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11 May, 2017
Investigating Population and Community structure at Bang Pu
Research question- Is there a relationship between mollusk species and substrate type?
After an introduction to Bang Pu and walking through the mangroves to discuss the habitat, the adaptations shown by the plant and animal species that live there and the important ecosystem services they provide, it was time to collect some data and get muddy!
For their study, the students had been tasked with investigating the relationship between substrate type and mangrove mollusk species, using Chi Squared testing to analyse their data.
Getting into the mangrove mud, knee deep in some places and recovering some trainers that had been sucked off the wearer’s feet, the group marked out their 10m x 10 m sample plot. Students used buckets, shovels and sieves to take soil samples and collected all mollusk species present within 10 randomly selected quadrats.
Categorising soil type as either ‘Muddy’ or ‘Sandy’, the group then identified and recorded the abundance of each of the mollusk species collected from their quadrates. Data collection proved very successful, with almost 500 individuals collected and more than 12 species identified, including the Guamanian Nerite, Carinate Periwinkle, Common Geloina and Obtuse Hornshell.
After a serious clean-up operation of students and equipment, the group then performed the Chi Squared test of Independence on their data, selecting 4 species which met the criteria for the test. Their results were mixed, showing for two species there was no association between species and substrate, but 2 of the 4 species analaysed (the Common Clam and the Carinate Periwinkle) did show statistically significant results for the ‘muddy’ soil, therefore supporting the students research hypothesis that for some species of mangrove mollusk, there is an association or preference for soil type.
Final discussions took place encouraging the students to consider why this kind of population investigation might be useful, various ways in which the results could be affected and also why soil and small invertebrates such as mollusks can be an important indicator to the health of an ecosystem.