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Restoring Coral, Fish, and Local Pride

Philippine students use bamboo to save coral reefs

Did you know, according to the International Coral Reef Initiative, coral reefs support an estimated 25 percent of all marine life? Ten percent of the Earth’s coral reefs have already been seriously degraded, and a much greater percentage is under serious threat. Intel International Science and Engineering Fair1 (Intel ISEF) winners are working to reverse that.

Restoring reefs in Banate Bay

Julian Paolo (JP) Biyo, Hazel Hernandez, and Paul Flores live in a fishing community near Banate Bay in the Philippines. During a high school internship, the three learned how coral reefs provide protection for marine life, resulting in healthier, more diverse fish populations. They proposed a science project aimed at establishing coral reefs to boost marine life in the overfished waters of Banate Bay.

Instead of concrete that is often used to create artificial reefs, the students turned to a cheaper alternative readily available in their area: bamboo. They gained permission from local authorities to transplant coral fragments on bamboo lattices and install them in the bay.

Community supports efforts

Study results showed that coral can survive and grow on bamboo, a discovery that could potentially make it easier to establish coral reefs in other parts of the world where bamboo is plentiful. Another immediate impact occurred: When members of the Banate Bay community learned about an increase in the number and variety of fish surrounding the students’ bamboo reef, they launched an initiative to declare the project site a marine protected area (MPA).

The three students captured a fourth-place award at the 2012 Intel ISEF in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. JP’s desire to compete at Intel ISEF was sparked in 2003, when his mother, Josette Biyo, traveled to Intel ISEF in Louisville, Kentucky, after winning an Intel Excellence in Teaching award. She returned home with inspirational tales of the young scientists who competed at the fair—and an Intel ISEF backpack that JP wore for the next 10 years as a constant reminder of his goal to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

Julian Paolo (JP) Biyo, Hazel Hernandez, and Paul Flores

2012 Intel ISEF

2012 Intel ISEF winners showed that coral can grow on artificial reefs made of bamboo.

Paul Flores, Hazel Hernandez, and Julian Paolo (JP) Biyo

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Students with teacher

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1. A program of the Society for Science & the Public.