9th December 2013
CCC Montserrat gets creative!
The second of the activities run by the CCC Montserrat team at the AFW was a coral polyp workshop. The session started with a presentation by science officer Anna Zuke on the structure, form and growth of hexocorals (hard calcareous reef building corals). The participants were introduced to the concept of symbiosis and many people were amazed to learn that corals are living animals that rely on microscopic plants for the majority of their nutrition.
Starting with the individual polyp and working their way up to colonies, populations and the whole of the reef system, workshop participants got hands on with some playdough and got modelling! Sticking their creations to local volcanic rocks created a great artistic impression of a real reef and also made some great props for the puppet show to come later in the weekend.
The workshop finished with a question and answer session and a sweet treat of building some edible polyps out of marshmallows and chewy laces!
6th December 2013
The FESTive season: CCC joins literary festival in Montserrat
Now in its fifth year the Alliouagana Festival of the Word is an annual three day celebration of Montserrat’s national heritage and culture. Originally presenting mostly literary endeavours, celebrating local authors and publications, the festival has now grown to cover a wide range of island culture.
The theme this year was chosen as “Words in Action: Cuisine, Cures and Conservation” – a brilliantly serendipitous theme for CCC to become involved with. Since the arrival of the Ridge to Reef project on the island, CCC have been working closely with festival organiser and Head of the University of the West Indies Open Campus Montserrat, Gracelyn Cassell, to organise and promote the conservation themed activities.
A thoroughly enjoyable weekend was had by all and the festival provided a great platform from which to highlight the work of the Montserrat Ridge to Reef Conservation Project. The team met and collaborated with some fantastically enthusiastic people and it was wonderful to see and hear such great reactions and complements to the work we put in and the activities we presented. The theme of the festival this year facilitated a keen focus on environmental issues and conservation initiatives; something that will hopefully bring such issues to the forefront of development plans and the minds of the nation’s young people.
To allow the entire community to participate in the weekend’s events, CCC ran an art workshop inviting people to come and paint some larger than life marine creatures. These cut outs were then used to make a huge collage mural on the main stage of the auditorium, the backdrop for the CCC puppet show!
The workshop went “swimmingly” with plenty of paint, glue and glitter everywhere. We had some interesting and colourful fish, sharks, rays, corals, turtles and octopuses created which looked fantastic on the stage. It was also a great chance to bring along some of the identification books that we use for our target species identification and show off some of the amazing animals that CCC look for on survey dives.
Keep an eye on the blog for more stories from the festival over the coming weeks.
4th December 2013
English lessons in Prek Svay School
Last month armed with bags of assorted vegetables, toothbrushes, rice and saucepans, Coral Cay volunteers and two staff members in Cambodia headed off to the local school in Prek Svay. They had been asked to teach an English lesson to a group of forty students aged 10-16 years old. Following a quick brain-storm the theme of the lesson was selected as, ‘At the shop’.
The lesson began with role-play, introducing simple sentences such as ‘What would you like?’, ‘Do you have any…?’, ‘How much does this cost?’, and some basic vocabulary. Clearly used to sitting and copying sentences from the board, the children seemed a little confused when they were divided into groups and given free reign to choose from the selection of goods. With the “shops” now created, the kids were taught the names of all the items they had chosen and then took turns at acting the part of shopkeeper and customer. At first only the older students would speak, but after some careful encouragement, the younger ones relaxed in our presence and were soon demanding extra onions or tins of tomatoes!
Once the groups were happy with their own goods, it was time to go shopping at the other stores. Teams were given a budget and following the masking-tape prices on each item set out to secure a deal! The older students were quick to convert riel to dollars or vice-versa and to spot any discrepancies in their change.
The hour flew by and in no time at all the staff were collecting in the slightly-less appealing carrots and leeks. The lesson proved a huge success in terms of giving the students confidence to talk to the CCC team who are now always greeted with smiles and ‘hello, how are you?’ when they walk through the village.
28th November 2013
Marine creature of the week...
Can you guess what this wierd marine creature is? Top marks for the Latin name!
25th November 2013
A wild encounter in the forest
In recent weeks the CCC Montserrat team have been assisting the Montserrat Mountain Chicken Project (MMCP) to conduct amphibian surveys in the Centre Hills Forest Reserve. First threatened by habitat loss, hunting pressures and introduced predators, the Mountain Chicken Leptodactylus fallax is now on the brink of extinction as a result of the spread of the infectious amphibian skin disease, Chytridiomycosis. The two main lines of survey activity to conserve the Mountain Chicken are the swabbing of other amphibian species to examine the levels of chytrid and also listening and tracking surveys to ascertain population estimates.
On Tuesday the 14th of November, project scientist Gemma Galbraith and science officer Anna Zuke were out in the Centre Hills, heading towards Fairy Walk for a night time cane toad survey. Accompanied by forest ranger and MMCP fieldworker Jervaine Greenaway, Gemma and Anna began the long hike through the lower dry forest up towards the transect. At night the forest is alive with chirping insects and the chip-chip-chip of Eleutherodactylus johnstonei, the whistling tree frog. Watching the rocky path ahead by the light of head torches, the team climbed higher up into the hills, leaving the dry scrub and grass land behind. As they headed into the thicker, wetter mesic forest type, gaps in the vegetation gave way to haunting moonlit views of the dramatic east coast. The expansive flats of ash and cooled magma that now cover the old airport in Trants Bay stretch from forest to the sea any lay still and desolate like a lunar landscape. As the vegetation thickened, the moon light was lost and the darkness engulfed them.
After an hour of walking steadily upwards, the descent into Fairy Walk ghaut began with a winding leaf covered path guided by tangled roots. Large weathered boulders lined the side of the ghaut and provided a dry platform for the team to organise their survey kit. With gloves on, the GPS tracking satellites and their eyes now well accustom to the dark, Gemma, Jervaine and Anna had not gone 5m before they found their first cane toad. Once swabbed, weighed and measured the toad was released. As the team gathered their field kit the cacophony of tree frogs and insects was punctured by a single, high-pitched call. Listening intently Jervaine scrambled further up the ghaut with Anna and Gemma just behind. As they clambered over a step of boulders and looked onto a still pool of mountain water they saw the large unmistakeable silhouette of a Mountain Chicken. With smooth glistening skin and smoky blue eye shine the frog looked stunning compared to the two cane toads sitting on a rock a few feet away. Quick to leap into action, Jervaine grabbed the frog and the team began the standard protocol of swabbing and measuring so that the individual could be identified as either a frog that has yet to be caught or one already recorded.
It was a fantastic moment and the first time that the CCC guys had seen a Mountain Chicken in the forest. What a privilege to be able to see and hold one of the world’s most endangered species whilst out on a survey contributing to work that will further and promote the persistence of healthy wild populations of Leptodactylus fallax on Montserrat.
If you would like to read more about the Mountain Chicken and the conservation efforts underway to ensure the persistence of this species in the wild, have a look at the Species Action Plan for Montserrat:
20th November 2013
Eight times the fun at the octopus activity workshop!
Another great Saturday was had by the Coral Cay Conservation team in Montserrat when they ran the latest in a series of marine activity workshops for local children. Many of the kids were returning having attended previous sessions, with more than half turning up early to the library! Everyone was very keen to know the theme for the week and so after everyone had arrived, science officer Anna Zuke revealed they would be looking at the elusive and mystical octopus.
Anna started with a fantastic presentation detailing the phylogeny, life history and ecology of the octopus. The presentation then used some great educational video content to really enthuse and captivate our group about these interesting creatures. We looked at how octopuses swim, what they eat, how they sense their environment and their murky defence mechanisms. Anna really brought the children to life with some photos of octopuses that we had seen out in the water whilst on ReefCheck surveys – fantastic!
As always, the theme carefully incorporated some great environmental messages and marine conservation concepts. Some of the children were so enthused about protecting the octopuses that they took a very stern look at anyone who admitted to have ever eaten an octopus based dish! As always, our group were lively, high spirited and engaging, with many probing and curious questions continuing as we sat down at the crafts table and constructed model octopuses out of paper cups.
18th November 2013
CCC hits the airwaves in Montserrat
For the past three weeks the Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) team in Montserrat has been collaborating with The Montserrat Mountain Chicken Project (MMCP) in a new set of surveys up in the Centre Hills. Working with both the MMCP and the Department of Environment, CCC has been conducting Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) swabbing surveys along some of the ghauts (steep gullies) and trails of the Centre Hills forest.
After a successful three weeks of surveying, Coral Cay’s project scientist, Gemma Galbraith, was invited onto the Wednesday night People’s Show on ZJB Radio. She was joined by Sarah-Louise Adams the Montserrat Mountain Chicken Project coordinator and Jervaine Greenaway, a forest ranger in the Department of Environment who has been working with the CCC teams.
The People’s Show aims to bring regular updates on prominent island issues, projects and activities to the nation in an hour long slot presented by Justin ‘Hero’ Cassell. Between the three of them Sarah, Jervaine and Gemma answered questions about the toad swabbing surveys and how research into the prevalence of chytrid fungus on cane toads is being used to further conservation of the Mountain Chicken (Leptodacylus Falax). Gemma was able to field questions about Coral Cay and the Montserrat Ridge to Reef Project, discuss the swabbing protocols learnt whilst on survey and how CCC became involved with the MMCP. It was a great opportunity to further promote CCC activities on Montserrat and also highlight CCC involvement with such a prominent and well established terrestrial conservation project.
Back at the CCC base in Old Town, the rest of the staff and volunteers made sure that they tuned in to their Project Scientist on the radio, citing her cane toad impression as highlight!
Gemma Galbraith - CCC Project Scientist, Montserrat
13th November 2013
The comedian Steven Wright once said, ‘there's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot’. Recently, I have had the pleasure of discovering that this is in fact true, and despite not really knowing who Steven Wright is found myself as the latter part of his remark.
My morning routine as Project Scientist on the Montserrat Ridge to Reef Conservation Project includes taking the two base dogs, Larry and Pickles, down to the beach for an early morning walk. The base at the Taj sits above a stunning view of the Belham river valley which stretches from the Soufrie Hills volcano in the east to Isles Bay beach in the west. Wandering down to the beach at dawn has shown me these sights in some incredible turns of morning light and has also given me the opportunity to meet some of the colourful characters amongst our local community of fishermen.
As the dogs hare off in futile efforts to catch dipping Caribbean martins or sandpipers I stop to chat with fishermen; James and John (incredibly biblical!), Kennith with his beaded goatee and John “the count” Harriss. They always have time for a few words as they ponder their lines and stare out to sea and have offered some valuable input in terms of gathering information on fisheries management here on Montserrat.
As shore fishermen these men have great skill at throwing large cast nets over shoals of silvery bait fish, usually sardines, feeding in the shallows of the shoreline. In order to be able to cast their lines and fish for larger catches like Red Snapper, Trevally or Barracuda bait must first be caught. Last week, during one of my morning conversations I was offered a lesson in this net casting technique and leapt at the chance to have a go. I watched as Kennith scanned the surface of the water just in front of us and followed the shadows of the bait fish bellow as they darted up and down the shoreline. Splashes break the surface and give away their location and in one graceful arc Kennith throws out the net and hauls in reams of glistening fish. Needless to say the still of the early morning was disturbed by much laughter from the bemused fishers as I took my first turn, and got tangled in every conceivable way, failing to get within 5ft of a fish! A very apt contender for It’s much harder than it looks!
Under the mostly silent tutorage of The Count, I eventually began to throw the net in a sort of umbrella-like shape and after some more practice throws even managed to catch a small handful of sprats. It was a great feeling to have managed this and really put me in touch with the demands and patience required of a subsistence fisherman; all too easily forgotten in the larger scheme of fisheries management, even on a small island like Montserrat. Between their laughter we discussed their concerns over net trawling, by-catch, minimum size requirements and catch per unit effort. As I practiced, I grew to appreciate their awareness and passion for keeping their fisheries healthy. I also uncovered divides within the fishing community and between local and Caribbean wide fishing vessels. All of this is useful information that will help to construct future workshops and focus groups.
By spending a little bit of time getting to know these men I have been able to get into the issues that small scale subsistence fishermen on the island feel affect their livelihoods. This is invaluable information for pursuing Coral Cay’s bottom-up approach to marine resource management and will help to guide the efforts that CCC are undertaking on Montserrat to establish a locally managed marine area (LLMA). The MRRCP incorporates a broad range of strategies to promote sustainable resource use on Montserrat. By not only collecting survey data on the ecology of the coral reefs here but also promoting capacity building amongst the local community of stakeholders the projects aims to build a long term potential for sustainable resource use.
The saying give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry comes to mind here but I think that an awful lot more teaching is needed before it can be applied to me. Until then I think that I would be pretty famished as a Montserratian fisherman!
Gemma Galbraith - CCC Project Scientist ,Montserrat
28th October 2013
A great weekend at the DIVE show!
We would like to say a big thank you to all those who came to see us at the DIVE show in Birmingham over the weekend. It was great to see so many new faces as well as a number of old ones! CCC cannot operate without the support from all of our volunteers and so we are grateful to all those who came to speak to us.
If you would like to learn more about any of our expeditions and how you can volunteer with us check out our volunteering page.
25th October 2013
Visit us at the DIVE SHOW in Birmingham
All of us here at CCC are very excited to be heading to Birmingham this weekend (26/27th October) for the DIVE show at the NEC. Packed with hundreds of exhibits, retailers and dive industry experts it is a fantastic event for both novice divers and seasoned pros.
If you are interested in any aspect of our expeditions from costs and dates to life on site, please don’t hesitate to pop along to the CCC stand and have a chat. We are looking forward to meeting lots of new friends and perhaps seeing some old ones too!
For more information about our current expeditions and volunteering options click here.
To purchase advanced tickets to the DIVE show or for more information visit the website: http://www.diveshows.co.uk/.
See you there!!
23rd October 2013
A scholar's life for me!
Staying on site in the Philippines tested me in ways I've never imagined. Less than a week of eating chicken, veggies and rice every day, I was already craving for burgers! I, like most people in camp, missed warm naked showers and bathroom plumbing. Having lived in the city my entire life and being used to certain indulgences, I thought I'd be home sick. Not once did I feel that.
Napantao felt like home as our house was always filled with laughter, praises and support. I had a reef to dive in that was so beautiful I'd wish every day to stay underwater for hours. There was the seawall where I could lounge about to get a nice tan whilst having conversations with new found friends. I saw the most beautiful sunset that my family and friends living in the city would be envious of. And at night the fireflies and stars glowed beautifully, enthralling me to reflect about life and to wonder what else is out there for me.
Being part of this program was truly a blessing. In my one month stay in Napantao, I was able to learn and accomplish so much. Get Scuba Diving Certified. Check. Paint a boat and then push her back into the water. Check. Memorize 30 Hard Corals and 46 Butterfly Fishes. Check. Spot the elusive mandarin fish. Check. Find more than 30 shrimps in a survey dive. Check! I mean not a lot of people can say they've done these things so I'm very grateful!
But, really, more than anything, Coral Cay has sparked in me the desire to do more for our marine environment. I thought a one month scholarship was too long, but it went by so quickly. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I know now that the expedition doesn't stop in Napantao. That was just the beginning and I can't wait for the next time I get into the water or for the next time I do volunteer work.
CCC Scholar - Philippines 2013
21st October 2013
Our Scholarship programme in action
When the training course started, I felt very privileged. It is indeed a milestone in my life. The knowledge and skills learned will be essential in pursuing my vision and mission for my country, as well as for my career in the field of Community Development. At first I thought it was just about knowledge and skills, however, as the days passed by, I found it more than these, it was also a character building experience too. It developed my perseverance, patience and self-discipline, and taught me to learn to value relationships. I learned also to express what I feel and accept wrongs and corrections.
There was a time that I wanted to give up , yet my dive instructor and science officer , patiently encouraging me to keep going and exerted their best efforts to teach me. I owe them many things, the skills, knowledge and more so my character. I learned also from them the value of hard work.
Now, with this knowledge I am more confident to do my task, to teach the community on environment protection and marine conservation. I want to facilitate and implement community development projects that promote marine conservation and protection, first in So. Leyte and then in other areas. I am visioning to have a project in Palawan –similar to Coral Cay Conservation soon.
To learn more about our scholarship programme or to apply click here.
By Elizabeth Santillan
CCC Scholar Philippines September 2013
16th October 2013
The Sapphire waters of the Emerald Isle
As I descend down into the clear blue waters, I catch the first glimpse of the creatures I will be spending the next hour of my life with. Schools of fish hang mid-water above the colourful coral reefs below. The dive has begun.
At depth, and with the first few fin kicks, I relax into the dive; the water feels silky on my skin and all I can hear is the bubbles as I breathe. I feel calm. The school of fish I saw from above are now level with me. Goatfish and Grunts: they are not scared of the strange hose-clad people who have crashed their party. Their yellow stripes shimmer in the sun, causing them to stand out against the blue backdrop. Each turn they make mirrors each other so that they move as one entity. This is safety in numbers, the ultimate in teamwork, and why they are unperturbed by our presence.
A shoal of Surgeonfish moves in nearby. It is dinnertime for them; they too prefer to graze on algae in packs so as to scare other fish from their territory. But they are much too busy eating to notice us. One of the shoal in particular stands out. It is the same shape as the others but has an electric blue colouring around the edges of its fins; a Blue Tang surgeonfish.
I slowly glide away over a brain coral, admiring its intricate patter and texture. It is almost like a maze only Mother Nature could solve. Next to it is an Elkhorn coral; it looks prickly and its plateaus offer themselves up to the sun shining down from above. Nearby, a Damselfish enters the territory of another, prompting a chase between them; defence and retreat. A small Blenny, about the size of the nail on my little finger, pokes his head out from a hole within its brain coral home in an attempt to discover what all the commotion is about. His mouth is open as if shouting, ‘Hey, keep the noise down!’. Silence. The Damselfish continue their spat.
Under an overhanging rock, I spot a Lionfish. Whilst I know that they should not be in Caribbean waters and are becoming increasingly numerous due to their lack of natural predators here, it is difficult not to marvel at its form. With a stocky body, long extended fan-like poisonous fins and deep red stripes, it hovers motionless in the water. He simply turns away from me.
A pile of empty conch shells is found on the seabed, an indication that an octopus lives somewhere around. Suddenly, a rock nearby turns white and the octopus’s eyes become visible to me. It has wedged itself into a crevice between two rocks. I swim a bit closer to get a better look, but the octopus shrinks even further into its hole. Time to leave him in peace. As I move off, I see a Tube Worm swaying with the movement of the water surrounding it. This worm looks nothing like the worms seen on land; its visible tentacles are feathery and colourful. As I glide over it, it senses I am there and retreats to the safety of its mineral tube.
Towards the end of our dive, we are lucky enough to see a Hawksbill Turtle. This gentle giant is munching on a sponge, minding his own business. Barnacles are scattered on its back, as are tufts of turf algae; it is an old timer. In my head, I apologise for the interruption and as if he heard me, he slowly and gracefully goes on his way.
Overhead I see some ballyhoo swim past at speed, as if trying to escape. A barracuda. It is 1m long and has a sender body which glides through the water with ease, like a knife through butter. Slight flicks of his tail are enough to propel him through the water after his prey. His silhouette is bold against the surface of the water, the sun’s rays penetrating the water around him. Noticing us below, he turns back for a closer look; he swims around us a few times, following where we go. But there is no need for alarm. To us, he is a gentle giant, simply wanting to see what we are up to, as we are doing with his fellow ocean dwellers.
We are the aliens on this dive. I know that this dive only offered some of Montserrat’s watery treasures. I give thanks and look forward to seeing what surprises may await me on the next dive in the sapphire waters of this Emerald Isle.
By Kerri Dobson
Science Officer - Montserrat
14th October 2013
My life as a Science Officer
Science Officer James Clarke (front centre) with other CCC staff and volunteers
I started work as the Science Officer in Cambodia back in February 2013, and was ready for 6 months in this beautiful location. Pulling up to the house over the water I knew I was going to have an amazing time! It was quite a small site compared to places I have worked in the past, but it was great to get to know people really well, and it made a close knit team. After a few weeks getting used to a new species list and how the project worked, I was given complete control of the scientific project, planning where to survey on a day to day basis, as well as all the scientific training.
Each month new volunteers would arrive and I would run the Science Development Program (SDP). This involved lectures, tests, dive pointys and underwater assessments for all aspects of the course including hard corals, fish, invertebrates and substrates. Following this, practise surveys would enable me to ensure that the volunteers were confident with all aspects of the survey methodology, and that the data collected would be of a high level of scientific accuracy. Finally, once all aspects of the SDP had been completed we were able to take volunteers out to survey. At the time we were in the process of re-surveying the reefs around three islands which had been surveyed by CCC in the past. The purpose was to identify changes in the marine life over time.
It was a great experience to be in Cambodia for 6 months. Getting to survey around the beautiful islands off the south coast and organising camping trips to get to the sites on the far side of the island was fantastic. Furthermore, being involved with the brilliant community projects that ran in the local village and helping out with the English lessons in the school was very rewarding.
For anybody that wants to be in a great location and do some amazing scientific work on sites that have hardly been dived on, I would recommend the Cambodia Reef Conservation Project. It was a fantastic opportunity for myself, to develop and further my knowledge of tropical marine habitats, and I hope it will really help with my future career in marine biology.
CCC Science Officer
9th October 2013
'My Teacher, My Hero'
At the beginning of October all around the Philippines schools have been celebrating ‘World Teacher’s Week’, with the theme; ‘My Teacher, My hero’. Each school held its own event and in Himay-angan High School on October 3rd all classes halted while presentations were made to the teachers by their grateful students. The teachers were adorned with flowers and gifts but also acknowledged by the school for their outstanding contributions in an award ceremony. CCC’s Education Officer Niamh Kelly visited Himay-angan on this day to present them with a poster from the school’s previous visit to Napantao, where 12 students became certified Reef Rangers. In true Filipino style and hospitality Niamh was warmly welcomed into the celebrations and also ushered on stage to sit amongst these outstanding teachers. With flowers, certificates, gifts and smiles all round, the level of appreciation and admiration these students have for their teachers definitely took pride of place. That was of course until the sound system was cranked up and the party really started!!
7th October 2013
Sea Turtle Activity Workshop, Montserrat
The second of Coral Cay’s environmental education workshops took place on the 14th of September with another good run of attendance at the Library in the main town of Brades, Montserrat.
This week’s theme was Sea Turtles and the session started with a PowerPoint presentation involving photos, videos and lots of turtle facts! The CCC team introduced concepts of endangered species, fishing by-catch and marine conservation to a captive audience of 23 6 to 13 year olds. Technical difficulties led to some quick improvisation, with Project Scientist Gemma Galbraith exhibiting some questionable drawing skills! Quick to assist and save further excruciating artwork, willing volunteers from the audience stepped in to illustrate the turtle anatomy diagram. It was fantastic to see the kids participating so actively in the session, learning about turtle shell formation, patterns and the long-lived lifecycle of marine turtles. The children asked some great questions of the team, drawing on our experiences of seeing these amazing animals in the waters of Montserrat and allowing us to pass on some of our passion for protecting such incredible and charismatic species.
After the presentation we set to the enjoyable task of making turtle models from paper plates. During the arts and crafts session we answered lots more questions and were able to encourage the children to find out more about the turtles nesting on Montserrat. We are currently in the peak of nesting season here, with fresh turtle tracks seen most mornings on many local beaches. Many of the children demonstrated great familiarity with the turtle lifecycle but few realised the critically endangered status of all 7 species of marine turtle worldwide. This was a great opportunity to relay the importance of Montserrat’s marine environment to the group, emphasising how precious good nesting beaches are and how our actions on the island can help sea turtles continue to nest on Montserrat for generations to come.
3rd October 2013
University students visit CCC!
On Wednesday 18th of September the Coral Cay base at Napantao in the Philippines was the final stop on a 2 day intense tour of Coastal Resource Management sites and programmes for a dozen of Southern Leyte State University San Juan’s finest Fishery Arts technical degree. The 4th years had visited other municipalities across the bay to see other fantastic MPAs and Mangrove Rehabilitation sites as well as taking classes with their sister college SLSU Bontoc before visiting Coral Cays current home in the Philippines. After a brief stretching of legs it was straight into the science room for a lecture on integrated Coastal Resource Management given by Project Scientist Thomas Fey. The focus of the afternoon was to tie in all the students had learnt of the benefits of conserving our coastal marine habitats into a cohesive whole, and to highlight how integrated management of habitats can be even more beneficial than individual conservation plans. By the end of the day, plans for incorporating CRM into San Bernard and San Juan Municipalities’ already impressive conservation progress were already in the offing. The visit was a great success, with both parties being invited for further visits in the near future.
26th September 2013
International Coastal Cleanup Day in Cambodia
What a brilliant International Coastal Cleanup Day 2013 in Cambodia, despite the weather’s best efforts to drown out the day. In the morning we went underwater on the reef around Song Saa Private Island, armed with gloves, dive knives and a large collection of mesh bags. Our challenge - collect as much rubbish as possible. Our team of six managed to remove more than 50 kg in just over an hour! Sightings of an octopus, blue spotted ribbon tailed ray, scorpion fish and numerous nudibranchs, followed by the consumption of some incredible handmade pizzas for our efforts, made for a happy team! The afternoon saw us collaborate with the Song Saa Foundation for a large-scale beach cleanup in Prek Svey, with many of the village locals joining in – kids, adults and the owners of Song Saa! It’s nice to see how excited local children get when they are out on the beach getting their hands dirty. On days like these you certainly realize just how much of an adverse impact humans have on coral reefs around coastal communities. Through our best efforts we removed over 60 large bags of rubbish from the beach, yet the total volume of debris was little dented. With more cleanups planned for the near future we will continue to make a difference – watch this space…
23rd September 2013
On Saturday the 14th of September students from Himay-Angan High School in the Philippines took part in CCC’s Reef Rangers programme. The students arrived with big smiles and were full of excitement for the full day of activities ahead of them (as were the CCC team!).
Sammie Euridge, CCC’s Education Officer, taught the students about fish anatomy, fish families and coral identification before all the students grabbed a mask and snorkel and a CCC volunteer and jumped (carefully) into the water. CCC volunteers encouraged all Reef Rangers to identify as many fish as they could - or ones that they recognised from ‘Finding Nemo’. Even the teachers of Himay-Angan loved their first time snorkelling and it was difficult to even get them out of the water! The afternoon continued to be packed to the brim with activities as students used identification books to find what they had spotted during their snorkel.
With all this information they each created their own poster presentations on their chosen species that now hang proudly in CCC’s base camp. A competitive board game about Marine Protected Areas ensued with cheers from the students as they showed their knowledge skills that they acquired throughout the day. After this, each student was presented with a their Reef Rangers certificate for all their hard work. The day drew to a close still with laughter, smiles and high fives all round. A great day with a truly great bunch of newly qualified Reef Rangers!
9th September 2013
Kids' Activity Workshop!
On Saturday the 31st of August the CCC Montserrat team hosted the first in a series of environmental activity workshops at the National Library of Montserrat. Aimed at school children these workshops aim to combine themes of conservation, ecology and sustainable natural resource use with interactive learning and educational activities. As a part of our community outreach and education agenda we hope to engender a sense of environmental awareness, pride and responsibility in Montserrat’s younger generation.
A group of 21 children ranging in age between 4-13 arrived at 10.30am ready to take part and meet Coral Cay staff and volunteers. This first session introduced the ecology of a coral reef; what it is made of, how it grows and what habitat it provides to other marine plants and animals. It was a great opportunity to show some of the photo and video material CCC has started to collect as marine surveys get underway here. We had a captive audience as images of moray eels, turtles and sharks graced the projector screen.
Having introduced Montserrat’s marine life, the workshop moved onto the corals themselves. The children were given examples of hard coral skeletons to pass around and investigate while the team explained the concept of a coral colony and how each colony is composed of individual polyps. Following this, volunteers worked with smaller groups of children to explain further, draw and colour in coral polyp diagrams. We ended up with a range of drawing styles, coral species, fish and other exciting marine life in colourful pictures that were stuck on the wall for everyone to share. Parents and siblings of the children in attendance were shown over to see the pieces of work, take photos and ask the CCC team more questions about the reefs of Montserrat.
There was a good level of general familiarity with coral reefs amongst many of the children. We were pleased to answer all manner of questions from children and parents alike and it was great to share some of the sea’s weird and wonderful creatures with everyone. Perhaps the quote of the day came from 9-year-old Julitenta who, after sitting with our Science Officer Anna Zuke, flicking through a fish identification book, declared “I don’t believe in sunfish!” The children who took part were eager to see real life examples too, asking why we hadn’t brought the fish in for them to see! It was fantastic to be able to explain that much of the flora and fauna we had showed them in our picture and video show was right on their doorstep.
The session closed with everybody taking on the role of a single coral polyp and gathering together in front of our pictures to form a real life human polyp colony! This was a very promising fist run at what will now be a regular feature of CCC’s community outreach and education work on Montserrat. CCC and the Library staff have agreed that these sessions will run twice a month and will follow an activity syllabus of complementary and diverse materials. We hope to cover further topics of marine conservation and also examine the terrestrial aspect of biodiversity on the island. This is a great way to bring some of the immediate experiments and outputs of the Montserrat Ridge to Reef Project, from staff and volunteers to local people. These workshops also contribute to a key project output activity for increasing awareness and support within local communities for the implementation of sustainable natural resource management. We hope to enthuse and inspire the children attending these workshops with knowledge and an interest in the fantastic wealth of natural history that Montserrat has to offer.
27th August 2013
Training for the Future!
As part of CCC's on-going dedication to marine conservation awareness and education in the Philippines, we have recently been collaborating with a local NGO, Ocean-Action Resource Centre (ORC), to provide classroom resources and guidance for teachers wishing to include marine science lessons in their curriculum.
In combination with ORC, we have been working to provide an eight-lesson module, suitable for grades 5 through 8, which uses Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as the basis to illustrate key ecological principles and environmental concerns.
The module, called ‘MPA for teachers’, begins with an overview of tropical marine ecosystems, covering the importance of sea grass beds, mangroves and coral reefs. It then focuses on MPAs, explaining the concept behind this conservation technique and conveying its benefits. The MPA is then used as a venue to explore the interactions and relationships associated with marine ecology. Competition, predation and the food chain are explored, as is the fascinating topic of symbiosis.
Created by Grace Quiton, a previous CCC volunteer and Scholar, the lesson plans include collaborative activities and interactive games to engage students and stimulate discussion about the
marine environment in the Philippines. Designed to enhance the learner’s appreciation of marine ecosystems and cultivate a sense of curiosity and discovery, the ultimate goal of the module is that
the understanding of this environment will promote protection of it.
Our pilot ‘MPA for teachers’ training workshop was held on Wednesday 14th August at Southern Leyte State University (SLSU), Bontoc campus, and attended by 25 elementary and secondary school teachers, Dept. of Education officials and other interested parties. Our Education Officer, Sammie Euridge, covered the course content, explained the philosophy behind the module and incited enthusiasm by demonstrating the effectiveness of the included educational activities.
We hope that by provision of this teaching resource, the concept of marine conservation will be introduced into the elementary curriculum, encouraging the children of Southern Leyte to actively protect the environment, paving the way for a bright and sustainable future.
19th August 2013
Marine Awareness Day - Philippines
After the successful completion of surveying at the local dive site known as ‘Ghost Town’ last week, Coral Cay Conservation celebrated in style with a Marine Awareness Day at the neighbouring barangay of Santa Paz Norte. The barangay council are working to establish a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to protect their incredible local reef (where the CCC surveying team were lucky enough to spot the ornate ghost pipefish featured in last month’s project update), but are facing concerns from fishermen who are worried that the enforcement of no fish zones will affect their livelihoods. Our support was requested to raise awareness amongst the community, by dispelling misinformation and highlighting the benefits of MPAs, which include increased fish populations and a source of income for the community through tourist diving. In coming months our team will continue to work with the community, including the fishermen, to ensure that all of the people are given a voice in the MPA development process.
The event was initiated with a sun soaked beach clean and progressed to an afternoon of educational activities, held in the shade of the basketball court. The beauty and diversity of the Ghost Town site was conveyed to the gathered crowd through stunning photographs and underwater video, collected specifically for this purpose, and projected onto the wall of the barangay basketball court for all to enjoy. Rubbish bins were painted to depict marine scenes and decorated with motivational slogans such as: ‘Put your trash in me, not in the sea!’ and ‘Respect the reef!’ in a drive to discourage littering. Local children were also invited to make their own coral polyp, using an egg carton as the corallite cup, coloured paper strips for tentacles and glitter to represent the zooxanthellae algae that coral shares a symbiotic relationship with. The day’s programme culminated with our ever-popular Fred the Fish puppet show; great fun for everyone involved and observing. After the show we sadly bid adieu to the paint and glitter coated children of Santa Paz Norte and headed for home. We are looking forward to continuing to work with this community in the coming months.
9th August 2013
Creature of the week!
Guess what impressive creature has been spotted by our team in the Philippines...
5th August 2013
The CCC house was full to the brim with laughter and learning on Saturday 13th July, when we opened our doors to 12 students from Himay-Angan High School (plus 5 siblings that tagged along) for another successful Reef Rangers! The students: Danah Gonzaga, Eva Lopez, Mary Ann Chua, Sheena Borbonga, Kristine Divino, Winona Peras, Angelo Buhion, Jerome Populi, Alser Dellosa, Kaye Dela Rosa, Felda Latonero and Gianna Cuares, were specially selected by their school as having an interest in conservation and marine biology. Accompanied by their teacher Ma’am Jayvee Basil, they enjoyed a day of coral reef biological and ecological education, including snorkelling to identify fish and coral species with our dedicated volunteers. The syllabus included games and discussions identifying threats to coral reefs, including climate change and destructive fishing practices, and the possible solutions we can employ.
Community and environmental education projects are integral to the work we are conducting here in Southern Leyte, and are at the heart of the Coral Cay ethos, so it was wonderful to see everyone; volunteers, staff and students, involved and enthusiastic. Although 60% of the Filipino population lives by the coast, many children do not get the opportunity to learn to swim and never to see the incredible aquatic diversity that occurs here. The majority of the students that attend our Reef Rangers programme had never been snorkelling before. The reactions to their first glimpse of the coral reef, the wonder and enchantment obvious on their faces, is heart-warming to observe.