Pablo De la Vega, a graduate biology student from the University of Guam and Guam NSF EPSCoR graduate research assistant, was one of the instructors for an educational program called Marine Island Ecology at the Yap Catholic High School from June 14 to July 7, 2023.
Organized by the Micronesian Conservation Coalition (MCC), the summer program allows participating high school seniors to gain fieldwork experience and learn about the marine life in Yap. MCC is a nonprofit organization that aims to conserve island habitats and species throughout Micronesia.
The program was split into different segments that focused on several areas of Yap’s island ecology. Students would discuss theory and lab protocols and then spend the next day in the field putting what they learned in the classroom to practice.
During his time in the program, De la Vega covered classes related to microbiology.
“They were all familiar with fermentation and familiar with different kinds of bacteria. In their culture, they consume tuba, which is made through fermentation and different kinds of yeasts and bacteria interacting with each other,” said De la Vega.
De la Vega said that the experience has deepened his appreciation for the environmental knowledge of indigenous cultures.
“Learning from everyone who participated in the course made me realize that the only way to promote change and protection of the environment is by learning from the cultures that have preserved it for millennia and empowering the next generation to lead the changes we need from a global perspective if we want to continue having an inhabitable planet,” said De la Vega.
De la Vega said that he is grateful to MCC for giving him an opportunity to explore Yap and connect with its people.
“I really want to thank Ms. Julie Hartup from MCC,” said De la Vega. “The programs that MCC have put together are a good example on how you can combine science with social impact.”