Highlighting the significance of science-based initiatives and community participation 
in managing and protecting our marine environment and resources

The Biodiversity Management Bureau has recently entered into a Collaborative Research Agreement with the Smithsonian Institution (SI) on "The Use of Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) for Biodiversity Assessments across Geographic and Anthropogenic Impact Gradients in the Philippines". This collaboration is supported by USAID's PIRE project and builds on U.S. Embassy Manila's USAID support to the Philippine Government on coastal and marine biodiversity conservation through the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Mission Support program. 

The partnership is intended for scientific research on biodiversity and for building local capacities, particularly on developing expertise on taxonomic identification and systematics of crypto-biota and marine invertebrates, using morphological and molecular approaches. It is part of a larger research previously initiated by the U.S. NOAA and Smithsonian Institution (SI) for biodiversity assessment of crypto-biota using ARMS as a standardized biodiversity monitoring tool. The partnership will also monitor the ecological impacts of ocean acidification, ocean warming, and other stressors and to understand the effects of climate change and ocean acidification to the coral reef community over the long term.

Among the Bureau's foreign collaborators include the: SI; US NOAA; San Diego State University; Moss Landing Marine Laboratories/San Jose State University; and University of California. Local partners include the: National Museum, Philippines (NM, Phils); Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-BFAR-NFRDI); Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD); University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI); De La Salle University (DLSU); and the Local Government Units (LGUs) of Mabini and Tingloy, Batangas.

A series of activities related to ARMS was conducted from May to June 2015 and this was jumpstarted by the ARMS Kick-off Event on 18 May 2015 at the BMB Training Center, Quezon City.


In a span of two weeks starting May 20, the research team composed of representatives from some of the agencies and institutions mentioned above, successfully recovered 25 ARMS, 22 calcification accretion units (CAUs), and 7 STR temperature sensors in five locations within the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor. A total of 4,660 motile or moving specimens sorted from the 2mm fractions were preserved and curated by the National Museum, Philippines, wherein 1,388 subsamples were collected for voucher-based DNA barcoding. Major bulk of the specimens were classified as either Arthropoda (crabs and shrimps), Echinodermata (brittle stars), or Mollusca (snails and bivalves). The team were also able to process 480 samples for virome analysis, and 75 samples each for both metagenome and metabolome analyses. Water samples were also processed for nutrient, viral metagenomes, bacterial counts, and dissolved inorganic carbon analyses.

There were fourteen Filipino participants from the government agencies and academic institutions concerned who were capacitated in field processing of specimens collected from ARMS units, as well as, water samples during the field mission. Meanwhile, ten researchers and staff from the NM, BFAR-NFRDI, UP-MSI and DLSU were trained in handling and processing samples in the laboratory.

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ARMS unit underwater partially covered with crinoids, algae, and other encrusting materials.

Divers detaching weights from the ARMS unit and covering it with a bin to prevent any motile organisms from escaping during ascent.

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Our foreign research collaborators demonstrates how to dismantle the ARMS and sieve water to filter out motile organisms. The team setting up the plate photography station. After dismantling, the top and bottom layer of the ARMS plates will be taken a hi-resolution picture for benthic community analysis using the Coral Point Count with Excel Extensions (CPCe) software.
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BMB team putting up tags to the distinct sessile communities in each ARMS plates for pre-species identification/classification. Motile organisms are being sorted and classified. Each organisms are being tagged and photographed with a Philippine Museum-based label.
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In this station, tissue samples are being collected from each of the distinct motile organisms and then preserved for further analysis purposes using DNA/molecular technology. Afterwhich, the voucher specimens are being soaked in ethanol for starage in the Philippine Museum. In here, the team tries to isolate pure tissue samples from the sessile community. The voucher specimen are likewise being preserved in ethanol.
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Water samples collected from the ARMS deployment site are being processed for nutrient, viral metagenomes, bacterial counts, and dissolved inorganic carbon.

Filipino participants joined and capacitated in the 2-week laboratory processing of samples at the De La Salle University.

A parallel outreach event for the community was also conducted for the municipalities of Tingloy and Mabini in Batangas. This was attended mostly by Sangguniang Bayan members, Bantay Dagat, and FARMC representatives. They were given an opportunity to witness and experience a hands-on field processing of samples.


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The participants of the One-Day Introduction to ARMS for the municipalities of Mabini and Tingloy, Batangas (left photo). The crowd gather in anticipation and excitement as the research team dismantles an ARMS unit (right photo).
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A collage of some of the motile specimens collected from VIP. Stitched plate photos showing sessile communities
At the end of the field mission, eighteen units of ARMS were redeployed in Arthur's Reef, Twin Rocks, and Batalang Bato for future monitoring purposes.

The Bureau looks into the possibility of fabricating the ARMS units locally and of deploying them in other areas of marine biodiversity/conservation importance (e.g. NIPAS).


Recognizing the community as an effective partner in the successful implementation of the Bureau's endeavours in the conservation of our resources, BMB, in coordination with its Regional Offices in Regions IV-A and VII and LGUs concerned and with the support of NOAA, Smithsonian Institution and USAID, conducted an outreach event called the Hands-on-ARMS.

Hands-on-ARMS aims to heighten the awareness and appreciation of the community on marine biodiversity. It is hoped that thru the event, the community will be able to appreciate the importance of the marine organisms in providing us with a healthy reef, and hence, sustaining the goods and services we people benefit from the sea.

During the event, the ARMS unit that was deployed last year in Cordova, Cebu and Carabao Island, Cavite were recovered and dismantled, afterwhich the motile organisms were collected, sorted, and examined by the students and local community.

Cordova, Cebu. 27 May 2015

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BMB and DENR Region VII dismantling the ARMS unit. BMB giving information about ARMS to local media.
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Using simple handlens and forceps, the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Cordova,

Cebu were the first to sort out motile organisms.

The next generation showing interest in marine biodiversity.
A glimpse of some of the marine organisms collected from the ARMS unit soaked a year under the waters of Alegria Marine Sanctuary in Cordova, Cebu.

Maragondon, Cavite. 26 June 2015

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BMB, together with a representative from the community,

presenting a short skit about marine biodiversity, climate change and ARMS.
Dr. Vincent Hilomen delivers a message in behalf of Dir. Theresa Mundita Lim.
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Our partners from the De La Salle University –
Dasmariñas set up compound and dissecting microscopes for use of the students.

Dr. Hilomen also joins the students in examining the motile specimens.
Students in action...
Activities conducted are in line with the celebration of the Month of the Ocean, with theme, "Stand Up, Save Our Reefs."
(All photos are courtesy of the ARMS Partnership Collaborators)