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Harrow International School (December 2013)


Ranong Trip (2-5 December 2013)

This month Year 13 from Harrow International School joined us in the beautiful Ranong for their annual fieldwork trip. The trip aimed to explore many different coastal ecosystems from rocky shorelines to ever changing estuaries, using biological sampling techniques to create a better understanding of the ecosystems and the abiotic factors that affect the different habitats. After an early start and the long journey from Bangkok, we all got stuck straight in to some muddy fieldwork in the mangroves. A mark and recapture method was used to try and estimate the population size of the highly mobile marsh crabs. As many crabs as possible were caught and painted in a coat of nail polish before being released back into the mud, to mingle with the rest of the population for a day. Despite the smelly mud and the early morning the students from Harrow proved themselves to be very successful crab catchers and caught a huge population sample.

The highlight of the trip had to be a fantastic afternoon spent exploring the sea grass bed. A 'bioblitz' was conducted, where by students found and identified as many species as they could in the ecosystem to investigate how diverse the sea grass bed is, an ecosystem so often overlooked and poorly understood. A wealth of biodiversity was encountered including starfish, sea anemones, worms, snails, sea cucumbers, crabs, huge hand-sized mussels and shrimp eggs. One group was even lucky enough to see a dugong, a large marine mammal that grazes on the sea grass and is becoming increasingly rare in waters worldwide. Just as we thought we could not possibly encounter any more species, as we were leaving one student found a handsome nodular starfish, a venerable species that is often poached from the seas to sell as decorations.

Since the barge program’s last visit to the sea grass bed earlier this year, a massive decline in the sea grass area has been observed. The sea grass is a very venerable ecosystem that is dependent on shallow, clear waters that allow light to penetrate to support the photosynthesis of the sea grass species. Any changes to water clarity or increases in sedimentation can cause the irreversible destruction of the sea grass ecosystem. After witnessing first-hand the complexity of life supported by the sea grass it is worrying to think what the future might hold for this fragile ecosystem and fingers crossed for an improvement on our next visit!

We would like to send a huge thank you to all the staff and students from Harrow International School for all their hard work and enthusiasm despite the very early mornings and lashings of mud! We all had a great time and look forward to working with you all again in the future.


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