Yap Marine Island Ecology Course

Marine Island Ecology Course (MIEC) Class of 2023 on the Campus of Yap Catholic High School, Yap, FSM.

Yap Marine Island Ecology Course

Above: Marine Island Ecology Course (MIEC) class of 2023 on the campus of Yap Catholic High School, Yap, FSM. Credit: Micronesian Conservation Coalition.

The annual Yap Marine Island Ecology Course (MIEC) established by the Micronesian Conservation Coalition (MCC) was completed earlier this month in Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). MCC finally returned in person to Yap Island after three years of teaching the course virtually due to borders being closed for COVID-19. In collaboration with Yap Catholic High School (YCH), 23 senior students and three alumni students, assisting YCH teachers, MCC instructors, and Yap Divers staff participated in this intensive 4-week course that mixed classroom, labs, and field trips. The course introduced students to marine and terrestrial sciences that affect their island and surrounding waters.

Student identifying Mangroves, German Channel

Identifying Mangroves, German Channel. Credit: Micronesian Conservation Coalition.

MIEC integrates different island habitats with marine animal classification by understanding similarities and differences within each phylum. Classroom lectures prepared students for field days, while games, assignments, and tasks on field days correlated to what students learn in the classroom. Ten boat days allowed students to explore their waters while circumnavigating the island. Seven students were able to see dolphins for the first time, with two more students being only their second time seeing them. Students snorkeled through mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs while collecting environmental data: wind, temperature, depth, and salinity. This helped students see why animals have certain body functions and structures for specific habitats.

snorkeling over the coral reef at Slow n' Easy Dive Site, Tamil Harbor

Snorkeling over the coral reef at Slow n’ Easy Dive Site, Tamil Harbor. Credit: Micronesian Conservation Coalition.

Students visited projects from Yap Fishing Authority and Yap Marine Resources, such as clam farms and sea cucumber nurseries. They toured the NOAA Yap Weather Service, where staff demonstrated how atmospheric conditions are collected by deploying a weather balloon. From plankton tows, mark and recapture field trips, trying to find microscopic animals and plants, to fish dissections, students drew, labelled, and documented everything in their notebooks.

As a final project, students were divided into six groups and given GoPro cameras to document their course experiences by creating a short video to express, “What does marine life mean to you?” Videos were presented to teachers, students, and family members at the final MIEC pizza and ice cream sundae party. The students outdid themselves, and all expectations were exceeded.

MIEC truly is a sharing of knowledge. MCC instructors feel that they might even learn more from the MIEC experience than the students get from their formal lessons. The MCC team is looking forward to returning next year to Yap, their second home. PacIOOS was grateful for the opportunity to partner with MCC and to provide financial support for boats and captains. Kammagar! (Thank you!)

Student videos from the Yap Island Marine Ecology Course can be viewed on MCC’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MicronesianConservationCoalition

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PacIOOS is the first regional association that was certified as a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE) by the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Certification provides NOAA and its interagency partners a means to verify that a regional association’s organizational and operational practices, including data management, meet recognized and established standards set by NOAA.