Leilani Solera (right) and the research team head out in search of currents (photo: A Gammaru)

Going with the flow: Measuring currents in El Nido

Leilani Solera and a team of researchers from University of Philippines Marine Science Institute travelled to El Nido in July to measure ocean currents. The trip was the last in a series of field surveys aimed at examining how tide and monsoon regimes can change the magnitude and direction of currents in Bacuit Bay.

“It was our second attempt to complete our southwest monsoon survey,” Lei tells.

“Sea conditions are rough during Habagat (local term for the southwest monsoon) and there’d be days when we’d set out early but wait a long time on the boat to get an all-clear from the Coast Guard. We often had to modify our transects so we could cover what we deemed to be the most crucial sections given our limited field time. We’ve got the flood measurements but had to skip ebb measurements for the southern part of the bay.”

The field data will allow the researchers to test the hydrodynamic model that they have been working on for Bacuit Bay.

“As cliché goes, all models are wrong. We, however, do our best to handle model uncertainties through iterative model validation and calibration. So, we go out field and compare if our model comes close to observations, cheer when they do and, when they don’t, see how we can improve them.”

The hydrodynamic model will feed into the connectivity model that the team is also working on. Knowledge of connectivity can be used to identify priority sites to include in the design of marine protected area (MPA) networks.

Bad weather notwithstanding, the team had a good field survey and were able to deploy two acoustic doppler current profilers (ADCP) which will give them a better sense of how currents can change over a longer period of time. At the time of writing, they’ve just retrieved the instruments and are heading back to the lab to check what they’ve got (after cleaning the instruments up, that is!).