LMRT Trip Jan 31st – Feb 3rd

It’s been about eight months since LMRT’s last trip to Koh Seh. This is because the weather condition of the last half of 2018 disabled us to do our underwater surveys. 

Despite the wait, the water condition was still bad, meaning we couldn’t see well at our reef deployment site and couldn’t proceed on our survey. However, we got to see our block and its current condition. Unfortunately, our structure changed its shape due to, hypothetically, illegal trawling. One-third of the block was buried in silt, and one of our three cubes, placed in the middle, was under the triangular blocks. Beyond that, the triangular cluster was cut off a couple months ago. Apparently, we weren’t very satisfied with that. Nonetheless, we realized that’s science; it’s not always perfect and we can learn from failures. To account for the problem and make use of it, we have a plan to deploy the same structure, without three cubes in the middle, at a similar site to compare the effectiveness of the new structure to the old structure. 

  • Preparing to go into the water for the first time in eight months

Observing Osmosis with Plant and Salted Water

When plant cells absorb or lose water, the water undergoes the process called osmosis. Osmosis is the type of diffusion describing the movement of water from a hypotonic (low solute concentration) environment to a hypertonic (high solute concentration) one.

The term water potential refers to the likelihood of water molecules transporting to another environment. A more dilute solution would have less water potential than that with a high solute concentration.

Water molecules move from high to low water potential. Through this process, the water molecules can transport with them the solutes in forms of molecules or ion.

In AP biology, we conducted an experiment where green beans were soaked in solutions with different salinities and the effect of osmosis on the vegetable was observed.

Three bean samples, for soaking in fresh water and salted water

By soaking the beans in different solutions, there were some physical, textural and taste changes to the beans. In the freshwater, the bean became fresher, with a little lighter skin color and slightly thicker skin. It also became a little more crunchy (however less flexible), less sweet and more watery in term of texture and taste. This might be due to the access of more water in the bean. The bean in 20g/L saltwater became darker with some lighter-colored spots. It was softer and more flexible than the one in freshwater. There was no sweetness in the beans, and it became slightly salty and a little less watery. The bean in the 40g/L saltwater has a similar quality to the one in the 20g/L saltwater solution, except it was more flexible and less watery.

As mentioned, water movement is dependent on the solute of an environment. This means that the water molecule would move to the environment with more solute. In this case, the tissue cell of the green beans contain more solute than the freshwater solution, therefore, causing the water to move into the plant cells. On the other hand, the saltwater has more solute than in the plant tissue so the water from the plant would move to the more solute environment. This instance is similar to how some organisms became dehydrated in seawater because seawater is more solute than their body.

Testing Solubility and Acidity of Over-the-Counter Pharmaceuticals

When we are slightly ill, we often take over-the-counter drugs and often times, they relief our symptoms, but sometimes induce adverse side-effects. So, it’s important to know the characteristics of the medicine we take, and how it may impact us.

In one of our chemistry classes, we investigated the solubility and acidity of over-the-counter medicine—aspirin, Tylenol, Alka-seltzer, and tums—in different solvents.

A drug has to be soluble in order for the body tissues to easily absorb it. Our body should be able to absorb the medication easily for it to be effective. In addition, when drugs are not soluble, it is possible that there’s a residue of that drug in our body, causing adverse effects to our body. I think that is why we usually take medication along with water since more of those drugs are soluble with that solvent.

Why does Flame Change its Color When Contacting With Different Chemical?

When an element has contact with flame, heat excites the electrons in the atom. This allows the electron to go from their ground states to a higher energy level.  In this state, the electrons are unstable, so they needed to emit energy to return to their ground state. In this case, we could see a color that corresponds to the wavelength of light emitted by the energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. 

Above is an explanation of why we see different colors when elements or chemical compounds are put with flame. To see this concept with our bare eyes, we did the flame test lab as part of our chemistry class. 

Six different compounds of salt were used in this experiment. Each of them was placed on the flame from a burner. Those different salt compounds emitted different colors, such as yellow, orange, mint green, red and magenta. Then, the wavelengths of the color were identified. 

When copper is put with flame, we can see a mint-green color. The wavelength corresponding to that color is about 5000 angstroms.

Nonetheless, this experiment was not conducted perfectly. One possible source of error can be from the way the color was observed. Color is something that is subjective. This would lead to inaccuracy in the wavelengths of chemicals identified. To avoid this error, a colorimeter can be used to accurately measure the wavelength.  


AP Biology Lab | How Much Water is in a Model Organism

This year I’m taking Advanced Placement biology class to continue my passion for science. Besides listening to presentations by our facilitator, students also go the opportunity to apply our knowledge through labs.

The first lab we did was relating to water in organisms. Water is in every organism; it makes up approximately 60 to 90 percents of every organism. Water is important for various functions including respiration, metabolism, and homeostasis. The objective was to extract water out of model organisms (fruits and vegetable) and figure out how much water is in that organism. We weren’t given an instruction on how we should … our lab, so we needed to invent our own procedures. My partner and I got carrot as our model organism. Below is the procedure we’ve created for our lab:

“The carrot was washed, dried and weighed three times: the average weight was calculated. To ease the process of blending, the carrot was chopped into small pieces. Then, the carrot was blended until it was ground. The paste was placed into a strainer and was squeezed to extract liquid. Finally, extracted juice was weighed three times and the average weight was calculated.”

Fruits and vegetable scraps and juice


The result told us that water made up approximately 45 percents of carrots mass. However, according to the US National Library of Medicine, the amount of water in a carrot is 86 to 89%. Our result was inaccurate because our method was manual so there might be some errors along the way. For instance, there may be parts of carrots that were wasted unnecessarily. Despite the inaccuracy, we can use our data to compare with other organisms that my classmates worked on. For example, we can tell that watermelon contains the most water, while logan contains the least amount of water.

Graph showing percent of water in different organisms, according to our experiment



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.


LMRT Trip May 24th – 29th

We were back on Koh Seh, probably for the last time of 2018. It was sad to think about that because I’ll miss diving, the work we did and the friendly people there. Anyways, we cherished every moment we had and be as productive as we can during this trip.

Because illegal and destructing fishing continues to happen, sediments in the ocean stirred up and caused bad visibility. This meant we couldn’t do the reef survey to monitor our artificial reef. However, we knew that it continues to restore organisms in the ocean!

To substitute for doing our underwater survey, we kept ourselves busy with other work. One of the work was making another cluster (fish aggregation device).

We also helped out with an official dolphin survey, since we were trained during the last trip. It was another new experience and made us realized we are not only there for doing reef surveys. 

We also used our time there to prepare for the conference we’ll be attending at the end of June. We got the privilege to attend the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress in Kuching, Malaysia! There will be conservationists and marine biologists from all around the world coming to one place to discuss marine conservation. We believe we’ll be the youngest attendees there! We put all our effort into getting ready to represent Cambodia’s ocean, Liger and ourselves at the conference.

Trip to WHO (Malaria and Dengue Fever)

On the 9th of April, as part of my Exploration, we went to World Health Organization (WHO) office in Phnom Penh to meet Dr. Luciano Tuseo, head of the malaria programme at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia. Our goal was to learn more deeply about Malaria and Dengue fever and what has been done about this problem in Cambodia.

Participating in the presentation

There are 36000 diseases in Cambodia, and this doesn’t include any minor diseases. Two of those diseases are Malaria and dengue fever. What these diseases have in common is that they’re mosquito-borne diseases. We’ve learned from Dr. Luciano that in Cambodia, “Malaria is the past and dengue fever is the future.” This simply means that the number of malaria case has decreased, while the number dengue fever cases are drastically increasing. The main question was why. The answer is: scientifically, dengue mosquitoes (Aedes) pass on dengue fever virus to their offsprings, while malaria mosquitoes (Anopheles ) don’t.  

People in the urban are more vulnerable to dengue fever. Aedes likes to breed in small and clean water sources such as flower vase, and other containers. These materials are vastly available wherever there’s a large population. This is why it is recommended to remove any source of water around your home. 

As a developing country, the access to drugs and vaccine is the main health problem in Cambodia. In order to help with that, WHO had drug distribution campaigns.  Lack of Education is also a factor of public health problem in Cambodia. This is why we’re hoping to work with WHO or other organization to bring resources to those in need.