From your friends at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Environment Dr. Joel Miles was our friend, colleague, provider, and protector, and he will be sorely missed. We at MAFE were fortunate to have Dr. Miles work for the Ministry for many years, but we are even more fortunate to have been his partner for decades.
Dr. Miles was a tireless advocate for biodiversity and endemic species. He nurtured the nation’s invasive species programs, bringing together partners to form the National Invasive Species Committee (NISC) and contributing to the Regional Invasive Species Committee (RISC). He directly influenced Palau’s strong laws, policies, practices, awareness, and attitudes on biodiversity and invasive species.
He fought to keep dangerous macaques from spreading and causing environmental and human harm. We know more about preventing brown tree snakes, coqui frogs, water slider turtles, and tilapia because of him. Our eradication and control efforts for rats, ants, pigs, and invasive mammals were safer and more effective because of his input and participation.
He single-handedly raised our awareness about weeds and invasive plants. It is because of him that water hyacinth is gone and cogon grass and praxelis plants are limited. Our integrated pest management to reduce coconut rhinoceros beetles and kebeas cleanups all owe their legacies to him.
Most of the Ministry’s photos and publications about invasive species came from Dr. Miles. He produced dozens of educational documents, with some in Palauan, that he shared widely. Even after retiring, Dr. Miles volunteered to raise our awareness about invasive plants and their native alternatives.
Even with a PhD in weeds, he was known to run around the hills looking for tiny snails and shy birds too. To him, all creatures big and small were worth of our respect. All people were worthy of respect too, and Dr. Miles was known for his generosity of effort and gift of time.
Dr. Miles innately understood the connections between biodiversity and food security, and he modeled best practices for controlling pathogens, diseases, and erosion on his own farm. Dr. Miles was perhaps the happiest farmer in Palau – always smiling! He taught others how to farm and spread the word about agriculture as one of Palau’s most revered and dignified professions. He shared his harvests with visitors and friends.
Dr. Miles understood the threats of climate change decades ago, and pushed for change, both locally and at international conventions. With an email tagline urging us to “turn off our air conditioners,” Dr. Miles pushed us to take responsibility for our own contributions to global warming. Our ability now to “lead by example” rests on a foundation he helped build.
Dr. Miles, your contributions to Palau and to MAFE are too many to count. Rest assured knowing that we will continue your work to make sure that Palau develops sustainably. Your legacy will live on.
Rest in Peace, Toktang.