In less than a month, I depart for an adventure of a lifetime! I am leaving the Academy for two months to work for the international conservation organization, Project Seahorse, to survey marine protected areas (MPAs) near the Philippine island of Bohol. The long-term monitoring of these areas is important for three main reasons:

  • To inform fishing communities of the health of their reefs
  • To mobilize communities to create and manage more MPA’s
  • To provide data to assess the effectiveness of the establishment of these areas on the recovery of reefs.






Community efforts will include increasing awareness of the value of the marine diversity and educating the people about more sustainable practices for utilizing their marine resources.



My first two weeks will entail intensive SCUBA training, followed by six weeks of surveys. Our efforts will be centered on documenting the diversity of fishes, seahorses and benthic marine invertebrates, such as coral. Project Seahorse is a world leader for marine conservation and research on seahorses. Seahorses are currently under threat due to habitat loss and their unsustainable usage in Chinese medicine.


I had my first wild seahorse encounter on my last trip to the Philippines. It was a tiny pink pygmy seahorse. Upon first glance, I did not see it, since it looked exactly like the soft coral it was attached to! What a sight to behold!


I have been attracted to the Philippines, since learning it was home to some of the most spectacular sea slugs. It is also the center of the center of marine diversity in the world. This fact has lead to my continued interest in the Philippines as the prime location to search for anti-cancer compounds within the array of marine slugs found here.


The cure for different types of cancer and other disease could be found in the organisms inhabiting the ocean. This is another reason why conserving our oceans is paramount! To learn more about this, see my prior post:


Preparation for my trip has been quite involved since I will be living in a remote village on Jandayan Island where there is no running water and limited electricity. I have roughed it before, but I am anticipating this to be much more rigorous. Despite this, experiencing and protecting the breathtaking beauty of the underwater environment is well worth it!

Carissa Shipman

Graduate Assistant in Public Programs

Department of Invertebrate Zoology

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