Category Archives: Watch the video!

3 Minute Thesis

2:59 … 58 … 57 … as soon as the clock starts every word counts. Three Minute Thesis or 3MT was originally developed at the University of Queensland in Australia and now has spread throughout the world. This competition challenges participants from any discipline to present their entire thesis in under 3 minutes. No props or costumes. A single powerpoint slide with no animations. And the objective of conveying your project to a generalist audience in just 3 minutes.

In November 2016, I won first place in College of Charleston’s 3MT competition for my project entitled, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Community-Based Management of the Crown-of-Thorns Seastar (Acanthaster planci) in Romblon, Philippines.” Next month, I will be traveling to Annapolis, Maryland to enter in the National 3MT Competition.

Check out my video above for a sneak preview of my talk. And please feel free to comment with suggestions, feedback or encouragement.

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My official thesis defense, an hour long presentation with questions, at the College of Charleston.
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My official Master of Science degree.

Unfortunately, COTs cannot be eaten (their backs are covered in venomous spines) and using them for compost would require the labor-intensive task of transporting heavy loads of dead, decaying COTs to farmland, which is unrealistic when cow poop can serve the same purpose and is already there. The easiest solution was simply to bury the COTs in the sand as soon as we reached shore.

Another option for eradication in places with access to scuba diving is injection with vinegar which paralyzes the COT and causes it to decay in 24-72 hours. Or if you live in Australia a COT-fighting robot may already be patrolling your reefs. Without a robot or scuba gear in the municipalities of Romblon, Philippines we opted for the by hand method, which allowed fisherfolk to pick up two sticks from the side of the road and then hop in the water to start collecting COTs.

Below you can watch my training video on how to remove COTs with footage I took using my GoPro during our removals.

2015 Video Highlights

Here’s some more info about the best clips in my video:

  • I spent my 26th birthday at 9 Waves Resort in Manila for our Peace Corps mid-service training seminar. Therefore my ‘happy birthday’ was multiple rides down the double loop waterslide!
  • Scuba diving in Apo Island featured the most extensive coral coverage I have ever seen! Contact Harolds Dive Center or Liquid Dumaguete. There are also great muck dives near Dumaguete, which is where I found the seahorse featured.
  • Most of the marine life was seen while diving off of Tablas Island, particularly in Ferrol, Romblon with First Buddy Tablas, the new local dive shop.
  • Wreck diving in Subic Bay had mediocre visibility, but exciting WWII ships to explore. My favorite was a submerged air pocket in one of the wrecks. We also saw an octopus. Contact Mark Walton at Camayan Divers for more info.
  • In December a Spinner Dolphin stranded in Odiongan Bay. Here you can see the footage from our rehabilitation efforts at the Marine Breeding and Research Station, including the 4 person process of feeding a fish smoothie via intubation. Thanks to the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network for advising us in this rescue.
  • The music was taken from our government Employee’s Day dance routine (I also performed but was on the left side and outside the video frame). Imagine if American government offices had annual, compulsory, choreographed dance competitions?!!? We practiced for 3 weeks for this performance and handmade all costumes and props. Thanks to our choreographer Shakira for all the help!
  • Lastly, these two waterfalls are my favorites! Just a short bike ride from my home in Odiongan. Thanks to Kalen for trying to teach me how to dive, luckily my diving skills have improved substantially from this first attempt featured in the video.

A Week in Photos: Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. with the other blog winners.
Washington D.C. with the other blog winners.

Throughout the week we gave presentations, taught in classrooms, toured several buildings, served on Q & A panels and represented 7 different countries: Mozambique, Senegal, Zambia, Morocco, Jamaica, Ethiopia, and of course the Philippines.

Presenting at the White House
Presenting at the White House

Want to see my White House presentation?! Here is the link to my YouTube video: “Let Girls Learn Philippines.” The theme this week was “Let Girls Learn.” Hearing stories about the challenges women face particularly in countries like Mozambique and Ethiopia, I really came to appreciate the opportunities women have in the Philippines.


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Meeting the Peace Corps Director Carrie
Meeting the Peace Corps Director Carrie
My family came to see my presentation!
My family came to see my presentation.
A Zambia and Philippines combined culture table.
A Zambia and Philippines combined culture table.

Between congressional visits, visiting the Environmental Protection Agency, and touring National Geographic it is hard to pick a highlight from our busy week. I have now been to all 8 floors of the Peace Corps Headquarters which is full of colorful cubicles, candy and flags from all throughout the world. But the absolute best part of the week was teaching in Washington D.C. schools! Students could not believe that Filipinos eat balut or that coral is an animal. I even got to perform our OPAG employees day dance routine in one of the classrooms.

Crown-of-Thorns Removal in Action

From Sept 25 to October 1, 2015 a team of fishermen, municipal and provincial staff members, and your local Peace Corps Volunteer worked to remove over 250 Crown-of-Thorns (CoT) sea stars from a single reef in Barangay Canduyong, Odiongan, Romblon, Philippines. Here’s the video with English and Tagalog: Crown-of-Thorns Removal

Crown-of-Thorns seastar (Acanthaster planci) feeding on coral.
Crown-of-Thorns seastar (Acanthaster planci) with its numerous arms and venomous spines feeding on coral.
White dead coral skeleton remaining after CoT feed in contrast to the remaining live colored polyps. Over time algae will grow and cover this white skeleton.
White dead coral skeleton remaining after CoT feed, in contrast to the remaining live, brown colored coral polyps in the foreground. Over time algae will grow and cover this white skeleton.
Jerome snags a CoT with tongs.
Jerome snags a CoT with tongs.
It is important to remove CoT from the water immediately because if this animal becomes stressed it will release its eggs as a last ditch effort to reproduce.
It is important to remove CoT from the water immediately because if this animal becomes stressed it will release its eggs as a last ditch effort to reproduce.
Our removed CoT kept high and dry to avoid propagation if its gametes were to be released in the water.
Our removed CoT kept high and dry to avoid propagation if its gametes were to be released in the water.
Removed CoT were buried on land.
Removed CoT were buried on land.

Removing CoT was like working as an underwater superhero! The thrill of working hard to save coral reefs and kill venomous CoT. It was hard to stop once our bucket was full because you would see more and think, “Okay let me just get one more then I’ll go back.”

Now as I prepare to leave for Washington DC and the Blog It Home Winner’s Tour, my office will share the photos and videos of our extraction to educate other Barangays (towns) about the need and process of extraction. We plan to expand our efforts to tackle CoT outbreaks throughout Romblon province.

iMovie Videos

The kids in my host family are all future movie stars, directors, and producers! Below are links to four videos they made entirely on their own through iMovie software. Be prepared to laugh, dance, and travel to mystical lands as you meet the talented Maxine, Andrea, Coco, Miel, Zyrex, and baby Barry Lee in the following four films:

  1. Fun Never Ends

2. The 5-year-Old Agent

3. The Royal Cousins

4. The 1 Year Old Baby

All films were shot in the Famero house in Odiongan, Romblon, Philippines, where I live!

Mountain Biking in Odiongan

“Will you bring your bike to the Philippines?” many of my friends from the Coastal Cyclists in Charleston, SC asked as I prepared to leave last July 2014. No, my Specialized road bike with centimeter wide tires, clip in shoes, and no shock absorption would not have gotten me very far on the roads of Romblon.

My roadbike in the US after I rode to the top of Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina in Spring 2014
My roadbike in the US after I rode to the top of Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina in Spring 2014

While the national road is paved for nearly the entire circumference Tablas Island, each day I must also navigate the rocky, dirt roads common to small neighborhoods. Roads, whose large rocks and gravel in the dry season and muddy potholes in the wet season would have eaten the tires of my Specialized roadbike while easily tossing me from my seat and into the rice fields lining their borders.

The motorbike is the most common form of transportation here. When I first arrived, I had to stop myself from pointing and laughing every time I saw an elderly Filipino grandmother whizz past me with no helmet operating a motorcycle. (While motorcycle grandmas would be out of place in America, apparently the sight of a blonde white American girl jogging through the neighborhood is also equally worthy of a point and laugh in this part of the world.)

The epitome of motorbike's in the Philippines: room for the whole family. That is Kuya Nono and Ate LingLing plus their 3 kids, Maxine, Coco and baby Barry Lee
The epitome of motorbikes in the Philippines: room for the whole family. That is Kuya Nono and Ate LingLing plus their 3 kids, Maxine, Coco and baby Barry Lee

A consequence of abundant motorbikes and rough, unpaved roads is AMAZING mountain bike trails! The best way to spend a free afternoon is biking a mountain ridge on a dirt, packed single track overlooking the ocean.

Mountain biking on a sweet single track overlooking the ocean!!
Mountain biking on a sweet single track overlooking the ocean!!

For Odiongan fiesta this past April I helped to plan a 28km Mountain Bike Race. Expecting maybe 30 participants if we were lucky, our registration booth was initially overwhelmed by over 70 riders including school kids, seniors and out-of-town professional riders!

The poster advertising the Odiongan Bike Race that I helped to plan this past April. More photos from the race to come!

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The participants gearing up...
The participants gearing up…
Me just before the race. Notice the difference in this mountain bike and my US roadbike shown earlier.
Me just before the race. Notice the difference in this mountain bike and my US roadbike shown earlier.
And we're off!!!
And we’re off!!!

Check out the video John made with GoPro footage of the bike race mixed in with clips of my other favorite pastime: snorkeling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYhgRYDOeec

Our Peace Corps Bike Gang after the race with Sir Bilshan who helped me to plan the event.
Our Peace Corps Bike Gang after the race with Sir Bilshan who helped me to plan the event. Success!!

Las Tres Islas…pockets of pristine beauty!

Conception, Corcuera and Banton. Las Tres Islas. The three northern islands of the province of Romblon, reachable in 1 to 3 hours by a banka (small Filipino boat) depending on the size of the waves. The three most remote municipalities of Romblon, but potentially the most beautiful!

Last week I conducted coastal resource assessments of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats with the help of 5 other staff in my provincial office. The most exciting and most tiring of these was the manta tow.

Manta Tow means holding on to the manta board and being dragged behind the banka (boat) over the coral reef to estimate coral coverage and locate regions of reef, sand, seagrass…etc.
Manta Tow means holding on to the manta board and being dragged behind the banka (boat) over the coral reef to estimate coral coverage and locate regions of reef, sand, seagrass…etc. Later we will return to the islands with SCUBA gear to assess coral cover on specific identified reefs and fish abundance.
Hold on tight! Over 6 days we surveyed the circumference of 3 islands amounting to 90km.
Hold on tight! Over 6 days we surveyed the circumference of 3 islands amounting to 91km.
Our data sheet with categories for percentage of live hard coral, soft coral, dead coral, dead coral with algae and sand/rubble.
Our data sheet with categories for percentage of live hard coral, soft coral, dead coral, dead coral with algae and sand/rubble.

Accomplishments from our week of assessments:

  • 91km of coastline assessed by manta tow
  • 27 Seagrass surveys
  • 4 Transects laid in mangrove habitats
  • 34 Meetings held with local fisherfolk

Observations: 42 sea turtles, mostly green

Positives: Beautiful hard and soft corals with reef quality in some locations comparable to Apo Island Marine Sanctuary, which is one of the Philippines’ oldest and most renowned has been protected since 1985. With several deeper reefs the islands offer great potential for dive tourism.

Threats: Many crown-of-thorns were observed, along with coral bleaching and algal overgrowth, cuttings in some mangrove habitats, coastal pollution and future development.

Next steps: Crown-of-thorns removal and improvements to the management plans for existing protected areas. As a Peace Corps volunteer I will work with the provincial office to meet with the municipal mayors, other staff, and local fisherfolk to share these results and implement protection and restoration where it is needed.

WATCH THE VIDEO FROM OUR ASSESSMENTS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2G9qsx8u1w

Photo credit: Loren Tihanyi
Photo credit: Loren Tihanyi

Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero

Yoga!!
Yoga!!

Check out my newest video with my host family here in Romblon entitled, “Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero” which means “An Evening with the Famero Family.” From my experience the most common evening activity in middle class Filipino families is watching TV. Soap operas are very popular as are singing competition shows similar to American Idol. The soap operas are in Tagalog, however many commercials are in English. I asked a Filipino about this and apparently it would take too long to say the same things in Tagalog. Although the TV is always on in my home as well, I have not had any time to partake in the tv dramas. My family seems to share my energy and many evenings we have instead found ourselves ballroom dancing, doing yoga or playing music. I teach yoga in exchange for lessons in swing, cha cha, and other forms of dancing. Watch my youtube video to see our family in action. I also brought some uno cards with me from the States and they have been a big hit for the young kids in my extended family.

More Yoga!!!
More Yoga!!!

Here is the translation for the Tagalog song we play together in the video entitled Bahay Kubo:

My Nepa Hut, even though it’s small

With varied plants around

Turnips and eggplant

Winged beans and peanut

String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean

White melon, sponge gourd

White pumpkin and squash

And also there is more

Radishes, mustard

Onion, tomato

Garlic and ginger

And all around are sesame seeds.

This song is extremely appropriate to my life here in the Philippines because I am always eating fresh, delicious, cooked vegetables. Some interesting foods include ampalaya, a very bitter, green vegetable and papaya if cooked before it ripens is served green with other vegetables. I am also a huge fan of malunggay, small green leaves used in teas or soups packed with vitamins and minerals.

Many thanks to my host brother Andrew for letting me borrow this bike. I ride it everywhere!
Many thanks to my host brother Andrew for letting me borrow this bike. I ride it everywhere!