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Palau International Coral Reef Center-PICRC

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Palau International Coral Reef Center

25 February, 2015

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PICRC bids farewell to one of its visiting researcher

On February 22, visiting researcher Jessica Stella, who has been working with Palau International Coral Reef Center research team since September of 2014, returned back to Australia. Ms. Stella came to PICRC from the Marine Spatial Ecology Lab (www.marinespatialecologylab.org) at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Jessica first became passionate about the marine environment during a holiday to the US Virgin Islands where she tried scuba diving for the first time. She then moved to Bermuda and interned at the Bermuda Aquarium for 10 months, surveying coral reefs and seagrass meadows and rehabilitating injured sea turtles and sea birds. She then continued her studies, completing her Bachelor of Science with Honors degree in marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville. She is now completing her doctorate degree at the same university.

Her PhD research involved assessing the diversity of invertebrates that live symbiotically with corals and testing the impacts of climate change (such as coral bleaching) on the invertebrate species that require live, healthy corals to survive. Her research has found that over 860 species of invertebrates (mainly small crabs and shrimp) need healthy coral to survive and many of these invertebrates are also ecologically important to the corals they live on, protecting them from coral predators such as Crown-of-thorns sea stars. These same invertebrates may also be very important in the diets of commercially important coral reef fish. Her research has highlighted how important healthy coral reefs are for supporting the diversity of symbiotic invertebrates, and that when coral reef habitats are degraded; these important invertebrates start to disappear.

For the past 5 months, Jessica has been based at PICRC studying the abundance of invertebrates found on both healthy and degraded Palauan reefs (reefs near the sewerage outfall and reefs that have been impacted by typhoons) and the number of fish species that rely on these invertebrates for food, in order to understand how the degradation of coral reefs can potentially impact the fish species that rely on invertebrates for food. The data she has collected will be incorporated into a coral reef food web model that is being developed to predict changes in fisheries productivity in response to habitat degradation in the Indo-Pacific. Jessica has always dreamed of visiting the amazing corals reef in Palau and was very excited to be working with other PICRC researchers and expanding her invertebrate knowledge. Jessica is very enthusiastic about teaching and has been introducing coral reef invertebrates to school groups during tours at the Palau Aquarium. Although her time here is nearly over, she hopes to return to Palau shortly to continue studying the amazing invertebrate species of Palau’s spectacular reefs.

 

 

24 February, 2015

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PICRC hires new fisheries researcher

On January 12, 2015, Dr. Steve Lindfield joined Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) as fisheries researcher. Dr. Lindfield grew up commercial fishing with his father on the Central Coast of NSW Australia and started diving at the age of 12. He completed his Bachelor of Science with first class Honours at the University of Newcastle. Then he was selected as the 2008 Australasian Rolex Scholar for the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, which allowed him to travel the world for a year SCUBA diving and learning about pressing marine conservation issues.

Dr. Lindfield started studying Micronesian coral reefs and fisheries in 2010 when he started his PhD. Although he completed his doctoral studies through the University of Western Australia, he was based in Guam for 2 years where he completed his fieldwork for his thesis “Depth refuge and the impacts of fishing on coral reef fish communities”. He focused his research in the Mariana Islands and Yap’s outer islands, but he has travelled most Micronesian Islands and spent 2 months in Palau last year.

Dr. Lindfield is a specialist in the use of stereo-video techniques for counting and measuring fish and has been working with Dr. Jeremy Prince on new data-poor stock assessment techniques for coral reef fisheries. Dr. Lindfield will focus on fisheries research, particularly the research and monitoring to support the Northern Reef Fisheries Initiative.

Dr. Lindfield, along with other PICRC researchers are currently conducting diving surveys of the Northern Reefs of Palau to provide data on the size structure and abundance of fishery targeted species. The surveys will provide very accurate and precise data that will be used to assess changes in fish sizes and density as the management is being implemented in the Northern Reefs.

 

 

22 February, 2015

 

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20 February, 2015

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PICRC begins the process of developing a fundraising program

As part of its commitment to Palau and global reef protection, the Palau International Coral Reef Center must continually raise funds to help support its operations and programs.  While the national government provides 33% of PICRC’s annual operating budget, the balance of funding is generated directly by PICRC in order to meet their budget needs.  To reach that goal, PICRC is developing a new and strategic fundraising program that once implemented, will increase their revenue streams and move them toward financial independence.

To help in their fundraising efforts, PICRC applied for a Coda Fellow from The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Ms. Beth Hayden, Deputy Director of Philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota was selected as the Fellow and is now in Palau working with the PICRC team.  In Minnesota she helps direct a nine-person team responsible for $5M in annual fundraising.  Following her time in Palau she will continue her work for PICRC from Minnesota through the end of the year.

According to Ms. Hayden, “The work PICRC is doing is truly exceptional, not only for reef-related work around the world but also as a testament to the remarkable marine environments of Palau. Every person should visit the Aquarium to really understand the rich life of Palau’s surrounding reefs, and all people of Palau should be extremely proud of PICRC and its many contributions to science and coral reef protection.”

The goal of the fellowship is to develop a fundraising plan to move PICRC forward to the next level of organizational development – having a fundraising program. Initial steps included an analysis of systems, capacity, markets, existing programs and opportunities.  Next, the Center will determine key actions and priorities to help reach those goals. This includes recommendations for staffing, systems, outreach, materials and implementation.

“To date, we have been conducting fundraising in an ad hoc manner, responding more to opportunities, rather than making opportunities happen. We hope that with Beth’s assistance, we will develop a strong and active fundraising program that will help the Center move forward in its journey toward financial sustainability”, stated Dr. Yimnang Golbuu, CEO of PICRC.