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Rodney's Story

Dr Rodney

This article is one from 15 different Papua New Guinean scientists taken from the manuscript of the new Grade 9 Science Outcomes textbook prior to the design and editing processes currently being undertaken at Pearson Education Australia. This is Rodney’s story. I hope all the parents, teachers and students read and enjoy it. More scientists’ stories will appear here during the next few months.

This photograph is of Dr Rodney Itaki during a surgical proceedure. He is third from the left.

Brian Robertson

Hello everyone, my name is Dr. Rodney Itaki and I am from Wapenamanda in the Enga Province. I am a medical doctor and currently working with the Gutnius Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. I am based at the Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital in Wapenamanda.

My interest in science came about because of a great science teacher I had who taught me at Tokarara High School from grade 8 to grade 10. His name is Mr. Sam Lora and he is currently the principal of Gordon Secondary School in Port Moresby. I especially enjoyed his practical classes because we did little experiments and later answered questions from the experiments that made science real. I learnt about how plants use the energy from the sun to make their food (the process of photosynthesis) through the experiments.

When I did my grades 11 and 12 at Kerevat National High School I had several great science teachers who kept my interest in science going. Unlike other subjects, science is very practical. In the practical and experiments I found an application for the theory of science. That captured my interest and imagination. I also discovered during my grades 11 and 12 that mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics were not separated from each other but interrelated. I discovered that I could use chemistry formulas to solve physics problems or vice versa. I could even apply mathematic formulas to solve physics problems or vice versa. The same applied with chemistry and biology. It was exciting. It was all because I could see science come alive when conducting the experiments.

For example, in one of our chemistry classes we placed a strip of Magnesium into a dish of water and the strip ignited and burned with a very bright white flame. Then we had to answer the question: “why does Magnesium ignite and burn when it comes in contact with water?” In another practical we had to design a water treatment plant for a village using our knowledge of how water moves through the soil and different types of rocks. So I could see that science has the answer to most of the practical problems of daily leaving.

I was always trying to find out why things happen the way they do and how does it happen and science provided the way to answer these questions. So at the end my grade 12 I decided to apply to the University of Papua New Guinea to do the science foundation year. In science foundation you study all the branches of science before deciding what you what to specialize in.

During the science foundation year my interest in science grew as I did more complicated experiments. I remember especially my chemistry tutor, Dr Clement Waine from Chimbu, who is now working as a research scientist with the company DuPont in USA. Dupont is one of the largest companies in the world.

At the end of my foundation year I was one of the top students so I was accepted to study medicine at the faculty of medicine. In medicine, you apply all your knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and anatomy. This suited me because I found an application for all my science knowledge.

When I was in the third year of studying medicine, I decided to take a year off and do a research degree. Because of my interest in experiments I wanted to design and conduct an experiment on people. So I studied the effect of betel nut chewing on the cardiovascular system in Melanesians. I discovered that chewing betel nut causes the heart rate to increase and the blood pressure to fluctuate.

I presented my findings to the annual medical symposium organized by the PNG Medical Society in 1998 and was awarded the “Young Scientist of the Year” award. The findings also made the front-page story in The National newspaper. I also helped in another study on betel nut chewing which showed that betel nut chewing in Papua New Guineans could cause a heart attack. This knowledge is now taught in the medical school at the University of Papua New Guinea. The findings of these studies was presented to the Asia Pacific Cardiac Society meeting in Auckland in 1999 and was highly acclaimed. Betel nut chewing therefore is recognized as a cardiovascular risk factor in Papua New Guineans. I was supervised by Professor Sir Isi Kevau, Papua New Guinea’s first cardiologist who was the director of the Sir Buri Kidu Heart Institute. At end of my studies I graduated with a Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree in addition to the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor Surgery degree.

Because of my interest in research I was awarded a scholarship to do research training in Japan for 3 years. In Japan I conducted experiments on the anopheles mosquito that transmits malaria. I conducted experiments to study how mosquito larvae behave in water so we can find out the best way to kill them to control malaria. I also studied their DNA to find out the different species we have in PNG and the Solomon Islands.  The results of these experiments have been published in both national and international journals.

After returning from Japan I decided to work with the Lutheran Mission. One of the main factors attracting me to rural PNG was that we still do not know a lot about diseases in rural PNG and by working there I could do studies to find out more about health problems in PNG.

Currently I am conducting a study to find out how we can determine the nutritional status of pregnant mothers without doing blood tests and correlate that with the baby’s birth weight. The reason is because if the mother is under-nourished then the baby will not grow properly in the womb. In rural PNG we do not have enough resources to do blood tests to find out the mother’s nutritional status so we have to find other ways of determining that. Being a medical scientist and a medical doctor as well helps me to conduct studies while at the same time helping keep people free from disease.

Being a scientist means you are always asking questions. So I encourage you all to start asking questions and do not accept things just because the textbooks say so. Remember the knowledge in the textbooks came about because of scientist asking questions and conducting experiments to find out why things are way they are.

Apart from doing studies to find out more about diseases I also work as a medical doctor. My daily duties include conducting ward rounds to examine patients in the wards, attending to emergencies, conducting consultation clinics and performing life saving surgeries.

Before prescribing drugs I have to do blood tests and x-rays to make a proper diagnosis before giving medicine to patients. Studying science helps me as a doctor to know how germs live and cause disease, how the body functions, what happens when the body is sick or injured, how drugs work in the body and how drugs kill germs.

Being a doctor can be tough at times so you have to enjoy life and not just work. I try and plan for my free time and spend the time going on nature walks with my small digital camera and take photographs of nature.

Annastasia's Story

Anna in her laboratory

This article is one from 15 different Papua New Guinean scientists taken from the manuscript of the new Grade 9 Science Outcomes textbook prior to the design and editing processes currently being undertaken at Pearson Education Australia. This is Anna's story. I hope all the parents, teachers and students read and enjoy it. More scientists’ stories will appear here during the next few months. This photograph is of Anna in the laboratory working with her plants.

Brian Robertson

My name is Ms Annastasia Priscilla Kawi and I come from Karawap village, Boikin East Sepik Province. I am employed by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) as a scientist with the Entomology section based at the Islands Regional Centre, Kerevat, East New Britain Province. I graduated with a Masters in Crop Protection from University of Queensland in July 2008.

Currently I am the Project Leader of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project on “ the biological control of Mikania micrantha in PNG”. Mikania micrantha (mile-a-minute) is a serious weed having significant implications for plantation crops (cocoa, coconut, oil palm etc), subsistence food gardens and the natural environment. The weed smoothers plantation crops and food crops causing competition for soil nutrients, reducing the photosynthesis process and therefore causing unwanted deaths in young crop stages. The main purpose of this project is to introduce a Biological Control Agent (BCA). The BCA will be mass reared, released into the field and then we will monitor the impact of the agent in managing the growth of mikania weed. The BCA is a pathogen rust fungus—Puccinia spegazzinii. It is the first of its kind to be used in weed management in PNG. The main tasks in my job are to

  • successfully mass rear the agent and release it into the field in lowland provinces where mikania weed is present
  • conduct scientific studies to monitor the impact of the rust fungus on mikania weed biomass, its population density and its spread over time
  • monitor the rust establishment in all lowland provinces where it was released and confirm its host specificity
  • conduct impact assessment surveys and teach awareness of the impact of the biocontrol on mikania weed during field days, community meetings and provincial field trips
  • produce reports on project activities as required by the funding agent (ACIAR) and my employer (NARI).

This research is important for several reasons

  1. Weeds are a problem to subsistence and commercial farming systems and management and field control depends on one’s capabilities. Commercial setups can afford the costs of herbicide when spraying large hectares of land. However to subsistence farmers, herbicides are expensive and not affordable on a regularly basis. Additionally slashing is tedious and time consuming. Therefore, biological control is the alternate method of good field control as fewer costs are involved and importantly it is also environmentally friendly and has no bad effect on the environment when compared to herbicide sprays. Biological control is a good option for pest management in this case.
  2. It is important that the public, especially the up-coming generation know about the presence and the importance of biological control agents and are able to appreciate their presence in our natural environment. Creating the initial awareness is very important so that people can further transfer the information. Distribution of awareness posters and pamphlets enables the public to see the picture and relate this to real field situations.
  3. Conducting scientific studies on the impact of the biocontrol agent in the laboratory and field conditions is very important so that the facts about biocontrol in managing weeds are reported accurately. Other scientists can use written articles in the future for reference. Facts and figures must always be available to back up the research observations and conclusions. This kind of research needs to be statistically analyzed before accurate conclusions can be drawn and this is the main task I have been involved in.

I enjoy my profession because I believe that the biocontrol package that I’m mandated to deliver to the rural farming communities will assist in improving their livelihood. It will assist people in controlling the mikania problem in their subsistence gardens.

Currently, the work involves a lot of travelling to other provinces, creating contacts and meetings with provincial DPI offices, colleagues from sister research stations, NGO workers and interested public and the villagers. This travel has enabled me to tell people what research NARI has done on weed management in the past and present. The exciting part is I get to travel and explore many sites in lowland provinces to find the presence of mikania weed and release the biocontrol agent. I also enjoy meeting colleagues and briefing them about the impact of the biocontrol agent and how it works in the field. Most unique is the fact that this pathogen is the first to be introduced in PNG and what information and knowledge I have learnt from working with this biocontrol is a bonus for me because it is broadening my knowledge as well as improving NARI’s service.

The information collated from the impact studies conducted in the laboratory and the field is new for PNG and thus has great potential for publication in peer reviewed journals. Other Pacific Island countries such as (Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa) would have mikania weed and will be eager to learn how successful control has been in PNG before they try to implement biocontrol in their countries.

I was originally engaged at NARI as a Research technician assisting in collating data for 3 ACIAR funded projects on

  • Identification and management of fruit flies in PNG,
  • Management of Fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae), a serious pest of fruits and vegetables,
  • Management of Red Banded Mango caterpillar (Deanolis sublimbalis), a serous pest of mangos.

My main task was assisting scientists involved in these projects to implement project activities and achieve milestones within the given timeframe. However due to my work commitment and more than 20 years experience, I was offered a scholarship to study at University of Queensland (Gatton campus) and obtain my Masters in Plant Protection. My studies have allowed me to be recognized by NARI as a scientist in my own right, and that was a major achievement in my career life. For the future, as a scientist, I intend to develop more project proposals on Biological control, and Crop protection with other NAIS organizations and overseas collaborators and continue to deliver these improved technologies to the farming communities to improve their livelihood and food security.

In 1981 and 1982 I was a student at Manus High and took Agriculture as a subject. We had to plant and maintain small plots of different vegetables as a course requirement for assessment. The class was also scheduled to clean pig pens and feed them and this built up my interest and desire to study Agriculture after Grade10.

After graduating from school my career began with NARI and included—conducting agro-forestry studies with intercropping food crops and cocoa, conducting market surveys, maintaining and describing different yam varieties, and pest management on vegetables and staple crops. The different duties I was involved in helped built up my knowledge and work experiences. It brought me to a stage where work was my entire commitment. I felt I had to assist in successfully achieving the funded project milestones.

Through my participation in ACIAR projects and collaborating with well-known Australian scientists (Fruit flies & Red Banded Mango caterpillar projects) I had the good fortune to become very experienced in my field of work. Even though I don’t have Grade 12 or a first degree from a PNG University, my 20 of years work experience guaranteed me a place to study and obtain a Masters degree from a recognized University in the world. I was a Research technician before I went away for studies, and after completing my studies I am now referred to as a scientist. This gives me great satisfaction.

During the earlier years of my career, I saw my colleagues going away for studies with their families or travelling abroad for workshops and meetings and I had this feeling that ‘I wish I was like them’. I had a motto and that was Dedication (to my work and employer), Devotion (Physically & Spiritually) and Determination (If they can do it I believe I can do it too). The motto enabled me to continue work harder and produce qualitative and quantitative results, which helped to impress my employer.

Additional note

To the up coming scientist, after graduating from a University with Agriculture Degrees, I encourage you to explore or be exposed to real work situations in the field before trying to further your ambitions. By doing that you will gain work experience in different fields of agriculture and it will broaden your knowledge. Learn to evaluate situations, write reports, develop contacts with peer groups etc. You will also be able to relate situations from theory (books) to the practical (hands on). This will potentially groom you to be a knowledgeable scientist able to work and to serve the rural communities.

Jeffrey's Story

Jeffrey at Work

This article is one from 15 different Papua New Guinean scientists taken from the manuscript of the new Grade 9 Science Outcomes textbook prior to the design and editing processes currently being undertaken at Pearson Education Australia. This is Jeffrey’s story. I hope all the parents, teachers and students read and enjoy it. More scientists’ stories will appear here during the next few months. This photograph is of Jeffrey and a colleague working in the computer lab.

Brian Robertson

My name is Jeffrey Mane Febi and I am a Mud logging Geologist. I work in the petroleum industry where we drill holes called wellbores into the earth to explore for oil and gas using drilling rigs. I collect and analyze samples of rocks we’re drilling through. I also monitor and analyze the amount and types of gasses and oil, and the amount of Hydrogen Sulfide gas (which is poisonous and can kill) coming out of wellbores.

An interesting aspect of my job is discovering oil and or gas. I travel quite a lot around Papua New Guinea and Australia to work and this is what I enjoy the most. An even more interesting and wonderful aspect of my job is the care we take to minimize the destruction to the environment we work in. It is company policy to collect, pack and transport all wastes we produce to specially designed places to burn or recycle. In doing so, we help to keep our environment clean and free of harmful substances.

My job in the petroleum industry is an important one. I drill for oil and gas, which in turn are processed and converted into many products that we use every day of our lives. Examples of products from oil are; kerosene, candles, medicine (e.g. Aspirin), clothes, bitumen, rubber, and CD/DVDs. Examples of products from gas are; gas for cooking, gas used in hospitals to sterilize equipment, and gas for refrigerators. Without these products the world would be an unpleasant place to live in. So it is important to continue to explore for oil and gas until a reliable alternative energy source to replace oil and gas is discovered and developed for use.

I have been working really hard and faithfully despite many challenges at work and home. I hope to win my boss’s confidence and trust so I can be promoted and eventually become a manager within our company. It is not an easy task but through commitment and dedication I believe this can be achieved.

After graduating from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) with an Honours degree in Geophysics (a branch of science that applies principles of Physics to measure the properties of the Earth), I got a job at the PNG Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE). While working there, I used to see and read technical reports from oil fields. The interpretation of these reports is very fascinating. When you are done interpreting, you would know almost everything that had happened during the drilling of a well even though you’re not there. You would also know if oil and gas were discovered. This interested me so much; I started seeking job opportunities in the petroleum industry and eventually got my current job.

The next time you see a rock, look at it closely. It has a long and interesting story to tell. You will only know its life’s story when you become a geologist so work hard at school.

Chris's Story

Chris's Photo

This article is one from 15 different Papua New Guinean scientists taken from the manuscript of the new Grade 9 Science Outcomes textbook prior to the design and editing processes currently being undertaken at Pearson Education Australia. This is Chris’s story. I hope all the parents, teachers and students read and enjoy it. More scientists’ stories will appear here during the next few months.

This photograph is of Chris working in the forest at night.

Brian Robertson

My name is Chris Dahl. I am currently employed as acting Director and a research supervisor with the New Guinea Binatang Research Center based in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I come from Riwo village in Madang and was born on Sept 16, 1975, the same day that Papua New Guinea was –born’ as a country. Like most children in the village, I would wake up early in the morning and prepare for the 15km walk to Alexishafen Primary School.

In 1990, I was accepted at Tusbab High School and completed Grade 10 in 1993. I needed funds to buy graduation clothes so I got a part time job with the Christensen Research Institute (CRI), which was close to my village. I enjoyed the work and from then on decided to be a scientist. After graduation from Tusbab I went back to see the Director of CRI, Larry Orsak and he gave me a job trapping butterflies and moths. Meanwhile my study continued during years 11 and 12 through the Centre of Distance Education at the Madang Matriculation Studies Centre. All this time my love of working and studying nature was growing.

My job is always exciting for me particularly the research part because you first need to design the research, decide on the protocols (the methods) and travel to field sites to collect your data. This involves interacting with the local landowners, the community and village assistants. My job involves exploring our beautiful natural forest areas, studying the ecology, the distributional pattern and biology of frogs, learning how local people live traditionally and learning about their hunting practices, and their lifestyles. Occasionally I have the great thrill of discovering a species of animal completely new to science.

The job is important because the results of my studies are essential for publication in overseas science journals and for the conservation of our Papua New Guinean biodiversity. We are one of the countries in the world that has a greater biodiversity than just about anywhere else. Data important for knowing how future changes might affect forest structure and how we might develop good conservation management plans are essential. This is required so that we can conserve our biodiversity for future generations. Not many people want to spend months in the remote areas of PNG with no access roads, and with only limited food supplies to complete the patrol but I love it.

I have also studied marine biology particularly the coral reefs around Madang province. The Madang lagoon contains some of the best coral reef system and species of fish and marine organisms found anywhere in the world. In 1997 I took a scuba diving course to become a certified scuba diver and later that year attended a reef-monitoring course at the Motupore Research Centre in Port Moresby. Monitoring coral reefs underwater is like surveying the forest. You notice how much life is destroyed when corals are ruined by destructive illegal dynamite fishing, careless anchoring of canoes, boats and recreational activities such as scuba diving.

After CRI closed in 1999, I worked with the New Guinea Binatang Research Centre. In 2000 I applied and was accepted to UPNG to study science, majoring in biology including entomology, ecology, vertebrate and invertebrate biology, ethno-biology, taxonomy and cell biology. I graduated in 2003 but continued on to do an honours degree.

I was lucky to receive financial support from Conservation International to continue studies and received training during this time from frog expert Steve Richards, from the South Australian Museum; who was my Honours supervisor. In 2004, I surveyed frogs on Mt Michael in the Eastern Highlands province and Mt Elimbari in Chimbu and we found many species that were endangered because of habitat loss.

Identifying frog species in the field is a very tricky business. It involves tracking frog calls from tiny frogs, some even as small as 12 mm long! The task is made more difficult because different species look the same and the only way to tell them apart is by their call. I was successful however and now have a new frog species with “my” name. The scientific name of this frog is Litoria chrisdahli. It is a green tree frog.

I also have the opportunity to travel beyond PNG occasionally and learn more about how I can be more efficient at what I do and this is very exciting. In September 2005 I travelled to Panama, in South America and to the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota to learn more about research methods in connection with plant and animal collections.

I hope my career might eventually take me into teaching and always to becoming a more experienced and skilled research scientist.

When I am relaxing I enjoy gardening, playing soccer, reading and writing.

You can learn all about where I work by going to our web site at http://www.entu.cas.cz/png/parataxoweb.htm

New Titles

Just a few days ago I completed the up-loading of most of the Pearson titles onto this site and all teachers and parents in PNG now have many more school books to choose from. No matter what the school subject, or at what level, there is surely a quality book there for your son or daughter. If not then Contact Us and let me know what is missing. I will do my best to put you on the right track.

Some of these books do not have cover illustrations but I am getting in touch with Pearson Education Australia this week to solve this problem. I hate seeing a book without the appropriate cover but at least we have the PNG flag flying there instead, in the meantime!

If you have the time I would love if parents or teachers or students had the time to write something on the Forums and let me know what you think of the site and how I might improve it for you.

While you are on this site read the stories from some students from Kerevat Primary school on the Forums section.

Thank you, Brian Robertson

Author Contact

If you want to ask a question about buying a book, or anything else, please ask This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.