Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) faculty and students, along with staff from the Museum of Natural History (MNH), recently were on field at Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro from 17-19 June 2016 to observe different island habitats.

On 17 June 2016, MNH and TAMIU delegates left the comforts of UPLB to embark on a journey to see firsthand the ecology of tropical countries such as the Philippines has in terms of marine ecosystems.

Upon arrival at Minolo from the Batangas Port, the delegates were welcomed by the fine white sands of White Beach, Puerto Galera at around lunchtime. After the students were able to check in their baggages, no time was wasted as they got on multi-cabs and rented boats en route to the famous Coral Gardens. With the boat anchored near the coral reefs, the participants wore their diving gears and took a plunge into the open sea where they conducted underwater observations of the corals, fishes, seagrass and other marine life in the vicinity of the reef.

After conducting their marine life observations, the participants rode the boats to head to a nearby beach to check the beach vegetation and hold some discussions with TAMIU professor Dr. Neal McReynolds.

Day two of tour shifted to field observations of other ecosystems via tour of Oriental Mindoro via land. Tantungan River, an hour-an-a-half ride from Puerto Galera became the first on the itinerary of the day. There, the delegates were awed the boulders, rocks and pebbles that line the river. With the help of the staff of the Museum, the class of Dr. McReynolds proceeded to survey the upstream and downstream areas to take note of observations of invertebrates and birds.

From the freshwater river system, the participants went to Tamaraw Falls to observe the landscape and the organisms that thrive in vicinity as well as to spot birds that fly through the area. Next on the tour was a side trip to Virgin Island where students were able to explore the rocky shores. Some students found specimens such as live sponges, crabs and even a small octopus. The international students the finally moved their observations to a nearby area, which was small mangrove forest. The forest served as an adequate place for a few students to spot organisms that live in mangrove ecosystems such as snails and crabs. One student was even luck to find a stick insects walking on the mud.

The long and exhausting day entailed a night of rest and relaxation for most of the participants but one of the students from TAMIU wanted to maximize ecological experience in Puerto Galera. TAMIU student Elizabeth Renteria, a certified diver, opted for a night dive to conduct further underwater observations with the assistance of the museum’s marine biologist, Julius Parcon. Asked how her night dive went, Elizabeth said, “It [the dive] was great! I would definitely recommend others to try it.”

The Puerto Galera leg of the TAMIU study abroad program concluded on 19 June as the delegation made their way back to UP Los Baños. There is certainly more to unfold, learn and discover as the students continue to visit other places here in the Philippines.


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