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30 October 2015
On a warm sunny morning, Shrewsbury’s Year 13 geography students saw the barge chugging towards the Chatrium Pier in the morning haze. We were greeted by distant waves as we made our way towards them. To avoid blocking the regular boat ferries which also frequent the pier, we hastily welcomed the students and teachers onboard. The Year 13s showed a few tell-tale signs of their anticipation and excitement about spending a day on the Chao Phraya River (or at least a day outside of the classroom!). Spirits were high as the barge crew lifted the ropes from the mooring points and we peeled away into the main flow of the river and headed south.
After a safety brief and a man-over-board drill, students were asked to look out from the barge and make observations about the ways local people use the river and the land along the river banks to identify potential human impacts. Linking this to water quality and the testing tools available to the students (both chemical and physical), we chose two different sampling locations; one on the main river channel and one deep within a khlong or canal, encircled by industry and residential housing. A range of hypotheses were developed for testing and students went to work collecting water samples and testing them with a range of probes and testing kits. The findings were intriguing and showed key differences in certain parameters which led to a lively debate about the likely causes.
After a much needed lunch (strangely water testing seems to make students very hungry!), we sought to verify our earlier water quality results with a biological-based investigation. Delving through the roots systems of water hyacinth plants and collecting small aquatic invertebrates to use as bio-indicators of water quality, we were able to verify our earlier findings and make conclusions about the ecological health of the river before returning to the pier after a fulfilling day on the barge.