Delegates of the Texas A&M International University (TAMIU)’s study abroad program travelled slightly for more than an hour from Batangas port to the island of Mindoro with the staff of the Museum of Natural History last 16 June 2017 to start their second leg of observing various island ecosystems. TAMIU’s students were accompanied by professors Drs. Marcus Augustus and Ruby Ynalvez along with MNH Director Juan Carlos T. Gonzalez, marine biologist Julius A. Parcon, extensionist Florante A. Cruz and two student interns.

Although it was the first-time for some students to ride a commercial passenger outrigger pump boat, the blue waters between Batangas and Puerto Galera in Mindoro island presented a very calming view that soon, everyone was enjoying the trip. Upon reaching Puerto Galera’s shores, the delegates were welcomed by White Beach’s fine sand which stretches for a few kilometers. Amongst people busy buying items, eating local food and getting hair-braids and massages, they got their fill of lunch before gearing up for the day’s activities.

The first destination of the delegation was the Tamaraw Falls. The sunny weather provided the perfect opportunity for the students to see the majestic twin falls drop from a height of 423 feet. Situated in Barangay Villaflor in Puerto Galera, it was named after the Mindoro Dwarf Buffalo which is endemic only to the island.

Before heading to the Mangrove Conservation and Ecotourism Area, the group had a short break drinking refreshing buko juice. At the mangrove forest, Julius Parcon further explained the various information posted along the boardwalk. On the other hand, Director Juan Carlos Gonzalez discussed with the students the role of mangroves in tropical ecology and the birds that are usually observed in mangrove areas. The day ended with a visit to the Virgin Island cove’s rocky shores where the students learned about sponges and coral reefs, a topic that they further explored the next day.

On 17 June, the delegates explored the famous Coral Garden near San Antonio Island, Puerto Galera with the guidance of Director Gonzalez and Julius Parcon. The group snorkeled to see and identify different marine animals that thrived among the corals. Among those they saw were the sunburst butterflyfish, long-nosed butterflyfish, parrotfish, cleaner wrasse, tuskfish, and sea urchins.

“Everything is so pretty here,” delegate Eunice Gonzalez said when asked to about her experience with the marine life in Puerto Galera. Some of the students were also most delighted a hawksbill turtle and a rare sea snake.

As part of the TAMIU’s study abroad program which is being assisted by the Museum, the students will participate in two more fieldworks which will provide them hands-on experience about biodiversity in the tropics.

The first fieldwork was conducted in UPLB’s upper campus last 13 June 2017. After Puerto Galera trip, the group is scheduled to continue their learning activities in Pangasinan from 21-25 June 2017.

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