The (Frog) Prince and I – Dr. Arvin Diesmos’ visit to El Nido

Lagen Island Resort Environmental Officer Kring Soriano accompanied herpetologist Dr. Arvin Diesmos during his short field survey in El Nido last November 3-7, 2011. Please pardon Kring’s gushing – she’s been a fan of Dr. Diesmos since college.

Arvin C. Diesmos.

I’d known the name even before I’d seen the guy’s face. How could I not know? He authored almost all the journal articles I based my herps [reptiles and amphibians] papers on when I was in college. He confirmed the identities of the frogs we captured in Biology 160 [Ecology] class that even my teacher (who was doing a graduate thesis on amphibians) wasn’t sure of. He’s an authority on Philippine reptiles and amphibians. He is Arvin C. Diesmos, Ph.D.—world-renowned herpetologist [one who studies reptiles and amphibians] and the curator of the Zoology Department at the Philippine National Museum.

Arriving in El Nido

I was introduced to him by one of my teachers during one of his talks at the Institute of Biology [University of the Philippines-Diliman] last year. Since then, I’ve sent him photos of amphibians and reptiles I encounter here in El Nido for identification. He’s urged me to compile the photos so that we could someday create a pictorial guide of El Nido herps for people to enjoy. He’s been very kind in sharing his knowledge and information.

Three months ago, my boss [Ms. Mariglo Laririt] asked me to invite Arvin to conduct a survey here in El Nido. Just imagine my shock and excitement! I immediately sent him a message asking if he’d like to come here and when he’d be available. He was happy and excited as well, as there isn’t a lot of published information on the herps of northern Palawan. We scheduled his trip on November 3-7. Since [Miniloc Island Resort Environmental Officer] Macy would be on her days off, I’d be accompanying him on his stay. I had to prepare.

Preparation meant knowing how to catch and handle these slimy creatures all over again. When I was in college, I always chose this group during our Ecology class field trips, tagged along during the fieldworks of other classes, and assisted my teacher during his survey of Pampanga and Bataan. Unfortunately, the last time I went herping was two years ago and I was a bit less confident of my skills now. Therefore, I flew to Manila for my September days off and contacted my teacher to ask if I could tag along during their fieldwork so that I could practice – I didn’t want to be a burden to Arvin during the survey.

The Frog Prince and I along the Lagen hiking trail

Weeks passed and November came. My field pants, long-sleeved shirts, and shoes were all set. There was one thing I forgot: my headlamp! Good thing Arvin had two and he lent me one. I prepared his itinerary and our schedule was jam-packed. Since most herps are out by night, we roamed the survey sites day and night! We surveyed Miniloc on our first night, where we found lizards and tiny frogs (Chaperina fusca). What really amazed me was how Arvin could give an initial ID of herps based on their calls! He said frogs have distinct calls and if you listen carefully, you can identify which frog is making what sound!

The second day was allotted for Dibuluan. Rowin, our Marine Sports Guide, assisted us during the survey. We saw skinks and I got to catch Philippine toads – a species endemic to the province. At night, we roamed Lagen and saw the same tiny frogs we found in Miniloc. Arvin found them interesting because even though they belonged to the same species, their colors and markings were different—a case we call inter-island variation.

Philippine toad (Ingerophrynus philippinicus)

On his third day, we surveyed Lagen again and saw a tiny green snake (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus) which was not venomous. I even got a chance to hold it! At night, we transferred to Lio Airport where we caught a number of amphibians including common tree frogs (Polypedates sp.), Philippine toads (Ingerophrynus sp.)and chorus frogs (Kahloula sp.). We also found a potential new species of worm skink belonging to the genus Brachymeles. Worm skinks are lizards that have very reduced limbs (so they look like worms) and move in a snake-fashion.

See? Not all snakes are bad.
Potential new species of worm skink (Brachymeles sp.)

On November 6, he gave presentations to our guests and staff about El Nido’s biodiversity in terms of herps. We sure have a lot to be proud of!

Giving a presentation to the Lagen Island Resort staff on El Nido’s herps.

Read all articles by Kring Soriano.
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10 Comments

  1. Hi! I’m a biology graduate too… Just out of curiosity, how can I join field works like what your doing… (my idol is dr.Brady Barr of NGC) hehe… Thanks

    1. Hi Jepoy! If you want to be a research assistant for Dr. Diesmos, then you should contact him directly. If you want to become an Environmental Officer for El Nido Resorts, then send us your resume! We’re looking for an EO for Pangulasian Island Resort 🙂

      — Macy, Miniloc Island Resort EO

      1. Thanks! How can I contact him? And where can I send my resume? I don’t have any experience on what your doing or any field works, i want to have one…hehe… Do you guys require maters degree?

        1. Dr. Diesmos’ contact info might be on the website of the Philippine National Museum. For the EO position, please send your resume to Ritz Rivero of Human Resources – rrivero(at)elnidoresorts(dot)com. A master’s degree isn’t required but will be very useful 🙂

          — Macy

  2. Hi Macy! Regarding the EO job, what does an EO usually does? Sorry I don’t have any job experience on that.. Thanks again!

    1. What: Environmental Officer
      Who: El Nido Resorts
      Where: an island resort in Palawan!

      Job description:
      Main point of contact for environmental expertise for guests and staff.
      Conducts environmental briefing for all arriving guests.
      Directs programs and sessions with guests.
      Helps in the development/improvement of nature-based activities, such as mangrove tours, bird-watching, etc.
      Conducts and evaluates regular training and education of staff using in-house training modules and materials.
      Supports all environmental conservation projects, doing research work, gathering and analyzing data, and disseminating information.
      Develops/oversees individual research programs encouraging guest and staff interaction.
      Consolidating Nature Conditions Reporting from guides and guests and distributes appropriately.
      Custodian of Environmental materials and research studies.
      Upholds the legal responsibilities of the Company to ensure that its operations are within the bounds of the law.
      Performs other related duties and tasks as may be required by superiors.

      Qualifications:
      1. Committed to environmental conservation.
      2. Is articulate, friendly and has a genuine interest in people.
      3. A degree or background in the natural sciences.
      4. Physically fit and energetic.
      5. Enthusiastic to be island resort-based.
      6. Can relate well with people of varying backgrounds.
      7. Hardworking, patient, and with a good sense of humor.

      😀

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