The Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) study abroad in the Philippines program shifted to its second day with the Museum of Natural History (MNH) as it embarked on a trek up the trails of Mt. Makiling last 15 June 2016. The Mt. Makiling trek is part of the field and ecological observations that the TAMIU delegates are conducting in various places around the Philippines.

Before the trek, the participants gathered at the Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability (TREES) and were oriented by Forester Nicasio Balahadia, who represented the director of the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems, Dr. Nathaniel Bantayan.

As the students made their way up the trails, they took photos of different species of plants in Mt. Makiling. One plant that captured the attention of several students were the Amorphophallus plants, or more commonly known as the “corpse flower” which were blooming alongside several trails leading to Flat Rocks. Amorphophallus is an aroid with a large unbranched inflorescence that gives off a lingering, rotting stench.

Upon arrival at Flat Rocks, the participants discussed some aspects of Mt. Makiling at a tropical rainforest with different habitats through the facilitation by MNH staff Michelle Alejado. The students thereafter made their way up the trail while conducting ecological observations lead by TAMIU’s very own, Dr. Neal McReynolds.

Though the trek up the mountain was very exhausting for the TAMIU students, some of the delegates were able to manage putting on a smile on their faces. Asked how the trip was going, TAMIU student Rebekah Hernandez said, “It [the trek] is very tiring but it’s worth it”.

Taking a breather, the participants stopped over at the Makiling Rainforest Park and conducted an exercise in doing the point center quarter sampling method with able assistance by MNH’s Botanical Section. They also did the exercise at the near the Tayabak Camp which has denser vegetation.

From there, they proceeded to make their way to the Mudsprings where the international students watched in awe the bubbling mud at the mountain’s sulfuric pools. Dr. McReynolds took to the floor thereafter to hold a quick discussion on the various ecologies of the area.

At nightfall, the students used UV lights to scan the forest areas for scorpions and look for different types of insects and organisms. While the TAMIU students conducted their insect spotting, the interns of MNH, led by staff James Alvarez and Florante Cruz, also took to their own by “catching and releasing” various individuals of frogs and snails in the forest.

The TAMIU students, along with the staff of MNH, made their way back down from the mountain a few hours before midnight to conclude the second day of the TAMIU ecological tour.

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