Me & My Hopeful Journey
"Taking up Marine Biology after my foundation course was one of my life’s best decisions although it was very challenging physically and mentally."
Every Thursday 8 am-5 pm we would be in the laboratory looking at samples under microscope, sometimes the same sample all day long trying to figure out which species it belongs to, or did any parts of the specimen go missing, making it impossible to identify. We had to take turns sleeping under the laboratory desk so that there is always someone watching over the live specimens during our 24-hour toxicology experiment. We’d run back to the lab in between classes to count how many of our cell cultures had replicated within a few hours.
"I stumbled upon an opportunity to work on coral restoration to which you may already know; Alunan Coral Project."
Since the beginning of the resort’s effort in 2017, I was their first resident marine biologist. The mother nursery was launched with the help of the consulting biologist but they needed someone who can actually stay full time on the island. So 3 years ago, I started working my way up in coral conservation. From coming up with methods, materials, logistics to public engagement, basically everything. I have the privilege of making my own decision but also be responsible for the possible unwanted outcomes. The first two years were just me and the resort staff. Sometimes local social enterprise who are also working on conservation on the island would offer their helpful hands too. From a mother nursery, we started exploring the options of a new propagation method where young corals that are propagated from the mother nursery are planted using coral cups. Besides making it a very solid substrate, the cups can be reused again in case any of the corals succumb. Dead corals can be removed and replaced. Besides experimenting and implementing, we also offer free coral planting sessions for in-house guests. I like the idea of being able to reach out to everyone, even smaller kids. This allowed the involvement of the public and increasing awareness in coral and reef health, which is the goal of the project.
"I needed the project to be known more than just by the in-house guests."
I want it to be accessible to the public so I can get as much help as I can and to get the public’s attention on marine awareness. So I requested a section on Alunan Resort’s website. Through this process, I figured out how to work a web page. I incorporated things that would attract more attention and what people would love to see, all by myself. All coral adoptions are uploaded on the page to allow people to check back on the corals that they adopted. I also set our location on Google maps so when people explore the map of Perhentian, they would see Alunan Coral Project’s pin and they could come to visit the place. All recorded observations during diving and snorkeling are put together in a report and sent to local authorities, then uploaded to our website for transparency and accessibility. Not only to keep our supporters updated on their corals, but most importantly they are also able to track their monetary contribution. We have also recently set up an Instagram account to get closer to people in a more casual and fun approach. For those who can’t visit us but are interested in contributing during this period in Malaysia, you can do it through Lazada.
"We have a bigger audience now & are able to connect to many other restoration projects around the globe as well as amazing people."
We have been able to join student-led projects & a few NGOs on their platform, sharing our knowledge as well as exchanging it with other experienced people. I am very happy and proud of how much the project has progressed in the last 3 years with limited resources and capital. In the east coast region, we are actually the only approved resort-based coral conservation project by the Department of Fishery Malaysia. We have reached the point where we understand what coral grows best with which method in the nursery. We have had 2 internship students previously & hope to be able to offer more spots rather than just one spot each time.
Working in conservation does not stop at doing the actual work but also by educating the public such as translating technical terms into simple sentences. We need all the help we can to make it accessible to the public, to let people know how important & fulfilling protecting mother Earth can be.
"Most importantly we need people to know that environmental conservation is not just a “hobby”, or “a side job”, it is our responsibility and it actually requires a huge amount of money to sustain and achieve substantial results."
That is why doing your part like volunteering or donating can make a huge difference to conservation parties.
With many devastating occurrences globally, people are more aware of what’s happening around the globe. People are demanding and hoping for damaging acts to be stopped and prevented. People are educating themselves and seeking active participation, to be involved directly in protecting nature. No action is too small of a worth. If every single person on this planet does their part, we will change the world. If you live under the oblivious rock, or if you think there is still no urgency, please know that the Great Barrier Reef, the only ecosystem that can be seen from the satellite, was 80% damaged and is struggling to recover.
"A total of 15% of Malaysia’s coastline that roughly translates to 555km is already damaged."
So, it is not a matter of choice anymore, we must take part in this battle. Connect to local initiatives and campaigns and start doing our part now.