Reef conservation on steep sloping rubble.

Pom Pom Island has a steep slope from the reef crest to the deep water dropoff at a depth of around 50m.  All this slope has been seriously blasted in the past by bomb fishermen.  All that is left of the original reef are the rubble fragments on a seriously sloping reef.  The reef conservation efforts of TRACC volunteers has increased the biodiversity but the structures are difficult to stabilise.

coral reef conservation
Step reef with spikes to hold it into place. It is easy to see how steep the rubble slope is

The TRACC reef conservation for 2015 was generally excellent with amazing successes.  Our coral growth techniques which work well on flat areas of seabed (Bottle & Ribbon reefs) were modified to create step reefs aimed to create small reefs on the steep slopes.  These look great initially but too many of them are unstable and deteriorate rapidly.  While the corals grow and the fish live on the step reefs we create, unfortunately the slope continues to win and changes all the reefs we create.    A beautiful series of steps fixed solidly to the seabed, becomes a tumbled mess after turtles scratch and fish dig.

Coral reef restoration
Corals growing well on step reefs which are stable.
biscuis growing on step reefs 15-6-15 (1) (800x600)
Stable step reefs are ideal for coral growth.

We have tried spikes into the seabed to hold the structure in place but the rubble flows down from above and covers the steps.  We have tried interlocking the steps and the whole structure moves down the slope as a unit.  We have tried creating curved amphitheatres but after 12 months the structure looks like an ancient roman ruin.

coral reef restoration
A step reef tumbled by turtles. All of the bottles were embedded in the rubble slope but the scratching of many large turtles has dislodged and strewn many of the bottle reefs.

After much trial and error,  we are gradually refining a coral rubble reef conservation system which seems to be stable.  We are stabilising the rubble with soft coral nets which slows the rubble movement and the turtles do not destroy.  We are then creating Basket reefs which are more stable than the step reefs and have not yet been tumbled by the turtles.  The Basket reefs attract a lot of small fish and are stable enough to remain in place for the long time that it takes to grow hard corals.

Lots of our reef conservation for 2015 techniques work well, hopefully by the end of 2016, we will have also found the best system to stabilise steep rubble slopes.  Wish us luck 🙂

old step reef & netting (3) (800x600)
The 2015 version of a reef restoration system for steep rubble slopes. Netting planted with soft corals and sponges to hold the rubble above the interlocking step reefs.

Coral Biscuits

Coral nursery.  –  Hanging nursery  –  Platform Nursery

Step reefs   –  Step reef version 2  – building step reefs

Bottle reefs  –  Ribbon reefs

Crate reefs

Igloo reefs

Tyre reefs

Back to Reef restoration

Back to Marine conservation

Back to Booking a trip to visit TRACC

Student projects 2016

Students regularly visit TRACC to collect data for a graduate or masters degree project.  Art or science – if you are passionate about ocean issues then we have intern positions for a wide range of backgrounds. Marine conservation is often about communication and artists, photographers and media students can all become extraordinary advocates for ocean issues.  Each year, we support a few students to become useful interns to do some great science or art.

Photographing rare biodiversity such as this nudibranch (sea slug) requires a commitment to night diving.
Photographing rare biodiversity such as this nudibranch (sea slug) requires a commitment to night diving.

Have you got what it takes?  🙂

We have a range of projects in 2016,  from fish surveys to reef restorationcoral planting techniques, Stabilising rubble, optimising growth of coral species, impact of El Nino, climate change impacts on reefs, Turtles,  Sharks, rays, Humphead wrasse, anemone fish reproduction, biodiversity.  Other projects are possible such as the art installation #biggestsharkinborneo.  What are your interests?

#biggestsharkinborneo hammerhead shark on beach
Biggest shark in Borneo is a hammerhead shark artwork to raise awareness.

Art, media or communication interns please contact us with a formal presentation of ideas.

reef crest survey
reef crest survey

Generally our science intern requirements are practical in nature:

  • Can it be done in 12 -16 weeks.
  • Does it have a hypothesis?
  • Does it follow scientific method?
  • What is the control variable?
  • How discrete is the experimental variable?
  • Random or structured experimental design?
  • Is the project safe?
  • Etc.  Etc. Etc.
  • Has the student really thought about this?

Most student projects start with a 4 week volunteering experience to gain experience and dive qualifications.  When you have a month of doing underwater work under supervision from our staff then you will move to doing your own things safely with minimal supervision.  We like people doing independent projects to be Rescue diver qualified.  (read why here).

We expect a scientifically viable proposal, background research, strong commitment to the project,  regular written reports, Photos and video, several presentations to others at the camp and a copy of the final report as submitted to your university.  We don’t consider a research project a holiday, it may be fun but there is significant work involved if it is going to be worthwhile.  A scientific internship requires investment by TRACC in your future,  There is a lot of competition.  Are you worth our effort?

Mangrove studies
Mangrove studies

To stand out from the crowd:  Don’t simply send us a CV.   Send us a one page (max) project draft based on what you care about, what you can see is happening in the world of marine science or conservation, in our blog or on our facebook & twitter pages.

To learn about the experience – please look at the blog posts from ex students.  See what they did, they may even write about what went wrong.  Contact them on social media and ask for advice.  Be polite and they will help.

Marine science course cambridge a level
Rocky shore exploration

Ten facts to know about becoming a marine biologist

How to get a job in Marine Conservation.

Marine Conservation efforts 2016

TRACC works on various aspects of coral reef ecosystem conservation. For 2016/7, we have ongoing projects on:-

Reef restoration
Our main project, we are growing and replanting coral to repair reefs.
Community conservation of coral reefs.  (Poster pdf)
Step reefs on steep slopes.  (PRESENTATION pdf)

reef conservation and repair
branching porites hard coral growing over a bottle reef

Turtles in the NE Semporna Islands
A day in the life of a turtle volunteer
Turtle walk anyone

Save sharks
Buy a shark and save it.
Are there any sharks left? (With Shark Stewards).
Protected area for sharks in Semporna (with Sabah Shark Protection Association)
Big fish and shark surveys.

Mabul shark and ray fishery (PDF-Poster)

Nurul Yazid biodiversity of pom pom island Sabah
Green turtles are common

Biodiversity project

Protection of endangered species
Humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Giant clams

Climate change
Coral reef projects relating to climate change.

Dive on Coral Reefs NOW, the future is Hot Sour and Empty.  PDF  —–  Presentation — Video

Environmental Education
Art  —   The biggest shark in Borneo
Community art environmental education

Marine science course cambridge a level
Survey diving

Marine protected area roadmap.

These are not exhaustive, contact us if you know how to save the oceans!

Proactive marine conservation with TRACC – Web version – PDF

Conservation projects to 2015  -Old website – not mobile friendly

Suggested student research projects

Visits to TRACC for divers, volunteers & visitors.

Main menu

Marine conservation articles

These are a few of the professional Marine conservation articles, awards and videos that we have seen about TRACC recently:-

Energy globe award and Marine conservation articlesTOP 3 FINALIST (water category) for The Energy Globe Award 2016 – OUR project “ Restoring coral reefs to survive climate change ” as one of the 16 most outstanding projects worldwide.  (Video

UK channel 4 News item Unreported world – The fish bombers (TRACC are the solution not the bombers!!)

Seven seas magazine – TRACC reef conservation  by Dave McGuire of Shark Stewards  

TRACC video By Nelli Hule 2016

TRACC video by Rachel Clark 2014

Issues and solutions for reef conservation at TRACC – Thanks Kit & Jason

Operation Sauvetage Du Recif Corallien (in French) Adventure Magazine Feb 2016

Borneo from Below video  Coral in Crisis from Scubazoo October 2015

National Geographic Ocean views by Dave McGuire of Shark Stewards  August 11, 2015

Clean Malaysia  Saving the ocean – one reef at a time  25-Sept-15

Brandon Taylor:  Coral reefs are being bombed – learn how one NGO rebuilds them.

plus lots of other blogs


More about our amazing biodiversity

Tripadvisor reviews

Other  Reviews,

Google+    Facebook


Costs for Marine Science A level

Accommodation, food, unlimited diving, 2 dive courses for a 14-16 week stay = £3200 ( Course is 14 weeks but most people stay for 1-2 extra weeks to celebrate and chill with their friends)

A level course & exam fee = £1500
This includes books, materials, lessons, field trips, etc.  The exam will be held in Kota Kinabalu during the last weeks of the course ( the exam dates are set by Cambridge).
Course starts 18th Jan 2016 but students are welcome to arrive Thursday 14th to allow time to settle in.
Exams for 2016 are 27-30th April
Nurul Yazid biodiversity of pom pom island Sabah
not a stone or a sponge but a frogfish. Learn about camoflage, foodwebs, water chemistry and much more!!

Turtle conservation & Snorkel costs 2016

Pom Pom Snorkelling and Turtles

Turtle vols              2 weeks                    £600

Media vols             2 weeks                     £600

Plus media materials supplied at cost

Extra weeks                                         £275/week

Turtle volunteers have a focus on protecting turtles, while media volunteers may be painting, sculpting, making videos or writing articles.  Both groups are free to join in with any non diving activities that are happening.


How to Pay

Turtle conservation #1     Turtle conservation #2

0 Menu

6  Living at TRACC        7 Getting to here

BOOK NOW      Email

tracc volunteers and gapyear students on pom pom island semporna sabah malaysia

Email us for snorkel costs for odd weeks or other combinations.

Send us an email (or use the booking form) with the dates you would like – (PLEASE BEFORE you book flights – Flight recommendations)

Bookings which start within 2 weeks – please email with URGENT and arrival date in subject line  and also sms to +60 148629617 – we are 8h ahead of London

(Please do not use facebook or social media or this website to communicate.) We don’t have instant internet and we are busy underwater & saving the ocean  – we deal with emails for immediate arrivals within a day or 2 but bookings 3 or more months away may take us till our weekly non diving day – if  you do not get a reply within 3-4 days please resend to remind us)

Home page  —————-  Booking menu