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Study on snakes, its ecosystem, is best CSC undergrad research
A groundbreaking local study which identified 21 species of snakes in a barangay in Virac and their impact on ecosystem won this year’s “Pisog nin Uswag Award,” an annual search for best undergraduate researches implemented by the Catanduanes State Colleges BEST RESEARCHER - Dr. Estrella S. Placides (left), director of CSC Research Services, applauds John Ronel S. Gil as he receives the Pisog nin Uswag trophy, certificate of merit and cash prize from Dr. Asuncion V. Asetre, CSC president.Research Services.

John Ronel S. Gil, a graduating BS in Biology student conducted actual samplings for his thesis titled Snake Inventory in Barangay San Vicente, Virac, Catanduanes. He documented the frequency, relative population density, morphology, classification, feeding behavior and habitat of snakes from April to December 2009.

The researcher divided the barangays of San Vicente Proper and San Vicente Ibong Sapa into four study areas or stations in conducting snake specie inventory. He classified it according to the area’s ecological make up -- rice field with a stream and an irrigation facility, forested rocky mountain with diverse canopy of trees, Ronel holds a Philippine brown rat snake, locally know as "hulag."grassland with waterfalls and residential areas.

The snake species identified by the study were reticulated python (sawa), brown tree snake (dukalpa), red tailed racer (ahas tubo), vine snake (dahong palay), wolf snake (ahas bahay), blind snake (bulati), cat eye tooth snake (balanakan), golden tree snake (bongog na halas), paradise tree snake (bongog na halas), Philippine cobra (Ulopong cobra), Philippine Viper (dukalpa), Philippine brown rat snake (hulag), lind snake (balanghon), mangrove snake (bulan-bulan), killback snake (hulag), kukri snake (walo-walo sa daga), rat snake (hulag), keel bellied whip snake (hulag), dog faced water snake (aninikig), blue bronzeback snake (aga aga) and painted bronze back (halas).

Gil found out that reticulated python, vine snake, mangrove snake, killback snake and painted bronze back snake were the species widely distributed in the two barangays. In terms of population, painted bronze back snake locally called “halas” was found out to be abundant the four stations. The rocky and mountainous area of Barangay San Vicente has the highest frequency having 14 species while the residential vicinity of Barangay Ibong Sapa, which is along the coastal area, has only a single specie of snake identified.

The samples were found on various habitats. Most of the gathered species were found on trees and forested areas. Others were found on grasslands, near streams and rivers, rice fields, hollow logs, crown of palms, dark corner of thatched houses, caves, limestone cliffs, mangrove areas, human settlements, and open fields. They feed on small lizards, mice, small mammals, birds, birds’ eggs, earthworms, snails, slugs, skinks, small terrestrials.

The researcher conducted the study using actual sampling from 7:00 o’clock in the morning to 6:00 o’clock in the afternoon, four days in a week during the months of April and May, and during weekends from June to December 2009. He collected the samples using a snake hook. Counting and tabulation were made to document and record the abundance and density of the snakes.

As cited in Gil’s study, Lamptey, a herpetologist, pointed out that snake is an important component in preserving the balance of nature, serving as predator of pests like rodents, slugs, worms and amphibians. Snakes also act as natural controller of pests such as rodents, slugs and amphibians that threaten farming communities. In addition, its venom had been found to have curative effect. However, human interventions have brought snakes on the verge of extinction, Lamptey emphasized.

Gil mentioned that the discovered diversity of snake species indicates that the ecosystem is still balanced in the covered area. “Locals must know the critical interconnection of the area’s bionetwork”, he said. He hopes that this will be sustained considering that San Vicente, for instance, has vast rice fields where snakes form part of the ecological stability of the area. Gil’s thesis adviser is Prof. Estrella T. Tribiana.

Meanwhile, adjudged second place is the study titled “Fish Baits Using Waste” conducted by Marvin Jay R. Sarmiento, also a BS in Biology student. He studied on the efficiency of using waste materials such as pieces of silk, onion sacks, ribbons, rubbers and white feathers including threads, which are usually found in the bulk of market wastes, as improvised baits used in “balakwit”, a traditional fishing activity in Cabugao Bay.

Sarmiento’s study found out that the waste materials can be used as artificial or mimicking baits for fishes such as Tulingan, Bangkulis, Lapis and Borangawan. The use of mimic baits has been a practice of fishers in catching these types of fishes in the island. This has been proven to minimize cost, substituting small squids, octopus tentacles and other diets of this fishes, which is also being sold in the market.

Ana Zarina G. Llaguno and Emmanuel P. Olarte’s study on “The Role of the Catholic Church on the Political Culture as Perceived by Youth Sector in Virac” made it to the 3rd place. They found out that majority of the youth agree that the church still has great influence on the prevailing political culture, election issues, values and morality and other political activities. They are however not in favor of priest and religious leaders seeking elective positions in the government and in engaging in various movements of civil society and attending political demonstrations.

Declared 4th Place is the study titled Utilization of Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola) and Bilimbi (Averrhoa bilimbi) in Making Jam by Michelle O. Santelices while the 5th Place was the study on “Utilization of Pili Pulp Flour in Making Polvoron” written by Ellen Mae O. Evangelista. Both Santelices and Evangelista also BS in Nutrition and Dietetics students.

A panel of evaluators headed by Dr. Estrella S. Placides, CSC Research Services director, headed the selection of the best undergraduate thesis. ( Gerry S. Rubio )