Coral Cay Conservation Expeditions Marine Tropical Jungle Montserrat Philippines
Coral Cay Conservation Expeditions Marine Tropical Jungle Montserrat Philippines
 

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14th December 2018

CCC Project Scientist Speaks at the 2nd Annual MPA Congress!

Manon receives her certificate of participation

Last week our Project Scientist, Manon Broadwick, was invited to speak at the Second Annual Marine Protected Area (MPA) Congress of the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte (PGSL), by Hon. Eva Abad, Head of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Management Office (PENRMO). Manon was to give a presentation on the work that Coral Cay are doing in Southern Leyte and the importance of biophysical assessments in the implementation of MPAs, along with some tips on how best to effectively manage small scale, community managed MPAs. Angus, Minerva Fellowship candidate and volunteer with CCC, was lucky enough to be able to come along to watch.

 

The day began with Hon. Eva Abad giving an introductory talk, which focused on three main points: the importance of Barangays in nation building, how best to influence communities to volunteer their time in order to improve their MPAs, and the fact that MPA management and improvement in conservation cannot happen overnight. She spoke of the need for support, unity, and transparency of governments at all levels being vital for success, and the need for cooperation in order to build a better future and common welfare. She then went on to talk about climate change and its potential impacts in the Philippines.

 

Sir Armando Gaviola of PENRMO was up next. He spoke on the aims of the Congress: to know the status and ratings of all MPAs in Southern Leyte, to give technical assistance to govern these MPAs, and to improve overall management in order to conserve marine and coastal resources. A speaker from the department of environment and natural resources (DENR) then fielded questions, ranging from the dumping of waste materials into MPAs, to requests for mooring lines and marker buoys. 

After a quick break for lunch and a chat, it was Manon’s turn to speak! After giving a brief introduction on the work of CCC in the Philippines all the way from 1995 to the present, Manon went on to speak about the importance of coral reefs and their conservation value in the Philippines due to it being part of the coral triangle. What MPAs are and why they are important was the next topic, which led onto CCC’s current work helping to assess and advise on the placement of MPAs. Manon used Napantao, the MPA in front of our field base, as a case study on how small-scale, community managed MPAs work. She ended with some information on how best to manage MPAs, mainly focusing on the importance of the involvement of the local community.

 

The day ended with a talk about the MPA at Macrahon, Maasin, one of the best rated in the whole of the Philippines, followed by a Q&A session, with barangay officials asking how best to implement effective law enforcement, how to collect fines, who these should go to and how to request biophysical assessments from CCC. Finally, there was a ceremony giving certificates of participation (one of which was given to Manon), and awards for the best rated MPAs in Southern Leyte. Overall, it was a really interesting day for Manon. She said she learned a lot and was especially impressed with the passion and enthusiasm shown by every level of government, from provincial down to barangay, who aim to work together to conserve the natural beauty and resources of the marine life here in Southern Leyte.   

14th December 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

With Christmas coming soon conversations have turned to the questions, what makes a quintessential Christmas dinner, and how much is too much? Of course, the answer to the latter is any sprouts at all!

 

Seahorses (Hippocampus) however are one species which will never have to consider this because they must eat almost constantly to stay alive. The reason for this is that they have no stomach so the food they eat passes incredibly quickly through their simple digestive system, leaving little time for them to absorb the required nutrients. Seahorses also have no teeth so they swallow their food whole, using their snout like a vacuum cleaner. Don't be tempted to do that at your work Christmas do! You can read more interesting facts about seahorses here.

13th December 2018

Enjoying a Plastic-Free Christmas!

Some great ideas here to get you started on enjoying a plastic-free Christmas this year. The idea of using natural alternatives, such as holly and pine branches sounds great in theory, but for those of us who are creatively challenged the result may not live up to expectations. Still, drink enough mulled wine and eggnog and no one will be in a position to notice!

12th December 2018

CCC Head of Science Attends the 33rd Annual International Coral Reef Initiative

Credit: M. Dagnino – Musée océanographique de Monaco

 

Our Head of Science, Tom Dallison, recently attended the 33rd Annual International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) General meeting in Monaco. The ICRI is an informal partnership between Nations and organisations which strives to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems around the world. These meetings offer a fantastic opportunity for all those attending to learn from each other and play a part in the preservation of our natural world.

Tom with Claire Rumsey, International Year of the Reef 2018 Coordinator at ICRI. Credit: Cedric Fruneau

During the meeting subjects discussed were:


1. Promoting effective and adaptable solutions to improve the protection of coral reefs.
2. Understanding the trends of coral reefs focusing on global and regional trends as well as ensuring capacity is being built to enable further monitoring.
3. The Live Reef Fish Food Trade - championed by Indonesia
4. Helping to reduce anthropogenic threats to coral reefs.

 

We'll be sure to share the outcomes from the meeting when they become available.

Credit: Cedric Fruneau

11th December 2018

Whale Sharks Spotted in Sogod Bay!

Ricky on the lookout for Whale Shark – Photo by Gareth Turner

As we had managed to complete our final survey site (Nueva Estrella Norte) with a day to spare before our boat was due to come out of the water for its annual repairs, it was suggested by one of our Boat Captains, Ricky, that we should use the boat one last time in 2018 to go out and look for Whale Sharks in an area called Tabagon, just north of Liloan in Sogod Bay.

 

After a temporary change of plan on the day due to heavy rain in the morning, we all set out with a pump boat in tow to see if Ricky’s vibes were right.  Ricky kept a vigilant look out from the front of the boat and after one initial brief but non-fruitful shout en route, we arrived at Tabugon with perfect spotting conditions so all set their eyes onto the water movements around us.  

One of the 4 confirmed individual Whale Sharks swimming below the team – Photo by Gareth Turner

After only about 10 minutes wait, the call was sounded and the boat captains instructed everyone to enter the water with their snorkel gear and head for a spot in the water where they had seen some interesting movement.  The problem with trying to track creatures as big as whale sharks is that they can move pretty quick with just a lazy swish of their tail, so it took a bit more searching with faces in and out of the water until the snorkelers were joined by not 1, or 2 but 3 individual fish circling about 4 metres below them.  The visibility in the water wasn’t great due to it being full of whale shark food (naturally occurring) and the snorkelers received a few stings from a few mini jellyfish etc. while they floated around but they all said it was totally worth it to spend time with these beautiful creatures.  The sharks varied in size from approx. 3.5 to 5 metres and it looked like most of them were female (due to the absence of claspers below the base of their tail fin). 

Whale Shark surface swim by - Photo by CCC volunteer, Jemima Olorenshaw

The snorkelers then split into groups, some got back onto the main boat to watch from above, some took a ride with Ricky on the pump boat and the rest stayed in the water so everyone enjoyed a different angle of this experience, which for most of the snorkelers was the first time seeing or being in the water with these creatures.  They were extremely amped by the whole thing, and to see that many in one area made it a bonus for all. 

 

We estimated that there actually may have been 5 individual sharks with us that day due to the surface sightings but we certainly caught 4 on camera.

 

Once back on site everyone said that it was a truly memorable way to spend their last day on site and out on the boat. 

8th December 2018

An Early Christmas Celebration!

Christmas has arrived early at Coral Cay. All the staff and local families were in high spirits Saturday night after our field base manager Gareth kindly arranged a Christmas staff party.

Buddy checks on the boat before jumping in – Photo by Jordan Williams

 

 

 

 

We kicked the day off with all hands on deck to clean and prepare the house, before jumping in the water for a dive on the house reef. 

Big smiles from Dan Dan, Ricky and the boys – Photo Gareth Turner

 

 

Once all of the guests arrived it was time for karaoke. Everyone took in turns to sing some festive songs, even if some needed a little more encouragement then others. We had a combination of western classics such as ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Deck the halls’ and also Filipino favorites like ‘Ang Pasko ay Sumapit’ and ‘Pasko Na Sinta Ko’. 

Jemima (volunteer), Manon (Project Scientist) and Coral – Photo by Jordan Williams

Gareth had been busy shopping in the morning for party snacks, and on top of that our wonderful cook Pedang had also prepared a buffet including a chocolate cake. We’re still trying to finish the cake.

 

Even Coral and Shrimp joined in and were seen sporting some antlers.

 

A huge thank you and Merry Christmas to everyone who attended that party, and an even bigger thank you to Gareth for organising a fun-filled night!

7th December 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are looking at how sea turtles (and other sea-dwelling reptiles) survive in their high sodium environment.

 

Fish that live in saltwater have specially adapted kidneys and even gills that are able to excrete sodium in order to keep their salt at an optimum level. Sea turtles, however, are unable to do this. What they do have are salt glands within their eyes, which secrete salt ions into their tears, which helps to balance the salt levels in their bloodstream.

 

This secretion can be seen as 'crying' when female turtles come to shore to lay but in fact, they excrete underwater too. Just like humans, these tears help to flush out any debris and keep their eyes moist when they are on land.

30th November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are sharing the dulcet tones of the Plainfin Midshipman (Porichthys notatus) with you. This member of the toadfish family is very well known in the areas of California in which it makes its home because it is incredibly vocal. Both females and males will vocalise during conflict situations, and males will hum, reaching a pitch of about 100hz, during courtship to attract a mate. They can be so loud that they keep anyone living in the vicinity awake.

 

In this species it is males that are the caregivers for offspring, they will find a suitable nest and sing to attract a female/s who will then lay her eggs for him to fertilise. He will then tend to them through hatching until they become juveniles when they will leave. However, this is only true for some males. The males of the species are dimorphic (occurring in 2 distinct forms), type I are paternal, whereas type II is much smaller and sneak fertilises, benefiting from the territorial male then unknowingly looking after its offspring, rude!

 

You can check out the male's flirtation here, not very sexy to us perhaps but it's basically the Barry White of the fish world!

23rd November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are focusing on the Nopoli rock-climbing goby (Sicyopterus stimpsoni). Endemic to Hawaii, they make their home in fast flowing streams where they fiercely defend and cultivate gardens of algae, their main source of food.

 

Waterfalls and steep rocky inclines are common features in goby's habitats, however, they don't prove to be much of an obstacle as these fish benefit from an abdominal sucker. Using this they can affix themselves to a wall and then climb it using 'power burst' movements, rapidly wiggling their tails slowly shimmying them up the wall. However, the Nopoli rock-climbing goby is in a class all of its own as it's mouth located on the underside of its body also forms a sucker, meaning that it can climb much more rapidly, using its mouth and abdominal sucker alternately to scale the wall. These fish put spider man to shame!

Check out this link to read more about how this feature came about, and there's a great video of the behaviour here.

19th November 2018

Collecting Data for CoralWatch!

Photo by Gareth Turner

 

 

 

 

 

Here we see our Philippines Project Scientist, Manon Broadribb, collecting data for CoralWatch on our house reef in Napantao. Using Coral Watch's health chart, we can compare and record the colour pigmentation of a coral colony. This shows the levels of zooxanthellae found in the coral tissues, which is an indicator of the coral's health.

Head on over to the website to see how you can get involved and contribute to their global database!

16th November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are looking at the distinct dentition of the Parrotfish, and the side effects of its (mainly) herbivorous diet.

 

As can be seen in the photo below parrotfish sport a set of teeth that are more like a beak (hence the name). Composed of a mineral called Fluorapatite, the teeth are woven together in a chain mail structure which is incredibly strong, in fact, the tip of the beak can apply 530 tons of pressure per square inch!

 

If you have dived in the Indo-Pacific or the Caribbean, it's more than likely that you would have seen a parrotfish scraping away at a coral reef, removing the algae that make up a large part of its diet, or perhaps even eating coral polyps. During this process, they will ingest the calcium carbonate reef structure, which is then excreted as sand. Parrotfish serve a hugely important role on the reef: keeping the algae and coral territory balanced within the ecosystem, and directly removing algae from reefs, thereby preventing it from smothering corals. A single parrotfish can produce 90kg of sand a year! This action is also beneficial as by distributing sand they help to build and support the reef structure. What a great example of the impact that even a single species can have on a whole biome!

 

Check out more details in this article, and you can read more about the research into parrotfishes' dentition here.

9th November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

With the weather getting chilly we're turning our attentions to the Antarctic Toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) today. This species of cod icefish positively thrives in the subzero temperatures of the Southern Ocean, despite the fact that the chilly -1.8 degree c water is cold enough to freeze fish blood.

 

Along with a voracious appetite, which gives this fish the same ecological role as sharks in other regions, the Antarctic toothfish boasts antifreeze proteins within its blood. Scientists couldn't figure out how this protein worked until they viewed the reaction of water molecules to the protein, what resulted was a complete change in the way that the molecules moved which prevented them from bonding and thereby stopped ice crystals from forming, how clever is that?!

Read more...

2nd November 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

In honour of Guy Fawkes night we are focusing on the Halitrephes maasi Jelly today. This deep sea hydrozoan can be found at depths of 4000 - 5000 ft off Baja California, Mexico.

 

At first glance one would think that this jelly is one of the many marine creatures that are bioluminescent - where through a chemical reaction between luciferin and luciferase light is emitted. However, the firework display that can be seen below is simply a result of the jelly reflecting the lights of Hercules, the Remotely Operated Vehicle manned by Exploration vessel Nautilus Live. The starburst pattern in the centre is the result of the radial channels that are moving nutrients through the jelly's digestive system. Check out the beautiful light show in the video below.

31st October 2018

Proposals to Improve the Enforcement of England's MPAs!

Some positive news coming today for the future management of England's Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The government has proposed the introduction of Inshore Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) for all licensed British fishing boats under 12 metres in length.

 

Currently, England relies on only 20 boats to enforce the rules in its 2000 Km coastline, and more than 100 MPAs, an impossible job! If successful VMS will use General Packet Radio Services to determine whether a vessel is moving in a zig-zag pattern (fishing) or a straight line. If found to be fishing illegally in a MPA the vessel will be sent a warning and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority will be notified. We are very hopeful that this recommendation is taken on board, thereby helping to protect England's waters. You can take action and give your opinion with the Defra here.

30th October 2018

CCC Head of Science joins the Roundtable on TRT World!

Yesterday our Head of Science, Tom Dallison, joined the Roundtable on TRT World to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of voluntourism, alongside Teddy Ruge, Shannon O’Donnell, and Georgette Mulheir, Chief Executive of Lumos.You can find this programme in full via the link below.

 

It is important that the local community are at the heart of each and every volunteer experience. Through our volunteer funded programmes we are able to offer free scholarship placements for local Filipinos, thereby building capacity in the region in which we work, and helping to give the power back to the local people in sustainably managing their own reef systems.

 

By adhering to British Standard 8848, and abiding by the standards set out by the Year Out Group and the Expedition Providers Association, we can ensure that those who join us are offered a safe and ethical experience, whilst taking an active role in marine conservation.

29th October 2018

The EU Parliament Votes to Ban Single Use Plastics!

Some very exciting news coming your way! The EU Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a number of single use plastics in a joint effort to reduce the amount of plastics in our oceans.

 

"MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. The proposal also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups."

 

It is hoped that this ban will come into force in 2021, fantastic news for the health of our oceans!

Read more...

26th October 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are looking at the weird and wonderful Sawfish (Pristidae).

 

A number of fish, such as sharks and catfish, are able to detect prey by sensing their electromagnetic field through receptive pores on their body, known as ampullae of Lorenzini. The sawfishes rostrum (from the latin meaning beak) is packed with thousands of these pores and when a meal is detected they are able to laterally swipe the prey with their rostrum. The rostrum itself is extremely streamlined so has little impact on the surrounding water, but hits with such force that it can dissect the prey!

 

Sadly, all seven species of sawfish are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, due to fishing and habitat loss. The feature that makes them so fascinating to look at unfortunately makes them easily caught in nets. Studies such as the one that discovered the sensory abilities of sawfish, explained further in the article below, are incredibly important to help conserve this species. By learning more attempts can be made to add electromagnetic deterrents around fishing nets to prevent accidental capture. Why not read more about this study here.

19th October 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

If there was a prize for the most wandering eyes (perhaps not the most coveted of awards) then it would go to the flatfish, hands down!

 

Flatfish, like the flounder (suborder Pleuronectoidei) shown in this video, are well known for their camouflage abilities, they can change colour to match their surroundings in as little as 8 seconds, but did you know that they are also not actually born looking as they do below? Flatfish are actually born with one eye on each side of their body, they then undergo larval metamorphosis, during which one eye migrates. When first born the fish swims like any other fish but by the time they are juvenile both eyes are on the top of the body, and they swim with their underside flat to the ground.

 

The discovery of how this adaptation happened, evolutionarily, is a fascinating read so make sure to check out - http://scienceblogs.com/…/09/the-mysterious-origin-of-the-…/ and this article is a great, light hearted look at the whys and hows of this strange adaptation - https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/flatfish-evolution/.

11th October 2018

Barangays Joining Together to Protect their Oceans!

We’ve learnt some excellent news from the field today! Barangay President Quezon have agreed CCC's recommendations to establish a No Take Area, which will also see a Marine Reserve established that will extend the area's protected waters by roughly 42%! Fantastic news for the barangays reefs!

Image showing the proposed combined marine reserves between Bahay & President Quezon.
Anik is joined by PENRMO Officers on the lookout over President Quezon MPA - photo courtesy of Armando O. Gaviola

Our current two Project Scientists Anik Levac (outgoing) and Manon Broadribb (incoming) travelled to the Barangay (village) of President Quezon, in the Municipality of Liloan, Southern Leyte, to undertake a Marine Protected Area (MPA) recommendation presentation. After surveying the site last summer, CCC analysed the results in order to propose the most ideal area in which to establish an MPA. By considering fish and invertebrate diversity and abundance, in addition to scrutinizing commercially important species and interactions between reef organisms and substrates, it was deemed that although the surveyed site showed signs of fishing impacts, it was in a good position for improvement both biologically and socio-economically; should an MPA be established. 

President Quezon's beautiful reef - photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett, CCC Science Officer

Of course, the success of a protected area only comes with the support of its community. The aim of today’s presentation was not only to disseminate the information found during the survey, but also to explain how MPA’s work, the importance of a well-managed area, and how community and fishermen involvement is key in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. 

 

With the assistance of Ma’am Benita Dipay, designate for the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Management Office (PENRMO) in the municipality of Liloan, and at the invitation of Barangay President Quezon’s Captain, our Project Scientist delivered this information, in addition to the recommendation. 

President Quezons Beautiful reef - photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett

After the presentation, community members were asked to discuss the topic, and to speak their opinions. They were very eager to do so. The main concern amongst fishermen is that they would lose their primary fishing grounds, with nowhere left to catch fish. However, through discussing topics such as the spill-over effect of fish within the MPA, conserving resources for future generations, and allowing local fishermen to continue hook and line fishing in productive areas (the MR) while more commercial boats may still navigate further offshore for their quests, a general consensus was made. 

 

With positive and negative points of view the discussion between Barangay Officials, community members and fisherfolk, with questions for our CCC representatives, ended in great success. Not only did the Barangay vote towards establishing a “No-Take Zone” in the area we recommended, they will also be establishing a Marine Reserve, where only line fishing is allowed in a buffer zone, which will be connecting all the way down to the next Barangay’s MPA, Bahay, nearly 1km South!

8th October 2018

The Facts Behind Baby Shark!

Happy Monday everyone! Sharing this simply because it made us laugh and is informative too, a winning combination! This is for all of you pedantic people out there, who have been using the phrase 'I think you'll find...' whenever someone threatens you with their best Baby Shark moves!

8th October 2018

Trip to “The Church of the Blood of Christ”

L to R - Manon, Anik and Sir Armando.

This Monday was a busy and successful day for our project scientists Anik Levac (outgoing) and Manon Broadribb (incoming), visiting various government departments in Maasin City to deliver CCC’s monthly project updates and relay to our project partners the progress that has been made recently. After a good day’s work, Sir Armando Gaviola of PENRMO (Provincial Environmental and Natural Resource Management Office) invited them to visit a church hidden in a cave on the outskirts of the city. 

Although tired from a long day of travel and meetings, the offer was eagerly accepted and they hopped on the back of Sir. Armando’s motorbike. After a short journey they arrived at the bottom of a seemingly endless flight of steps (according to Sir. Armando, over 600 of them!). The uphill struggle began, with each landing depicting a statue of Christ at a different stage of carrying the cross. It was well worth the effort when 20 sweaty minutes later, they arrived at The Church of the Blood of Christ: a beautiful chapel built inside a cave atop a hill overlooking Maasin city. They entered the church, which had huge drops of “blood” hanging from the ceiling which are situated directly beneath the final statue of Christ on the cross.

 

 

 

After snapping a few selfies of the view, they made their way back down on wobbly jelly legs and were dropped off back at their hotel. Thanks so much to Sir Armand for taking the time out of his evening to show our project scientists a hidden gem in the city of Maasin!  

29th September 2018

A Community Day in Bahay!

Our old (Jasmine Corbett - left) and new Science Officers (Jordan Williams - right) both excited to get off base and explore a new Barangay.

On Saturday 29th of September, CCC returned to Bahay to conduct a community day, a follow-up to the recent survey efforts on the barangay’s reef as an impact site from this year’s BACI protocol. This Community Day has unfortunately been scheduled and rescheduled several times mainly due to weather related concerns. The barangay is a fair distance from our base in Napantao, requiring traversing a long, unpaved road in the back of Dandan’s (our driver) van to get there. We aren’t able to make the journey if the roads are wet, and Habagat decided to bring in rains every time we were organized to make the journey.

 

Bahay’s MPA was established 2 years ago and has now been revisited in order to assess how/if the reef has improved due to the establishment of an MPA. Nearly 50 members of all ages from the community attended the morning event and were very keen on learning about what CCC was all about. Since CCC has visited Bahay before the discussion lead by Project Scientist, Anik Levac, focused not only on what an MPA is and how the it draws on the community for success, but also on the effects of plastic waste in the environment and how this can be managed. 

Project Scientist Anik Levac describing CCC’s project to locals and showing them pictures of their reef!

Anik began the discussion with an introduction to the process of photodegradation of plastics. This is the natural process that degrades plastics into smaller and smaller pieces resulting in the formation of microplastics. Microplastics can be ingested by a large variety of animals, eventually making its way back into humans. This digestion of plastic can result in a variety of health problems for people.

 

CCC works to deliver awareness around the globalized issue of plastic waste. One local solution comes in the form of an EcoBrick. By collecting and shredding select plastic waste items one can tightly pack and fill plastic bottles. By collecting enough plastic-filled bottles it is possible to use them as blocks to construct various designs, including: chairs and tables, staircases, and other structures that can be found online. The Bahay community was already involved in the EcoBrick program and brought out several of their own example bricks! Instead of shredding their plastic they rolled it extremely tightly and stuffed them into the bottle to fill it! It was extremely interesting to see how a community embraced a project and adapted it to make it more efficient for their own needs. 

10th September 2018

Snowball Fight in September!

After everyone enjoyed a thoroughly lazy Sunday as we both physically and mentally decompress from the previous week, we immediately jumped into our regular routine by starting off our Monday with our weekly deep clean of the Field Base’s kitchen. 

 

One of the tasks during this weekly cleansing of our facilities is to clean out our fridges and freezers to make sure all of our perishables stay clean! Our freezer accumulates a fair amount of frost, so one person is given the task of scraping it all out as the freezer is thawed.

 

This week one of our volunteers, Daniella, had the bright idea of collecting all that freezer frost into a bowl. It was outside for all of us to enjoy after the cleaning was done, to help us beat the morning heat. Instead of responsibly using the bowl of ice to cool ourselves down with, we decided to do the logical thing: making snowballs in September to remind ourselves of snow-days!

Don't get your tongue stuck Jasmine (CCC Science Officer)!

Unfortunately, the blissful coolness was short-lived as the sun’s rays made quick work of our snowballs. Unsure of who/what to target with our frosty projectiles, we made the unanimous decision to throw them towards Shrimp, one of our trusty base dogs, who had characteristically woken several volunteers and staff up at ungodly hours of both the evening and morning. Unphased and unable to catch them, Shrimp simply sniffed at the frosty remains at his feet, awaiting the next toy to be thrown his way.

 

Although the life of our frosty friends was brief, the spirits of all the volunteers and staff involved were definitely lifted leading to a great start to our week. 

Welcoming a Recipient of the Minerva Fellows Programme

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett

A guest blog from our newest addition on site, Angus McReynolds - 

 

This June I graduated with a BSc in Chemistry from Union College, New York. Not quite ready to pursue a degree in higher education, a necessary step in starting a career in the field, I proceeded to search for other ways to spend my first years of post-graduate life. It was in this search that I discovered a Union College fellowship called the Minerva Fellows Programme. Every year my college selects eight graduating seniors who are chosen to travel to different parts of the globe, to work for nine months in developing countries while paired up with a social entrepreneurial organization. After the placement, Minerva Fellows return to campus for a month and offer formal presentations, interact with students, speak to classes and give presentations to the community. 

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Corbett (CCC Science Officer)

Seven of the selected students are paired with an organization that Union College has an established relationship with, while one student is chosen for what is called the “Wildcard” slot. Every year, the Wildcard works for a new project with a new organization which the student has researched themselves. A lengthy proposal is submitted to the Minerva Fellows Program to have that project considered for the fellowship. I’ve always had an interest in Outdoor Leadership and Education as well as an understanding of the global threats to reef communities and the consequences our planet faces if reefs are not protected. This lead me to searching for coral reef conservation projects throughout Southeast Asia, which is how I found Coral Cay Conservation. CCC definitely appeared to be the most legitimate and established projects in the area. After a few emails and a Skype call to explain who I was, and that I actually wanted to volunteer for their program for nine months, CCC agreed that they’d accept me. They created a special training program schedule for if I was awarded the fellowship, which included additional training including PADI Rescue Divemaster courses, in addition to being able to shadow members of staff in varying positions to gain a real grasp of the overall goings-on at the project.

 

I submitted my fellowship application, was accepted, and now here I am for the next 8 months (as I’ve already completed my first)!

11th September 2018

Another Day in the Office!

Photo courtesy of volunteer, Chris Gamlin

How's this for a classroom?! Here we see CCC Science Officer, Jasmine Corbett, taking our Filipino scholar on a scuba 'pointy' session, to demonstrate the substrate species that a coral reef consists of.

 

Each volunteer, or local Filipino scholar, that joins us is taken through a two week Skills Development Programme where they learn how to identify hard coral lifeforms, substrates and oceanic organisms, plus a multitude of fish and invertebrate species. Having a house reef like a garden under the sea on our doorstep certainly makes things a little easier! 

7th September 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday all! Today we are looking at the Bonnethead shark, the first shark species discovered to be omnivorous (feeding on a diet of both meat and plant origin)!

 

After stories of sharks being spotted feeding on sea grass came to light it wasn't long before further research was done to determine whether these tales were true. It was found that sea grass actually made up a substantial part of their diet, but whether this sea grass could actually be digested and assimilated was unknown.This year scientists from the University of California and Florida International University found that the bonnethead was able to digest nutrients at a moderate level making them true omnivores.

 

Seagrass meadows act as a nursery ground for many important fish species, protect coastal regions from erosion, and are responsible for more than 10% of the ocean's carbon storage. So, this is really big news for those that are working to protect these important ecosystems, as the impact of this new consumer can be factored in to management plans.

 

Check out the news story here and you can find the journal article at Royal Society Publishing.

4th September 2018

We Bid James Farewell!

After a week’s hard work, the staff team (Anik Levac (PS), Jasmine Corbett (SO) and James Patterson) having birthday drinks on a Saturday evening - Photo courtesy of Gareth Turner (FBM).

 

 

Since his arrival in May, James, CCC's resident scuba instructor has become an integral part of CCC’s field team. James undertook much more than PADI dive training to ensure the smooth running of the project. He assisted our Science Officer (SO) with enumerable training dives during the Skills Development Program, collected data in multiple survey sites including Gudan, Bahay, Catig and Pandan, in addition to training several volunteers to the Rescue Diver level, and starting our Project Scientist’s (PS) Divemaster training. 

James giving the OK after entering the water at Barangay Gudan survey site - Photo courtesy of Anik Levac (PS)

 

 

 

James was always a favourite at community events due to his incredible dancing skills. To top everything off, he has been our go-to for spotting and identifying new underwater life, and a supportive team member during all our endeavours.      

 

 

Take care James, you will be missed! 

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