13 - 16 November 2014

A busy weekend for CCC Montserrat with the Arrow Symposium and Alliouagana Festival of the Word!

The CCC Montserrat team had an incredibly busy weekend presenting at the Arrow Symposium and enjoying the long awaited Alliouagana Festival of the word!

13 Nov 2014: Shawn Daniel, Project Scientist for Coral Cay Conservation, gave a presentation at the Third Symposium in the Alphonsus ‘Arrow’ Cassell Memorial Lecture Series on his paper entitled “The Importance of Responsible Management of Natural Resources and Endemic Species to Promote Economic Growth and Preserve Cultural Identity Through Enhanced Ecotourism on Montserrat”. Present at the symposium were 5 other authors presenting their respective papers, as well as approximately 60 members of the general public in the audience including the Honourable Premier of Montserrat, Donaldson Romeo. 

15 Nov 2014: Science Officers Hazel Thornton and Jack Coupland, were joined by Shawn Daniel, Helen Russell (Education Officer)and volunteers Kathryn Farthing and Curtis Steele to talk to the local children about coral polyps and the importance of coral reefs, whilst getting the children present at the workshop to build playdough models of their own coral polyps and other marine creatures. These models were subsequently used by CCC to decorate the stage for our conservation themed puppet show, Danny’s Dilemma! This was an incredibly successful and interactive event with 12 children turning up for the craft session.

Shawn Daniel later gave a presentation to members of the general public about the ecotourism on Montserrat as well as the importance of conservation, focusing on CCC’s Montserrat Ridge to Reef Conservation Project (MRRCP). Shawn talked about CCC’s work on Montserrat, including surveys, community education and outreach work, as well as our Local Scholars programme which aims to build capacity amongst local Montserratians. 

16 Nov 2014: Duncan Sharp (SO) and Hazel Thornton took the opportunity to speak to children about frogs and other amphibians of Montserrat, their importance to the ecosystem and threats currently being faced - especially the critically endangered Mountain Chicken. While discussing this, children also created and decorated their own paper models of frogs – which included a number of sequins and plenty of glitter!

EO Helen Russell presented the annual book lover’s parade as part of the closing ceremony for the Alliouagana Festival 2014. Children who had spent the last few library sessions making masks for their costumes with Helen at Brades Library finally got a chance to show off the finished product. Masks were chosen by children based on animal characters from their favourite books that they had read as part of this extended workshop. 17 children took part in the parade, with a fantastic range of different animal characters on display. 

The penultimate event of this year’s closing ceremony was CCC’s nation-renowned puppet show! After the team’s maiden performance of Danny’s Dilemma at last year’s Alliouagana festival, everyone was looking forward to putting this together again for the festival this year. With an enthusiastic cast, made up of staff and volunteers, and an eager group of children happy to help with some interactive segments of the play, this was certainly the most fun filled event of the weekend with everyone involved getting into the spirit of things and enjoying themselves.

 

1 November 2014

The costumes are coming along for the Alliouagana Festival!

This week Brades Library became a hive of activity once again as children worked to finish their animal character masks for the upcoming Alliouagana Festival and Book Lover’s Parade in two weeks’ time.  Coral Cay volunteers Josh, Kathy, Peter, Curtis and Morgan worked with Education Officer Helen Russell to help students with their designs. There was no shortage of creativity and the glitter and sequins were free flowing as children worked on a wide variety of lions, tigers, parrots, dogs, rabbits and fish to represent the characters chosen from a range of fictional and factual books. 

The aim of the sessions has been to encourage a love of reading and this aim has certainly been achieved as children enthused about their choices.  Children have selected from a diverse range of books, including factual books and guides to classic stories such as the Jungle Book.  The attendance has continued to be strong and every week the promotion by Rose Willock on ZJB radio has been a massive support; word of mouth is spreading and every week we have seen new children coming along for the first time alongside our regular attendees.

 

In two weeks’ time children will take part in the Book Lover’s parade and have the opportunity to talk about their characters and books prior to the Coral Cay Puppet show and prize-giving event at the end of the Festival week. 

31 October 2014

CCC Education Officer begins work with Montserrat Secondary School.

This week Education Officer Helen Russell began work with the Secondary School in preparation for the Montserrat Science Fair week in December. Helen will be delivering a short series of lessons to a Grade 2 class culminating in a stall at this years’ Fair.

 

Helen met with the class before beginning the project to discuss the type of activity they were interested in; students expressed a desire to learn more about the Coral reefs around Montserrat and in particular wanted to learn about how Coral Cay goes about surveying these and how SCUBA diving works. Helen returned this week to start the project that will take place over the next fortnight.

 

In this first lesson the focus was on Coral Ecology the aim being to ensure students understood what Coral actually is and its importance.  The lesson was broken roughly into: the Biology of Coral, its importance and the current treats to Reefs around the world.  Students were interested and surprised to learn that coral is actually an animal and the length of time it can take to grow; later on in the lesson students applied this knowledge when demonstrating a good understanding of why Coral is susceptible to environmental changes and human activities.  An emphasis was also placed on the key scientific literacy with key terms such as symbiosis, photosynthesis and plankton; much fun was also had trying to pronounce zooxanthellae!

 

Helen really enjoyed her first lesson at the Secondary School and found it particularly rewarding to see the reactions of students to pictures of the Reefs around Montserrat; students were genuinely surprised and impressed to see the diversity of species in their local environment.  The lesson has already achieved the objective of helping to educate students about the local ecology and everyone is looking forward to this coming week when the focus will be on SCUBA diving and surveying. 

31 October 2014

Himayangan Barangay Council Survey Meeting

On the 31st October Charlie Wiseman (Project Scientist) and Jerry Slater (Science Officer) met with Himayangan Barangay Council to discuss Coral Cay Conservation’s (CCC’s) next potential Marine Protected Area (MPA) survey site. The Barangay Council were very enthusiastic about the establishment of an MPA in their waters and were keen to show CCC the site they would like us to survey. They are an environmentally proactive barangay, running frequent beach clean-ups throughout the year and planting mangrove seedlings to increase the size of their mangrove forests. The CCC survey team is very excited to dive the site and survey the coral reef to help the community of Himayangan protect their waters for future generations.

30 October 2014

Nueva Estrella Norte Community Awareness Day

On the 30th October Charlie Wiseman (Project Scientist) and Amy Gosney (Science Officer) ran a Community Awareness Day in barangay Nueva Estrella Norte, Pintuyan. Throughout the morning, the assistance of Sir Nario Dumaran (Pintuyan Municipal Agriculturist) and Tom Sanborn (US Peace Corp Volunteer) was invaluable.

 

The morning started with introductions to the Barangay Council and the community by Cebauno speakers Sir Nario and Tom. Charlie then presented the preliminary results of CCC’s surveys of the reefs of Nueva Estrella Norte. The area had high amounts of healthy hard coral cover but low abundances of large fish and commercially important fish species. This indicates that the area is being unsustainably fished. With the implementation of adequate protection, however, the reef should be able to recover. If a well-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) is installed on the reef, the high abundances of juvenile fish observed will be allowed to grow to larger sizes and produce offspring of their own. The MPA would, therefore, start to function as a fish factory for its surrounding areas and support local fishery stocks.

The Barangay Council and the community seemed very supportive of the idea of installing an MPA in Nueva Estrella Norte. Sir Nario and Tom were a great help, translating CCC’s results into Cebuano and answering questions from the community. Their involvement with discussions of MPA’s and the importance of healthy coral reefs really engaged the barangay council and the community.

 

After this presentation Charlie, Amy and Tom took the children and members of the Barangay Council out to snorkel the reefs of Nueva Estrella Norte. They assisted the children with their first ever snorkel and showed the Barangay Council members the area of the reef CCC would recommend for an MPA. Both adults and children were very excited to see the healthy status of the hard coral cover of their reefs and a very animated green turtle!

 

CCC are looking forward to assisting Nueva Estrella Norte Local Government Unit (LGU) and Pintuyan Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO), wherever possible, to start the MPA implementation process.

30 October 2014

The CCC Montserrat team get the chance to dive in the Southern Exclusion Zone!

Today Coral Cay Conservation was fortunate enough to conduct 4 separate dives in the marine exclusion zone around Montserrat, southeast of Bransby Point. Having received permission to conduct these dives from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and Royal Montserrat Police Force, we planned a day of diving with the aim of trying to familiarise ourselves with the reefs in this part of Montserrat’s waters, which have not properly dived and surveyed since before volcanic activity began in 1995! Today’s objective was to assess sea conditions around this side of the island and whether they would allow CCC to conduct Reef Check surveys in this area as part of our ongoing marine survey work on the island’s reefs.

A total of 4 dives were carried out over the course of the whole day. Each dive team consisted of 3 people – 1 science staff member leading the dive (either the Project Scientist or a Science Officer) and 2 others. Dives were staggered over the day with 2 being completed in the morning and a further 2 after lunch. All dive teams descended to a depth of between 10 and 12 metres, and then began swimming in a S-shaped search pattern on a bearing of approximately 150 degrees South by Southeast, ensuring that they stayed between 8 and 12 metres in depth. If any of the divers came across coral reef, this was then explored by the whole team, with fish, substrate and invertebrate species encountered being recorded wherever possible. Subsequent dive teams were deployed approximately 200 metres from where the previous team surfaced, with GPS coordinates being recorded for all teams’ start and end points.

Two of the four dive teams encountered patches of coral reef during the dive and spent approximately 40 minutes in total exploring these reefs. Numerous fish were recorded including: Butterflyfish, Garden Eels, Chromis, Chub, Filefish, Goatfish, Grunts, Jacks, Lionfish, Snapper, Squirrelfish, Soldierfish, Moray Eels, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish, Boxfish, Parrotfish, Groupers, Barracuda, and Stingrays. Two large (approximately 60 cm) and very curious Almaco Jacks (Seriola rivoliana) were spotted by our divers, as well as a shy Sand Tilefish (Malacanthus plumier) and a Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

A range of colourful sponges  and numerous colonies of hard coral were also seen on the reefs, with several boulders of vulnerable Elliptical Star Coral (Dichocoenia stokesii) and various other star corals (Montastraea spp.) being recorded, too. Encouragingly, no trash or coral damage was seen on the reef we explored, but there were several colonies of hard coral which had undergone bleaching.

 

There was a good range of invertebrate species present as well, including Long Spined Sea Urchins, numerous Gorgonians, Collector Urchins, Cushion Stars, Basket Stars and Queen Conch. We also spotted a few Magnificent Urchins (Astropyga magnifica) on the beds of Midrib Seagrass (Halophila baillonis) surrounding the patches of reef. Both of the dive teams who were deployed further away from the water off shore from the remnants of the pyroclastic flows in Plymouth encountered reef, while those deployed further southeast saw mostly seagrass and sand on the seabed.

All in all, it was a great day’s diving which was very rewarding for everyone involved, not to mention exciting. Several divers took underwater cameras with them and came back with some good photographs and video footage of the marine life encountered. With a few more exploratory dives planned, we should hopefully soon be able to conduct surveys around this side of the island to complement our ongoing surveys which have so far focussed on the western coast north of the marine exclusion zone.

29 October 2014

Montserrat Drinks Reception

Our team recently welcomed CCC’s CEO, Alistair Cole, to Montserrat. It was a great excuse to invite some of the locals to site and thank them for their help and support during the establishment of the Montserrat expedition. We were very pleased to be able to welcome a number of local dignitaries including:

 

Governor Adrian Davis

Charles Thomson - Assistant Commissioner of Police

Mr Rod Stewart - Director of Montserrat Volcano Observatory

Dr Tracy Kernannet-Huggins - Montserrat Chief Medical Officer

Mr Nigel Harris - Owner of Flymontserrat

Mr Martin Dawson - Head of DfID in Montserrat

Mr David Chrichton - Chief Consultant with Montserrat Development Corporation

Mrs Cherlyn Hogan - Head of Monserrat Secondary School

    

Sadly the new Premier couldn't make it due to other commitments but the team on site are looking forward to meeting him in the future. A total of 61 persons attended the reception which started at 6 pm and continued until 8 pm. Staff and volunteers mixed freely with guests, discussing and explaining the work that Coral Cay is doing on the island through the marine, terrestrial and local education and outreach programmes.  The evening was a huge success with many guests saying how informative and knowledgeable the staff and volunteers were. 

28 October 2014

CCC Montserrat join in at Citizen’s Fair 2014

This week on Montserrat saw Coral Cay taking part in the annual Citizen’s Day organised by the Fire and Police Departments. The event brought agencies from all over the island together to give Grade 6 students from all the Primary Schools an interactive introduction to the wide range of careers on offer.  The event was aimed at helping to inform students about the variety of agencies working on Montserrat, including the Red Cross, The Police and Fire Departments, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and the utilities companies; the event also aimed to give them practical and useful information about a range of topics including health, mental wellbeing, the law, drugs and alcohol.

 

Students moved around the event in groups of 6 and spent 15-20 minutes at each booth. 

At Coral Cay we began with a brief introduction to our work by Education Officer Helen Russell before splitting the group up to learn about our work through hands-on activity.  Science Officer Jack Coupland and volunteer Peter Coville explained how scuba surveying is carried out giving students the opportunity to try breathing through a regulator.  The lively questions and answers served to raise awareness about the marine species that are important for Montserrat, especially helping to educate children about the difference between invasive and endemic species.  In the second activity, Assistant Field Base Manager Anne and volunteer Kathy Coville used the CPR mannequin to demonstrate the importance of expedition First Aid and expedition preparedness; the informative and engaging demonstration really helped to bring home the concept that environmental science can take people to remote and fascinating environments.

 

The event was brought to a close with an assembly, questions and prize giving.  The enthusiastic responses from the audience to Helen’s questions about what the children had learnt was a wonderful illustration of how much they had enjoyed and involved themselves in the day.  Staff, volunteers and children alike enjoyed the hands-on activities and the event helped to raise Coral Cay’s profile in a positive and fun way; we look forward to taking part again next year. 

21 October 2014

Learning about food webs in St Augustine's Primary School

Helen Russell (Education Officer) recently taught a full lesson as part of the teacher development work that has been taking place with St Augustine’s Primary School. Helen taught the first lesson in the Grade 6 ‘Ecology’ scheme.  The lesson was on food webs and understanding interactions in food webs.

 

During the hour long lesson Helen reviewed the subject of food webs using an African Savannah example. This was followed by a question and answer session about how a food web works, and the interactions involved. The kids then paired up and discussed competition and interactions. Followed by a peer marked question sheet using a Montserratian marine food web. There was also lots of discussion about the use of quadrats / sampling / the work of Coral Cay and the collection of data.

 

The teacher and students were delighted with the lesson and it was a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate how lessons can be taught in an interactive way, even without the use of any IT Technology. It also served to help strengthen the relationship between Coral Cay and St Augustine’s and improve awareness of CCC work amongst students.

18 October 2014

Preparing for the Alliouagana Festival!

Word is spreading about the library sessions at Montserrat’s public library as this week saw a record turnout for the Coral Cay Conservation library session.  Promotion was aided in no small part by the half hour interview on ZJB National Radio with Rose Willock that morning.  Science Officers Hazel Thornton, Jack Coupland and Duncan Sharp, with Education Officer Helen Russell took part in the on-air interview to discuss the work that Coral Cay Conservation is doing in Montserrat; Helen had the opportunity to talk about the educational work taking place in several of the schools on Montserrat and the library sessions were discussed at length.  

Following their brief brush with fame, Helen, Hazel and Duncan were joined by volunteers Alice, Kathy and Morgan to deliver this week’s session at Brades library.  In the session a fortnight ago children began to design their masks for the Alliouagana festival of the word based around their favourite animal characters from books.  In November they will be taking part in the Book Lover’s parade and showing off their handiwork as part of the festival, which will also include a performance of the Coral Cay puppet show and a variety of other activities and workshops in which Coral Cay can continue to work to raise awareness about the biodiversity with which Montserrat is blessed.

 

Following a question and answer session where children thought about reasons why animals may become endangered, the craft activity began in earnest. Children worked on making their masks and thinking about their costumes.  The work is ongoing and everyone is looking forward to seeing how the costumes develop in the coming sessions.  Creativity was abundant as children continued to design and create… watch this space for the finished designs in the weeks to come!!!

13 October 2014

OECS Ocean Governance and Hydrographic Scoping Study Presentation

Today CCC were invited to attend a presentation and workshop by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Ocean Governance Unit. This presentation on ocean governance and a hydrographic scoping study was given by Dr Asha Singh (Head of OECS Ocean Governance Unit) and Mr Samuel Harper (UK Hydrographic Office), with short speeches by Montserratian government officials including the Honourable Claude Hogan (Minister of MAHLE), Mrs Camille Thomas (Permanent Secretary of MAHLE) and Alwyn Ponteen (Chief Fisheries Officer).

 

This very interesting and insightful presentation was a chance for the attendees to learn about the present scoping study being undertaken by the OECS Ocean Governance Unit, with help from the UK Hydrographic Office and officials from the OECS Member States. The main priorities and objectives of this project are to secure access to marine resources, support research and capacity building, promote public awareness, help build resilience and plan for uncertainties such as climate change adopt multiple ocean planning and integrated management plans and reform current ocean governance.

 

This included a talk from Dr Singh about the planned activities set out by her department to achieve these goals, which are recognised by Mr Harper and the UK Hydrographic Office as being essential for better management of marine resources for Montserrat, which has 10 times more marine space than it does terrestrial territory.

 

Minister Hogan of MAHLE explained that the implications of this project for Montserrat were to help improve the fisheries sector and ocean governance systems already in place through delineation of revised and accurate marine boundaries, better understanding of bathymetry, improved navigational charts for the region, monitoring of in shore fishing vessels, and other such activities.

 

The need for better understanding of the hydrography of the region and the impacts that climate change could have on it was underlined quite importantly given that Tropical Storm Gonzalo was passing through the region during the meeting, forcing the attendees to relocate to a different building due to an island wide power cut! The short drive from Little Bay to Brades allowed us the chance to witness huge waves crashing on the shores of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, where the Montserratian government plans to develop its new port and town centre.

 

This was a very educational experience for members of the CCC team present, who left the presentation with a better understanding of hydrography and its importance, as well as how the OECS’ project could help Montserrat and its maritime and fishing community with this study.

4 October 2014

CCC gear up for the Montserrat Alliouagana Festival of the Word!

This week saw the start of CCC’s preparations for the Montserrat Alliouagana Festival of the Word, which takes place in November.  Education Officer Helen Russell was joined by Science Officer Hazel Thornton, Assistant Field Base Manager Anne McDonald and volunteers Josh and Alice in a session designed to encourage children to read about animals and animal characters in books.  Coral Cay is helping to promote literacy and a love of reading alongside conservation education, by working with children to prepare costumes for the Book Lover’s Parade for the festival based on animal characters from books. 

 

The preparations will take place over the next three sessions and began in earnest this week with a presentation about a variety of endangered animals from around the world.  The ‘animals of the world’ quiz at the beginning got things started as children matched animals to their worldwide locations.  Tigers and Elephants then became the focus, with children animated about their favourite books and animals characters including those from ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘the Tiger that came to Tea’. Helen then moved on to share information about these animals with an emphasis on the dangers posed by poaching, the trade in illegal animal products and habitat destruction that is affecting these fascinating creatures in real life.  The discussions that followed encouraged children to think about ways to protect endangered species and it was agreed that educating others was of prime importance.

Children were even more keen than usual as they then worked with volunteers to choose a book, read it and choose characters for their costume.  The time was spent designing masks that will be made in later sessions; the session was lively and volunteers were kept busy as a wide variety of designs emerged including lions, pandas, parrots, leopards, mice, tigers, panthers and even angel fish!

 

Over 19 children attended this session, one of the highest numbers yet; it was particularly pleasing to see so many new faces who had been encouraged to come along by word of mouth and promotion on ZJB radio; Coral Cay volunteers thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the session and engaging with such an enthusiastic group of young people. Thanks must go as always to Brades Library for hosting the event. 

2 October 2014 

An Environmental Awareness day is in the works!

CCC Science Officers, Amy and Alan, visited Liloan National Tech Vocational High School for their second environmental committee meeting recently and were very impressed by what the group had planned. The committee was extremely excited and had planned an environmental awareness day which would get the whole school involved. The plan included various activities such as: a beach clean-up, poster competitions, an environmental quiz bee and tree planting.  As with many Filipino events, there would also be dance and musical aspects to the day, along with an ‘amazing race’ which Alan and Amy were very intrigued about! The school planned to get the local government involved to fund the tree planting to enable the school to make a longer lasting positive impact on the environment and encourage the pupils that their efforts were appreciated on a larger scale.

 

Another meeting was planned to finalise the plans with the school and CCC, and we are very intrigued to see what else they come up with! 

30 September 2014

San Francisco High School students get creative at their Seastars art competition!

Charlie Wiseman (Project Scientist) and Amy Hornett (SCUBA Instructor) jumped at the chance to attend an art competition at San Francisco High School (CAASAFI). The competition was arranged by the school’s environmental committee, which was established after the school’s completion of 3 CCC Seastar Environmental Award Scheme (SEAS) lectures. Students were given 2 hours to complete a poster in any media to portray their interpretation of the theme “Environment”. 

It was great fun to watch the students develop their ideas and draw a variety of different pictures under the Filipino sun. Pictures varied from rice paddy landscapes with mountainous backdrops to underwater seascapes. 

Some of the most thought provoking posters included important messages such as “Save Our Mother Earth” and depicted scenes of healthy, well-protected environments in contrast to polluted environments where organisms were no longer able to survive. The results of the competition will be announced on Friday the 10th October during a special prize giving ceremony, which will include certificates displaying the Environmental Committee’s unique new logo.

26 September 2014

Southern Leyte holds its first annual Tourism Summit

On the 26th September (the day before World Tourism Day) Charlie Wiseman (Project Scientist) and Alan Kavanagh (Science Officer) visited the capital of Southern Leyte, Maasin City, to attend the province’s first annual Tourism Summit. The event started early with dance performances from local universities to celebrate the arrival of Hon. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. The people of Southern Leyte were extremely excited to welcome such an important guest.

 

The summit began with an inspiring speech from the Senator about the numerous prospects of Southern Leyte as a growing tourist destination. He emphasised the importance of advertising and pursuing the right tourist market, discussed the growing number of Filipino tourists desperate to explore their own country and the significance of reliable transportation links for successful tourism operations. He then opened up the summit to a panel discussion where stakeholders from all sectors could ask him questions, make statements or provide opinions. The session was extremely diverse and involved such topics as “the potential for Limasawa island as a tourist attraction”, “the prospect of establishing a wind farm on Limasawa island” and “the importance of educating tourist attraction staff”.

Hon. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Senator of the Republic of the Philippines gives his opening speech.

The afternoon was divided into three sessions of discussion provided by various stakeholder experts, followed by panel discussions. The first session addressed “Southern Leyte’s tourism role within the Eastern Visayas after Yolanda” and “The integration of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – boon or bane for local tourism?” The second session contained the topics “Success of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Cebu” and “The role of social media in tourism promotions”.

 

The final session discussed Sogod Bay as the “Next dive mecca of the Philippines” and Mt. Nacolod as “The next major ecotourism destination in Eastern Visayas/the Philippines”. Discussions after each session were full of passion and centred on the main tourist attraction of Southern Leyte, SCUBA diving. With such an emphasis upon diving to attract tourists to Southern Leyte, it is apparent that the appropriate protection of dive sites and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is vital to the success of the province’s future in tourism. If these areas are not suitably managed and consequently overfished and damaged, Southern Leyte will lose their main tourist attraction.

25 September 2014

Students at Liloan National Tech Vocational High School eager to start their Gold Seastar course

After successfully completing their Silver Seastar 3 course the week earlier students at Liloan National Tech Vocational High School were eager to get started on the next stage of the Seastar program.  At the end of SEAS 3, they had elected 2 members from each class, so 10 members overall out of grade 7. Therefore at the beginning of today’s meeting, they elected a team leader and assistant team leader to run the committee.

 

CCC Science Officer, Amy, explained to the group what the aims of the committee were and how they could go about holding an event to gain their Gold Sea Star Award. They were enthusiastic and discussed different options such as a coastal clean-up and art competition to raise awareness within their school, and to improve the quality of the environment. Within the committee, the students organise the events themselves so they are doing what they want to do, with the guidance and support of CCC. Amy is looking forward to returning shortly and finding out about their planned event.

20 September 2014

Learning about Montserrat's only endemic mammal- the bat!

This week at Brades library, ‘bats’ were the focus for the Coral Cay presentation and craft sessions. Following a live interview on Montserrat’s ZJB radio to promote the event, education officer Helen Russell was joined by Anne McDonald and volunteer, Eleanor, to help teach children about Montserrat’s only endemic mammal.

 

There are ten different species of bat on Montserrat, two of which are endangered and several of which are threatened.  Children learnt about some of these different species including the endangered yellow-shouldered volcano bat, the large fishing bat and the fluffy funnel eared bat, before taking part in a quiz and competition to test their new found knowledge. There was a lot of engaging discussion about why bats are important to Montserrat and children were surprised to learn that a single colony of bats could consume over 10,000 mosquitos in a night.  It was unanimously agreed that bats were a good thing!

Following the presentation and quiz, children took part in the craft session to make their own bats; many decorating their bats with the food they eat, there was also a guest appearance for the newest species of Montserratian bat, the lesser-known ‘pink sequinned bat’. The children really enjoyed themselves and all left with a much better insight into the importance of this much misunderstood mammal.

 

Thanks goes as always to the staff at Brades library for helping to host the event and to Rose Willock at ZJB Radio for her continued support and promotion of Coral Cay events within the community. 

18 September 2014

Students at Liloan National Tech Vocational High School receive their Silver Seastar certificates!

CCC Science Officers Amy and Alan, recently visited Liloan National Tech Vocational High School to complete the final SEAS (Seastar Environmental Award Scheme) lecture. They taught 5 classes, covering the whole of grade 7 and at the end of each class the students were awarded their Silver Seastar certificate for completing the course.

Each class took the information on board really well and were extremely enthusiastic throughout the session, especially when playing the MPA (marine protected area) game. Within the game, the MPA is represented as a ‘fish factory’ and gives a good practical explanation of how the MPA works over time. It demonstrates how fish stocks are increased as a result of the MPA and how illegal fishing within the MPA is very bad as it severely decreases fish yields. After completing the SEAS course, the students had a good understanding of what coral is along with its structure, what can impact the reef, why the reef is so important and how we can protect it. 

At the end of the lesson Amy and Alan took the opportunity to explain to each group the next step towards gaining their Gold Seastar Award, which involves setting up an environmental committee. The session ended with each class electing 2 members to be on the committee and represent that class. Watch this space to see how they get on! 

6 September 2014

Learning about Sharks in Montserrat!

‘Sharks’ was the topic for this week’s CCC Montserrat event at Brades library; the first library session for new Education Officer Helen Russell joined by new volunteers Josh and Alice. The session began with an interactive presentation about sharks encouraging students to learn about the anatomy of the shark, how they are different to whales and about the sharks found around Montserrat.  The kids already knew some key facts about sharks, but were surprised to learn how they were so different to whales: there was also much enthusiasm for the competition to see who could recall the different types of fin with kids coming up to the screen in pairs to point and share what they had learnt. 

The presentation then moved on to discuss why sharks are so important to Montserrat.  Kids were interested to learn about aquatic food webs and the sharks’ role as apex predators helping to remove weaker and diseased fish.  There was also a lot of discussion about why sharks are in danger from humans due to their continued use in some foods, the use of fishing nets and their relatively slow breeding cycle.  Many kids arrived thinking that all sharks were aggressive but were pleased to learn about the reality and how rare injury from sharks are worldwide and that aggression is normally linked to human activities in the sharks’ vicinity. Finally the session finished with a question and answer session reviewing what kids had learnt and how their perceptions of sharks had changed.  

Following the presentation and questions students took part in a craft session, making shark mobiles with templates for the most common sharks around Montserrat: the Nurse shark, the Caribbean reef shark and the Hammerhead. 18 students attended this week, showing that the library sessions continue to remain popular and thanks goes to both the Brades library and the local radio station ZJB for their continued support with the promotion and hosting of the sessions. 

4 September 2014

San Francisco High School students produce their Seastar Committee logo!

Medical Officer, Caroline Pegg, and Science Officer, Alan Kavanagh, visited San Francisco High School to attend an environmental committee meeting. Environmental Committee meetings are established in schools that have completed their CCC Seastar Environmental Award Scheme (SEAS) lectures. Environmental committees are created to engage the school in conservation awareness events. Such events include school-wide beach clean-ups, tree planting, mangrove planting, art competitions or environmental concerts for the community.

The San Francisco High School team were enthusiastic and planned a poster competition for the whole school with the theme “youth can help, save our local environment”. This will take place on the 30th September and will start with an exciting dance number. The team developed a logo for their committee, which CCC has printed onto certificates for the winners of the art competition. The team were also excited about the new trash cans and recycling that has begun at their school after their last meeting.

30 August 2014

Presenting the beauties of the reef to Nueva Estrella Norte Barangay Council

On the 30th August, a team of Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) staff and volunteers photographed the coral reef of a current survey site, Nueva Estrella Norte. Charlie Wiseman (Project Scientist) and Amy Gosney (Science Officer) then attended a meeting with Sir Nario (Municipal Agriculture Officer of Pintuyan), Sir Lito (Agricultural Technician of Fisheries) and Nueva Estrella Norte’s Barangay Council. The photos obtained on dives earlier that morning were used to show the people of Nueva Estrella Norte the status of their coral reef. The majority of the barangay community have never snorkelled their reefs before and so have never seen their coral reefs.

They were shown photos of their coral diversity and reef complexity and they exclaimed at how pretty it looked. They were also shown photos of the different fish species observed on their reef and explained. Populations of butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) observed on their reefs indicated healthy live coral cover, as butterflyfish are dependent upon live coral as a food source. Unfortunately photos of large and commercially important fish species were not obtained. Preliminary observations of the reef indicate a lack of large fish and a lack of targeted fisheries species, such as groupers (Serranidae), snappers (Lutjanidae) and parrotfish (Scaridae). This likely indicates overfishing of the reef.

The implementation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) would allow for the recovery of commercially important species and would provide juveniles with a safe habitat within which to grow to larger, more fecund sizes. These fish would then “spill-over” into the waters surrounding the MPA, providing surrounding fisheries with a sustainable supply of fish. The barangay council were excited by this prospect and cannot wait until surveying of their reefs has finished so that they can begin MPA establishment.

 

When Charlie and Amy returned to the dive boat after the meeting they discovered that the local children had taken over; entertaining CCC staff and volunteers with their swimming and diving skills!

23 August 2014

Seabirds of Montserrat

This week’s CCC educational workshop at Brades Library focussed on the ‘Seabirds of Montserrat’ and was presented by Science Officer Duncan. We had 7 children in our audience for Duncan’s presentation, and several more turned up a little later for the arts and crafts session. The local kids learned about which seabirds they can expect to see around the coast as well as some fun, gross and gruesome facts! We discussed how to identify certain species as well as several of the threats facing seabirds worldwide, and what can be done to help them. 

After the presentation Duncan was joined by Project Scientist Shawn, Field Base Manager Kenny and Assistant Field Base Manager Anne who got stuck in to some arts and crafts with the kids. Some spectacularly flamboyant and colourful tropicbirds and pelicans were produced. The kids’ ones were pretty good too!

09 August 2014

An Introduction to Scuba Diving

This Saturday’s CCC workshop at Brades library introduced the audience to the wonders of SCUBA diving! Sparing no effort to make the experience as authentic as possible, EO Orlane Van Erps even dressed up in her wetsuit to talk to the children about the history, background and applications of scuba diving. Assisting her were volunteers Alex Merrington and Kim Littlewood, and Field Base Manager Kenny McDonald.

 

There was no crafts session for this workshop; instead the children were invited to try out breathing from a real life SCUBA unit while underwater! They did this with their heads submerged in a large barrel of water outside the library, and our young audience enjoyed the experience so much we had to practically tear them away from the regulator by the end of it. Some kids went back for second, third and even fourth tries!

 

This slightly different workshop went really well as it gave the children a chance to do something a little more ‘hands on’.

09 August 2014

The Mountain Chicken Project Visit the Taj

Montserrat, Coral Cay Conservation, Mountain Chicken, Leptodactylus fallax, Volunteer, Chytrid Fungus, Photo courtesy of Steffen Oppel

CCC recently welcomed the team from the Mountain Chicken Project, who visited the Taj to tell us all about the Mountain Chicken (Leptodactylus fallax), and the work they’re currently doing to help conserve this critically endangered amphibian.

 

Project Manager, Laura Bambini, delivered a very interesting and insightful presentation on the Mountain Chicken, and threats currently being faced by this species (primarily the Chytrid fungus) which is now only found on two islands – Montserrat and Dominica. Laura explained what survey work they were doing presently, and showed us some of the equipment they use when out in the field. They are hoping to start doing some surveys of Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) in the near future to monitor background incidence of the Chytrid fungus, something which CCC might be able to help with having assisted with a few surveys last year. 

09 August 2014

Youth Camp Weekend on the Philippines Site

On the weekend CCC’s Education Officers Liz and David, in conjunction with the Peace Corp, ran a youth camp weekend for students of Pintuyan National Vocational High School. The aim was to raise awareness of marine fauna and flora found in the local area, to make the students aware of the anthropogenic issues that South Leyte marine habitats face, and to explain the importance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  It was a two day event that culminated with the students actually going out snorkelling to identify fish and corals with Coral Cay staff. It was a truly magical weekend of learning and inspiration (inspiration to both the children and the staff who were involved). 

04 August 2014

Open Day at the Taj!

We held our very first Open Day at the Taj Mahal -our CCC Montserrat Field Base- this week, to familiarize the local community more with CCC and our work on island. This day was mainly aimed at promoting our local scholarship scheme, but we happily welcomed a very mixed audience. From the Saturday morning Library kids to our favorite community dignitaries, several familiar faces and few more new ones showed up.

 

The whole team of staff and volunteers put in a significant amount of effort and enthusiasm over the weekend to have the Taj and our programme’s activities perfectly ready for the big day. While children enjoyed the educational craft session with Education Officer Orlane and some of our current volunteers, we put on a couple of lectures for the adults and older children starting with project Scientist Shawn Daniel presenting CCC and the Montserrat Ridge to Reef Project. This was followed by a lecture on endemic species which was very well received by all, and an introduction to Scuba equipment before the delicious lunch break:  pizzas, bread scrolls and salads prepared by our best cooks on site!  

Anyone aged 8 and older was then invited for a Scuba Try Out in the Taj’s swimming pool, soon joined by the younger children showing off their dolphin swimming skills. Some of them even tried breathing from Scuba Instructor Andy’s Octopus and now can’t wait to be old enough to experience their first dive.

 

Throughout the day staff and volunteers also stood by to answer the many questions our guests had about coral reefs, local endangered species, our scientific work and everyday life on site.

 

This first Open Day was a success for our Montserrat team who is looking forward to having this type of awareness day happen on a regular basis as part of the Education and Community side of our project. 

30 July 2014

San Francisco Rescue Jamboree

CCC were recently invited to the San Francisco Rescue Jamboree, a local event designed to raise awareness about accident prevention and disaster preparation. Alongside various demonstrations of rescues from buildings, traffic accidents, and first aid, the CCC team were asked to give a demonstration of sea safety and rescue. Given that several CCC staff are trained lifeguards or rescue divers, it was the perfect opportunity to help.

 

Unfortunately the rough sea conditions made it unsafe to give a practical demonstration in water, but not to be perturbed our team headed to the gymnasium, where local rescue groups and medical teams from all around the island and beyond attended our modified lecture.

The session began with an introduction from Charlie (Project scientist), who then went on to be our ‘drowning victim’. Liz (Education Officer) and Amy (Scuba Instructor) then alternated between narrating and demonstrating how to rescue both active and unresponsive swimmers from the waves. The session covered how to approach swimmers, basic towing techniques and administration of rescue breaths where required. It also contained information on how to secure suspected spinal injuries: the local staff clearly found this useful as they were practicing on each other as they left! At the end of the session Richie (Education Officer) demonstrated some lifts used to remove victims from the water, then the group finished with a reminder of basic on-shore first aid and the importance of medical attention for any suspected drowning.

After a long round of photo taking, including many from our volunteer photographer Charlie, the CCC staff were invited to judge the results of an 'on-the-spot' disaster management poster competition held the evening before. Both of the submitted entries were excellent, and the winning poster will be displayed in the municipal office the raise awareness of the actions we can all take to help prevent disasters.

 

Overall it was a really successful morning, with CCC and local staff greatly enjoying it. It is always useful to further strengthen links with the municipality, and the free snacks provided were an unexpected treat!