Taxonomists, may they be morphologically or genetically driven, would not publish their findings before a serious analysis of their properties. Neither would a sociologist. Instead, I took the opportunity to capture the observations of some of young PNG students involved in the expedition. How do they experience the way scientists are working here? What do nature and modernity mean to them? What do they think about the ongoing negotiations of field access? After a long day of sieving and sorting, we sit together in the ‘garden’ next to the lab and discuss their itineraries, their impressions and ideas of the expedition. The students from the University of Papua New Guinea (6 from UPNG) and Divine New University (6 from DWU), who where selected within roundabout 40 applications come from different areas in PNG, some of them from the Highlands, other from Madang province, some from Bougainville Island and some from New Britain Island. They study Biology, Environmental Health, PNG-Studies and Communication Arts. And all of them are proud of being selected for the expedition.

Photo 1166, Credit:
From left to right: Dave Anan, Grace Nugi, Cornelia Kalimet, Copyright Tanja Bogusz

How do you experience the expedition and way scientists are working here?

"I am doing a major in marine biology and I thought the expedition might help me for my studies to participate. First, when I came here I thought I will do very high tech stuff, like DNA barcoding. But from the first day until now, I was only doing sieving, dredging and sorting in the lab. I think that's not what I expected. But I have a good experience, seeing new things. It is interesting to see all these organisms with my eyes rather than from the text books or from lectures."

Dave Anan, UPNG

Photo SAM 1175, Credit
Thelma Hungito, Copyright Tanja Bogusz

"I am majoring in biology and I am especially interested in fish and corals thus would like to further my studies in this area. Being part of this expedition is a great opportunity for me as I have learned a lot of new stuffs. Being exposed to all these scientists from all over the world and to interact with them has been a great experience, just getting to know them and what they do is quite interesting. During this expedition, I learned the skills of sieving and fractioning, and sorting of coarse fractions and fine fractions under the microscope for tiny crustaceans and mollusks But apart from that, sometimes I was given the opportunity to go out with the scientists to the field, thus observe and participate in what they do. It is very interesting and as a student, I see this as a great exposure for us, young enthusiastic students to be motivated in our education to drive and strive for the best. On the other hand, I am also having fun and actually enjoying being part of this expedition. Above all, I am doing this for my dad. He passed away in 2010. He was always the one supporting and encouraging me to study science."

Cornelia Kalimet, UPNG

"I think most of us are really enjoying talking to the experts, to get to know how your reality of work is, since we are living in a country where we cannot be able to be exposed to such big things. So it is a pleasure for us to experience this to such an extend. It comes once in a life to have the opportunity being part of such an expedition. I am grateful for this."

Ken Ganzik, UPNG

Photo SAM_1214, Credit:
Ken Ganzik Copyright Tanja Bogusz

"What I do in the lab has nothing to do with my courses, but I can add what I learn here to my knowledge. Every day I am in the lab and I feel quite excited. For me it is interesting, it is good getting to know everybody in the lab, having fun with them."

Elaine Aquila, DWU

"It's exciting to know that most of the new species that go to the scientists come through us first, because we do the sieving and the sorting and then we get to see them first. On top of that, this expedition gave us the exposure to such an international level of work with scientists and to learn from their work ethics."

Grace Nugi, UPNG

"My expectations where high. I was thinking about how best can I performing my responsibility the expedition team and the people, the resource owners. I was assigned to support the communication and also writing articles to be published in the local media, organizing the landowners and the schools visiting the lab. On all these levels I have encountered challenges, especially when it comes to the media. Many people will ask you a lot of questions. You have to deal with them in a way that they are satisfied and also the team is satisfied. But these challenges will help me to move forward in my future interests."

Reuben Tabel, DWU

"Once we where out in the fresh water in Rempi. There was a very interesting field site for the researchers. When they went in they found it very interesting and they couldn't come out. We had to wait hours there and it was going up to six. So what I found was, if there is any interesting thing, these scientists here they forget over time. And even the sun. They think they will keep the sun still up there [general laughter]."

Thomas Warren, DWU

What do nature and biological research mean to you?

"I got excited when Professor Bouchet gave his presentation at SVD Memorial Auditorium-DWU half a year ago about the new species and very tiny things on the power point slides. I was inspired by this also as what I study [Environmental Health] has like not to do with really specific biology, but from the knowledge of biology and science I can do impact studies."

Elaine Aquila, DWU

Photo: 1172, Credit:
Elaine Aquila, Copyright: Tanja Bogusz

"I am not directly interested in science. But since my high school period I have been an active member of NGO's. I have learned a lot on the harm the mining companies have brought to our country and the environment. Especially in the Madang Lagoon area where we are currently carrying out the research, people don't have land anymore. Their land has been taken over by big foreign companies. The only resource they are depending on now is the sea. So that's why they are trying to protect their sea at its best. But I think the expedition will benefit us, especially the Madang people a lot, especially in terms of conservation of our environment."

Reuben Tabel, DWU

Photo: SAM 1171,
Reuben Tabel, Copyright: Tanja Bogusz

"Participating in this expedition as a Papua New Guinean student is very exciting for me as it is raw exposure to biological field work at an international level which I know will be good for me in the long run as an aspiring biologist. It would be very cool to be able to one day say that I was there when this new species was discovered in my country. Since there have been so much changes with environmental conditions here and population growth, I am also quite interested to see whether or not findings from this expedition in Madang will reveal the high level of species richness that everyone seems to be expecting. As Papua New Guineans, we are very connected with our natural resources and I believe this study will be beneficial to our resource owners in this part of the country."

Clementine Sesega, UPNG

"I have been doing biodiversity work in the past in term of conservation and sustainable development. In the NGO's I am supporting we do work like this. But this one is on a level that I think it would put PNG on the map through the involvement of scientists from many different countries. There are also a lot of major developments in the province. I hope that the results this expedition will produce will also help me to make better decisions within my political aspirations. Being involved in the expedition is a very great opportunity and a privilege, too."

Thomas Warren, DWU

What do you think about the ongoing negotiations of field access?

"Once, we where in Kananam with two members of the expedition. I went there with Jeff and Rudo for dredging for three days. On the third day of our dredging trip, locals came and made complaints for the access fee. The payment was payed through the counselor. But the people in the village said that the counselor doesn't own the resource. It is the individual owners resource. There was a misunderstanding or misinterpretaion of going into the communities. The message didn't go to the very people who own the resources. So the owners didn't want us to take samples. This was a challenge. Since I was there, I communicated between the landowners and Jeff and Rudo, coming to a solution to throw back the samples into the sea to a compromise. So there was maybe a lack of communication between the expedition and the landowners."

MacLay Lamang, DWU

Photo: SAM 1207, Credit:
MacLay Lamang, Copyright Tanja Bogusz

"If you go out to see the places and the districts we have gone through, most of us are still living the way we were before modernization came in. We still have our traditional ways and beliefs. As a Papua New Guinean, I won't blame our government, but we don't get a lot of services. Most people live for the day, as in surviving for the day. Furthermore, illiteracy and lack of education is an obstacle for development in our country. In regards to the expedition, some see it as like 'yes, this is about research and conservation, but how will it benefit us directly? You are interested to come in, to know what's in our waters and you will get your knowledge on that, but how is it gonna come back to us? You will write books on that, but what difference will it make for our kids? Would my kid still have to walk several miles to go to school, they way I did?' It all comes back to that and probably some of the locals have these questions, wanting a win-win situation. I think they understand that this is all about conservation, but at the end of the day, for them, it's about surviving."

Grace Nugi, UPNG

"Things will not work out well if we do not take a very careful approach. If we do not handle the expedition properly we might end up encountering problems like landowner issues and create problems amongst the communities. 25 years ago, there was no RD Tuna, there was no mining, and there were no big companies. It was during that time Christensen Foundation was conducting its business of research . Today things have changed, people have changed. People think that we are just another company that wants to make a lot of money. Also they do not understand that biodiversity research is not the same as diving for fun. So this is a new thing. But we continue to maintain our position that we support this research because we believe in knowing what is in our marine. By all means we will do our part to continue to educate our people so that in the future, if we are having such research we can get a good support from our communities. But I am also very worried that it might affect the future research if we continue to encounter landowner problems."

Thomas Warren, DWU

Photo: SAM 1206, Credit:
Thomas Warren, Copyright Tanja Bogusz

"Although I think we haven’t experienced any major setbacks so far, it is very disappointing to hear about all the demands by the resource owners. However, at the end of the day I think it comes down to the fact that awareness to the villagers was not successful. It is obvious that they still don’t understand that the expedition is purely academic and not for profit. In terms of the demands, adding on to what Grace called a win-win situation in the context of the resource owners. In exchange for access to their waters, what they want is like a bit of money for here and now and that is understandable but the way some people are going about it is at times unreasonable and embarrassing."

Clementine Sesega, UPNG

Photo: SAM 1213, Credit:
Clementine Sesega, Copyright Tanja Bogusz

"The expedition has done their part, thinking that everything will run smoothly. For us Papua New Guineans who live in a site that is culturally so diverse, for instance, in Madang we have more than 264 languages it is very hart to communicate. And because of the illiteracy, many people are not educated and do not understand what we are doing here. It would have been good to involve more local people in the preparation of the expedition because people are hostile towards foreigners, may they only come from another province. We try our best to make the people understand what the expedition is on, explain it in our way that the people can understand."

Reuben Tabel, DWU

Dave Anan, Elaine Aquito, Cornelia Kalimet, Ken Ganzik, MacLay Lamang, Grace Nugi, Clementine Sesega, Reuben Tabel and Thomas Warr, with the participation of Thelma Hungito, recorded by Tanja Bogusz, 2.12.2012

Tanja Bogusz