Why I Want to be a Part of Liger Edge?

This year, Liger initiated its own online school newspaper — Liger Edge. The goal is to keep track of and share with the world the abundant activities we do at Liger. The articles come in dual language and will help communicate opinions and experiences we have to create discussion.

I was chosen to be the English editor in chief. Being in this role, I hope to learn more about my classmates writing style and help improve their writing skills as necessary. Additionally, the reason I want to be part of the school newspaper is that I want to spread my love of reading and writing. I believe that people would love reading if they can find something that would interest them. In a similar way, I also want to give a voice to and project the beauty of Cambodia through my articles.

My first article was about the International Vulture Awareness Day, which happened on the 1st of September. Below is an excerpt from my article:

Saturday, September 1st marked this year’s International Vulture Awareness Day. The intention of the day was to communicate information about vulture conservation to a greater audience and spotlight the important works done by vulture conservationists worldwide. Opportunely, two organizations in Cambodia participated in the celebration of this event by sharing their work as conservationists in Cambodia.

Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity took the opportunity of this day to inform Cambodians through the popular social media platform Facebook about the “destructive consequences of using poison for hunting in attempt to encourage local hunters to abandon this practice.” The post came along with a 3-minute video discussing the decline of vultures due to hunters’ practices and what this means for us, humans.

Photo from BirdLife International Cambodia Programme

Being the Youngest Attendee at the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress

From the 24th to the 29th of June, I attended the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) in Kuching, Malaysia. It was the first time for me to attend an international and professional conference. This was an opportunity to explore marine conservation across the world as young conservationists, as well as allow the world to know what Cambodia is doing in term of marine conservation, particularly the Liger Marine Research Team. 

Initially, it was intimidating to be in the same area with hundreds of scientists, conservationists and Ph.D. students from across the world. However, once we got to talk to them a little, they seemed to be very open and wanted to talk to us more about what we do. It was amazing to meet people from different backgrounds working towards the same goal.

Meeting Dr. Andrew Thaler while he was at the Make for the Planet Workshop

The conference consisted of many sessions and presentations about many topics ranging from marine protected areas to marine mammals to technology in conservation. I was mostly drawn to the presentation regarding marine protected areas (MPAs).  The Sustainable Development Goal and Aichi target have the intention to have at least 10% of our ocean protected by 2020. This topic is becoming more important than ever in Cambodia. We now have two newly established MFMAs (a type of MPA), and more are in the plan.  This is why it is important for us to know where the world is in term of MPAs and how we can contribute to achieving this global goal. 

Presenting at the poster session

Besides learning from those presenters, we got the opportunity to inform more experienced conservationists about the work we are doing in Cambodia. We had a poster presentation on our monitoring of the artificial reef, which is part of the MPA in Koh Seh. It was delightful to get so many compliments about our project from very experienced people that we admire. 

I found this opportunity really worthwhile because we got to make many connections with people that can help us with our projects. In addition, I felt that I’ve projected a little more voice for Cambodia ocean so that more people across the world know about it. I think it is very significant to have events like this where people from different cultures and backgrounds can share their work and walk closer together to achieve one common goal: to “make marine science matter.”

Dengue Fever Exploration | Writing Risk Analysis on Dengue Fever Outbreak

Dengue fever cases in Cambodia increased by 30% in the first three weeks of the year. A dengue fever outbreak occurs every 4 to 5 years. The last outbreak in Cambodia was in 2012, and it was expected that an outbreak would happen in 2017, according to Phnom Penh Post. However, there wasn’t an outbreak last year, so it’s assumed that it will happen this year. 

Dengue virus vectors, Aedes Egypti, mainly are found in urban areas, where they’re highly populated. In these areas, standing water containers and water storage such as flower vases, tanks and jars are commonly found and can be breeding ground for Aedes Egypti.

The information above has led us to do a risk analysis on dengue fever outbreak. We asked the villagers from two communities  Chompous Kaek and Koh Krobey ‒ questions related to their knowledge on dengue fever and prevention behavior. We also did observations to determine the presence of mosquito larvae.  We used this information to assess relationships between variables such as knowledge, prevention behavior, and perceived risk. 

  • Visiting WHO to get more information about Dengue Fever in Cambodia

The final report is a potential resource for the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization based in Cambodia to identify the risk of dengue fever in areas like Chompous Kaek and Koh Krobey. It’s also helpful for the villagers in a way that it will bring their needs to the attention of those institutions. For example, larvicide, Abate, hasn’t been given to the villagers for years, and many are requesting for it. 

Below is a section of the report that I’ve worked on.

Many people have some knowledge about dengue fever and are taking some actions to prevent mosquitoes from biting and breeding, but statistical analysis shows no evidence of an association between the two variables. In other words, none of the prevention behaviors are influenced by the knowledge people already have about dengue fever. Additionally, this particular finding is aligned with the result from the study on “Dengue knowledge, attitudes and practices and their impact on community-based vector control in rural Cambodia.”

In this observational study, there may be errors presented in this survey, such as response bias. For instance, people might most likely say they clean their water storage frequently, even though they don’t. Also, knowledge may not necessarily determine people’s actions; it is possible they can know something but not apply their knowledge to real life. By this means, we can’t make an appropriate conclusion about any causal relationship.

As mentioned above, villagers did exhibit some prevention behaviors against dengue fever; however, these behaviors were relegated to a few methods to prevent mosquitoes from biting and breeding. In addition, only about 30% of the people we surveyed have attended some forms of educational campaign related to dengue fever. This means those people would benefit from an awareness campaign, educating them more on methods to prevent dengue fever.

2017/2018 Yearly Reflection

My Journey as a Young Conservationist

“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin,” Anthony Robbin

One day before the summer of 2017, my science teacher came into the meeting room, wearing a snorkeling mask and fins — not something someone would do every day. We gave her a bizarre look and knew she was up to something. She explained about an opportunity given by Liger and MCC (Marine Conservation Cambodia) and that the students selected would involve in a long-term marine science project; I knew it was for me.

But one thing halted my excitement: we would be learning to dive. The idea of breathing underwater haunted me like how a fish would feel emerging into the land. It’s unnatural for any human beings to stay underwater and it’s even more abnormal for me. I don’t have a swim gene and couldn’t expect how I would feel while diving.

Anyhow, I knew that my passion for science is greater than my fear of diving.

I neglected my ineptitude in swimming and decided to apply. I was chosen to be one of the eight students involving in the first-ever Liger research team. That was a dream come true.

Before any work is put into the research, I dedicated my time in the summer holiday to learn about diving — spending a few hours each day learning about Boyle’s law, effective breathing pattern and etc. Things that struck me most was the possible injuries we can get underwater: sinus squeeze, mask squeeze, ear squeeze, and lung squeeze. I was terrified of diving already and those things just worsen my fright.

On the 28th of September 2017, the three-year adventure for the Liger Marine Research Team (LMRT) began. We traveled for three hours from Liger to the small port of Kep and continued on the MCC boat to Koh Seh. The wild, one-hour boat ride took me to a place I’ve never seen with people I barely knew.  

After having a welcoming and delicious dinner, Liger, MCC staffs, and volunteers got to introduce ourselves to each other. There were people of all ages, from 18 year-olds to 30-year olds, people from different places and people with different backgrounds. That’s when I figured out we are the youngest and some of the few Cambodians there who would be working on marine research.

The next morning, we had our first dive lesson! Assembling the gears was a puzzle; my hands were shaking while putting the tank, the regulator and buoyancy compensator together. Carrying the massive equipments behind my back, I entered the water and followed my dive instructor. We then descended, and all I could see was the figure of people that dove with me. The water wasn’t that clear and I had to focus on what the instructor was doing. When I had to learn to clear my mask, the instructor introduced water into my mask and I couldn’t blow it out. I choked and instinctively came out of the water. That was one panicked moment. The rest of the dive went well, but it was still very difficult. Anyways, the “panic attack” stopped after a few dives. The next three days were packed with diving courses. It usually takes weeks or months to be a certified diver, but for us, 14 to 16 year-olds, only took four days to complete the course and be certified.

Besides learning to dive, we need to understand the methodology for doing underwater surveys because that’s a great part of our study. The MCC experts walked us through the process and even guided us through a practice survey underwater.

After all the training, we were able to deploy our artificial reef. Our hope for the artificial reef is for it to replenish the species that’s been lost due to illegal fishing activities and stop trawling which will prevent the excessive destruction of organisms.

The block is minuscule in comparison to the immensity of the ocean, but only one month after deployment, we could see our progress. We noticed plenty more fish and species on our second survey than we did during our first survey. We saw zero catfish on our baseline survey and we saw 50 of those the next survey. The progress that has been made in such as short period of time is significant — imagine decades after deployment.

I’m imagining the work we’re doing could lead to restoring the quality of our ocean. I’m imagining our ocean can be like Cabo Pulmo in Mexico: the vast abundance of biodiversity and clear water. This might not happen very soon, but it’s not impossible. We began the journey, so it’s possible.

What I learned more clearly from this experience is that perfection or accomplishment doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and practice. We can think of it as a mango. We can’t pick a green mango from a tree and expect it to be sweet and juicy; it takes more time for the mango to be ripen and gain excellent taste. If we want to see the change, the accomplishment, we have to be patient and know that the effort we put in is worth the change we’ll see in the coming future.

 

The First Ever Khmer Model United Nations

I’ve attended Model United Nations (MUN) a few times, but they were all in English. I believe most MUN conferences across the world are done in English. At Liger, we took it to the next level. The Senior cohort, an our Khmer Facilitator organized the first ever Khmer MUN! We had two general assemblies with two topics in each. The topics in my general assembly related to chemical weapon of mass destruction and internet privacy control, and I was the delegate of France. During the first two weeks, I did research about the position France stands in this two topics. In addition to that, I explained my to my classmates who were new to MUN about what it is and how it goes, and assisted them throughout the researching process. Researching in English already requires skills and doing it in Khmer was even more challenging. There were a lot of times when I needed to translate my research into Khmer in a professional way.

The conference happened on the 23rd of May. Everyone who attended dressed up formally to really simulate the experience. It happened all in Khmer and it was really great to see everyone’s involvement throughout the day; we delivered opening speeches and wrote effective resolutions. Special thanks to out Khmer facilitator who made this happen, and the Khmer staffs who helped us along the way. I couldn’t wish for a better first Khmer MUN!

I think it is very important to have Model United Nations in Khmer. We are the future leaders of our country, and it is crucial we know how to address the world’s problems in Khmer in order to empower our people. I believe that Cambodian students should have the opportunity to do what we did with MUN, and if we can make that happen, it would be a big impact.

LMRT Trip March 8th – 13th

There were so many exciting things happened during this trip. First of all, this was one of our longest trips, so we accomplished a lot this time. 

One of the activities the team did was making concrete blocks that will be used as anti-trawling artificial reefs. These blocks are there to destroy any trawling nets, and to act as marine organism habitats. MCC will eventually deploy 47 artificial reefs as part of the Marine Fishery Management Area (MFMA). This is a conservation project proposed by MCC that’s recently signed by the government. 

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MFMA map (click on the image to know more about MFMA)

 

Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting, child and outdoor
Pouring cement into the mold to create blocks
Carving in our names after the blocks are a little bit dry

Another accomplishment was completing a cluster. That is a triangular bamboo shelter with ropes dangling into the water. This object is an alternative to the plastic buoys that are used to mark the location of the artificial reefs, while also providing a nursery for fish. In order to make this, we learned to tie some special knots and use strengths to ensure that those knots are secured. 

Tying the bamboo as part of the triangular cluster
A finished knot
The finished cluster

Every time we went to the island, we always do beach cleaning. This time we did a few beach cleans, and we figured out a way to make it more fun! We separated the waste into categories and one of those was “pretty things.” We took those things to create art projects. So not only we made the beach looks more pleasant, but we also make the island looks more beautiful with art pieces. An example of projects was decorating stairs with colorful bottle caps using cement.

Bottle cap stairs

We did those activities when we are free from doing our baseline survey. The baseline survey is what we’re going to compare our future data with. The survey site is the site for one of the 47 artificial reef structure. We did three replicates for the three survey: fish, invertebrates, and substrate.  I did the fish surveys. There weren’t that many organisms to record in the baseline survey. In the future, we would see more organisms as the artificial blocks do their job as habitat. We recorded that data we collected each night after each survey. 

Logging the data into the computer

The most exciting thing: deploy the first artificial reef structure of the MFMA! The team from MCC assisted us in this process. We took their big boat to our site and they worked with passion both on the surface and underwater to put the blocks together. This is the reef that LMRT will monitor for the rest of our project. Now, there are not a lot of life in the area and it would be amazing to see the impact these blocks will make in the future. 

MCC men dropping the blocks into the water
Excited for the blocks to be deployed!
Jumping into the water to see how they set up the blocks

This is weekend on the Island made me realize it takes more than knowing how to dive and conduct surveys to accomplish our goal. It takes a whole group of passionate and persistent people to share with each other the knowledge we have and work together to accomplish small things that build up to a big change.

Debriefing after a long weekend
 

 

 

 

A Tour at the Traumatic S-21

 

A high school, where education sparked, had been turned into a brutal place that killed 14,000 thousand intellectuals. 

Toul Svay Prey was the name of the high school. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge mad it the prison S-21. People from many backgrounds, such as doctors, artists, lawyers and even foreigners, entered this harsh site, and only seven survived. Those innocent citizens were punished by the worst mediums we can think of. Their wrists were locked in place and they were beaten until the young soldiers got the answers they want during interrogations. 

I’ve learned about the Khmer Rouge genocide and have heard many tragic stories, and going to the S-21 genocide museum was a very powerful experience that compliments my knowledge about the event. 

I toured the museum with a quality audio device, which made the experience even more memorable.  The buildings looked like typical Cambodia high school buildings, but the tools and the voice of the man in Khmer painted a picture of cruelty and tragic that the victims went through. Besides the sound, the museum had worked so hard to collect documents and photographs to display. 

In my opinion, and I believe many other’s, S-21 should be a place that every Cambodian student should visit. It’s a place that taught us about an event about devastating even of our history, and we should learn about it to avoid the trauma from occurring again. 

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A classroom that’s turned into the victims torturing bedroom
The classroom had been divided into cells for the victims

 

In the middle of the museum, there’s a memorial place where all the victims’ names are written down on the marble tops

Source: http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/s21-victims.html

 

Gender Summit 2018

I believe that change can start with a small action, such as conversation. 

On the 27th and 28th of January, my team of 12 hosted an event called Gender Summit for about 100 high school students from both international schools and local schools. The goal was to encourage dialogues regarding gender issues. Our team realized that gender is not a common topic that Cambodian people talk about, so the first step of change is to enforce more dialogues about the issue. 

The event encompassed four main sessions: power, culture, language, and economics. I was a session leader in the latter session. In that section, I introduced the idea of how advertisement influences our thought about gender roles in the society. Companies advertise their products for female and male separately with a few differences, mainly the color along with a description that describes femininity and masculinity. We should take control of ourselves and buy products that we need and like, regardless of who can use it according to the advertisements.

A fun activity that was part of my session was called Atomic Circle. The goal of this activity was sharing with each other about personal ideas on certain statements. An example of a statement is, “all women are naturally better caretakers than men.” Many people agreed that this idea is true because that’s what they’ve seen in the society. What they didn’t realize was that most people have taught girls to be more caring than boys and it seems like this is natural, but it’s not. 

It wasn’t easy preparing a lesson for other people. It wasn’t easy to get them to talk or generate ideas. There are also times when they said something that didn’t seem right to me, even though there are no specific right or wrong ideas on this topic. Sometimes, it’s hard to stop the conversation when people say something that we don’t agree with. What I’ve learned is that if we want to change how people perceive something, we should enforce questions for them to answer (Socratic method), so that they will think about the idea in a different angle. 

Everyone who attend the event on the 27th

 

 

 

Trip to SHE Investment

Typically, organizations tackle gender issues regarding women’s right and aspects related to that. SHE (Support Her Enterprise) investment tackle this problem in a different way. This newly opened organization support women who create their own micro business. According to Lida Loem, Programs Manager & Head Facilitator at SHE, 65% of businesses in Cambodia are owned by women but a lot of them are micro businesses. 

SHE investment believes that what they are doing is not a charity, it’s an investment. They trust that women have the ability to lead their own businesses with the help of mentors from SHE. 

The group of passionate people for SHE has helped 67 women with their business since 2015. Linda mentioned about a particular tailor who worked by herself before she worked with SHE. Now, she has several employees and is looking for a few more.

This small organization has made such a big impact on Cambodian women in such a short amount of time. I am looking forward to seeing SHE expanding their potential, and hoping they will reach one of their goals of establishing SHE in other countries. 

LMRT Trip December 7th – 10th

This is the last trip of 2017! As I mentioned before, diving is less scary and more relaxing. During this trip, we practiced being neutrally buoyant and swimming in a proper position. One thing I’ve done better this time is consuming air. I used to breathe 100 bar of air in 30 minutes, but now I can breathe the same amount of air in about 45 minutes. 

I actually did a real survey for my last dive of the year! I did an invertebrate survey, which means counting organisms like urchins, gastropods and etc. There were not much to see since I wasn’t able to look into crevices and under corals and that’s what I need to work on to be successful at doing the survey. One fascinating thing I saw was a nudibranch. I saw the one that looks the same to that in the morning of the same day; it might be the same one.

Doing a survey is really fun because I have the chance to see many organisms closely and it feels good to be able to identify them!

An example of how a nudibranch looks like; this is not the one I saw while doing the survey
Before leaving the island for Phnom Penh