Sighting, stories, reviews, and experiences from the diving and snorkeling volunteers with TRACC.

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30.6.15

The luxury of just walking in

When it comes to diving, Pom Pom is pretty spectacular. Just the luxury of putting your dive gear on, take a short stroll down to the beach and just walk in. Even from the surface you get a glimpse of just how amazing your dive is going to be. And when you descend, you just look around you and every time realise how lucky you are to be diving here on this beautiful island.

Soft coral planting to stabilize the reef slope
The house reef is so full of life and amazing critters. I think there is something for everyone here, except perhaps shark lovers, so far I haven't had the privildge to see one.
But if you love corals, sponges, anemones, fish, molluscs, nudibranchs, macros and volunteering with conservation this is the place to be.

For more information, about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 
 
please check our website or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org

The main website is at http://tracc-borneo.org
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Invaders must die, the anemone fish doesn't seem too happy
about about the angel fish in their home


More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 

A net is put over the reef slope and
soft corals planted to stabilize the rubble substrate

23.6.15

Joining TRACC as Education Intern

      I was about to complete my Master’s Degree and was hoping to take some time off from studies before continuing my PhD. Going for a working holiday was the plan, and I had been searching for a place where I can do something meaningful and have fun at the same time. It was then I came across TRACC webpage and found out that this marine conservation organization was doing education projects as well.

Lauren had been teaching Longgom kids for
 3 months and the kids loved her
.
      TRACC have had an intern teaching kids in the village Longgom before. This time the housewives asked to have a Kelas Ibu-Ibu conducted so that the women, who mostly hadn’t much chance to complete their education and hadn’t any other way to learn as much as they like, could have someone to teach them English. I had been teaching English to adults and secondary school children for some time before I started my Master’s, so teaching the mothers in the village was not really a tough job. The difficult part was travelling through several hills on dirt road in a car I very much worry might break down anytime (Just kidding, of course =P).

      It was indeed inspiring to see the housewives being so passionate in improving themselves. The class started with 8 students, and at one time there were 12. Using materials provided, the ibu-ibu were taught how to converse in English in various daily situations. I realized many of them understood English quite well, and a few of them could actually speak English though not very fluently. What they needed was more scenario practices with simple sentences which they could use as a natural response when they’re spoken to in English. Aside from that, they needed to build confidence in speaking English. After all, no one speaks perfectly in any language, so who can laugh at them if their 3rd or 4th language isn’t perfect?

My most hard working students,
attending every class from the beginning till the end.
      But then, probably learning a language was not an easy task for all, and probably the villagers have started getting busy on their farms with the raining season approaching… not every student who at first signed up for the programme remained till the end until TRACC left Kudat. Regardless, I’ve tried to teach as much as I can. And to make sure they can continue learning even after we leave I’ve left some books and CDs for them to do self-studies.

      The mothers were glad that TRACC has sent people to the village to teach them English. I myself hope that they will keep on improving themselves – with better English they can actually sell their handicraft directly to tourists rather than handing it to a middle man – they can earn more and make their life easier. It could make great difference, especially to the single mothers.



Sometimes the children join in and learn alongside
their mom.  Can't be more welcomed, mothers are
always the best role model for the child =)


Emily with TRACC - Tropical Research And Conservation Center
— at Tip of Borneo

More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 

The main website is at http://tracc-borneo.org
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Management note:--- The education programme is important and we will restart it as soon as possible.





20.6.15

Successful marine conservation by coral biscuit culture

A coral biscuit with new coral tissue
spreading across the cement block.
We have been diving on the ribbon reef coral nursery doing essiential maintenance. TRACC has just moved back to Pom Pom island after a one year absence and while there were no volunteers, the nursery was disturbed by the fish. The staff we retained for the SGP/GEF project were busy building step and bottle reefs on land but with no diving gear they could not do the underwater work.
The corals fragments were planted last year in wet cement to create coral biscuits. The biscuit process takes place on land, wet cement is placed in small plastic pots and finger sized pieces of coral are stuck in the cement. The pot and coral is placed underwater where the cement sets, after 24h the plastic pots are removed and the finished biscuits are placed in the nursery to grow. Unfortunately the biscuits are not heavy enough to stop them being moved by fish. The fish are attracted to the crabs and worms that hide under the biscuits, Rockmover wrasse are theworst culprits. These are really crafty fish, you can see them at work on most of the rubble areas of the island. They appear to work in pairs and take it in turns to pick up a piece of loose coral. One fish lifts the coral and moves it while the other grabs the crab or other tasty morsel which was hidden underneath. Pretty clever fish, they take it in turns so each fish gets a share of the food.
Two very similar coral species competing for space
on the same block.  The new coral tissue has
spread from the original massive coral across the block.
Anyway, the rockmover wrasse and the triggerfish move the coral biscuits in the nursery and they drop blocks on top of other corals and even turn the blocks over. Our job as volunteer divers is to sort out the mess of blocks and turn the coral biscuits back the right way. Fortunately, coral is pretty resilient, provided the coral was not buried in sand, they continue to survive even upside down. The coral doesn't get much light when upside down so growth is really slow. Our job at TRACC is to promote reef growth for marine conservation so we spent several days this week turning all the corals back over so they are the right way up.and can grow quickly.
The growth of the biscuits which remained the right way up, has been amazing and is a great example of sucessful reef regeration. If you look at the pictures you can see the coral tissue spreaing across the blocks, the corals in this post are all massive corals which are supposed to grow really slowly. (i will write another article about the branching corals) The original fragment can be seen in the middle of the block and then the coral tissue has spread across the biscuit and in some cases gone over the edges and down the sides. The coral obviousy uses the free space on the biscuit and spreads as rapidly as possible.
It has been a great experience working on marine conservation with TRACC and I would like to thank my instructor and all my gap year and volunteer buddies. It has been a blast, and i hope to come back to see my corals when they have been moved out of the nursery and onto the ribbon reefs and Step reefs.

For more information, about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 
 
please check our website or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org

The main website is at http://tracc-borneo.org
Check out our posts on our activities
on fb tracc.borneo
on twitter tracc_borneo
on google + tracc

or simply #tracc or #traccblog on Google, Facebook, twitter or instagram









 

11.6.15

Marine science fieldwork on Mangroves

Getting up close and personal with mangrove ecosystems
The marine science A level taught by TRACC each year has lots of practicals so students get fieldwork experience in a wide range of ecosystems.

Update Overall results 2015 are awesome plus Tom Gibson was the best marine science student in the world.

These are some of the photos taken during our trips to study mangrove forests.

Other field trips studied Fisheries, Rockyshores, Coasts, plus underwater biodiversity and ecology studies.
Floating quietly around the mangroves we caught glimses
of the biggest herbivore
- the endangered, endemic proboscis monkey


 The 2016 Marine Science A-level will be running from 18th January - 2nd May (following the Cambridge exam timetable). 

For more information, please check our website or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org

Serious science looked at biological adaptations
to the environment - these are mangrove seeds
which are producing roots before they leave the tree.

The best way to understand mangroves
is to get up close and personal with the mud

7.6.15

Sunset music festival coral planting exhibition

Happy with his coral biscuit
Our final coral planting exhibition for spring 2015 was held on the 6th & 7th of June, aiming to educate people visiting the sunset music festival on the occasion of the World Ocean Day and World Environment Day. The entire science team was up at the crack of dawn to prepare for all the coral planting work to be conducted that day. Kit accompanied by his younger brother Yong Sien packed all the coral planting essentials, I meanwhile conducted a fish market survey whilst Jason and Emily collected corals of opportunity ready for the days coral planting followed by a late night information stall at the music festival.

In the previous blog post I outlined the methodology for public coral planting, today I shall expand more into the booth and what we try and explain to people. Educating the general public is a large part of conservation, particularly environmental education for the new generations about the importance of being sustainable.  

The Science Team

Turtles

Jason Talking about Turtles
Here at Kudat three kinds of turtles used to be present in abundance, they are as follows; Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley. However to date all populations have been severely depleted due to historical egg poaching, with Olive Ridleys turtles likely locally extinct. Numbers of Greens are protected by the activities of community projects such as KTCS but there are still many threats facing these creatures.


Ocean plastic pollution is one of the main threats facing these beautiful creatures. We at TRACC have performed autopsies on turtles and very often, as reflected in the literature, find that blockages of the intestinal tract are the primary cause of death. It appears that plastic bags in the ocean resemble jellyfish are one of the most common causes of this threat.
So what can you do?

Firstly one thing that everyone can do is simply reduce the amount of plastic they use in their everyday life.  One of the easiest and most effective ways of doing this is simply not using carrier bags. Buy yourself a lifelong shopping bag and immediately help reduce your carbon footprint. The average active use of a carrier bag is under 30 seconds and yet it can take hundreds of years for this to biodegrade. Also buying in bulk can considerably reduce plastic in packaging terms, and also save you money! Lastly, the simplest of all, don’t litter!

Another threat that faces sea turtles is egg collection. Turtles are air breathers and need to come onto land to lay eggs. They lay on average 6 times a season and leave large and very evident tracks leading to their nests. Here in Malaysia the eggs are considered a delicacy, one single nest of turtle eggs can be equivalent of an entire months wages, so its no surprise that historical nest raids have dramatically reduced turtle numbers over the years. At the time of writing it is currently illegal, but with so many beaches its impossible for the police to enforce any kind of law regarding this matter. Here at TRACC, we have collected and hatched in excess of 3000 eggs since 2013. We try and put the message across that the maximum value of turtles, is in ecotourism for the community, rather than a one off payment for an individual.  




Shark fin soup

Shark bycatch / fisheries are another issue that we are trying to educate the public about. Sharks are scientifically defined as fish, however they belong to the subclass Elasmobranch, which also contains rays, skates and sawfish. All members of the subclass Elasmobranchii, in comparison to the majority of other fish subclasses, have long life histories (that is they take a long time to mature, gestated etc). This in turn means that sharks are more prone to being unsustainably fished. Shark surveys conducted across the world all point to significant global reductions in populations of sharks, See HERE for ours.

Shark fin soup is a causes of massive increases in shark fisheries. Shark fin soup is a luxury item in Chinese culture, and Malaysia has the second largest import of shark fins in Asia. To obtain maximum profits, it is common practice for sharks de-finning to take place on the vessel and their body to be thrown overboard (sometimes still alive). By doing so much more shark fin (the most profitable part of the shark) can be brought to market.

For more information about shark conservation click HERE

Jason explaining about dynamite fishing


Another threat which we are trying to mitigate is that of blast (aka dynamite) fishing. This sadly is exactly as it sounds. Its roots lie within the occupation of the Philippines by America. Historically WW2 grenades were thrown into the water, they would then explode, killing everything in its radius and fish would simply be collected.

Sound like a pretty easy way to fish? It is! Super effective as well as very time efficient. However these bombs also cause massive coral damage, no coral means no fish, therefore the few people who bomb fish are in effect, destroying their livelihood and also the livelihood of other artisanal net fishers for short term gain. For more information on blast fishing click HERE





Putting the biscuit back into water
asap to reduce stress on the coral
Here are some of the days coral planting pictures.

Again i'd like to say thank you to all those who participated and a HUGE thank you to my team of scientists; Kit, Jason and Emily for continually working with a positive, can-do attitude, even when working into the night. Great work guys.

Thanks also to the Small grants programme (SGP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). #thegef

Our best looking biscuit?










The future generation planting the future coral!
Mixing a thick paste of the
coral planting cement

You may also want to read about our coral planting for world ocean day or Growth of the branching corals in the coral nursery.  or Step reefs or Bottle reefs or Shark cave reefs or igloo reefs

More blogs about TRACC marine conservation centre

More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia
- Turtle Snorkellers     - Divers 
 

For more information, about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 
 
please check our website or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org

The main website is at http://tracc-borneo.org
Check out our posts on our activities
on fb tracc.borneo
on twitter tracc_borneo
on google + tracc

or simply #tracc or #traccblog on Google, Facebook, twitter or instagram


6.6.15

Mapping the house reef

Last week a team went out to map the house reef, I the self proclaimed photographer in training went with them.
Don't mind me, I'm just scratching myself
I did get some photos of our great team working with the mapping but was also distracted from that by the natural beauty of marine life, what can I say.. diving at Pom Pom is so amazing that you just want to take photos of it all.
I mean who can resist a turtle scratching himself....it is no wonder that the structures that TRACC creates dont always grow in the way we expect.  The turtles rearrange things to suit their itches.




More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 

Jo carrying the heavy crate with sand filled bottles to be used for the mapping

Placing the survey line markers gently on the seabed.

The 3rd auditorium, our newest addition

Jo chilling out after work well done

Tom preparing one of the mapping bottles
For more information, about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 
 
please check our website or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org

The main website is at http://tracc-borneo.org
Check out our posts on our activities
on fb tracc.borneo
on twitter tracc_borneo
on google + tracc

or simply #tracc or #traccblog on Google, Facebook, twitter or instagram

3.6.15

Exceptional diving with barracuda school on Pom Pom Island

School of Barracuda at Magic Rocks,
Pom Pom Island
The School of Barracuda at Magic Rocks, were just amazing,
The diving on Pom Pom Island over the past few weeks has been exceptional, with every single dive being a stand out. The marine biodiversity is truly amazing and the variety of diving that can be done here needs a solid mention as well.
Yeah man! 
It's gotten so much better here! 
Maori Wrasse and Giant groupers are around, saw an eagle Ray yesterday as well. 

Steve thinks the Mauri wrasse are the ones that TRACC rescued from fishermen in 2013 & 2014.
 
And then the macro life is as good as it always was!


Oscar
DM with TRACC - Tropical Research And Conservation Center
— at Pom Pom Island

More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 

Search #tracc 

Blog posts about TRACC 2015

Linda on Pom Pom Island
during a visit to TRACC volunteer camp
TRACC has been visited by some interesting bloggers who write stories about their travels and experiences as a diving volunteer.  These are a few blog posts that we have found and saved.

Linda and the people 


traccborneo-the-first-days

tracc-restoringcoralreefs

5-reasons-to-volunteer-at-tracc

Julia the wandering rain godess

Interview with Flick

Interview with Rachel

Sadie the eclectic traveller



Linda and Sadie

Eclectic traveller

A day in the life of a tracc volunteer

Rebuilding coral reefs

Photos to make you love Turtles.





More reviews about visiting TRACC and reviews about the Cambridge Examination Marine science A level.

More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 


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