Bureau of Maritime Security and Fish and Wildlife Protection and PICRC conducts joint enforcement surveillance and eDNA Research in the PNMS

(L-R): PICRC Research Assistant McQuinnley Mesengei, Researcher Ikelau Otto, COS Staff Scientist Dr. Collin Closek, Dr. Natalie Arnoldi, PSS Remeliik II Captain Allison Baiei, PICRC Research/Science Officer Dr.Louw Claassens.

The first joint surveillance and research expedition to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is underway with the Bureau of Maritime Security and Fish & Wildlife Protection, Palau International Coral Reef Center and Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions (COS). The expedition will run from August 9 to August 13 and will samples water in the PNMS for environmental DNA (eDNA).

While it is difficult to conduct surveys of marine animals in the PNMS, eDNA offers an easier way to survey marine animals in the PNMS. Animals in the water shed their DNA into the water. By studying the waters containing the DNA, we can determine what animals are there living in the water. The eDNA project will allow faster, cheaper and more sensitive approaches for collecting biological baselines and measuring how shifts in biodiversity composition occur over time.

Dr. Louw Claassens of the Palau International Coral Reef Center and Dr. Collin John-Erik Closek of COS, and Captain Allison Baiei of PSS Remeliik II will lead the joint surveillance and research expedition.

Very few research activities have been conducted within the Sanctuary, mainly because of the high costs associated with it. However, since its establishment in 2020, new collaborations and management opportunities have enabled innovative research strategies for work to be conducted in this large area. This project is one of a few that are coming up that will help strengthen Palau’s science program and provide key recommendations to policy makers for improving management of the Sanctuary. The aim of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is to strengthen national food security and ensure that this large scale marine protected area benefits Palauans moving forward.