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Expedition Leader Spotlight: Ron Leidich

  • Date: 24 July 2012
  • Author: Rich Lovell, WWF Travel Guest Blogger
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After thousands of scuba diving expeditions throughout the world’s oceans, marine biologist Ron Leidich thought he had seen it all. But nothing prepared him for the first time he plunged into Blue Corner, a popular diving spot nestled in the surrounding waters of the island republic of Palau in the western Pacific.

After thousands of scuba diving expeditions throughout the world’s oceans, marine biologist Ron Leidich thought he had seen it all. But nothing prepared him for the first time he plunged into Blue Corner, a popular diving spot nestled in the surrounding waters of the island republic of Palau in the western Pacific.

“That was the underwater Serengeti on planet Earth,” Leidich told WWF staff during a visit to the WWF-US headquarters in Washington earlier this month.

Blue Corner, which bustles with an robust variety of marine life—from triggerfish and humphead wrasse to manta rays and sea turtles—is one spot Leidich has taken WWF travelers visiting Micronesia.

Leidich is a longtime expedition leader for WWF; in addition to Micronesia, has led tours to destinations including Borneo and the Raja Ampat Archipelago.

Though he grew up in the United States and received his degree in zoology from Oregon State University, Leidich has resided in Palau since 1994. Some of his personal research and conservation projects in the region include reducing invasive crown-of-thorns starfish, conducting bird surveys, studying coral spawning and participating in a shark conservation program. Congregating sperm whales off the coast of Palau have captured his attention recently.

Leidich also played a key role in petitioning UNESCO to add Palau’s Rock Islands Southern Lagoon to the World Heritage List; that became official in early July. And he has helped keep many of Palau’s unique marine lakes free from the potential harmful effects of tourism, making sure that the difficult-to-access lakes remain inaccessible.

“Some things are better left undisturbed,” he said.

Only one marine lake remains open to tourists, the famous Jellyfish Lake. Once connected to the ocean, the now-isolated salt water lake is filled with millions of stingless jellyfish and is considered one of the world’s most unique places to snorkel. As a result, it is one of Palau’s premier attractions, which puts the fragile environment at risk.

Leidich supported the increase in cost of tourist permits, from $35 per person to $100. Since the higher fee went into effect, Leidich said the lake has seen a vast reduction in the number of visitors and a big boost to funding for the lakes conservation.

Join a WWF snorkeling tour.

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