Mark Vergara
Mark Vergara with the Marine Science Institute Coral collections
Mark Vergara undertaking survey work, Bolinao

With 50 per cent of the Philippines’ protein sourced from fish, Mark Vergara sees his work at the UP Marine Science Institute as helping to put food on people’s tables.

Home to the Institute’s marine laboratory, Bolinao has one of the largest reef complexes in the Philippines and is one of the most overfished areas. It is now designated as a priority conservation area.

Mark’s Masters thesis is focused on understanding the coral community structure of the Bolinao Reef Complex, including the composition of reef populations, their spatial organisation and functional relationships. Through field surveys and taxonomic identification, the ecologist is documenting the corals and other marine life in the complex. This will provide baseline data and save time, effort and resources for future researchers studying the reef, including CRTR researchers.

“To study corals effectively, we must be able to identify them correctly,” says Mark.

A comprehensive guide to the corals of Bolinao and Western Luzon will be produced and will assist researchers in species identification.

As well as identifying individual corals, the research is building a picture of the reef overall using digital photography and modeling techniques.

“The coral reefs here in Bolinao are among the most closely studied in the country but still, basic knowledge is missing. We are documenting where the reefs are and what they look like in terms of coral cover, species composition and distribution, depth, slope, wave exposure, currents, visibility and threats.”

The work is critical to the effective research at Bolinao which in turn will contribute to conservation efforts here and elsewhere in the Coral Triangle.

“So ultimately I am helping to conserve a resource which feeds people which is very rewarding.”

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