Conservation in Papua New Guinea

Researchers, Don Miller and Randy Senock, are supporting the designation of the Lake Hargy Caldera, in West New Britain, as a Special Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea. Since 2007, CSU, Chico has been involved in three exploratory expeditions conducted on the Island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The focus of these trips is the Lake Hargy volcanic caldera, which is a largely undisturbed montane, tropical-forest, ecosystem with significant biological-conservation value of both flora and fauna, in the Western Pacific region. The ecosystem within the caldera is also linked to the northern-marine, coastal regions of the Island via a river riparian-corridor that drains the caldera lake. The long-term goal of these expeditions is to formally begin the process of recommending the Lake Hargy Caldera for designation as a special conservation area in PNG. The project also includes social, educational, and economic programs in a larger integrated-project contributing to a higher quality of life for the New Britain, PNG people.

Grant Funded Research

  • Mr. Hargesheimer, Sierra Nevada Brewery, and other local Chico philanthropists, funded the three initial summer, faculty and student, expeditions, between 2007-2009. These expeditions have resulted in the first botanical and insect collections from within the caldera. They show that there are several, previously unrecorded, butterfly species; this substantiates the distinctive nature of these fauna and, by extension, many other species unique to the region. Information collected from vegetation sampling in 2009, has begun to quantitatively describe the forest community species-structure and the types of species currently found within the caldera; this information will be presented in the spring 2010, CNS Science-Poster Symposium.
  • CWE awarded the project a seed grant for summer 2010 to match the support for travel, equipment, and supplies provided by the local Chico philanthropists. The summer 2010 expedition established new under- and over-story study-plots in an elevated, plateau portion of the caldera. The expedition also surveyed possible sites for establishing one-hectare plots for conducting a Rapid Assessment Protocol (RAP) and biodiversity survey using butterfly species. Additional collections included botanical specimens for developing a field identification guide, as well as digital photographic images of the forest bioluminescent species, digital audio recordings of the forest sounds, and the confirmation of the presence of a crocodilian-species previously reported in the lake.