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!!!

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. 

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.