Heather Ketebengang, July 2014 eBirder of the Month

By Team eBird August 15, 2014

Please join us in congratulating Heather Ketebengang of the Palau Conservation Society, Palau, our winner of the July 2014 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Heather was selected in a random drawing that included each of the 1030 eBirders who submitted at least 50 checklists during the month of July (checklists for earlier time periods, submitted during July do count). When we notified Heather that she won, she wrote “Alii from Palau and Thank you! I was surprised and thrilled to hear that I’m a winner of the July eBirder of the Month Challenge. It is an honor to be a part of a great program.”

My name is Heather Ketebengang, the wildlife health coordinator at Palau Conservation Society. Palau Conservation Society (PCS) is a non-government organization that works to protect Palau’s natural heritage. The mission of the Palau Conservation Society is to work with the community to preserve the nation’s unique natural environment and perpetuate its conservation ethic for the economic and social benefit of present and future generations of all Palauans and for the enjoyment and education of all. PCS vision: Healthy Ecosystems, Healthy Communities.

I first started working in PCS as the Avian Influenza Surveillance Specialist. Back in image0022006, when Avian Influenza (AI) was a big threat, I started work as a part of a regional effort in the early detection of Avian Influenza. Aside from my daily activities of monitoring for avian deaths, I was doing shorebird surveys and mist-netting (which I still need to input in eBird). Because Palau is in the Australasia flyway, migratory birds fly to Palau mostly from Asia which had cases of Avian Influenza. Palau, an island nation on the western most part of the Pacific Ocean, was the closest to the AI cases in Asia . The shorebird surveys and the mist-netting were all part of the effort to detect AI as soon as it reaches Palau so that it can be taken care of before it spreads throughout the Pacific and into the continental US. Throughout the entire project, no Avian Influenza strain was found in Palau.

I was introduced to eBird from a local partner and I am delighted to see such a simple online tool that provides so much information. It’s a benefit to PCS as well as to Palau as a whole. Our next project with our close partner at the Belau National Museum is to show the tool to the communities and have them input their data. This way, we don’t only have a couple of people birding in Palau on certain areas, but a lot of Palauans using the tool in different parts of Palau. Ultimately, we would want to see all 16 states of Palau to be inputting data on eBird that we can look at in the near future.