Yes, Paul and I did partake in a little professional learning yesterday afternoon and it turned out to be a fantastic experience. We visited the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) that is located here at Gayana. Upon arrival, we were shown into a mini theatre to view a short film about the MERC and the work of the marine biologists on site. Next, we were shown around the aquarium by our biologist host, Kristen. The displays are excellent in terms of their educational value – I would have loved to have skyped my Biology class in for our last assessment on adaptations. Following a tour of the aquarium, we were then ushered to the ‘touch tank’ and encouraged to handle the organisms within. Following our resort host Annie’s recommendation to pet the sea cucumber (she says they are cuties), we both decided to brave the cucumber momentarily. Though it felt different to what I expected, I would not say it was cute, sorry Annie!
Kristen explained the clam and coral regeneration project to us further and once outside, we were able to view some 3 year old clams that were almost ready to be taken out to their release areas from the nursery. It is quite amazing that the MERC raises 7 of the 8 species of clam found around Malaysia and they have raised thousands of spats in their nursery since 2007. While they are making a real difference in terms of ensuring the survival of the giant clam (a defenseless creature), poaching by the sea gypsies still poses a very real threat, particularly on the other side of the island here where the clams are not protected.
We were so impressed with the work of the team at the MERC that we could not resist sponsoring the planting of a new coral. This entailed choosing our preferred coral fragment, planting it in a cement filled petri dish and placing it in the propagation tank to settle for a couple of weeks. Our baby coral will then be taken from the tank, planted in the coral reef and will be monitored by the biologists on a regular basis. Interestingly, they are also propagating coral here using biorock structures – old sunken vessels that have an electric current passed through them to encourage coral formation. Equipped with this knowledge, we were able to paddle over to one of the sites when kayaking yesterday and view the forming coral from above.
All in all, this was a portion of our afternoon well spent. Here are some images from the day – can you pick the ‘cow fish’?