Ulithi Atoll Community Conservation Program

Support community-based efforts to conserve coral reefs and sea turtles in remote Micronesia.

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Overview

Located approximately 100 miles northeast of Yap State, and 300 miles south of Guam, Ulithi Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia has 200 miles of pristine reef. Ulithi's lagoon is the fourth largest in the world, and is surrounded by 36 tropical islands, four of which are inhabited. Situated near to the Yap trench, Ulithi receives deep-sea nutrient upwellings that support an astonishing array of marine life. Rare corals, sponges, colorful tropical fish and reef invertebrates exist in profusion.

Volunteers will join scientists from the Oceanic Society supported One People One Reef Project and Ulithi Marine Turtle Project to assist with these unique programs that combine traditional management practices with modern science. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with community members and learn about their work, as well as to accompany scientists to study sites to collect data on coral reefs and sea turtles. As a volunteer on this program, you will be trained in data collection methods, and will learn how research findings are translated into management action guidelines. Coral reef data will be collected via snorkeling, and sea turtle data will be collected through nighttime and early morning beach patrols. Don't miss this unique opportunity to support community conservation in one of the most pristine and beautiful marine environments on Earth.

In 2011, the community of Falalop in Ulithi Atoll declared their intention to establish a locally-managed marine area, and requested assistance from Oceanic Society to develop scientific recommendations for management. Since then, our senior conservation scientists Nicole Crane and Michelle Paddack have led yearly expeditions to collect coral reef and fish data needed to inform the community's conservation efforts. Since 2004 we have been working with the community of Falalop on Ulithi Atoll to study nesting green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) throughout the islands. Research has shown that Ulithi Atoll is home to one of the largest populations of nesting sea turtles in Micronesia, with approximately 1,000 turtles nesting annually.

A researcher collects coral reef data in Ulithi Atoll. © Nicole CraneThis coral reef monitoring program is being implemented at the invitation of Ulithi community chiefs who wish to have a better understanding of their sub-tidal natural resources in order to inform sustainable marine management. Under the direction of our senior conservation scientist Nicole Crane, volunteers will collect data on key fishes and invertebrates to develop a subtidal community structure database as part of a sustainable management strategy.

Our program begins in Yap with a couple days of training in the field before we travel to the research site. After our briefing, we enjoy several snorkeling excursions in Yap to test our equipment and begin learning to identify specific fish and coral species. We also take the opportunity to observe manta rays, for which Yap is globally renowned. From Yap we fly to the remote coral atoll of Ulithi, home to nesting green sea turtles, coconut crabs, and seabirds such as frigates and boobies. There we will stay at the comfortable Ulithi Adventure Resort on Falalop Island. From here we make daily snorkeling excursions by boat to conduct research at a variety of study sites

Volunteers assist with sea turtle nest monitoring. © Wayne Sentman

In this hands-on volunteer program, you will accompany researchers to patrol the beaches at night and in the early morning to assess sea turtle nesting activity. Specific tasks include collecting biological data, measuring turtle length and width, checking flippers for external tags, as well as helping with recovery efforts such as rescuing hatchlings stuck in collapsed nests.

Working alongside community members will allow ample time to learn about traditional values and how modernization impacts wildlife conservation in Ulithi and throughout Micronesia. This unique field experience allows full immersion into a community-managed conservation effort that your participation will supportFor the first few days in Ulithi, we will stay at the comfortable Ulithi Adventure Resort on Falalop Island to enjoy snorkeling, island exploration, and to undergo training in sea turtle data collection. We will then spend 2-3 nights in the rugged tented camp on Loosiep Island, during which we will conduct nightly sea turtle monitoring activities.

Trip Dates & Cost

2015: June 16–28. $3,850 per person.*

2016: Dates to be announced. Contact us to inquire.

* Single supplement $650. Trip prices do not include international airfare.

Photos
Naturalist

Nicole Crane is a senior conservation scientist with Oceanic Society and a faculty member in the Department of Biology at Cabrillo College. Nicole is co-director of our reef monitoring programs, and project leader for the Ulithi Marine Conservation Project. Nicole has 20+ years of experience developing and implementing reef monitoring programs and working with communities to address marine management and conservation issues. Nicole has worked with Oceanic Society since 1988.

Michelle Paddack is a senior conservation scientist with Oceanic Society and assistant professor at Santa Barbara City College. She is a passionate marine researcher and educator whose goal is to provide tangible inputs toward sustainable management and conservation of marine ecosystems. Michelle holds a Ph.D. from the University of Miami and has worked with Oceanic Society since 1998. She is co-director of our reef monitoring programs, and co-investigator of the Ulithi Marine Conservation Project.

Jon Rulmal Jr. is a native of Ulithi Atoll who holds a bachelor of business administration from Hawai'i Pacific University. He has studied and worked in the tourism industry for many years, and is manager of Ulithi Adventure Lodge on Falalop Island. Jon is also project supervisor of the Ulithi Marine Turtle Project, and is actively involved in advancing community-driven marine resource conservation in Ulithi Atoll.

Itinerary

Accommodations

Ulithi Adventure Lodge.

Participants will stay at Ulithi Adventure Lodge on Falalop Island. The lodge has 10 comfortable guest rooms, six facing the ocean and four with garden views, each with a private bath and air conditioning. Our accommodations provide a comfortable place to relax after each day's research activities have concluded.

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