Palau International Coral Reef Center-PICRC

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Palau International Coral Reef Center

23 July, 2014


PICRC conducts research to assess the impact of El Niño on Palau’s reefs

An El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, also known as El Niño, is predicted to continue to develop throughout this summer and into 2015.  In Palau, this phenomenon leads to severe droughts and high seawater temperatures. The result of abnormally high water temperature, from weeks to months, causes corals to bleach.

When the seawater temperature is above a threshold, most corals no longer cope with the temperature stress, and release their symbionts. Losing their symbionts not only makes corals appear completely white, but this loss also deprives corals of their major food source. Symbionts photosynthesize and supply corals with food. Most corals will die of starvation after losing their symbionts. The last global bleaching event happened in 1998, as a result of an ENSO event, although a smaller, regional bleaching event also occurred in 2010.

From June to July 2014, the PICRC research team conducted a survey to assess the status of Palau’s reefs at their 22 permanent monitoring sites. This survey was purposefully done before a possible bleaching event. These underwater surveys followed the standardized monitoring protocol, recording data on benthic cover (photo quadrats) and on the abundance and size estimates of fishes and invertebrates. Throughout the entire summer period, PICRC also closely monitored seawater temperature using underwater data loggers.

In case of the occurrence of a bleaching event, which is expected in late July to early August in 2015, PICRC will do a large scale, rapid survey of 80 sites during the bleaching event to assess where and which corals bleach. Follow-up surveys will be conducted at the 22 permanent sites will be conducted after the bleaching event to examine mortality and recovery from bleaching.  Data collected will help the researchers understand the effects of a bleaching event on the whole reef community, including invertebrates and fishes, in Palau.

At a time of rapid global climate change, ENSO events accompanied with the occurrence of abnormally high seawater temperature are predicted to occur more frequently and intensely. Therefore, it is essential to understand where corals bleach, and which corals die or recover, during these events. Judging by the last ENSO event, it has been shown that some reefs around Palau are more temperature tolerant than others, and are therefore more adapted to survive in waters with higher temperature.  The research by PICRC will help to identify where these temperature-tolerant reefs are located in Palau so that they can be given special focus for protection.  These special areas might hold the key to our reefs survival in an increasingly warming world.

PICRC is committed to guide efforts supporting coral reef stewardship through research and its applications for the people of Palau, Micronesia, and the world. For more information about the PICRC’s Research and Aquarium Programs, visit or “Like” PICRC on Facebook.



23 July, 2014


PICRC, PCC and PAN Office join forces to pilot a marine ecological monitoring course

Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), Palau Community College (PCC) and Protected Areas Network (PAN) Office work together to offer a course on ecological monitoring of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the state conservation officers of Palau. This course will be offered at PICRC from August 11 to 22, 2014.

The key fundamentals of ecological monitoring using the standardized protocol to assess the effectiveness of MPAs in Palau will be covered in this course. Utilizing both theory and field practices, the course aim to increase the competency of students to collect, assemble and analyze basic field data. The content of the course includes lectures on how to monitor MPAs, methods used to measure the different ecological indicators, group exercises, field practices, and assessments. At the end of the course, students will hold a presentation on the data they collected at the MPA surveyed during field practices and will demonstrate what they have learned and achieved throughout the 2-weeks course.

The course contains a total of 6 competencies in which 4 are theory based. Students are expected to fully understand the objectives of ecological monitoring, the steps to follow when conducting ecological monitoring, how to develop a sampling design, and the methods used to measure the selected ecological indicators. Grading will range from 3 for excellence, 2 for average and 1 for not acceptable. For the theory competencies, students will be expected to pass with a minimum grade of 2. For the field and data analysis competencies, grading will be more flexible as this will require long hours of practice before being competent in measurement of all ecological indicators and data management.

The purpose of this course is to provide training to build on the capacity of local conservation officers to collect and analyze marine ecological data. Data collected at PAN marine site in Palau will be used to assess their effectiveness over time and allow managers to make better decisions about their design and enforcement. This course is open to conservation officers from states with marine PAN sites. All participants should have at least a high school diploma and be able to swim and snorkel. Training on SCUBA will be provided before the start of the course. Due to logistical constraints, this pilot course will only accept limited number of conservation officers from states that has marine PAN site(s). If this pilot course is successful and additional course are needed, they will be offered in the future. For more information about the course, please contact Ms. Geraldine Rengiil at 488-6850 or e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

PICRC is committed to guide efforts supporting coral reef stewardship through research and its applications for the people of Palau, Micronesia, and the world. For more information about the PICRC’s Research and Aquarium Programs, visit or “Like” PICRC on Facebook.





18 July, 2014



A New Intern Student from Ridgefield joins PICRC

Isabella Spanos is a junior year high school student from Ridgefield, Connecticut in the United States of America. She is interning at Palau International Coal Reef Center (PICRC) for one month starting on July 7 to August 6, 2014.

Although the Republic of Palau is not very well known to the Western world from where she comes, Isabella has developed a passion for the nation and its diverse biology. She first became aware of Palau in middle school when she watched a video about oceans. Since then, she has researched the archipelago thoroughly, which is how she discovered PICRC and decided to apply for her internship. This is her first time visiting Palau and working at an aquarium, but Isabella intends to learn a lot and utilize her new knowledge in future ventures.

Isabella has been interested in science, specifically marine biology and the environment, since she was younger, and she hopes to explore this interest here at PICRC. She has taken on many extracurricular science-related projects at Ridgefield High School and has enrolled in AP level science courses in order to maximize her potential in the scientific field. In the future, she hopes to attend college and have a career in marine ecology.

Some of her past projects include launching a weather balloon with a camera to document an aerial view of the New England coast, competing and placing in statewide science competitions, and taking environmental initiatives in her town by encouraging appreciation of nature as well as the use of natural resources over synthetic materials. She also has some experience from snorkeling in Florida and in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Isabella is currently working with the Research and Aquarium Department to improve exhibit developments by assisting in the creation of new fish species IDs as well as in the management of displays. As an amateur photographer, she will also accompany some of PICRC’s research teams on their excursions to various research sites in order to document their work for the Center.

Isabella is very excited to join PICRC and take part in its research and development. Although she will only be here for one month, Isabella hopes to experience Palau’s exotic wonders and have a positive impact on the nation through her work with PICRC. For more information about the PICRC’s Research and Aquarium Programs, visit or “Like” PICRC on Facebook.





18 July, 2014


PCC Environmental Marine Science student completes internship at PICRC

Victor Rechirei is a student from Palau Community College (PCC) Environmental Marine Science who has completed his internship and Field Studies Class at Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) which began on June 3rd and ended on July 11, 2014.  For his Field Studies Class, he conducted a research project with his mentor Dr. Takashi Kawai, a post-doctoral fellow from Palau Coral Reef Island Ecosystems (P-CoRIE) project dispatched by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Victor’s project was focused on his perspective on how climate change affects the marine environment. He collected measurements of temperature from several locations: Nikko Bay, Malakal Harbor, German Channel and Ngemelis as well as three tanks from the Palau Aquarium located at PICRC. The tanks that were measured were the Mangrove, Inner Reef and Outer Reef exhibitions. He used an instrument called AAQ Multi Parameter Water Quality sensor to measure the temperatures, pH, salinity, Dissolved Oxygen and turbidity in all the different locations. Base on his research, he suggests that climate change has at least increased surface temperature.

PICRC is thrilled to have hosted Victor from PCC this summer and support him in his field of study during his time at the Center. Victor’s internship at PICRC will not only support research, but his work will also contribute to knowledge and conservation efforts.

PICRC envisions people empowered with science and knowledge for effective marine conservation and management. Hosting of students will contribute to this vision.  For more information about PICRC, visit or “Like” PICRC on Facebook.


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