2015 Expedition Update

Hi, everyone – Sara here. I’m a former student of Nicole and Giacomo’s (now an incoming graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver), and I’ve been working in Ulithi with the OPOR team for four years now. This year, I had to leave a week earlier than the rest of the visiting team. Since I’m back before them, I wanted to give a quick update to let you know how everything’s going.

It’s rough out there after the typhoon, but we were pretty comfortable. We stayed at the Ulithi Adventure Resort (where we usually stay). A few of the rooms have air conditioning, but none of them have running water. The hose was turned on during certain periods each day so we could shower and fill up the water buckets for flushing the toilets. The islands have desalination machines for drinking water, so we were okay there, and we had plenty of food. Many of the doors had plastic sheeting over where the windows used to be to keep the mosquitos out.

The effects of the typhoon are staggering. The majority of the homes on the islands were at least damaged, if not completely destroyed, so our accommodations were pretty luxurious compared to the current living conditions of the people in the communities. One of the most obvious differences was the shade we had at the resort, which kept us out of the sun – the loss of trees on most of the islands is making it harder for Ulithians to avoid getting sunburned and is making the overall temperature on the islands much hotter than normal. Some of the vegetation is just now starting to come back, but the trees will take longer.

With cleanup continuing and rebuilding just beginning, Ulithi still needs a lot of support. If you haven’t already, please consider making a contribution through this fundraising page set up by one of this year’s Youth Outreach Plan students, Cole Charlton. The funds go directly to the Ulithi Falalop Community Action Fund, so the communities have complete control over how they are spent.

The youth team is doing a really fantastic job, and it was a lot of fun working with them. The Ulithian and American students teamed up to collect data for the science team, and are having a lot of fun in the process. They’ve also spent some time on land to help with community cleanups, gardening and replanting, and even spent a day making a batch of coconut oil. (Check out this awesome video of a song they wrote and performed for me on my last night in Ulithi!) Next year, OPOR will continue our partnership with BluEcology to offer the program again, and there is already a waiting list for interested students. Check out the BluEcology webpage for more information.

This week, the science team will finish their data collection and meet with the communities to share some preliminary results. We’ll post more from this year’s work, including hopefully some posts from the students themselves and some updates from the science team’s work, once the visiting teams have returned.

Preparing for departure

Time is flying, and the One People One Reef team is working hard to prepare for the science and Youth Action Plan teams’ visits to Ulithi. Countdown: Just under two weeks to go!

Here in California, the members of the Youth Action Plan team met last week to get to know each other and start discussing ideas for this summer. The team plans to work with local students in Ulithi to help them create an action plan for youth leadership. It’s the first trip of its kind (being led in conjunction with Bluecology), and we’re so excited to work with such an awesome group of participants! Take a few moments to meet them here.


Photo courtesy of David Decher

(Check out the t-shirts Sam and Rick are rocking! We’re bringing a bunch with us to Ulithi to share.)

Meanwhile, in Ulithi, everyone is super busy with recovery efforts from the devastation caused by Super-Typhoon Maysak, which hit Ulithi on March 31 and destroyed most of the buildings on the island. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but unfortunately, Ulithi has been in the path of a couple other storms since, which have delayed the cleanup’s progress and blew away some of the community’s limited supplies. Junior says that the 75-mph winds from recent Typhoon Dolphin was nothing compared to the 130-mph winds they endured during Maysak. Still, Ulithi is hoping for some calm weather soon.

Speaking of the typhoon, if you’re wondering how you can contribute to recovery efforts, please visit this GoFundMe page set up by Youth Action Plan team member Cole Charlton. You may have seen a number of other ways to donate online, and there are certainly a bunch of great organizations out there doing valuable work to support Ulithi communities — but most of those efforts are raising money to buy specific items which are then donated to fill immediate needs, rather than giving the funds straight to the communities. The funds raised by Cole’s efforts will go directly to the Ulithi Falalop Community Action Program (UFCAP), so the communities will have complete control over how to spend them. We hope that this way, the combined fundraising efforts from various sources will mean that all the needs of Ulithi communities are being met.

We’ll continue to post updates on our work this summer here, so stay tuned!


One People One Reef’s exciting summer 2015 plans

One People One Reef will be working in Yap and Ulithi June 8 through June 28. We have some exciting plans in the works, and we’re delighted to share them with you!

The science team will be continuing to work with communities in Ulithi. They will be meeting with the local science teams to review the data they’ve collected and help to interpret it, as well as collecting some data of their own through surveys, and meeting with the communities to share what they’ve found and answer any questions. If you haven’t already, take a few moments to get to know the members of the science team: Nicole Crane, Project Leader and Professor of Biology at Cabrillo College; Jon Jr. Rulmal, Local Project Manager and Community Liaison; Giacomo Bernardi, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Professor at the University of California Santa Cruz; Avigdor Abelson, Professor of Marine Biology in the Department of Zoology at Tel-Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel; Peter Nelson, fisheries biologist; and, Michelle Paddock, Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences at Santa Barbara City College, and Senior Conservation Scientist at the Oceanic Society. The One People One Reef team will also be joined by rockstar statistician, Kristin Precoda. And don’t forget to read about the local science team of Ulithi community members! The work these guys are doing is really incredible.

This year you have two chances to join the One People One Reef team. We are working with two fantastic organizations to support unique volunteer and community service opportunities in Ulithi. They are both wonderful opportunities to support our work, while contributing to the efforts of the community.

First, BluEcology is organizing a trip for high school and college students to work with the youth in Ulithi (June 8 – 20). This is an incredibly unique opportunity, and the first of its kind! The trip is being led by Sara Cannon, who has worked with the One People One Reef team for the past four years, with the support of Nicole Crane and Jon Jr. Rulmal. For more information and to sign up, check out the BluEcology website.

Also, the Oceanic Society has been leading volunteer vacations to the Ulithi Atoll for many years. Join them June 16 – 28, and you could work with the One People One Reef team to help them in their data collection efforts.

For more information, visit the Oceanic Society and BluEcology websites, or you can contact Nicole by sending an e-mail to

Thank you for your support, and we hope to see you in Ulithi this summer!