COVID-19 has brought about many challenges for businesses and individuals all over the world. After taking precautionary measures and closing its doors to the general public, the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) had to find creative ways to continue its outreach efforts. The Arts and Tides Calendar is a community-based program that started 19 years ago with the purpose of raising environmental awareness through student artwork. Given the significance and value that the program has within the community, PICRC decided to continue the planning of the 2021 “Saving Our Oceans from Plastic Pollution” Arts and Tides Calendar, by taking advantage of online tools and resources.

“Saving Our Oceans from Plastic Pollution” is a theme that was not only chosen to raise awareness, but to also, call the youth into action to protect marine ecosystems from the detrimental effects that plastic is bringing to organisms in all levels of the food web. “It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. We hope that the 2021 Arts and Tides Calendar inspires students into becoming advocates to protect our oceans, while at the same time, helping us find creative solutions that would help mitigate this problem,” stated PICRC CEO, Yimnang Golbuu.

After receiving 343 entries, a panel of judges, composed by artists, environmentalists, and educators, was invited to judge the student’s artwork. The panel included long standing Arts and Tides judges and artists, Mrs. Carol Whalen and Mr. Ongerung Kambes Kesolei, and former Arts and Tides Calendar Overall Winner, Ms. Iesha K. Tulop, who participated as a judge for the first time. Likewise, Acting Director at National Archives, Mr. Yalap P. Yalap and Ms. Heather Ketebengang, from Palau Conservation Society, took part in the panel by giving their unique perspectives with their education and environmental backgrounds. The judging was based on four main criteria: the incorporation of the theme, artistic elements, effort and originality.

Given the current pandemic, PICRC’s outreach team took advantage of online tools, which helped carry out a smooth judging. “This was a new experience for everyone,” stated Aquarium Director Ms. Ilebrang Olkeriil, “Despite the challenges, we were able to identify the winners, whom will be recognized in the weeks to come. We would like to extend our gratitude to our panel of judges for their time, patience and willingness to be part of this first-ever Arts and Tides Calendar online judging,” she added.