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U.S. Fulbright Students Talk Conservation Research at the National Museum
Friday, 5 October 2018

As part of the final requirements of their grant, U.S. Fulbright Student Program awardees Joseph “Joey” Brown and Timothy “Tim” Gardner did a joint End-of-Grant presentation at the National Museum of Natural History on October 1, 2018.

Titled “Of Whales, Dolphins, and Crocodiles: Conservation on Land and at Sea,” the talk was open to the public for free. More than 150 people attended the seminar to learn about conservation research in the Philippines. National Museum’s Assistant Director Dr. Ana Labrador was present in the event and gave the welcoming remarks.

Meanwhile, U.S. Embassy Manila’s Cultural Attaché and PAEF Board Treasurer Matt Keener gave the closing remarks. Joey and Tim were also joined by Dr. Jo Marie Acebes, founder of and senior researcher at the National Museum.

The three speakers were given 30 minutes each to present the following topics:

  • “Cetacean research and conservation in the Babuyan Marine Corridor” – Dr. Jo Marie Acebes
    • Topic summary: The Babuyan Marine Corridor is the only known breeding ground of humpback whales in the Philippines.  Part of a small, distinct population of humpback whales in the western North Pacific, it is probably the least studied in the region.  Thirteen other species of cetaceans, whale sharks, marine turtles, sharks, and various fishes also occur in the corridor, making it one of the marine key biodiversity areas in the country.  This project has been working towards understanding the population structure and migratory patterns of humpback whales in the corridor. It is also monitoring the status of other dolphin species, as well as marine resources that locals depend on.  Through research, educational outreach and capacity building, the project aims to increase local appreciation of the importance of conserving this diverse ecosystem and strengthen the local capacity to manage a newly established marine protected area on the island.
  • “Humpback whale distribution in Camiguin Norte, the Babuyan Islands” – Tim Gardner
    • Topic summary: Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrating to the Babuyan Marine Corridor to breed are part of the western North Pacific population. As a breeding ground, this is a habitat critical to the life history of this threatened population of humpback whales.  Their occurrence in this area has been monitored since 2000 and is the longest running, continuous research study on a cetacean species in the Philippines. Long-term study such as this is a great opportunity to assess patterns in distribution and habitat-use in order to determine possible impacts of human activities like fisheries, unregulated coastal development, ship traffic and whale watching. This project aims to examine the spatial and temporal patterns of humpback whale occurrence around the most-surveyed island, Camiguin, and how those patterns may have changed over time. In addition, this project seeks to investigate the potential effects of El Niño events on the migration of humpbacks to this breeding ground each year. Insights from this project will be used to better inform planning for the proposed Humpback Whale Conservation and Marine Protected Area.
  • “Conservation and Ecology of the Critically Endangered Philippine Crocodile” – Joey Brown
    • Topic summary: Facing threats from habitat loss and unlawful killings, and with less than 200 adults remaining in the wild, the Critically Endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) is one of the most threatened species on our planet. Once distributed throughout the country, Philippine crocodiles are now restricted to just two wild, viable populations—one in Mindanao, and the other in San Mariano, Isabela Province, Luzon. As a Fulbright Research Scholar and National Geographic Explorer, my project focuses on a collaboration with a local NGO, the Mabuwaya Foundation, as we apply global positioning systems (GPS) and satellite tracking devices attached to crocodiles for an in-depth study of crocodilian behavior, habitat requirements, and migratory movements. Additionally, we are also examining stomach contents on all captured crocodiles for the first-ever diet and foraging ecology study. The entirety of this project is focused around community-based conservation—educating and empowering local communities in the protection of a flagship species and national treasure. These novel research methods, combined with community education, outreach, and mentorship, will help establish a successful population management plan, and further ensure protection for this highly threatened endemic species into the future.

They also answered queries from the audience after the presentations.

The event fulfills the final requirement of Tim and Joey’s nine-month Fulbright grants in the Philippines.

To view more photos from the event, visit:

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