Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November's events: Global Issues Network

November was filled with GIN events, planning, and action:

BeiGIN: Beijing Global Issues Network Conference

The theme of the conference:
Hope, Humanity, Opportunity
From November 8th to 10th, 24 delegates from SAS's GIN club attended a conference in Beijing. Each of us were placed in Global Action Network Groups (GANGs) to brainstorm solutions to problems prevalent in South East Asia. I was in the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Loss GANG. Collaborating with people from Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand was an eye-opening experience, as we had to think about how solutions would be implemented given specific circumstances in each of these countries.

After attending and facilitating a GANG in last year's GINSING conference, however, I definitely feel that BeiGIN could have been more effective. Many of the actions we discussed were already in place at SAS, including a week-long environmental science trip to study the integrity of an ecosystem (Tioman!), article publishing in school 
periodicals (Crossroads and the Singapore American), and cultivating an eco-garden on campus (I'm a part of SAVE's eco-garden committee and our plans are currently being evaluated by administration). 

On the Great Wall  
The workshops and speakers were more focused on humanitarian issues; I actually cried when we watched Girl Rising (and I never cry during movies). I found its dual messages of challenge and hope really encouraging. I'm so grateful for the education I've received. 

Bundled up in the 5 degree C air, climbing up the Great Wall, and hunting for restaurants at 10 pm, all of us GIN members and officers bonded over this trip. It was a great end to fall break. 

Middle School GIN Mentoring - Success! 

Every Tuesday, high school GIN members and officers, including me, help middle school students interested in global issues, in their own GIN club. And as a part of SAS GIN, Service Council, and Wish for Kids (club)'s Wish for Tabuelan fundraising initiative for families devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, Middle School GIN took up the opportunity to raise thousands of dollars in the form of a competition. They used a coin-point system to increase competition among the sections of each grade, using an ice-cream treat at the end as the main motivator (food always works). In 7 days, this Coin Craze for Cebu has raised about $12,200! That's a large contribution to the school wide fundraiser that has raised $59,036.77 to date. 

Speaker Series 

GIN wrapped up its speaker series for the semester with World Vision, a disaster relief agency dedicated to helping children, and Emma Freedman, a teen conservationist who started Jungle Heroes. We had a decent turnout for each talk and are glad that other students are taking interest in our GINitiatives. 

Emma Freedman's poster 
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Enjoy your days off and get some extra sleep. Consider going easy on the turkey; you owe the planet! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A trip to Tioman, Malaysia

I just got back from Tioman and Beijing. Fall break was definitely well spent. 

Tioman, Malaysia

I loved every bit of our AP Environmental Science trip to Tioman. The coral reef surveys, beach profile, primary and secondary forest transects reaffirmed my love for environmental science. I didn't know I could enjoy fieldwork and labs so much. 
Harvested sections of a
palm oil plantation in Malaysia

As we drove through the Malaysian country side, we saw that the main crop was Oil Palm. Large tracts of land that were once South East Asian rainforests are now made up of thousands of rows of the Oil Palm. It's sad to see how much biodiversity is lost when this happens. 

We spent the first day comparing pristine coral reefs, home to hundreds of bright fish, and damaged coral reefs, a result of continuous ship anchoring near resorts. We noted readings of air temperature, humidity, light intensity, water salinity, turbidity, pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and more,which we'll use to estimate the water quality index of the ocean water. 
Clownfish at the pristine coral reef site,
Photo by APES classmate Tamara Dibb

Shrimp found in the
fresh water stream
On the second day, as a member of the conservation scientist team, I debated about the pros and cons of setting up Oil Palm plantations on Tioman, much of which is a government protected nature reserve. Later on in the day, we took a belt transect of the rocky shore and random sampling of the percent cover of pedina algae, sea cucumber density, and sponge local frequency. Wading through the water, touching sedentary marine animals was enthralling, especially in such sunny, sticky weather.

Finally, we surveyed the primary and secondary rainforests of Tioman. I didn't know so many shades of green could exist. Under the thick canopy, the refreshing cool air made up for the stiffling humidity and capturing macroinvertebrates in the fresh water stream was rewarding after hiking uphill for several hours. We took soil and leaf litter samples, canopy cover estimates, and tree maturity recordings. 

The stream in the secondary forest,
Photo by APES classmate Tamara Dibb 
I loved bonding with my team as we sorted the shrimp from the fresh water river sample, identified rocks under which scorpions hide at night, using UV light, and eating sunflower seeds on the boat rides. It's so exciting to be able to hug trees that have been standing for over several hundred years. I felt like I was on the set of Jurassic Park. I'm really glad that I have had this opportunity to visit almost untouched tropical rainforest region! I loved it so much. 

A big thank you to my teacher and the TAs for organizing it and helping me rediscover my love for the environment. 

Next up: I'll be writing about my experience at the November 7th to 10th Global Issues Network conference in Beijing. 

Good vibes and prayers going out to the Philippines after the horrific typhoon - more evidence that we need to act on protecting the environment soon.