August 19, 2003 - NGO News: Wayne Kiefer, an ex-Peace Corps environmental teacher, was recruited from the Solomon Islands to lead the classes at Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Papua New Guinea: Peace Corps Papua New Guinea : The Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea: August 19, 2003 - NGO News: Wayne Kiefer, an ex-Peace Corps environmental teacher, was recruited from the Solomon Islands to lead the classes at Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, August 19, 2003 - 10:57 am: Edit Post

Wayne Kiefer, an ex-Peace Corps environmental teacher, was recruited from the Solomon Islands to lead the classes at Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

Wayne Kiefer, an ex-Peace Corps environmental teacher, was recruited from the Solomon Islands to lead the classes at Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

The Nature Conservancy at Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

Shannon Seeto Reports on the
Mahonia Na Dari Research and Conservation Center

The Nature Conservancy's program in the Asia/Pacific region began in 1990 with the headquarters in Honolulu supplying support to field representatives in Indonesia, Micronesia, the South Pacific and Greater China. Kimbe Bay at West New Britain, Papua New Guinea is part of the South Pacific program.

Living at Kimbe Bay where extinct volcano cones covered with lush rainforest meet a sea filled with one of the world's richest coral reefs, Shannon Seeto laments, "it's the Monsoon season here and the weather has been terrible, raining every day." The sentiment belies the love he has for his home. As a child growing up near Kimbe, he explored the surrounding islands using coconuts as floats. Today he works for the conservation of his home reef, a habitat with over 320 coral species and more than 860 reef fish, at the Mahonia Na Dari ("Guardians of the Sea") Conservation and Research Center. The Center was developed as a collaborative effort, with The Nature Conservancy providing major funding and coordination of a variety of local and international conservation partners. The following report, prepared by Reefnet from conversations with Shannon Seeto, describes some of the promising projects of the new Center.

Shannon Seeto, the son of second-generation immigrants from China, was born in East New Britain but grew up in West New Britain near Kimbe Bay. "Most of my primary education was here in Kimbe but I did much of my senior education in Sydney, Australia." Before he was recruited by The Nature Conservancy, he worked for the owners of the Walindi Plantation Resort, a well-known destination for divers and photographers in Kimbe. "I started work as a dive guide on the MV Febrina, Walindi's liveaboard dive ship. While at Walindi I worked as the maintenance manager, and also did my dive courses. I now have a dive master qualification. I started working for Walindi in mid-1993 until the end of 1996 when I was employed by the Nature Conservancy to help construct the Research and Conservation Center."

Seeto has been involved in numerous projects since he started work at the Research and Conservation Center. Among the first of these was the installation of over 21 mooring buoys at Kimbe Bay with the objective of reducing damage to reef habitats caused by boat anchors. Seeto points out that "the decision to install the Halas environmental moorings came from the dive operators at the Walindi Plantation Resort who obtained permission from local owners. The Halas mooring equipment was donated by the Nature Conservancy to the Papua New Guinea Diving Association. Any dive operator associated with the PNG Diving association is eligible to use the equipment. Part of my job is to train local dive operators within Papua New Guinea to use the equipment." The installation of these environmentally-aware moorings involves embedding a stainless steel pin into a core of hydraulic concrete that has been drilled into the substrate of the reef. "It took us two weeks to install 21 moorings around Kimbe Bay. The installation of moorings is quite an easy process. The difficulties were with weather conditions and rough seas that made it difficult to stay in position. Also, the type of surface you need for drilling created problems. Finding a good hard surface is the most important aspect of installing the moorings."

Conservation education is a key objective of the center and, to this end, a pilot program has been established to teach the next generation of West New Britain about the natural resources of their home. The initial program involves 15 students selected from the Hoskins Secondary High School. The marine ecology classes take place every second Saturday for 8 hours each month over a 8 month period. Wayne Kiefer, an ex-Peace Corps environmental teacher, was recruited from the Solomon Islands to lead the classes. Seeto explains that "we try to spend just a little time in the class room and do most of the work out in the field. You have to understand that some of these kids are from different parts of PNG and some have never seen or been in the marine environment. So to try and explain how a marine ecosystem works is nearly impossible, or by going out to a community, which mostly speaks Pidgin makes it difficult. How can you explain what a coral polyp is? There is no such word in Pidgin to describe it, so we try and spend time out on the water where we show them first hand and then they can get a clearer picture of what we are trying to say. There they can see how fragile the reef really is, and how conservation can play a major role."

The participants are taught basic swimming and snorkeling skills as a prerequisite to the marine ecology classes. Also, in an effort to spread the conservation perspective learned in the classes, the young people are given air time of the island radio station and are encouraged "to talk about some of the threats in the bay, interview each other about any topic concerning environmental issues, discuss what they have learned here at the Mahonia Na Dari, and talk about anything really concerning the environment and conservation."

Another goal of the Nature Conservancy is that Mahonia Na Dari serve as a facility for visiting researchers and Seeto explains that the center actively seeks "researchers from various universities who are interested in using the facility. The research center is NOT a big facility like other research stations around the world. Basically, it is a base where researchers interested in doing research in this part of the world can work. It is equipped with basic equipment. There are two buildings which can house up to 10 researchers. The accommodations are all self-contained. Two research vessels (21 ft. and 22 ft.) are also available. The Research station has a microscope room, library, wet/dry lab, store room, and research vehicle."

In keeping with the philosophy of the Conservancy, the researchers that use the facility are encouraged to give some of their time to talk to the local community and school students that visit the Center. "They talk about the research that they are doing here and also the importance of conservation. A proposal of research intent must be submitted to me and I, in turn, present the proposal to the research committee for approval. The use of the facility and equipment is 40 US$ per day/per person."

Some of the researchers that have used the facility and the topics of their research are listed below:

Dr. Geoff P. Jones, Dr. M.I. McCormick, Dr. M.J. Caley, Dr. U.L. Kaly
Department of Marine Biology
James Cook University
Townsville, Queensland Australia

This group looked at key processes in the organization of the high diversity community of coral reef fishes in Kimbe Bay, whether habitats and resources are more finely partitioned among species in more diverse tropical communities, and whether the absence on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) of certain species that are numerically dominant in PNG are likely to be due to the lack of suitable habitat, and if there was any evidence of ecological displacement of species as additional species are accommodated into more diverse communities.

Carden Wallace and Jackie Wolstenholmes
Tropical Museum
Queensland, Australia

These researchers used the facility to study the biodiversity and biogeography of the coral genus Acropora. Their aim was to look at the species composition of Acropora, determine whether new and possibly endemic species occur in the bay, and to retain a collection of specimens for comparison with specimens from Indonesia and other sites world wide.

Dr. Thomas Pichler
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Pichler studied underwater thermal activities in the Talasea area of Kimbe Bay

Scientists from James Cook University are returning this year to continue their research. Also, a group from the University of Georgia will be arriving in September.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: NGO News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - PNG; Conservation; Coral Reefs



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.