7 March 2015

Reef Rangers with the CAASAFI

Coral Cay hosted another successful Reef Rangers on Saturday, March 7th, this time with high school students from Celestino A. Ablas Senior Academy Foundation Incorporated – how’s that for a long name! The students were very excited about the opportunity to try snorkelling for the first time. After learning all about coral reefs from Education Officer Tracy MacKeracher, the students entered the water with the help of CCC staff and volunteers. Imagine growing up with coral reefs at your doorstep, never having the chance to see what’s living under the water. Now imagine that moment when, as a teenager, you take your first glimpse of this underwater paradise. As you might expect, the students were amazed – some of them were reluctant to get out of the water! After lunch the students were given a chance to “Ask a Volunteer”, and there were lots of giggles as the students interviewed the staff and volunteers. Some students were even brave enough to ask some more personal questions, including “Are you married?” and “Do you have a girlfriend? Why not?”

Afternoon activities included poster making, games, and discussion to learn about threats to coral reefs and the importance of Marine Protected Areas. At the end of the day the students presented their artwork, and it would seem that Nemo the clownfish was the crowd favourite! As we said our goodbyes, the students were all smiles – proud to have earned their Reef Rangers certification. A big thanks to all of the CCC staff and international volunteers who helped to create a fun day for these future leaders in coral reef conservation. Looking forward to the next one!

6 March 2015

LNTVHS Environmental Day: Raising Earth Warriors!

On the morning of Friday, March 6th, Education Officer Tracy MacKeracher arrived at the Liloan National Technical Vocational High School (LNTVHS) to witness students busy preparing for the day’s activities. The school was preparing for their first environmental activity day, with the chosen theme “LNTVHS Environmental Day: Raising Earth Warriors!” Everywhere students were rehearsing song lyrics and dance moves; the school band was rehearsing, and the 20 student members of the school’s newly-formed Environmental Committee were busy setting up for the afternoon activities. The event started with an opening song by the Environmental Committee – a beautiful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”. Following a speech by the school’s principal about the state of the environment, each of the Grade 7, 8, and 9 classes competed against each other as they performed their Jingle. Their lyrics and dance moves were judged based on Originality, Mastery, and Relevance to the environment, and Tracy was even lucky enough to be one of the judges! 

Following this, students hurried off in different directions to prepare for the start of 3 simultaneous contests, each with an environmental theme: a Poster/Slogan-making contest, a Quiz Bowl, and an “Extra Challenge” - a competition styled after the hit TV show “The Amazing Race”. While the more artistic students were busy creating beautiful posters, others were competing against each other to answer questions about the environment, and still others were running frantically through a circuit of activity stations in an attempt to be the first team to finish. The Extra Challenge participants were very entertaining to watch as they hurried to solve word scrambles, complete obstacle courses, and build new products using recycled materials. The day ended with a coastal clean-up. During the closing ceremonies the winners were announced and the school was presented with an award from CCC in recognition of their commitment to improving the local environment. Although there could only be a few winners, all of the participants demonstrated an impressive level of enthusiasm, team spirit, creativity and motivation, and the day was a huge success!

4 March 2015

Pygmy Seahorses spotted on South Wall!

Photo courtesy of Jerry Slater

Check out what the team spotted on South Wall! Not 1 not 2, but 4 Pygmy Seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti)! Pygmy Seahorses are usually found on Gorgonian Fans, as can be seen in this photo taken during the sighting. They are extremely rare and very little is known about them which makes this sighting even more special! 

20 February 2015

Montserrat Tourist Department Workshop

CCC was today happy to organise and deliver a workshop for employees of the Montserrat Tourist Department. With a fairly recent restructuring and merger of the Tourist board with the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC), launch of a new website and increased attempts to market Montserrat as an “off the beaten track” destination for holidaymakers, Director of the Tourist Department Anita Nightingale asked CCC to deliver a presentation to her and her employees to introduce some of the marine and terrestrial biodiversity of Montserrat.

 

Project Scientist Shawn Daniel gave an interactive presentation, during which the audience was asked questions and invited to answer questions posed on a range of topics, including current and future conservation issues on Montserrat, endemic species, different ecosystems and present on the island, and coral biology and ecology.

 

By continuing to liaise with the Tourist department in this way and help educate a wider audience on the thriving and vibrant biodiversity on the island and how to protect it from threats being faced, CCC hopes to carry on its work and help achieve one of the key aims of the MRRCP – to enhance ecotourism on Montserrat.

7 February 2015

Himay-angan High School join CCC for Reef Rangers!

Napantao was bustling with activity on Saturday, February 7th when Coral Cay welcomed students from Himay-angan High School for a day of learning and fun! The sun was shining as staff and volunteers eagerly awaited the arrival of 10 students selected to participate in Reef Rangers, a programme with the aim of teaching youth about coral reefs. After receiving a warm welcome as they stepped off the bus, the students were given a tour of the site and an introduction to Coral Cay by Project Scientist, Alix Green. Afterwards, the students listened to a presentation on coral reef biology given by Education Officer Tracy MacKeracher, who also gave them tips on how to identify corals and fish. 

The highlight of the day was when the students jumped in the water with Coral Cay’s international volunteers to snorkel our beautiful house reef. Although all the students live very close to the ocean, this was their first opportunity to try snorkelling and they absolutely loved it! Using their newly acquired knowledge, the students pointed out many of the marine creatures they had just learned about. After a delicious lunch, the students were given a chance to get to know our international volunteers, including details about where they are from, why they chose to volunteer with Coral Cay, and their favourite thing about the Philippines. 

Following a thought-provoking discussion and reflection on the threats to coral reefs and what can be done to help protect them, the students set out in pairs to create a poster about a marine creature of their choice. The day finished with poster presentations by the students, and the building was full of smiles and applause as the newly qualified Reef Rangers received their certificates! We have no doubt that these young leaders will continue to be role models in their community and by sharing their new knowledge with others, they will help contribute to marine conservation in Southern Leyte! 

6 February 2015

MPA recommendations announced in Nueva Estrella Norte!

There's nothing better than being involved in the designation of a new MPA, it's a fantastic chance to see the staff and volunteer's hard work pay off! After collecting survey data from 8 locations in Nueva Estrella Norte, CCC were ready to present our MPA placement recommendations to the Municipal Agricultural Office and Barangay (village) Council. After discussions it was decided that the MPA zones would follow the following format:
Green areas - no take
Blue area - marine reserve (hook & line fishing permitted)
Orange area - marine reserve (boat anchoring permitted)
A good compromise which will allow recovery of the reef but still ensure the fishermen can continue subsistence fishing. To see the full report click here: www.coralcay.org/science-research/scientific-reports/.

31 January 2015

Learning all about litter!

During this week's library session the team focused on the incredibly important and relevant topic of Marine Litter. This is unfortunately as much of a problem in Montserrat as it is in the rest of the world. With a presentation by Science Officer Jack Coupland, helped by fellow Science officer Hazel Thornton and Project Scientist Shawn Daniel, the team enlightened the future adult generation of Montserrat on what happens to their Lego when they lose it down the loo (as only children of 5-10 years old can)!

The local kids learnt the meaning of litter and how it can end up in the oceans, leading up to its durability in the environment and its drastic effects on both marine life and people. We tested their imagination with the image of a garbage patch floating in the North Pacific that is 5000 times the size of the island they live on. Once they had learnt the effect that litter has on the oceans, they did their bit to spread the word by creating their own ‘Respect the Reef’ posters, filled with facts and illustrations.

 

The children seemed to enjoy themselves and learnt a lot too! We look forward to seeing them at the next library session. A special thank you to Basil Chambers at ZJB Radio for spreading the word and to the staff at the Public library for hosting us. 

21 - 22 January 2015

Montserrat - Environmental Impact Assessment workshop

This month our Project Scientist (PS) Shawn Daniel and Field Base Manager (FBM) Claire were lucky to be invited to a workshop on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) organised by the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), Montserrat National Trust and Government of Montserrat. This two day event at the National Trust Botanical Gardens in Salem helped educate attendees about the role and importance of EIA in assessing and managing real and potential risks of development without proper planning, especially how these can impact the environment. This workshop was delivered by Dr Jo Treweek, a specialist in biodiversity-inclusive EIAs with extensive global experience in the field at both project and strategic levels. With Montserrat looking to the future and development undoubtedly necessary for the country to boost its economy, this was a hugely useful event for attendees which included the Honourable Premiere of Montserrat Donaldson Romeo, Honourable Minister of MALHE Claude Hogan, as well as other representatives from Government of Montserrat, land owners and non-governmental organisations.

 

Other notable representatives from the Government of Montserrat included: Gerard Gray (Director of Environment), Melissa O’Garro (Director of Agriculture), Alwyn Ponteen (Chief Fisheries Officer, DoA), Mrs Sarita Francis (Executive Director of Montserrat National Trust), Stephen Mendes (DoE), Tracy Lewis (DoE), Claude Browne (DoA).

20 January 2015

Humpback Whales spotted in Montserrat!

The Montserrat team have been incredibly lucky this morning as they have been enjoying views of a mother and calf Humpback Whale in Isles Bay! The Caribbean is known for its sightings of charismatic mega fauna such as rays and sharks, and Montserrat has definitely come up trumps today!

17 January 2015

Learning all about Raptors!

Last week saw the much anticipated return of Montserrat’s library sessions following a hiatus for the island’s Christmas celebrations. To start the New Year off in style, focus turned to the fascinating world of raptors. Science Officer Hazel Thornton led the session with the help of fellow Science Officer Jack Coupland and Project Scientist Shawn Daniel, with local children getting involved in the interactive nature of the session. Children learnt attention-grabbing facts about individual species from all over the world including; Australia’s Wedge-Tail Eagle, Africa’s Ruppell’s Vulture and the world-wide Osprey. With these regal raptors in mind, we discussed the specific adaptations raptors have evolved in relation to their prey, illustrating how strong talons, sharp beaks, a large wingspan and keen eyesight are key. 

We then spoke about the raptors of Montserrat and the importance of both marine and terrestrial food chains to maintain the populations of American Kestrel and Osprey on the island. Following this, it was time for a much needed colouring-in session where the kids got a chance to make their own raptor food chain mobile. Many inventive colours were used to spice up the plumage of these birds of prey, including the rare ‘Rainbow Raptor’!

 

The team is looking forward to future library sessions this year and, with the help of Rose Willock on ZJB radio and the staff at the Montserrat Library, we hope to spread the word of these fun-filled Saturday morning sessions.

13 December 2014

A library session with a Christmas twist!!

Coral Reef Conservation with a Christmas twist’ would be the best way to describe this week’s library session for Coral Cay at Brades Library in Montserrat.  Education Officer Helen Russell, with Science Officers Jack Coupland and Hazel Thornton and volunteer Kathy Coville, ran the well-attended festive session that focussed on Montserrat’s coral reefs and the diversity of fish species to be found on them. As part of the interactive presentation Helen used pictures of reefs around Montserrat to illustrate the diversity of life found in the local waters and engage the children with the topic; discussions then explored how people can protect their reefs and why coral is so important to a range of animals.  In one of the highlights of the sessions so far, great fun was had as children tried to guess the names of festive sounding-fish found on the local reefs… the Angel fish, Fairy Basslet, Snowy Grouper, Cherub fish and Candy Bass all made an appearance!

 

In the craft activity that followed children made fish decorations using a large quantity of glitter, sequins, glue and paint!  A wide variety of fish were made as children chose their favourites, the bright pink and yellow Fairy Basslet and the red and white striped Squirrel fish proved particularly popular.  Children used Fish identification books to look up their favourite reef fish and to discover new ones (the Princess Parrotfish was an instant favourite with one table of girls!).

The aim of the library sessions is to allow children to have fun whilst learning about wildlife and conservation issues; this session certainly demonstrated that children are fascinated by their local wildlife and they really do enjoy learning more about the ecosystems around them.  The sessions have become a well-established and much anticipated event for many young people as illustrated by the regular comments Coral Cay Staff receive when out and about in the community.  Thanks as always must go to ZJB Radio with Rose Willock who has continued to be amazing in her support of Coral Cay’s work.

 

This was Helen’s last session for Coral Cay as she leaves Montserrat in January to experience conservation and education work in South Africa and Madagascar; but she will be avidly following online the ongoing success of Coral Cay’s work in Montserrat as it continues to build in momentum and wishes it every success in the future.  

12 December 2015

It's Christmas jumper day!!

Ho ho ho Merry Christmas Jumper Day!! We're getting in to the Christmas spirit and would love to see your efforts (the more terrifyingly cheesy the better)! Get involved at http://jumpers.savethechildren.org.uk/

5 December 2014

MSS Science Fair

Coral Cay was involved in several projects at this year’s Montserrat Science Fair. Montserrat Secondary School, with the guidance of Education Officer Helen Russell, had undertaken a three week project focussed on Coral Reef Conservation and survey techniques.  Students had worked hard on a display covering the biology of the Coral Reef, threats to Coral, survey techniques and SCUBA diving.  On the day, enthusiastic students demonstrated how SCUBA equipment works to hundreds of enthralled Primary and Secondary students and visitors. The interactive demonstrations and presentations, led by the students, with some occasional assistance from Helen Russell and Volunteer Kathy Coville, were noted as one of the highlights of the event for those that had visited.  Visitors of all ages had an opportunity to learn about the Coral around Montserrat and several myths were busted as people learnt about how SCUBA diving is actually done. The students presenting on the day had an opportunity to develop their confidence with the topic and Helen was particularly impressed with the eloquence with which these young people spoke and answered questioned throughout the day from 10am until 5pm.  

The project has been an overwhelming success with students enjoying the lessons, learning about Coral and developing a genuine interest in the reef ecosystem that surround Montserrat.  Coral Cay hopes to continue to work with Montserrat Secondary School, now that this first project has proved successful and enjoyable for all involved. 

3 December 2014

Presentation at Montserrat Maths and Science Week

As part of the Montserrat Maths and Science Week 2014, Coral Cay Conservation today gave a presentation at the Brades Arts and Education Centre. Following a talk by Laura Bambini of the Mountain Chicken Project, CCC Project Scientist Shawn Daniel’s presentation entitled “Conservation: Science In Action” aimed to give the audience a better understanding about conservation and CCC’s work on Montserrat, and how science is an integral part of this. After talking about our survey work and the data we record on the various surveys we do, Shawn also spoke about how CCC works with local partners to analyse data and implement long term management plans to help manage resources sustainably and responsibly, and how this is done through our work on Montserrat.

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.

 

7 November 2014

A SCUBA lesson at Montserrat Secondary School

Education Officer Helen Russell returned to Montserrat Secondary School this week to deliver the second lesson of the ’surveying coral reefs’ project with the Form 2 students, accompanied by Assistant Field Base Manager Anne MacDonald.  In the first lesson students learnt about the biology of coral, threats and their importance. This week saw Helen and Anne take a very hands-on approach to learning about marine surveying by bringing along SCUBA gear! 

The response from students was amazing as Anne demonstrated how SCUBA kit works. Students learnt to identify the main parts and understand how the equipment works and how it is used to survey Coral.  One of the key aims of the sessions has been to promote an interest in the coral reefs around Montserrat and to encourage students to want to learn more about them and the ways in which they can engage with their local ecology.  This session certainly helped to achieve this aim, as students were enthused and fascinated with SCUBA and the world of diversity available to them in the waters around Montserrat. Many misconceptions about diving were addressed as students learnt about the safety checks involved, how buddy pairs work underwater and practiced the signals used for underwater communication. Students were not shy about wanting to experience first-hand how to breathe through a regulator and inflate a BCD. Undoubtedly they all left with a deeper understanding of the work that Coral Cay do, how surveying is carried out, how SCUBA works and how they can get involved with conservation. Helen will continue to go in and work with this class over the next two weeks in preparation for the Science Fair, where students will have a stall at which they can share with others what they have learnt about Coral and conservation.

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.