One of our main goals is to give our countrymen and women the skills they need to conduct field research so they can conserve their own biodiversity and design conservation programs that work culturally in PNG. It is something we passionately believe is crucially needed; we are striving to fill this training gap.
The lack of scientific literature and knowledge about PNGs biodiversity and ecology is largely due to a lack of professional and analytical skills and human resources in the biological sciences and research field. This calls for urgent efforts in training PNG research and conservation biologists. We are addressing this issue in three ways with our training program:
Learning to extract a bird from a mist-net
- We mentor Honours students(a research degree between B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees) in collaboration with the University of Papua New Guinea. We provide room and board at our Goroka training centre, research funding and Honours tuition, and one-on-one mentoring. Students are responsible for designing a field research project, carrying it out, writing up the results and presenting it orally at UPNG. They are also responsible for writing three essays related to their research topic with a full literature review and citations. We encourage visiting international scientists to work with our students and help in their mentoring. At our training center we have weekly journal article discussions with a different person choosing the paper and leading the discussion each week. We also have practice GRE (Graduate Record Examination) tests to help students brush up on their verbal and quantitative skills, and we help students apply for scholarships for Masters degrees at overseas universities. Please see below for highlights of our current and past Honours students.
- We conduct annual training courses for university students and biological professionals in collaboration with the University of Papua New Guinea, University of Goroka, and the PNG University of Technology. These courses teach biological project design, field techniques (e.g., live-trapping and animal handling, mist-netting for birds and bats, plant plot establishment and voucher collection, etc), statistics and data analysis, and project write-up and presentation.
- We train landowners to assist in research and bio-monitoring activities. We believe that by mobilizing community support through participation in planning, meetings, biological surveys and monitoring activities landowners will take ownership of conservation projects and that this will act as a strong incentive for conservation. This is crucial in PNG where over 97% of the land is controlled by citizen landowners; large government controlled parks are not an option.
Current PNGIBR Honours Students
Daniel Solomon, Honours Student and Intern Biologist
2008 B.Sc. in Forestry from PNG University of Technology; 2009 Student Intern with PNGIBR working on various research projects; 2010 recruited as Honours Student with PNGIBR.
Between September 2008 and September 2009, Daniel assisted Muse Opiang with the nest box study, and Paul Igag with mist-netting and bird surveys at the Mt. Gahavisuka Provincial Park. Daniel also assisted Muse with his Long-Beaked Echidna project in the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
He has developed a keen interest in mammals and has asked Muse Opiang to be his Honours advisor. His thesis topic will be to document the intensity of traditional use and anthropogenic threats to critically endangered Long-Beaked Echidnas (Zaglossus spp.) by local communities at several representative study sites within Papua New Guinea.
Bega Inaho, Honours Student and Intern Biologist
2008 B.Sc. in Biology from University of PNG; 2009 Student intern with PNGIBR working on various research projects; 2010 recruited as Honours Student with PNGIBR.
Between September 2008 and September 2009, Bega assisted Miriam Supuma with plant phenology work at Mt. Gahavisuka Provincial Park in the Eastern Highlands Province (documenting fruiting and flowering). He also assisted Paul Igag with mist-netting and surveying of birds in the Park. Bega’s research interest is in plant biology and his thesis topic will be on tree enumeration, diversity and population structure of the forest of Mt. Gahavisuka.
Past PNGIBR Honours Students
PNGIBR staff members have had the privilege of continuing to mentor and train six honors students who were adopted from the Wildlife Conservation Societys PNG Program when they stopped their capacity building program and we took it on. Four of these students have finished their degrees completely, one only needs to turn in her final thesis draft and one only needs to do a defense presentation.
Kenneth Yhuanje, Past Honours Student
2010 Masters Degree in Ecology, Evolution & Systematics and Graduate Certificate in Tropical Ecology and Conservation from University of Missouri St. Louis, USA. 2008 First Class Honours Degree from University of PNG. 2004 B.Sc. in Biology from University of PNG.
Kenneths Honors project was Sustainability of hunting in Sokamin, Sandaun Province and maximum sustainable percentage off-take of commonly hunted mammals in New Guinea. He assessed the sustainability of two commonly hunted mammals, the Echymipera bandicoot and the Ground Cuscus, using the Robinson & Redford Model to establish maximum sustainable hunting limit.
From this work important recommendations were established to be used to regulate current hunting practices. Two of these recommendations were for selective hunting of reproductively fecund species like bandicoots over less fecund species like Ground Cuscus and for establishing population refugia for safe breeding grounds for game animals. Kenneth rejoined PNGIBR with his Masters and is a co-founder of PNGIBR.
Junior Novera, Past Honours Student 2005
2010 Masters Degree from Lancaster University, UK. 2009 First Class Honours Degree from University of PNG. B.Sc. in Biology from University of PNG.
Juniors Honours project was Seasonality of Hunted Wildlife by the Mianmin people of Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea. He investigated the seasonality and subsistence hunting practices of the Sokamin people to learn who hunts what, when and where. The long term goal of this study is to design protocols that local people will agree to for the sustainable use of wildlife to reduce the negative effects of hunting. This is a collaborative and comprehensive study of a subject that impacts both the survival of many wildlife species in PNG and the survival and health of the majority of the PNG population that still depend on wildlife as their only dietary protein source. Junior rejoined PNGIBR with his Masters and is a co-founder of PNGIBR.
Diatpain Warakai, Past Honours Student
2010 Honours degree from University of PNG waiting for final grade. 2006 B.Sc. in Environmental Science from University of PNG.
Diatpains thesis topic was Tree cavities, tree cavity using wildlife, and experimenting with nest boxes in Papua New Guinea. The nest box project Diatpain took on as her Honors project was the first of its kind in the country and sought to learn which arboreal wildlife species in PNG use tree cavities for nesting. This study has important implications in PNG where logging is extensive and often unmonitored, and results in the loss of hollow trees. The loss of large hollow trees can be particularly detrimental to resident wildlife that depend on these cavities for breeding as well as refuge/shelter. Diatpain placed and monitored next boxes of various sizes in two forest types (secondary and primary forests) to see which species will use boxes and if they could be used to mitigate the loss of natural tree cavities. Diatpain successfully completed her Honours degree requirements in July 2009 and is awaiting her final grade. She is currently applying for scholarships to go on to a Masters degree.
Kore Tau Na’au, Past Honours Student
Kore Tau Na’au
2010 Honours degree from University of PNG waiting for final grade. 2004 B.Sc. in Biology from UPNG. Kore graduated from being an IBR student to a staff member in July 2010.
Kores Honours topic was Abundance, reproduction and roost site selection of the greater bare-backed bat Dobsonia moluccensis and the critically endangered Bulmers fruit bat Aproteles bulmerae in Papua New Guinea. Flying foxes are relatively large vertebrates living in conspicuous communal roosts and are particularly attractive as an easy source of protein to subsistence hunters. In some parts of PNG cave entrances are blocked by hunters and emerging bats are killed; this is a severe problem with entire populations being killed in a few days. Kore completed her Honors field work in mid 2006 spending a total of seven months in the rugged mountains of the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area (CMWMA). She counted bats in a total of 10 caves and sinkholes, mist-netted them for identification and reproductive information, and measured cave parameters to see if any of the parameters affect bat selection for roosting caves. Kores field data provides high-quality information on population estimates and reproductive frequency of montane flying foxes in PNG. She has collected valuable information on site parameters that will help conservationists identify which caves are most suitable for roosting bats of several species. She has also positively confirmed the occurrence of an extremely rare species of flying fox, Bulmer’s Fruit Bat (Aproteles bulmerae), until recently considered extinct, in a sinkhole in the CMWMA. Kore was awarded a scholarship for a Masters degree in the US in 2007, but instead decided to marry her long-time fiancée and start a family. Kore has now decided she is ready to go back to her studies and pursue a graduate degree and is applying for scholarships. Kore successfully completed her Honours degree requirements in Feb 2010 and is awaiting her final grade.
Samoa Asigau, Past Honours Student
Currently in Ecology, Evolution & Systematics Masters Program at the University of Missouri St. Louis, USA. All Honours requirements met except final thesis draft. 2005 B.Sc. in Environmental Science from UPNG.
Samoas Honors project Impacts of subsistence agriculture on hunting of small mammals and its implications for conservation in Sokamin, Sandaun Province, PNG studied the effect of habitat fragmentation through different garden regimes on the distribution of rodent populations. She investigated the abundance of rats and mice in different mosaics formed by new gardens, current gardens, abandoned gardens and adjacent forests. She also investigated whether other variables such as vegetation, hunting practices/technology and socio-economic factors such as age, wealth and education have an effect on rodent captures in garden habitats. This study is crucial in PNG in terms of addressing food security issues in remote areas and can be extended to other mammals whose populations are threatened by anthropogenic effects. Samoa left for her Masters degree work in the US with an East-West Center South Pacific Scholarship in August 2009. The only remaining requirement for her Honours is to turn in the final thesis draft which she will do shortly.
Aileen Sogolo, Past Honours Student
All Honours requirements met except defense presentation. 2006 B.Sc. in Biology from University of PNG.
Aileens Honours topic was Interactions between Hunters and Game Population in Sokamin, PNG; a Spatial Analysis Integrating GPS and GIS. Aileen conducted a spatial analysis of the geo-referenced wildlife dataset that Kenneth and Junior previously collected to see if the local people residing in the twelve hamlets of the study area have overlapping hunting grounds or not, and what this means for commonly hunted wildlife, as well as for local food security. GIS tools allowed Aileen to put her data into maps that can be easily understood and utilized by villagers as well as policy and decision makers in the country.
Aileen aspires to become skilled at using applied GIS in conservation science. Aileen has completed all requirements for her Honours degree except for giving her final defense presentation. She is applying for scholarships and is keen to continue working with PNGIBR as an Intern Biologist
after she has visited her family on Bougainville Island.