms. Dawnette Olsudong.

Nine sites in Malakal were surveyed this month, including a site directly across the sewer outfall. During the surveys, coral communities and the number of COTS per given area were assessed. In addition, different water quality measurements were taken at the sites as well as the amount of algae present. The reason for the study initially being conducted in the Malakal area is because of the area’s nutrient-rich waters, which is caused by the sewage outfall. This sewage outfall contributes to the area’s high nutrient count, which enable the COTS to thrive. COTS spawn twice a year and because both adults and juvenile larvae thrive in nutrient rich waters, they are more likely to live longer and reproduce more. The more COTS present within an area, the more corals are affected.

The COTS research is a collaborative project between the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and the University of Ryukyus, which is part of the PCoRIE project, which is funded under the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS). Both Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) support SATREPS, which is a Japanese government program that promotes international joint research targeting global issues.

This project in Malakal is important to Palau because an outbreak can lead to massive coral reef destruction. The research on COTS, once completed, will help us understand the factors that can lead to an outbreak. Knowing these factors can help us manage to reduce the chance of a COTS outbreak. Once the data are collected and analyzed, findings will be made available to the public.