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. 

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