A tight education outreach schedule has kept Meg and me hop-scotching the country ever since we arrived in the Philippines on May 8th. Earlier this week we delivered our first outreach to a combined audience of 30 university faculty and high school teachers at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, the oldest university in Asia at 400 years old. We had expected a larger turnout, but tropical storm Bebeng wrecked havoc with roads and air flights and prevented another 40 faculty from attending the session. Each of our sessions includes an overview of the Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, a presentation by at least one of the scientists on any preliminary findings from the field, and demonstrations of hands-on interactive lesson plans and educational activities for the classroom. They have had a pretty good time acting out the Carbon Cycle Role Play lesson plan to learn about how carbon atoms are exchanged in the environment and practice their observation skills with a scientific sketching activity.
Two days later we were at Taal Lake where we made another presentation to a group of local government officials and elementary school teachers, including the mayor of Talisay, a small municipality, or barangay, right on the lake. Taal Lake is very interesting biologically because at one time it was connected to the ocean. Among the endemics found in the lake that biologists, Dave Catania, Chrissy Piotrowski, Bob VanSyoc, Vanessa Knutson and Don Dumale were particularly interested in collecting is the endemic freshwater species of sea snake and sardine, whose closest relatives live in the ocean. The lake is designated as a protected area, but still faces many threats including the introduction of an invasive species of cichlid, the jaguar fish, which threatens native species in the lake. Situated on an island in the lake is Taal Volcano, looking very peaceful while we were there but it is still currently at a very active Stage 2 eruption alert.
Friday we were at University of the Philippines in Los Baños, whose lush, tropical campus is located at the foot of Mount Makiling, a 1090m inactive volcano located about 65 km southeast of Manila. It was an added treat to have expedition physician Matt Lewin with us to talk about the mobile snakebite kit that he has developed. Next stop was the University of Batangas where we reached nearly 70 faculty and teachers. With just four outreaches under our belts and eight more to go, we are looking forward to meeting with more of our colleagues here. Next stop, Southern Luzon State University, and then on to Calatagan.
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