LMRT Trip | May 24th–29th

This might be the last trip of this year and this school year. I was so excited for it, I wanted to see the blocks we deployed. Unfortunately, we can’t go and visit our blocks and conduct our survey during this trip. We were there when the island received a lot of rain. Most days, the sediment in the sea was stirred up by the rain which makes it very difficult to see underwater. We didn’t get to dive much. We only dove by the pier and search for seahorse and pipefish. During the four dives of this trip, I found a seahorse and a pipefish.

 

While the sediment kept on stirring, we stayed in the main bungalow and learned about dolphins and how to conduct dolphin surveys with Sarah. A day after our dolphin survey training, we had a practice boat survey. The plan was the leave early in the morning (5:00 am) but the rain wouldn’t allow us to. That day, after the rain settled down, we cleaned the beach and collected sacks and sacks of trash (mostly styrofoam) in less than an hour. After the beach clean, we went on the dolphin survey. During the dolphin survey, as I was scanning the ocean with my binocular I heard a shout. Then, my whole vision shifted to the dolphin. I was really excited. My mind was blanked out. I can’t remember how to call out the information to the notetaker (Somphors). All I could think of was dolphins.

 

After that first pod of dolphin, we start seeing more. Soon, we realized that we were surrounded by dolphins. It got harder for us to keep track of them. There were at least four pods of dolphins, and they kept merging and separating all the time. I think we messed up the pods because there were a lot of things going on with the dolphin. They won’t make it easy for us to keep track of them. After about an hour of many dolphins to keep track of, it went silent. All of a sudden the dolphins seemed to vanish. At this point, Nina started the trash survey, and I found myself really engaged in it. Every time I see trash in the sea, I shout with excitement. I was excited not to see the trash in the sea, but excited because I can be a part of the trash survey. I hope my contribution can have a big impact. I hope the data from the trash survey can speak on behalf of the ocean and ask for attention. After one hour of trash survey, Nina realized that she needs a better datasheet. She ran out of space to fill in the data, particularly the column for styrofoam. I was so inspired. I can’t wait to be more involved with the trash and the dolphin survey.

 

Besides the dolphin and the trash survey, we worked a lot on cluster making and recycling things we found during our beach clean-ups. We also met a lot of cool people. We met captain Pete Bethune ( a very experienced conservationist) and his crew, Erik and Angela. We also met Doug Bender—the space engineer and former head of unmanned satellites and “attitude control” at Howard Hughes, General Motors, and Boeing.

 

It was a really great trip. I love meeting new people on the island and get to know about their job. It was a pleasure to watch films about Pete and work, and listen to the presentation by Doug. I loved every moment of this trip, and will never forget it. The ocean and the island now feel like a home to me.

LMRT Trip | March 8th – 13th

This trip was by far the longest and most productive trip. We did so many exciting activities. One of the activity we did was making cement blocks for the artificial reef structure. The process of making the cement block goes like this, first, we have to put together the mold for the cement block. The mold is made out of pieces of metal that look just like the piece of a puzzle. Then, we gathered the sand and pebbles from the beach and put it the mixing machine. Next, we add some water into and the machine then, add the cement and add some more sand, and pebbles and mix it until the cement paste is ready. One it is ready, we poured it into the mold, we use the cement to fill half of the mold and put a PVC on each with chains circling the pipes. Next, we fill up the cement to the brim of the mold and smoothen the cement out and leave it out to dry. The concrete became somewhat hard, we used some nails to mark on them Below are some photo of the process of making the concrete blocks.

Another activity we did was making clusters. A cluster is a triangular-shaped structure made from bamboo with frayed ropes hanging on to it. In order to make clusters, we learned to tie different knots, splice ropes and trying the bamboo together. The clusters that are made are a replacement of the plastic marker buoys. The cluster will be used to mark the location of the artificial reefs that Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC) will implement, while also provide a habit for the juvenile fish since the frayed ropes will attract algae to grow on them.

As always, beach cleanup is never excluded from any trip. During this trip, we did a lot of breach-clean and use the trash we had collected to make something beautiful. Now that LMRT has our own bunker, we decorated the steps with bottle caps along with many other creative projects we did with the trash we had collected.

During the trip before the trip before the previous trip we practiced doing transect surveys, and for this trip, we did our first three official transect surveys before we deployed our artificial reef. During the surveys, we saw some new species that need identification. We finally logged our first data! Then, on the day before we leave the island, had our reef deployed, the reef that LMRT will be surveying. The reef we deployed by MCC’s staff, while we watch them go through the whole process. Along with the reef we had a cluster floating on top of it.

This trip was an amazing experience for me. I can’t wait to go back to the island and check out how the cluster is going.

 

LMRT Trip | February 1st – 4th

This was the first trip of 2018. We planned to do many activities on Koh Seh island, but we couldn’t due to the water hyacinth wash-up. We spend most of the trip cleaning up the water hyacinth that was rotten on the shore and relaxes. We attempt to do some dives but the visibility wasn’t great; when I was underwater I could barely see my own hands. During the dives, we practice our buoyancy skills and learned to make bubble rings underwater. We were planning to practice our navigation skills as well but the visibility won’t allow us to, so instead, we practiced it on land. With a blanket over our heads, we had to use a compass and walk in a basic shape for an example, squares. Although the trip didn’t go as planned, I was glad I had done the ocean a favor by cleaning it up. Below are some photos of the beach clean.

Online Neuroscience Course

A few years ago I got interested in neuroscience after finish reading a book called “A Day in the Life of the Brain” by Ana María Rodríguez. From then, I read more and more about the brain and human body. The build-up of my interest led me to do an independent discovery where I take an online neuroscience course made by Harvard University. The course was challenging, but I really enjoy learning it; they include many analogies which helps make every simpler for me to understand. At some point through the course, I learned something really amazing, something that I never thought I would learn in the course, like the GHK equation that is used to calculate the membrane potential of the neuron (brain cell). Another thing that I really enjoy learning about the course is thinking of the neuron in term of electronics; it helps me recall my knowledge of electronic and use it to help learn about how the brain works. So far, I haven’t finished this course yet, but after I finish it, I plan to continue studying about humans, specifically psychology. For my future, I want to work on developing brain exercise to help with learning disabilities to learn.

LMRT Trip | December 7th – 10th

Although this was the last trip of 2017, it was not the least. We had been really productive. By the second day on Koh Seh we took our invertebrate identification test and practice our navigation skill underwater and by the next day, we did our first official transect practice survey. The survey starts with two people laying the 100 meters transect line, followed by two people doing the fish survey, then two people doing the substrate survey and two people doing the invertebrate survey. My role was to conduct the fish survey with Venghour. Conducting the survey we established neutral buoyancy and swim by each side of the measuring tape. When the survey starts we would swim really slowly and record any fish that is in the are of 2.5 meters away from the measuring tape on the side we are assigned to. Then we would stop every five meters for our one minute break to make sure we didn’t miss count any fish. Lastly, we would skip five meters for every 20 meters that the survey covered to reduce bias, meaning we did four 20-meter transect surveys. Below is a visual of what the survey looks like.

 

During the practice survey, I saw many fish species with includes eight-banded butterflyfish, golden trevally, long-beaked coral fish, sergeant fish, cardinal fish, black-spot snapper and wrasses and a remora. At some point of the survey, we eliminate the one-minute breaks to make sure we have enough air for the whole survey. Beside from the practice survey and the invertebrate test, I did a lot of beach clean up which is something I proud of doing.

LMRT Trip | November 16-19

On this particular trip, lasting from November 16-19, LMRT is focusing on practicing marine survey and substrate identification ability assessment. As usual, on the way to Koh Seh island, we review what we’ve learned and read our books. There, all our dive were focused on transect survey practice. For the first dive, we had to do everything by ourselves to practice our transect survey. Laying the transect line was one of our main problems. I could feel myself floating on the surface all the time when holding on to the safety marker buoy (SMB) while laying the transect line. After that dive, my dive instructors figure that I need more weight to help me descend into the water. They also learned that they need to teach us one skill at a time, then teach us to combine the skills together to learn a more difficult skill like marine surveying. For the next dives, we only need to swim with neutral buoyancy and record everything we see there. Though things we had to do were reduced I still had a lot of troubles. I felt very uncomfortable swimming with my new weight; which made it hard for me to control my buoyancy. I felt the need to move my legs all the time to keep my neutral buoyancy, which made me swim very fast; it was too fast for the survey. I couldn’t write everything I saw when I finished the survey. I continued to have the similar problem every day while trying to adjust to my new weight until my last dive of this trip, where I got used it.

Beside the dives, I took the substrate identification test and got involved in projects with people at MCC (Marine Conservation Cambodia). MCC is an organization that is working protecting the marine life. With MCC’s people, I did a beach cleanup around the island with my dive team, consisting of three other students. In less than an hour, we collected about 28 kilograms of trash, which later was used by the other dive team to stuff into plastic bottles that had been collected in order to make eco blocks. I was also involved in a dolphin survey where I had to use a binocular to search across the sea in a zig-zag pattern, standing up high on the hill. Unfortunately, we did not spot a single dolphin that day, in fact, MCC had not seen any dolphin in two weeks. Even though my expectation was to see a dolphin, I felt very happy to search for them. 

Overall, the whole trip was a very good experience. I felt like I was already a part of protecting the ocean through picking up the trash and learning to do an underwater survey.

  • Making eco blocks

LMRT Trip | October 26-29

On the 26th of October, LMRT (Liger Marine Research Team) went back to Koh Seh to practice our SCUBA diving skills as well as taking a test to see how well we identify fish species and learning more about marine surveying. On the second day of being there, our dive instructor planned us a dive where we had to practice our navigation skills underwater. Unfortunately, the visibility was very bad, so we weren’t able to do much.Later that morning, we reviewed for our fish identification test and took it in the afternoon. I felt very nervous when the test started. At first, I did very bad, so the mentor gives me more tips to identify the species which look very similar. For, I second try, I score much better, this time I passed the test. It felt like the most rewarding thing ever especially when we got to dive with the bioluminescence after the test. I swam in the water and release all my tension from the test there while moving my limb around to see the beautiful glitter of the night. The experience made me feel like I had seen underwater firework celebrating the success of passing the test.

 

Later this trip, we attempt to practice our navigation skills again.We had two dive buddies team dive together, one team lead first and take down the note of the direction they are traveling in, then they would the note our team and the next team had to lead back to the starting point. When my team got the dive slate, we couldn’t understand the writing, so we just use our instinct and the nature around us to find our way back. It turned out that we didn’t get to the starting point, the boat, but we were very close. We just had to swim around 50 meters to get to the boat. On this trip, we also practice surveying with transect line, but on land. We had to practice walking on land with the speed of about 1.5 meter per minute, which is the speed at which we should do the survey underwater. At that point I felt like doing a survey isn’t that hard until I practice a real one underwater on the next trip.

Khmer Literature Festival

On the 20th of October, I and nine other students attend the Khmer Literature Festival. It was a new event, hosting for the time in Siem Reap province.  On the first day of attending the event in Wat Damnak Pagoda, I was very impressed and inspired. I got to meet Cambodian expatriates who write a story everywhere they go. I also got to know many young Cambodians authors. For years, many Cambodians including me thoughts that Cambodians are losing interest in their own literature, but now people had proven me wrong. Throughout the event, there were always more and more talks that inspired me. I learned a lot about the development of Cambodian poetry, famous Cambodian authors, and people’s opinion about the development of Khmer Literature. There were also books on sale and really caught my attention; I can’t stop myself buying them. Buying them to support the authors. Buying because I love to read books. Besides all the impression, I felt disappointed and confused, I was hoping to find some Khmer adventure book, but there weren’t any while there are many in English. Though I couldn’t find what I was looking for, the experience was really good. I enjoy seeing people coming together and combat a national problem. I am looking forward to seeing Cambodians getting more interested in their national literature.

 

Liger Marine Research Team | September 28th – 3rd of October trip

On May 3rd,  2017, Karen, our science teacher sent out a form to deliver an opportunity for eight students to become certified scuba divers and do a three-year long research about the marine life of Cambodia. This opportunity is meant to be as an outside of school program. As soon as I saw the form, I submitted it and became one of the members of the team. The team is called Liger Marine Research Team (LMRT). After forming the team name we wrote a grant to Rolex Explorer, but we didn’t get it. Later, Karen submitted the same grant to Laguntza Foundation and this time we got it.  We got the financial support to do our research for three years.

 

In the meanwhile, when we waited for the result of the grant, we started reading about scuba diving. Once in awhile, we talked about what we read, but more often we came together to do workout and do practice swimming to get ready for diving. Besides getting ready for scuba diving and being in a pool session, we also studied the marine lives and their identification.

 

Later, on September 28th, 2017, We traveled to Koh Seh and took our pool sessions and the dive test and became certified divers in four days. First, we took a swimming test where we had to trade water for ten minutes and swim for 200 meters. Later, we moved to doing all the pool sessions. Establishing neutral buoyancy was the hardest skill for everyone during the pool session, but after many dives, we got over it. Even though the course was very compact and challenging, I enjoy it a lot, especially feeling very relieved when I found out that I passed the dive test and became a certified diver.