With laughs and pipefish, scientists and students share reef knowledge

For a few hours on March 11, the dining area of Coral Eye — a marine research outpost and resort — became a mini-aquarium, the big wooden table dotted with tanks and buckets of colorful sea slugs, starfish and one bewildered pipefish.

Taking advantage of the quiet period before guests fill up the resort, marine biologists Dr. Miriam Weber and Christian Lott invited local students to Coral Eye to learn about the treasure lying just a few meters offshore: Bangka Island’s thriving coral reef.

The day began with Christian drawing a reef piece-by-piece on a big chalkboard, explaining the complex relationships between the reef’s inhabitants, and how humans can help or hurt.

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The students debated a question that Christian posed: Are corals plants or animals (turns out, they’re both), and helped Christian brush up on the Indonesian names for creatures like cuttlefish and crabs. Afterwards, Miriam asked the students to study the animals in the tanks, and figure out how they might eat, move and perceive their environments. The day wrapped up with a snorkel on Coral Eye house reef, before the students loaded into boats to head home.


For Miriam, the highlight was sharing “astonishing things about creatures in the ocean,” like free-living corals that can use their tentacles to walk around. “You see in their faces that they think: Wow, that’s really interesting and amazing, and it’s right in front of our door,” she said. 

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Miriam and Christian were joined by young ocean activists from Sea Soldiers, an organization founded by the 2005 Miss Indonesia and dedicated to protecting the country’s ocean habitats through activities like educational field trips, beach clean-ups and reef restoration. The Soldiers translated for the biologists — with plenty of jokes along the way — and helped the students study the animals in the tanks and under microscopes. 

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This was not a one-off event: The Sea Soldiers, Christian, Miriam and other members of the No-Trash Triangle team were so happy with how the day went that they agreed to future collaborations. The group is now creating a marine education curriculum for local students, which Sea Soldiers will help teach. These lesson plans will fill some big gaps: most Indonesian kids get little to no schooling in marine science or plastic pollution, despite living in a global hotspot for both ocean biodiversity and plastic waste. 

“This collaboration, for us, is why this day was really important,” said Anna Clerici, the coordinator of the No-Trash Triangle Initiative and manager of Coral Eye. 

As for the pipefish, the tiny striped ambassador was released back where it was captured on the reef, along with the other creatures collected for the tanks. The pipefish zipped off into the depths, no doubt relieved that class was over for the day. 

Written by Allison Guy

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Corals are animals!!

 

When the kids arrived from Lihunu Village for the usual Beach Clean-up Day, we asked a simple question: “Why are students from Italy and Hong Kong on Bangka Island to study corals???” (As every year, Coral Eye Resort hosted the Reef Check Italia workshop) Asking so, we explained them the meaning of “No-Trash Triangle” with the “triangle” in question being not related to geometry but to an area named “Coral Triangle” that harbors the highest marine biodiversity in the world.

Coral reefs provide home and nursery grounds to many fish species, so we need to protect them and preserve them for example avoiding to step on them and (of course) polluting the sea with plastic.

There were a bit of uncertainties related to what corals are (rocks? plants? animals?) so we ended up with a song to dispel any doubt, and then jumped in the water for a joint snorkeling with Reef Check students!

“Would you step on a cat, no you wouldn’t do that!

Would you step on a dog, no it would be wrong!

So please, don’t step on me!

I maybe look like a rock, 

but I’m certainly not! 

I am an animal, I am a living thing,

Don’t you see the beauty and the joy that I bring?!

So please don’t step on me!”

 

Beach cleaning & fried banana eating

 

I still don’t know if my expectations are always low or if simply things that happen are just great!

Even if I agreed with Mr Jody to bring only 15 kids for the beach cleaning (no more, because with don’t want to interfere too much in the guests life at the resort), at 8.30 in the morning 37 kids pop up and took place in Coral Eye beach, followed by Mr.Jody’s wide smile.

Elmar and Romeo (No-Trash-Volunteers hosted at Coral Eye) prepared a quiz to understand the level of knowledge on the plastic topic and then divided the kids in three groups: for a couple of hours we worked hard all together, collecting, sorting and cleaning trash.

“Pisang goreng” (fried banana) at the end and a jump in the water…what else?


 

Plastic detectives

 

Grade 1, 2 and 3 school children from Lihunu found themselves as plastic detectives at a special Saturday school event. They investigate beach sand samples for microplastic under the microscope, studied live animals as sea anemones, soft corals, hard corals, clams, worms, crabs, starfish and sea squirts in aquaria, and learned about how plastic is entering the marine foodweb.

During an expedition from the school through the village down to the shore, the kids had to solve the case of a clownfish who became ill and eventually died from having eaten too much plastic.

At the beach, the plastic detectives analyzed the evidence collected by hand and also from pictures taken during the walk, and reflected about their own contribution to the problem of plastic litter in the ocean.
The event was conducted by AQUEIS.orgSuara Pulau Foundation and CoralEye, who provided aquaria, microscopes and transport.

Our biggest „THANK YOU“ goes to the kids that made this day a very special one with their cheering enthusiasm and their dedication. Terima kasih banyak!