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.
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.
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.
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.
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!Kring Soriano.
- Enchanting El Nido episode 11 – Dr. Arvin Diesmos (herpetologist, Philippine National Museum) (elnidoenvironment.wordpress.com)
- Scientists survey Palawan’s flora and fauna (elnidoenvironment.wordpress.com)