15 August 2015

Venturing into the prehistoric era!

Excitement was high in camp this week with a library session planned on dinosaurs. As a favourite childhood topic for all the staff, preparations on the lecture and craft went ahead with gusto.


With summer holidays continuing the turnout was still down, however the boys that showed up made up for it with loads of questions and enthusiasm. All the children are regular attendees and it is great for Coral Cay to build an ongoing relationship with the face of Montserrat’s future. The lecture initially provided context on the era of the dinosaurs including a science heavy section on fossils and aging rock layers. The focus quickly shifted to some interesting dinosaur species with the children enjoying a lively discussion on the evolutionary advantage of certain traits. The lecture moved through all the herbivores and carnivores before continuing to the flying and marine prehistoric creatures. Special interest was shown in the Quetzalcoatlus ; a flying dino five times bigger than a person!

The craft was a great success with all the children getting far more Play-Doh than they needed. With only a quarter of the usual turnout we had enough for the staff to have a play around and compete for the best triceratops (Mike definitely wins!). A few extra kids turned up late and got involved in the crafting. All in all it was a great library session with CCC staff feeling they have a good handle on communicating scientific concepts to children of all ages.


Special thanks to all the staff at Brades Library for allowing us to transform their quiet and peaceful work environment every couple of weeks, to ZJB radio for spreading the word, and to the children themselves for returning every time with the same enthusiasm for knowledge that makes it such a pleasure to teach them!

01 August 2015

The underwater world of Montserrat

After previously focusing on large scale issues in the marine and terrestrial environment CCC staff felt that it was time to pull the focus a little closer to home. We wanted to get the kids excited about the environment around them and provide some information they can use in their day-to-day lives. With this in mind Sean Smith (Science Officer) and Heidi Taylor (Scuba Instructor) gave a presentation on the Underwater World of Montserrat.


The lecture aimed to be a snapshot of what the children could see on the coast and on the reefs around the island. We were excited to share anecdotes of all the marine life we encounter in our work and Heidi Taylor in particular had some amazingly tall tales for the kids! Even with school holidays the turnout was good with 10 – 15 kids showing up.


The lecture was one of the best we have ever given. We incorporated a lot more questions than usual and made the session more participatory and the children really responded. We began with all the beautiful beaches around the island and discussed the best places to snorkel at each one. The kids were then amazed to see all the coral and fish life so close to some of the places they live. One of the younger boys, Cason, was especially shocked by some of the weirder creatures under the sea. Pictures of Trumpet fish and Flying Gurnards were met by a loud RIDICULOUS in his amazingly Caribbean accent. As usual the session closed with a take home message about conservation. This week we focused on littering, a message that the children can hopefully act upon around the island.


Craft preparation was very labour intensive this week with staff cutting out 10 larger than life cardboard scuba masks. These were then filled in by the children with all their favourite coral and fish from the lecture. Glitter paint and crayons were the theme of the day with hilariously mixed results coming from the boys and girls tables. Most of the kids got a mask to take home and I think we definitely achieved our aim and got the kids excited to get in the water and hopefully to value all the amazing creatures the Montserrat has to offer.


Special thanks to all the staff at Brades Library for allowing us to transform their quiet and peaceful work environment every couple of weeks, to ZJB radio for spreading the word, and to the children themselves for returning every time with the same enthusiasm for knowledge that makes it such a pleasure to teach them!

05 July 2015

This weeks' library session is all about monkeys!

After a lecture on migrations last week the Science Team prepared a great lecture for this week, especially for the UK girl’s school group that were joining CCC as volunteers, and helping with the library session.


Sean, the science officer, began the morning by delivering an ape-mazing lecture about monkeys and apes (our theme for the day!).  We started by discussing the difference between monkeys and apes; we then had to classify pictures of different species into these two categories. We learnt about the monkeys found in the Caribbean as well as other notable species around the world.


The children were fascinated by all the amazing facts, particularly the existence of service monkeys that are trained to help people just like guide dogs. After lots of enthusiastic questions and general monkeying around… we began our craft activity; making paper plate monkey masks. We had a range of primate produced- a pretty monkey, a pirate ape and a scary gorilla! There were lots of sequins, colouring-in and fun had by all involved. We only wish we had had a little more time to finish the masks as we had a lot of late arrivals.


After seeing how alike our hands are to apes, we wanted to take a closer look at our own fingerprints by printing them. We discussed how our fingerprints are unique and identified the shapes as arches, whorls or spirals.  


The children were very excited to have so many girls to talk to and asked the students lots of questions about themselves. The school goup loved teaching them some silly songs and jokes, hopefully these will go down well with parents!


Special thanks to all the staff at Brades Library for allowing us to transform their quiet and peaceful work environment every couple of weeks, to ZJB radio for spreading the word, and to the children themselves for returning every time with the same enthusiasm for knowledge that makes it such a pleasure to teach them!

01 July 2015

CCC Attends the 55th Founding Anniversary of Southern Leyte

Since the year 1960, every 1st of July the founding anniversary and independence of Southern Leyte has been celebrated in the Provincial Capital of Maasin. This year CCC was invited along to the 55th Founding Anniversary with the inspiring theme ‘I Love Southern Leyte’.


Daisy Gamale, from the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte, kindly organised for the whole CCC team to spend the night before in the currently unused Girl Scouts area of the Philippines building, right in the centre of the action. The celebrations kicked off that night with an outdoor party in a sunken garden overlooked by the Provincial Capitol Building. Much to the enjoyment of our scholars and volunteers, Maasin put on a live concert headlined by Filipino reggae band ‘Franco’ and followed by a disco that went on into the early hours of the morning.


At 7 am the group were out of bed and in position in the Anatalio Gaviola Plaza to join the parade which journeyed through the sunny streets of Maasin. We were escorted by the moves and music of local Drum and Bugle corps and finished up back at the sunken garden where we were warmly welcomed by PGSL officials on stage, including the Governor himself, the Honourable Sir Roger Mercado.

After the parade we proceeded to the nearby tree garden where a good friend of Coral Cay, Sir Rio Cahambing was hosting a photo exhibition of marine life in Southern Leyte. A number of the photographs were taken by Coral Cay staff, with several snapped by our local Scuba Instructor Jesse Tinapay. We were all very proud to see Jesse’s work in the limelight and admired by all who looked upon them.


Coral Cay were extremely honoured and grateful to have been invited along to celebrate such a momentous occasion. We very much look forward to taking part next year and can say with great enthusiasm “We Love Southern Leyte!”

20 June 2015

Learning about migration!

After a lecture on World Oceans last week the Science Team prepared a great lecture on Migrations. The lecture covered both marine and terrestrial animals and included a host of interesting migratory species. Science Officer, Sean Smith, presented the lecture and started by outlining what migration is and why some species migrate. The children were shown a series of animals and asked why they think they would be migrating. The responses were great and the kids got a real kick out of the pictures and the opportunity to contribute.


The lecture worked through all the different types of migratory animals - birds, mammals, insects etc. Whilst the birds went a little slowly at first the kids were flabbergasted when they were shown pictures of the arctic tern and were told that it flies the equivalent distance of three times to the moon and back over its lifetime! The other attention grabber was the Christmas Island red crab which migrates in numbers up to 100 million. It took some serious convincing for a group of kids who are quite happy to call you out if they don’t believe you!

The lecture closed with a section on human migration and a take home message about the importance of protecting migratory habitat. The kids were amazed at all the novel methods of assisting migrations in particular the fish ladders and habitat corridors.


As usual the kids were hopping to get onto the craft session! We decided to do something a bit more collaborative and contribute something to the library space. Using the projector the science staff traced a giant world map onto 16 A4 sheets. These were numbered and given out to the children to colour. Outlines of 6 migratory animals were painstakingly traced over a series of evenings on 25 single sheets. These were also coloured in by the kids. The best animals made it onto the poster which was put together after it was coloured. The library was more than happy to have it up although we hope for it to have its final home in the Taj. The idea was really successful with the kids really enjoying the collaborative process. 

08 June 2015

World Oceans Day Beach Clean 

Happy World Oceans Day everyone! This annual international event raises awareness of the importance of the world's oceans and how we must work to protect them. Events will be held around the world to mark this occasion and CCC is playing its part by holding beach cleans on both of our sites.


The staff and volunteers at CCC Montserrat got down and dirty for World Oceans Day with a beach and ocean clean at Carrs Bay! In only a single morning they were still able to make a big impact on the area. With two divers and two beach cleaners at any one time they collected a total of 14 bags of rubbish both from the beach and the reef just in front of the beach! The rubbish as expected was mainly tin cans but they were surprised to also remove several items of clothing which were wrapped around some of the gorgonians.


Unfortunately the team did not manage to remove all the rubbish but they will of course continue to remove any rubbish during dives on the site. Everyone had a satisfying (if hot) morning and the team's efforts were appreciated by a couple of local snorkelers who were just going in for snorkel as they finished. Nothing like spreading the word by showing that you’re willing to get stuck in yourself!

06 June 2015

Learning about our oceans

With World Ocean Day falling on the 8th June and the Atlantic Ocean right on our doorstep we decided to inform the children of Montserrat about the importance of oceans in this week’s library session.


Science Officer Mike Soltysiak led the presentation, beginning at the beginning! The children were amazed to learn about the ancient animals that used to inhabit the oceans, and that some of those ancient and weird looking creatures were still alive today, having survived through the ages. Mike then debunked some of the myths about the oceans, although some of the children were adamant that mermaids were real! The children already knew a lot about ocean explorers, since Mr. Christopher Columbus himself discovered the island of Montserrat – although he preferred the name of the Emerald Isle. The importance and the value of the oceans were then outlined, the children being amazed to discover that 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the marine environment – how can water possibly produce air? The presentation finished off with outlining to the kids the threats that oceans currently face on both a global and a local scale, and how they can help to reduce those threats.

In the craft session that followed the children made their own boats and the Captain’s hats to go with them, and credit has to go to Coral Cay volunteers Jenny Lantair, Gillian Leeder and Harry Woodger for their origami skills. Science Officer Sean Smith helped the children to decorate their boats and managed to avoid getting covered in glitter, although the odd sequin is to be expected!


Special thanks to all the staff at Brades Library for allowing us to transform their quiet and peaceful work environment every couple of weeks, to ZJB radio for spreading the word, and to the children themselves for returning every time with the same enthusiasm for knowledge that makes it such a pleasure to teach them!

25 May 2015

An open day in Montserrat

Staff and volunteers were up early on Monday morning to make the final preparations for the CCC Open Day. This is an annual event on the Montserrat site and is a chance for the staff and volunteers on site to get to know the locals, and for the locals to get to know CCC! After a final sweep up and preen of the Taj we waited expectantly. Guests are welcomed throughout the day so once a fair few had arrived Susan was the first to step up to the podium giving a presentation on how CCC are working with our partners to provide relevant data for future management planning. Susan also took the opportunity to explain the importance of both the terrestrial and marine environment of Montserrat to wildlife and the human population.

Claire Ogg (Field Base Manager and PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor) was excited to be able give a demonstration of SCUBA kit and how it works, with some visitors even getting the chance to go for a try dive in the site pool! Others were eager to watch the new documentaries on Montserrat’s marine and forest life, which have been produced by CCC staff.  Susan repeated the presentation for all those who had missed the first one and then enjoyed 15 minutes of fame being interviewed by ZJB radio, which had sent a reporter to record the event.


The final guest count was approximately 20 people. It was a busy day but a fantastic opportunity to meet new people. Well done to all the CCC staff and volunteers for creating such a successful event!

24 May 2015

Learning all about creepy crawlies!

Following the library session of two weeks ago involving plants, this weeks’ library session involved a group of organisms which have a very close relationship with the flora of the island – the wonderful world of creepy crawlies – insects!


Science Officer Mike Soltysiak got things kicked off  with a whirlwind definition of what an insect actually is – among other  things showing the kids that those bugs with too many legs (spiders, centipedes) or too few (worms) are not actually insects (which have 6). The kids were perplexed by the question of whether caterpillars (many legs) were part of the group until they remembered that they become butterflies which do have 6!

Following this Mike tried to combat some of the little ones distaste of insects, by showing them the incredibly useful products that we can gain from insects, such as honey and silk – evidently unsuccessfully when one girl announced she would never wear silk again! The children then learnt about some of the interesting insects on Montserrat, apparently pronouncing them wrong to the kids chagrin - the Tarantula Hawk Wasp and the Jack Spaniard Wasp shall henceforth be known as the Chillanchilla Hawk Wasp and the Jack Spanner!


Once the presentation was over the children went on to their favourite part – craft time! This week they were making cardboard butterflies – both as larger toys and as clips and badges. With a smaller than usual cohort due to the Bank Holiday weekend, the staff and volunteers of Coral Cay had a much calmer time of it than usual and even managed to make some of their own – sadly eclipsed by the kids magnificent efforts! Thanks again to Rose at ZJB radio for helping us to promote the library sessions, and to the staff at Brades Library for all their support!

23 May 2015

An interview at ZJB Radio

Susan (Project Scientist) and Mike (Science Officer) were recently invited on to Radio ZJB to promote the upcoming CCC Open Day and this weeks Library session. Initially Susan spoke about the plans for the Open Day and explained why it is a great chance to find out what CCC is doing on Montserrat and how we are helping to conserve the biodiversity. The Open Day had already been promoted on the local news when Rose had hilariously miss heard try dive for tie dye! This caused a little confusion which was successfully corrected prior to everyone arriving at the Taj expecting to make t-shirts!  Rose asked Susan to tell everyone about the CCC scholarship and the benefits and reward’s this could bring. Finally Mike took the opportunity for one final shout out to advertise the library session which was happening later that morning. This weeks’ session focused on insects. Rose warned us that many children did not necessarily like bugs but we don’t shy from a challenge! Thank you to Rose and the team at ZJB for helping us promote the events!

9 May 2015

A pun-tastic library session on plants!

This week during the library session the children of Montserrat were taught about the delights of the plant world by Science Officer Sean Smith. Sean began by explaining how plants live and grow – doubtless later the children were basking in the sun to try to grow bigger! Ploughing on, Sean explained the importance of plants to the world we live in, both globally for the production of Oxygen, and locally due to their importance in consolidating and trapping soil that would otherwise run off and leave the mountainous slopes bare.


The children then learned about some of the coolest plants in the world – including, among others, the tree that had been used as a jail, and plants that lure in insects to supplement their diet of light – much to the kids' disbeleaf. Branching out Sean explained the plant surveys that Coral Cay implement on Montserrat, to check the spread of several invasive plant species – hopefully putting thoughts in the kids heads which will take root and produce keen minds for the future conservation of the country's forests.

During the craft session after the lecture the children made plant based bracelets – planned to be for their mothers' for International Mother's Day the following day – but Sean had planted such an appreciation in the kid's head of the flora around them that the bracelets were going to be kept for themselves! With a bumper crop of children attending, Project Scientist Susan Robertson, Dive Instructor Andy “Uncle Grandpa” Allen  (who will be sorely missed by the children – they've taken a lichen to him), and Volunteer Astrid de Cosson. We would like to thank the staff at Brades Public Library and Rose at ZJB Radio for their thyme and support in helping spread the word!

11 April 2015

Reptiles of the world

After the success of the previous library session on Turtles we decided to take advantage of the kids enthusiasm and present on reptiles. We looked at reptiles around the world as well as focusing on endemic species, ending the lecture by informing the children of conservation issues facing reptiles worldwide. A special emphasis was placed on the unnecessary fear many people hold in regards to reptiles and how the children have nothing to fear from their island companions!!!


Science officer Hazel Thornton gave the lecture, it being her last one with CCC Montserrat and did a great job keeping the kids entertained with interesting facts from the scaly realm. Facts about all types of reptiles were included with the information given in a way that the children could understand and relate to. The age of the Aldabra Tortoise (150 years) was compared to the total age of children in the room and to the age of the oldest people the children knew. Everyone had a great time trying to taste the air in an imitation of snakes and lizards!!! Attendance was at a record high with over 30 children taking part in the session. Hopefully this excellent turnout can be repeated and built upon moving into the future.

The post lecture craft session involved making the children’s favourite reptiles out of playdough. Each child was given four colours and were guided by CCC staff and the example models that we toyed with in the week leading up. Science Officer Mike Soltysiak’s chameleon was a favourite with the group, the table of girls almost exclusively made chameleons much to the chagrin of the other staff (they are pretty hard to make). New Science Officer Sean Smith jumped straight into proceedings and looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself and getting involved with CCC’s community work.


Many thanks has to be given to volunteers Astrid and Hugo for throwing themselves into things and having a great time with the children. Astrid especially took it on herself to sit at the ‘naughty’ boys table. As always special thanks has to go to the staff of Brades library and ZJB Radio for helping promote and run the event. All the CCC staff are doing a great job of being visible in the Montserrat community, children from the sessions regularly come up to them around town and Hi-5’s seem to be the going form of communication!!!

06 April 2015

SLSU ECO-Club hosts CCC to learn about Marine Protected Areas

CCC Philippines is happy to announce that the students of Southern Leyte State University (SLSU) have just formed a new Environmentally Conscious Organization: ECO-Club! One of the objectives of the ECO-Club is to promote environmentally conscious behaviours to help protect natural resources in Southern Leyte. Later this year, the ECO-Club will be conducting outreach and education in the community and schools in the Sogod area. After meeting with the ECO-Club’s Advisor Dr. Dinah Catamco, CCC arranged to conduct a seminar-workshop for the student members to provide information and resources for them to use during their educational activities.


On Monday, April 6th CCC spent the morning at the SLSU’s main campus in Sogod for the event. After a welcome message from the University President, ECO-Club President Ronnie Robin introduced the guest speakers – CCC Alix Green (Project Scientist) and Tracy MacKeracher (Education Officer). The seminar kicked off with a presentation by Tracy to cover background information on coral reef biology and ecology. Most students were shocked to find out that although coral reefs are used by an estimated 25% of marine species, they occupy less than 1% of the marine environment! After discussing some of the human activities threatening coral reefs, the students learned about the importance and function of marine protected areas (MPAs). 

The last presentation, given by Alix, addressed the status of MPAs in the area and current management issues. With their newly acquired knowledge, the students split into groups to begin the workshop. The workshop involved looking at case studies of real MPAs in the Philippines to demonstrate the importance of effective MPA management. With the help of CCC staff and volunteers, the groups were able to get some great discussions going about the factors affecting success in the establishment and management of MPAs. The workshop was rounded off with some themed games that the ECO-Club will be able to use during their educational activities. After presenting CCC staff and volunteers with Certificates of Appreciation, the students surprised us with a cultural dance performance! The event was a huge success, and CCC looks forward to working with this amazing group of environmentally conscious, motivated young leaders again in the future.

29 March 2015

PNVHS Eco-Committee Son-ok Snorkel Day

CCC Philippines recently joined forces with two other organizations to give some local teens the opportunity to try snorkelling for the first time! To organize the event, CCC Education Officer Tracy MacKeracher worked closely with volunteers from the PeaceCorps and LaMaVe, an NGO conducting whaleshark research in the area. The activities were organized for the student members of a new high school eco-committee in the neighbouring municipality of Pintuyan. The newly elected Committee Officers were put in charge of organizing the logistics for the activity (including transportation and equipment), serving as good practice for when the committee starts conducting environmental campaigns when the new school year starts in June. On the morning of Sunday 29th March, the students arrived giggling and full of energy – clearly excited to try snorkelling! Before jumping in the water, Tracy gave the students some tips on how to identify different families of fish. After an explanation on snorkel safety and equipment use, the students geared up and made their way into the water with a volunteer. They had a great time identifying fish such as pata (damselfish), lapu-lapu (grouper), maya-maya (snapper), alibangbang (butterflyfish), labajan (wrasse), and many more! 

After snorkelling, PeaceCorps volunteer Tom Sanborn led the students in a discussion about how the abundance and type of fish found on a coral reef can provide information about its health. For example, algal grazers such as parrotfish, rabbitfish and surgeonfish help keep coral reefs healthy by controlling algae growth. If left unchecked, algae can smother the reef and prevent coral larvae from attaching to the substrate. After a snack break we played some environmentally themed games before saying our goodbyes. CCC is grateful to the many volunteers who helped make this event a success! 

28 March 2015 

Learning about Leatherback Turtles

Four species of sea turtle use the beaches of Montserrat as nesting sites, and earlier this week when we were informed that the first Leatherback Turtle tracks of the year had been seen, there was only one choice for the subject of the library session this week!


Science Officer Mike Soltysiak (more nervous about giving a presentation to the children than he was about giving them to his Professors at university) began the session by shocking the kids about just how big these awesome turtles can get, and that they could weigh on average about 5 of him. Following on, the children were amazed to learn that the leatherback could swim to Antigua on just 9 breaths, and were delightfully dismayed by the sight of the many spines in the turtles’ mouths and throats which allow them to catch and swallow their favoured prey – jellyfish.

The children were excited about the leatherbacks nesting on Montserrat, and were told about the importance of leaving any nesting females and nests undisturbed if they were lucky enough to encounter one, as well as to keep their eyes open in 2 months when the baby leatherbacks will be emerging and making their dash to the sea. The importance of not throwing rubbish into the magnificent Caribbean sea was highlighted when we told and showed the children about the similarities in appearance of jellyfish and plastic bags – unfortunately that’s where the similarity ends.


At the end of the presentation the children threw themselves into decorating their own turtles and hatchlings, getting as much paint on them as they did on Mike, Science Officer Hazel Thornton, Project Scientist Susan Robertson and Scuba Instructor Andy Allen. Hopefully the kids took their new knowledge away with them as well as their painted turtles! We would like to thank the staff at Brades Public Library and Rose at ZJB Radio for their support and spreading the word about the sessions!

19 March 2015

GIZ Focus Group Meeting

On 19th March Project Scientist Alix Green was invited to attend a workshop held by the University of the Philippines in collaboration with GIZ, a German NGO working here in Southern Leyte. The aim of the day was to understand the issues faced by local stakeholders regarding successful management of MPAs throughout the region. The day started with informant questionnaires that were answered by Alix, representing Coral Cay, and key informants from the Municipal and Provincial governments as well as SLSU the main University in Southern Leyte. 


Following the interviews a focus group and silent brainstorm session was held to answer two questions; what are the key issues of MPAs at a local level and; what capacity should be developed to improve MPAs at the a local level.  The silent brainstorm session allowed individuals to note down issues and ideas without having to raise their hands to speak in front of the group (something that is considered a bit frightening here in the Philippines!). The questions uncovered five key areas that are considered an issue to those involved in management and designation of MPAs. 


The first and most pressing was a lack of capacity; personnel, funding and facilities. There is a need for better technical assistance and for trained Bantay Dagats (ocean guards) to be present 24hrs on all MPAs in the region. The area is poor and there is a severe lack of funding for things like patrol boats and maintenance of MPA sites and this was another major concern. The second most pressing issue was that of policy. Whether the right policies are in place and are being used in the correct way throughout the region. A number of informants discussed the issue of lack of operational MPAs. Although some MPAs are designated not all of these are operational. This is a common issue throughout the globe, the west calls it ‘parks on paper’. It is all too common that nations push forward with designating MPA sites but do not have the resources to ensure these are properly operational and well enforced. An issue that came up linking these two together was regarding enforcement and accountability for ensuring rules are stuck to and penalties are enforced.


Another issue that aroze was balancing protection with utilisation. In Southern Leyte almost all the fishermen are fishing for food, and very few are able to sell surplus on the market. 60% of the protein eaten comes from the ocean and with a growing population the resource is put under immense pressure. The region is divided into many Barangays all with people needing to fish within these waters. It is not feasible to protect large areas of ocean if it restricts people’s ability to feed their families. Conversely if only small MPAs are put in place (and some of the ones in Southern Leyte are very small) then full recovery of fish stock is unlikely to be realised. A balance must be met and this is a key goal Coral Cay is trying to help people work towards.


The final issue concerned community engagement and acceptance of MPAs. Different Barangays have very different opinions on the usefulness of MPAs. Some are very environmentally focused and others are not. It is essential to understand how people feel about MPAs in their area as if they are against them then enforcement becomes a lot more challenging. Coral Cay has recently conducted a questionnaire survey to understand the local perception of the MPA here on base and hopes this can strengthen the management of our wonderful MPA site. Providing immediate benefits that can be realised community-wide in a short time frame is one way of empowering the community to protect their resources. We are slowly trying to develop sustainable eco-tourism in the area and are working with the communities to find ways for them to generate revenue from their sites.


The meeting was an excellent opportunity to hear the concerns of the disparate local communities in the area. It also offered us a chance to voice some concerns we have and suggestions to overcome these issues prompting people to think about ways they can begin to improve their management. We look forward to continuing this process and hope to be able to see Southern Leyte as a flagship for well managed and well enforced MPAs in the future. 

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.