The Marine science class of 2016 has started and the students are studying hard for the Cambridge CIE 9693 marine science A level. The exams are at the end of April so lots of time to enjoy studying on a beautiful beach.
The TRACC classroom has an awesome view and a gently lapping sound as the waves roll up the shore. For lessons we normally close the shutters so that the distraction of beach and ocean is reduced!
The students are from all over the world, Canadian, Swiss, German, British, Portuguese, Norwegian and Malaysian. Thats almost a United Nations quorum!
Our first lessons have been introducing the topics of oceanography as well as lessons on taxonomy and practicals on zonation and communities. We believe that getting immersed in the subject is important so we have got in the water by diving, snorkelling and paddling.
Our practicals are all in the environment and we watch ocean documentaries to relax in the evenings.
The students are building bottle and igloo reefs in their spare time and we did stop everything the other day to go and watch a pilot whale as it cruised past.
TRACC volunteers have been busy on our bottle reef restoration efforts by making bottle reefs to extend the ribbon reefs on Pom Pom Island. The North Tip ribbon reef is 150m long and the challenge for 2016 is to make it a double row of bottle reefs so that it grows more corals and supports more biodiversity. The coral growth on the reefs will also help to slow the wave erosion of the beach and improve turtle conservation by ensuring that there is enough sand to lay their eggs.
We were lucky enough in late 2015 to get donations of money to buy cement and a big pile of bottles delivered to the island so we have lots to recycle. Thank you Coralcare and BGS divers.
The bottle reef restoration start to take shape when the volunteers and gapyear travellers mix wet cement and then position the bottles. The cement is strong 48h later and the reefs can be moved out into the ocean for a period of soaking to remove toxins. Eventually we plant corals on the bottle reefs either from fragments grown in the coral nursery or from large branches collected from blast fishing or anchor damage sites.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
Art, media or communication interns please contact us with a formal presentation of ideas.
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?
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.
TRACC has been working on Pom Pom Island for 5 years and the change in fish life has been amazing. More Species
Bigger fish – often reproductive sizes
Our big fish surveys document what all our returning divers can see with their own eyes.
Who can ask for more? The numbers of fish of all large species is definitely increasing.
We have resident schools of Barracuda, Big eye trevally, and fusiliers as well as a myriad smaller fish species. The eagle rays are really special and coral cat sharks can be seen on night dives and our 2016 save sharks project should increase the numbers and species of sharks seen.
Definitely enough fish all around the island to sustain a small shark population so we can protect them before they are all killed.
Help TRACC reduce the death of baby sharks through our shark rescue project. We want to stop baby sharks being killed and eaten by moving them to a protected reef.
Unfortunately as a result of overfishing and the demand for shark fin, there are very few sharks on any reefs in Sabah. Our diving surveys of 365 reefs in 2011 showed very low numbers in any area with no protection. We surveyed every fish market in 2014 and few areas (a long way from our island) still have sharks which are caught by commercial fishermen.
In 2013, we bought 25 coral catsharks from the live fish trade and saved them from being eaten. We have also bought Humphead wrasse and Humpback groupers and sucessfully released them. We released the coral catsharks on Pom Pom Island and now they can be seen on most night dives. With several years of reef recovery, the fish population of the Pom Pom Island protected area is now large enough to support more sharks.
In 2016, we want to rescue and release a small breeding population of each reef or shallow water species, (coral cat shark, white tip reef shark, brown banded bamboo, white spot bamboo, epaulete shark, blacktip reef shark, grey reef shark, leopard shark and guitar shark). We know where in Sabah the fishers catch a few babies of each of these each year, (none of these sharks are protected even though numbers have fallen dramatically). If we buy them they won’t be eaten and they will have the opportunity to grow and reproduce in a protected area.
We are not promoting the trade and fishing of sharks, sharks are caught and sold everyday in much larger numbers than we can manage to buy and transport. Most sharks are immediately finned and then the body is sold in the nearby markets.
We will work with the live fish trade and instead of the shark going to a seafood restaurant, it will come to us for transport and release in a protected area. Eventually, we hope that the sharks we rescue will breed and start to repopulate many reefs in Sabah. For rare sharks, we hope to bring individual sharks together which were caught in different towns perhaps separated by 100’s of kilometers. By release in one area, the sharks have much better chance of finding a mate and successful reproduction.
Trips start any Monday at Pom Pom island. Divers qualified to Advanced or above can start on Thursdays if space permits.
One dive course is included for each 2 weeks of stay. (discount applies if you do not need dive courses)
For dive courses please arrive on 1st or 3rd Monday in Month.
Underwater Science training is included in all trips.
Qualified to Open water or equivalent
Have Open water or equivalent. Trips start any Monday at Pom Pom Island.
If you want to do Advanced diver course please arrive on 1st, 2nd or 3rd Monday in Month
Most popular –
2 weeks at PP with advanced diver course & science training = £1175
4 weeks at PP with advanced diver & science training = £1515
6 weeks at PP, Advanced diver, EFR, Rescue & science training = £2050
8 weeks at PP, Advanced, EFR, Rescue & science training = £2500
All prices include Courses, food, accommodation, boat travel, equipment & unlimited diving
Most 8,10,12 week trips are science project trips or preparation towards Dive master – email to discuss the best trip for you.
Most Popular for advanced divers –
1 week at PP with Scientific dive training = £650 2 week at PP with Scientific dive training = £1015
4 week at PP with Scientific dive training = £1355
4 week at PP with EFR & Rescue & Scientific dive training = £1675
6 weeks at PP with EFR & Rescue & Scientific dive training = £1840
8 weeks at PP with EFR & Rescue & Scientific dive training = £2340
Most 8,10,12 week trips are science project trips or preparation towards Dive master – email@example.com to discuss the best trip for you.
From any package subtract £160 if you do not need EFR and £320 if you don’t need EFR & Rescue. Please see why we do recommend EFR & Rescue.
All prices include Courses, food, accommodation, boat travel, equipment & unlimited diving
Bookings which start within 2 weeks – please email with URGENT and arrival date in subject line and also sms to +60 198505412 – 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)firstname.lastname@example.org