Melanesia, which includes the island of New Guinea and several archipelagos in the South Pacific, harbors one of the greatest region of intact lowland rainforest on earth. Unfortunately, commercial logging and clear-cutting is threatening this region. For instance, between 1990-2005, over 20% of the rainforest in the Solomon Islands have been lost to logging. With such imminent danger, we are building on our research goals in the Solomon Islands as platforms for educational and conservation programs.

Various organizations like Conservation International and World Wildlife Fund have initiated programs to conserve important islands or regions throughout the archipelago. To complement these large scale projects and approaches, we have initiated grass-roots programs in the Makira Province. Our approach is four-fold.


First, we involve local, young community members in our research. This provides hands-on training, such as mist netting and diversity survey techniques, to local land stewards (see picture below).

George looks on, as Al trains his local collaborators on banding and taking morphological measurements.


Second, we give presentations to local schools and to local elders (see picture below). These presentations provide key information that forms the basis of successful long-term conservation initiatives. For instance, our work indicates that several island chains harbor unique endemic and newly-formed bird species, and we use this information to help local landowners realize that their flora and fauna are unique. We also provide them with a more global perspective, explicitly communicating the value of their resources to a global economy and the impacts of global warming to islands.

Pawa Presentation
Al giving a presentation on sceince and conservation to high school students in Pawa Secondary School, Ugi Island.


Third, with support from the National Science Foundation and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami, we have developed a field course that brings students from the United States to the Solomon Islands. This course will expose students to basic ecological and evolutionary theory, as well as explicit training in field research techniques and development of outreach programs. This course provides substantial revenue to local communities. Further, we have plans to expand this course to include students from the Solomon Islands National University, thereby training future leaders of the Solomon Islands.

UM student, Chrsitne DeSilva, learns how to identify and mount butterflies during a Study Abroad course held at the Nafinua Resaerch Station in Makira, Solomon Islands (Summer 2013).


UM student, Gilbert Serein, presents the results of his independent project to the class during a Study Abroad course held at the Nafinua Resaerch Station in Makira, Solomon Islands (Summer 2015).



Finally, as a direct avenue to empower indigenous communities, we are helping our local partners develop alternative and more ecologically-friendly ways of earning money. For instance, in Makira Province where clear-cut logging is a major threat, we have partnered with a local community to develop an ecolodge and research station that will provide income to the village, while allowing them to conserve their valuable natural resources and keep their rainforests intact (see pictures below). In 2012, we helped build the Nafinua Research Station and Ecolodge in partnership with the Manutage Community. The research station hosts UM students every year for a three-week field course sponsored by Study Abroad, and we are in the process of helping the community expand their operations to inculde ecotourists and surfers. The Star Harbour region of Makira, where the station is located, is home of famous surf breaks, beautiful reefs and endemic fauna. It could therefore become a sustainable eco-tourist destination, and make local communities more resilient to the impending threats of climate change.


The proud owners of the Nafinua Research Station welcome the first guests on their island -- UM's 2013 Study Abroad group. The lodge and research station was built and is ran in partnership with the Uy lab and University of Miami.

Accommodations at the Frigatebird Lodge and Nafinua Research Station.



A quiet evening at the Nafinua Research Station.


In general, we hope that these grass-roots approaches will provide a partial but long-term solution to the threats of unsustainable practices and anticipated rise in sea levels driven by global warming.