Participants during the launching of the Citizen Science Project on June 6 at the Ngardok Nature Reserve. (Contributed Photo)

Citizen Science for Environmental Protection is an organization that provides tools for the public to observe, photograph, and document local species that would not otherwise be recorded.

The purpose of the project in Palau is to engage local citizens through the use of the iNaturalist app on a smart phone in the identification of local species in specific places in Palau with the intention of preserving all species. This is the first time to utilize a Citizen Science Project through the iNaturalist app as a social network in Palau, and explore various plants and wildlife in the Ngardok Nature Reserve in Melekeok, Palau.

The Kick-off event was organized by Omar Faustino, Program Manager of Melekeok Conservation Network, Dr. Hiromi Kobori, Distinguished Professor at Tokyo City University, and Dr. Theresa Lally, Program Director of the SDSU/PCC BA Program. The event was held on June 6th at the Ngardok Nature Reserve.

There were over 70 participants consisting of residents from the local Melekeok community, high school students, a researcher from the Belau National Museum, professors and students from New York State University, JICA Palau Office staff, PVA, Airai PAN, Hatohobei PAN, PANO and PANF, partner agencies and sponsors of the Reserve. The activities started at 9:30 am with welcome remarks by Mr. Jefferson Thomas, Chairman of the Ngardok Nature Reserve, followed by special remarks from Honorable Henaro Polloi, the Governor of Melekeok State.

Professor Hiromi Kobori (Tokyo City University) gave a lecture about the project, followed by information on how to register iNaturalist by Mr. Omar Faustino.

At 11:00 am, participants were divided in to seven groups. For 1.5 hours the groups took photos of plants and wildlife in the Reserve using their smart phones with the iNaturalist app. It was a fun competition to see what group recorded the most observations and species. After lunch, participants shared the results and information. The website of the Reserve remained open until 7:00 pm on June 7th as many participants could not upload the photos under the canopy of tropical rainforest and PNCC cell service was inadequate. By the end of the event recorded 90 observations, 24species, and 11 observers.

The iNaturalist app is now open to everyone to download on their cell phone. When you visit the Ngardok Nature Reserve, feel free to upload your observations in the iNaturalist app. Under project name “Lukel a Klengar er a Ngardok, Melekeok” This is a great way for locals and visitors alike to observe and record Palau’s diverse ecosystem.

Thanks so much to all the dignitaries and participants for making this event a success. Feel free to contact Omar Faustino at 654-2019 if you have any questions about the iNaturalist app.

Omar Faustino, Program Manager of Melekeok Conservation Network, Dr. Hiromi Kobori, Distinguished Professor, Tokyo City University Dr. Theresa Lally, SDSU/PCC BA Program Director. (PR)