Yap Institute of Natural Science, Micronesia Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Yap Institute of Natural Science, Micronesia

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The wonderful thing about college is that, occasionally, you come across something educational. You can be exposed to the minds of all sorts of fascinating people. Such is the case with Captain Mars, the Sky Lady, and Margie Falanruw.

Captain Mars is the professional name of Mr. Frank Cushing, born in Durango, Mexico to a European-American father and a Basque-Apache mother. Captain Mars was the epitome of a modern day Renaissance man: he was a sailor, a prize fighter, a soldier of fortune flying JN-4's (Jennies) in China, the inventor of the toggle switch, a barnstormer, a motorcycle stunt man, a human-torch highdiver, and a human cannonball. In protest of the injustices of the administration of the GI Bill in 1947, he was the first man ever to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and survive.

The Sky Lady is Frank's wife, Mrs. Marjorie Bailey. Not much is known about her, other than she was a high-wire artist. Together, they started a family show, 'Death's Holiday Thrill Circus', and a family. Margie was a result of their efforts. In the show, young Margie fulfilled the duties of a trapeze artist (with her brother) and motorcycle stuntgirl (with Harleys).

Living on the island of Guam in Margie's formative years, the family established the Guam Zoo and Sea Life Park, featuring live sharks, giant sea turtles, etc... and a souvenir stand. With such a holistic education, young Margie grew up to be the distinguished resident biologist for the islands of Yap.

Yap is located about 10 degrees north, 140 degrees east, to the east of the Philippines by about 1300 km (675 miles). It is one of four States made up of separate groups of islands that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia. Yap may sound familiar to some; it was where the US navy took revenge on the Japanese for Pearl Harbour in World War II. As a consequence, Yap is a popular destination for historical divers to view the wrecks of a large number of World War II-era Japanese war ships.

During her residence on the island, Margie Falanruw established the Yap Institute of Natural Science: a small local non-profit organisation dedicated to the idea of maintaining indigenous integrity through wise sustainable use of local resources, and the search for a valid ethno-ecological lifestyle in the Yap islands ecosystem (also known as 'a sensible island life'). Her first office was a school bus; but she has since moved into a Neo-Palauan designed office. There, Margie and her assistant, Loofen Saweyog, work on the 'Yap Almanac Calendar', as well as other projects, such as taking fruit bat surveys, studying the feasibility of mariculture for Micronesia, reintroducing sailing canoes as commercial fishing vessels, and so forth.

Reef management looms largely on the mind of Ms Falanruw, especially in regard to channel bombing. Channel bombing is overseen by the Trust Territory Environmental Protection Board, a division of the US Forest Service. Its purpose is to improve nautical navigation around the islands, and can be done in an environmentally sound manner... but often isn't. When Margie was the staff ecologist, the execution of the project was so haphazard, that she decided to call it quits.

As it is, knowledgable local scientists are in short supply in Micronesia. Many scientists come in from the outside world, make observations, and leave. A person can earn more as a tour guide or by renting Jeeps out to tourists than advancing scientific knowledge. Most scientists in Micronesia have never heard of the Yap Institute of Natural Science.

To learn more about Margie Falanruw, her work, and her illustrious family, read A Song for Satawal by Ken Brower.

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