LMRT Trip | May 22-26

This was our last trip of this academic year—2018-2019. For the first time, we had the greatest visibility! We were able to conduct or survey and see how our structure has improved. We were able to see groupers and seagrass and new fishes that needed to be identified! Though the visibility was offering, the current wasn’t. We had two more second cohort joining us and one of them is boat sick. One of LMRT member, although not boats, also got sick with the perpetual strong current. After all, this is what real scientific research looks like. It’s about risk and giving our effort and time even when the result is unpredictable.

I can’t say enough how successful this trip has been. We worked together really well; everyone was aware of everything that was going on and available to offer a hand to those who needed it. We again help out with the dolphin survey and were able to spot dolphins. We did a beach clean up and collected a lot of trash at a location that hasn’t cleaned in a while. MCC now are able to get some bamboos on the island after running out for quite some time, so we put our hands on the cluster. We spliced and sliced the rope into a device that could be used for conservation and case study purposes! We left the island with big smiles on our faces.

Early morning dolphin survey.
Splicing rope to make ‘cluster.’
Water entry for our artificial block structure survey.

 

LMRT Trip | April 24-28

We’re back on the land!!

We just got back from our Khmer New Year holiday; what a great way to spend the beginning of a new school term! We depart to the island earlier than usual to join MCC for their football match. Some of our team members join the friendship football match, while some other (Venghour and I) did a live video to cast the “competition.” It was a lot of fun; before we knew it, it was time to hit the boat to the island.

I was excited to do the survey, but the weather didn’t allow that. Most days, we could barely see anything at all; the sea was always clouded by sediment. Even then, we were still productive. We did beach clean—as always—and discuss our plan for this research team. We joined the Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project for their dolphin survey and spotted dolphins!!! We even did a live video for the dolphin survey; Venghour and I (again) were the hosts. It was very raw; I ran around taking the angle of the dolphin from the boat while shouting in the phone. I was very excited to see dolphins and communicate to the world of what we are doing.

  • Hosting Facebook Live video for the friendship football with Venghour.

LMRT trip | March 20-24

It’s been a while since LMRT has been to our research site. For this trip, we were there with some new plan and members. It’s sad to say that we would soon graduate high school and part for college to chase our dreams, but it is the truth that we have to face. We love the project and team and definitely want to keep it going; we start introducing the sea and the island to the second cohort (C2) of our academy to recruit for the future LMRT. We had three C2s joining us on the trip and had fun teaching them about the marine species and taking them around the island. With the bad visibility, we managed to do some surveys and determined that it was best to do it early in the morning where the visibility is (observed to be) at its peak. Aside from our research survey, we helped with the boat-based dolphin survey. We were lucky to see dolphins and to see how the C2 react to seeing their first dolphin.

Vannareach, a C2, looking through his binoculars on a search for dolphins.

A lot of positive things happen during this trip. We, for the first time, come to an agreement about our new research site since the old one is completely different now. We pushed through waking early and get ready for our survey knowing that we might not be able to it and supporting each other as much as we can. We saw some new species at our old survey site, and for the first time saw a grouper at our site. We did a beach clean and collect 60 kg of trash within an hour!

A group photo of the participants of the beach clean.

LMRT Trip | Jan 31st–Feb 3

It’s been about eight months since LRMT was last on the island. What we’ve been dying to see is our research site and how it has changed over the course of the months. We were expecting to see some growth in seagrass and an increase in species richness and abundance. What we actually saw and heard was unanticipated.

We had been told by the staff at MCC that the bamboo structure (also known as cluster) has been cut and left stranded in waves of the vast ocean. They found it and retie it only to be cut off again. After it was cut for the second time, MCC let the concrete structure we deploy sit underwater without a marker for a while.

And that is not it! We got to witness the condition of our blocks in the murky water. About one-third of the concrete structure is buried in sand and sediment. Surrounded them were fishing net and trash. What we concluded happen was that some fishermen might cut off our cluster and trawl the area that has attracted commercial fish species. As a result, the hexagonal block structure was dragged across the ocean floor, bump into the three tiny hollow cubes and sink into the sand before it snatches off the net.

It was sad to see what we have deployed being ruined. But at the same time, we were glad that the block is doing its job. After all, we are doing a real-life research!

Sadly, we did not get to survey our site….because of the consistent bad visibility, but we got to make more bamboo clusters and clean the beach and keep being ocean advocates. Moving forward, we would develop our research project and work on making it a sustainable project.

 

 

East Asian Seas Congress in Iliolilo, Philinines, 27-30 November, 2018

To represent our team—The Liger Marine Research Team—at the East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress, Lux and I were selected to go to the Congress. It held in a city of the Philipines that I can’t even pronounce at first: Iloilo city. The East Asian Seas Congress is held every three years and is open to participants with various backgrounds including stakeholders, students, NGOs, conservationist, researchers within the ASEAN countries and non-country partnership. This year Congress carry the theme of “25 Years of Partnerships for Healthy Oceans, People and Economies: Moving as One with the Global Ocean Agenda.”

Lux and I attended the youth congress which wasn’t open because it was for youth ages 18-35. With the work that we have done and the accomplishment we made, we were allowed to attend the Congress even though we’re 16.

Our adventure started on the 25 of November, where we board our flight to Manila and finally Iloilo. We got to our destination the next morning and were able to meet other youths at the hotel organized for us by the congress. Later, in the afternoon, we registered ourselves for the congress and attended the events held there. Our focus was the work the youth declaration which holds the voice of youths’ commitment who attended the Congress in a form similar to the UN resolution declaration. In addition, we also prepared for the official launch of the Congress the next day; Lux was selected as the flag bearer for Cambodia. At night, we went out for dinner with other youths near a supermarket which is a five minutes walk from where we stay.

Then, on the 27, our day started with two hours of open speeches from people who work for the government and especially in conservation. Then, before lunch, we visited the exhibition hall to see different projects that were on display in booths. We also got to meet governor from Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, and Koh Kong who were there to be the voice of Cambodia. Later, we were engaged in a presentation about Climate Change; we role play as countries representative and discussed on topics that frequently discussed among countries regarding climate change.  

On the 28, there were even more exciting event happening. We got into one of the six groups: mangrove conservation, plastic waste, coral reef degradation, illegal fishing, water pollution, and overfishing and work to brainstorm solutions regarding our topics and the actions youths can take to be part of the solution. Kieran, the facilitator who was at the got conference with us got mangrove conservation, Lux got coral reef degradation, while I got plastic waste. Moreover, Lux and I got an opportunity to talk about LMRT and Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC) as part of the knowledge sharing of good practice agenda. This went really great well. The other delegates were impressed by how we have represented our academy, team, and youths of Cambodia. Many of them approached us during and after the lunch break to tell us about how great and inspiring our presentation was.

Approaching the end of the conference, we are already on the 29 of November! We attended the closing ceremony and learned something really shocking to us. Cambodia has the honor to host the next EAS Congress in 2021! I am looking forward to joining this next conference, even if I may be a university by then because unlike other conferences, it doesn’t end when the conference ends. We have a Facebook working group, where all the youths will discuss what each of us can do to help heal the harmed ocean in our countries and the ocean of the Eastern Pacific region. Anyways, in the afternoon we went to an elementary school and did something called dalaw turo which translates to visit to teach. We were there to participate in ocean conservation awareness campaign with the students there. It was a lot of fun to be there and especially to see how the kids are eager and keen to learn.

After the Congress has ended, all youths delegates went on a field trip to Guimaras island—the island of mangoes— as organized. There, they have so many different types of mangoes that are popular not only throughout the Philippines but also the world. They export their mangoes to the US, UK, Australia and other countries like Japan.

Besides the mango, we also learned about the Igang Bay Marine Sanctuary there which covers an MPA with integrated zoning that is 43 hectares large. They do seagrass monitoring, coral farming, deploying artificial reefs and monitoring, and patrolling the area 24/7. Their work since 2006 has done a lot especially in helping the ocean restore itself from the mass oil spill in that same year. Today the area is very minimally affected by the oil which is really great news.

The trip visit to the many organizations at Guimaras ended in the evening where we have time to get ready for the farewell dinner. It was a lot of fun but also sad to say goodbye to our new friends. But the good news is that we now make so many new friends from ASEAN countries. I made some really close connection with Taeyoung and Yuri who are from South Korea. I still keep in touch with them today.

In a nutshell,  the Congress was a really great opportunity to learn about ourselves and others and what we want to do for our ocean. It is a way to get more inspired while also meeting other inspired youths. 

  • November 26. Getting to know other delegates.

Attending the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia 24-29 June, 2018

The fifth International Marine Conservation Congress was held in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia from 24-29 of June, 208. It was the first international that I went to where people with various background attend. Researchers, press, policymakers, conservationist, and people who work closely with marine conservation were there to present their work, share their knowledge and learn from one another.

 

Unlike many other scientific conferences, this conference is embedded with code of conducts that each participant has to follow to make the conference as friendly as it can be, an example of a rule made is that there should no discrimination towards any attendee regardless of their gender, nationality, skin color, and believes. In addition, everyone was requested to respect the presenters and give constructive feedback on projects presented rather than criticism.

 

Along with their code of conducts and the many events, IMCC this year runs under the theme of Making Marine Science Matter. I feel really privileged to be there because, we got to present about LMRT and represent Cambodia as we were the only marine research team of Cambodia youths there, if not the only high school team in Cambodia.

 

Many of our seniors there were really proud of the work we do. They approach us and tell us how great we were, some of them even took it a step further. Andrew Lewin, the CEO and founder of the Speak Up For Blue podcast, was one of them; after hearing about our experiences and goals, he offered to help us produce podcasts about Cambodia to portray it to the world in a new way and challenge global perceptions of our country.

 

What Andrew did was more than what I could ask for. It only expands insights into how conservation action could be done, but also prove to me that I am greater than what I think I am. It showed me that Andrew sees the potential we have and believe in us to invest in us. Although the podcasting project has not started yet, I am sure this is going to be a lasting one; a something I would not forget because it will communicate what Cambodia is all about rather than the genocide and tragedy we had in our country.

 

The conference seems long to me at first because we had to navigate our lives throughout the conference using an app to make our schedule each day. There were so many discussion topics and talks going on each day that is sometimes really hard to choose between them. Some days I get lost during the conference and embarrass myself by walking into the wrong room which is my worst and best memory of the conference. But, by the end of the conference, I felt like it was too short, I wished there would be more discussions and opportunity to learn because I became familiar with the conference and made connections with so many new people; I didn’t want it to end.

 

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.

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.