Micronesia: Ulithi Atoll

Youth Community Service and Reef Conservation Project

The Ulithi Program

Bluecology works closely with One People One Reef onepeopleonereef.ucsc.edu. to provide opportunities for college students, and other interested individuals, to obtain direct experience in field sampling methods, and to work closely with local youth and community members to bring awareness and action to the issues of reef management, food security, and the critical role that traditional knowledge and practice can play.

One People One Reef works with outer island communities to bring traditions and modern science together in a unique approach to sustainable ocean management. Participants will learn first hand about the work of One People One Reef onepeopleonereef.ucsc.edu. 

Participants also work closely with communities and local leaders on social and ecological projects. See detailed Youth Project brochure.

*  Learn about ecological resilience, cultural integrity and traditional environmental sustainability

*  Gain first-hand experience with coral reef monitoring and research in this remote archipelago.

*  Interact with Ulithi youth and community leaders to develop relevant ocean  education materials, and ideas for youth plans for conservation management.

*  Learn about local customs and traditions

*  Assist with community activities such as marine debris monitoring, cataloging and clean up, and taro farm weeding and planting

*  Gather baseline data and learn how to conduct monitoring of sea turtles

*  Enjoy snorkeling, local music, and island activities

The program begins in Yap known for its cultural traditions, and the landmark designation of the Manta Ray Sanctuary in 2008. Students will have opportunities to search for manta rays and snorkel in local waters. The reefs and channels surrounding the island are home to a spectacular array of fish.

Located approximately 100 miles northeast of Yap State, Ulithi Atoll has 200 miles of coral reef. Ulithi’s lagoon is surrounded by 36 tropical islands, only four of which are inhabited. Ulithi has a high number of fish species and the atoll hosts the most important nesting grounds for green sea turtles in all of Micronesia.The Ulithi community continues to practice their traditional lifestyle. They are welcoming to visitors and are a genuinely caring people. Community health is intimately connected to reef health and many traditions and governance frameworks are designed around the ocean.


The Program

Working with the program leader,  community leaders and Ulithi youth, students will conduct reef surveys; learn about sea turtle monitoring; help create an educational program to teach local children about coral reefs; conduct beach surveys and catalog marine debris; and help develop ideas for an action plan for the next steps of sustainable development.

Students will gain first hand experience living and working within a different culture, and learn the importance of traditional knowledge and management techniques. They also will obtain hands-on experience using scientific methods to collect data in the field, and will explore how modern science and technology can be combined with traditional techniques. They will gain an understanding of how small coastal communities depend heavily on marine resources, and the role those resources have played in shaping culture and social dynamics.

For the summer 2020, students will continue to work with the program leader, community leaders and Ulithi youth to conduct reef surveys;  monitor nesting sea turtles;  conduct beach surveys and catalog marine debris; assist with taro farming activities,  and help develop ideas for an action plan for the next steps of sustainable development.

Student Benefits

Student will receive a certificate of completion listing skills and techniques learned, as well as the amount of hours of service performed.

If you have questions about the program or about One People One Reef, contact the OPOR co-director Nicole Crane:  nicrane@cabrillo.edu

Tentative Itinerary:

Jun 12: SF/Honolulu. Check in at San Francisco International Airport for United Airlines flight to Yap via Honolulu and Guam. Cross the International Date Line and arrive in Guam the following day.

Jun 13: Arrive in Yap. Late arrival in Colonia. Group is transferred to our hotel.

Jun 14: Yap. Learn about Micronesian reef ecology and Yap culture. Data collection training include in-water training survey.  This snorkeling excursion also includes time at Manta Ray Channel to look for the manta rays for which Yap is famous. Preparation for Ulithi Atoll reef and community work. Island hike.  The people of Yap have retained many ancient traditions and customs, including the famous stone money, and we will learn what these customs signify in the life of the Yapese.

Jun 15: Yap/Ulithi. This morning we take a 45-minute flight to Falalop on Ulithi Atoll and transfer to our lodge. Excellent snorkeling from our beachfront hotel. Next nights at the Falalop lodge, or remote islands sleeping on the floor or beach..

Jun 16-28: Ulithi Atoll: Daily community service activities including reef surveys and community service programs. Work with local youth and community members in the development of action plans. Visit remote islands and the outer island of Gielop known as the largest green turtle nesting site in Micronesia.

Jun 29: Ulithi/Yap. Morning reef survey. Early afternoon flight back to Colonia on Yap. Overnight in comfortable hotel.

Jun 30 Yap. Wrap up. Late afternoon free time for shopping and exploration. Farewell dinner. Prepare for late night departure home.

Jul 1 Yap/Guam/Honolulu/SF. Mid-night flight from Yap to San Francisco, via Guam. Cross the International Date Line and arrive in Honolulu in the late afternoon of the previous day. Mainland participants arrive on June 30.

Trip Information:

All in-water work uses only snorkel gear.  Students need to know how to swim and be proficient snorkelers. Students stay in dorm style rooms.

Yap and Ulithi are remote regions though there is a hospital on Yap, and medical personnel and general practitioner doctors are available on Yap and one GP on Ulithi. The nearest full service hospital is located in Guam.


The Ulithi community faces many challenges including issues relating to marine debris, climate change, waste disposal, imported food and related health issues. Students will receive detailed pre-departure material to prepare them for their experience including information on history, culture, ecology, and social issues of Yap and Ulithi.  Students also will receive a suggested packing list and health and safety items. Weather will determine the order and possibilities of our water activities.

How to Apply

*Submit a short essay stating: 1) Why you wish to join the OPOR Ulithi Youth Project, 2) List your goals, 3) Outline what abilities and attributes you will share with the project team, and 4) Provide an explanation of  how participating will complement your academic and career goals. Submit essay to:  winning@bluecology.org.

*Complete the online application and pay the deposit fee

 (See top right column: How To Apply)

How to Apply

Dates: Rescheduled for 2023
Note:  In 2022, OnePeopleOneReef is offering  a Hawai’i youth program http://onepeopleonereef.org

— includes: Yap domestic airfare, up to four per room accommodations, meals, land transport, boating excursions, leadership

 does not includeAirfare from home to Yap, snacks, bottled water, snorkel gear, insurance

Group Size Limit: 7

Leaders: May Roberts, John Rulmal Jr.
Advisor: Nicole Crane

May Roberts is a fourth  year doctoral candidate  at the University of California Santa Cruz in the  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. She received her M.Sc. in marine science from King Abdullah’s University of Science and Technology,  and her B.S. in marine biology from University of California at Davis.  She is a research fellow with the National Science Foundation and participated in the One People One Reef Outer Islands Science Cruise in 2017, and led the Ulithi Youth Action Project in 2018 and 2019.

John Rulmal Jr.is Ulithi Project co-leader, the local project manager for One People One Reef and a community facilitator for Ultihi Atoll and the Outer Islands.

Nicole Crane is professor in Biology at Cabrillo College, and Project Co-leader for One People One Reef

Student Comments 

Being in the field with scientists was a tremendous honor and an amazing learning experience…in the field of marine science. It was physically hard work and psychologically intense, but amazingly rewarding and fun.”

Another student writes, “On our expedition to Ulithi Atoll, I learned more applicable skills than I could ever learn in a classroom. This is the type of learning experience that can only be attained by doing — and I can think of no better place to achieve that than on this expedition.”

“I am honored to have gotten to go to a place that is so magical, and be welcomed in by the people as warmly as they did. I could not say enough good things about this trip or my experience. It truly changed my life and my perspective on the world.”

Another Student writes,” One accomplishment that I think of is the importance of sharing the knowledge and experiences of how we manage and the conserve the nature through science and traditional practices with the help of some of our scientist friends who cared about us and volunteered the time, effort, and support to travel from far away places to come to our small islands.”

Contact Trip Manager here

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