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Diving, Drinking & Marxan

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Just thought I'd give another update, before I head back back up to Kudat tomorrow to continue with the TED trials. I've had a great few days break back here in KK and the thought of going back to Kudat to go out on the fishing boats again makes me shudder. Oh well better get used to it as it's going to be my life for the next 4 weeks. So I came back from Kudat last thursday for my advanced open water course on friday and saturday. I was in two minds about switching to PADI as it means I have to do 2 courses- Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver to get to the same level as Sports Diver in BSAC, which would be the next qualification I did with them. However, the sheer amount of time it takes to do BSAC courses, I decided to bite the bullet and pay the extra money to do the PADI courses instead. So I rocked up at Jessleton Point to meet up with Borneo Dream who do diving around KK. They are very good friends with Katie Brooks (A friend off my MSc for those who don't know) who they worked with in the Seychelles and also know Nick, my supervisor here very well too so come with good recommendations. It's run by a British couple and they have set up a really good dive operator. All the Divemasters and boat crew were really friendly and made the whole day feel really relaxed and good fun. My instructor, Richard, was absolutely fantastic and we got on really well. I did five dives in total- a deep dive, underwater navigator, underwater photography, multi-level diver and also a Nitrox dive, which is basically enriched air so that you can dive longer and safer. The dive sites were cool, but unfortunately because it has been raining so much the last few weeks, the visibility wasn't good. As low as 3m in places. Still saw some really cool stuff though- this massive cuttlefish was probably the highlight. Saw so much fungia also (mushroom coral) and spent a fair while turning the ones that were upside down the right way up. There was lots of bleaching also- very noticeable. When I was in Egypt I think I struggled to really recognise any bleaching, and generally I don't think there was much. But here the dive sites were littered with bleached coral. This is where the zooxanthellae (the photosynthesising part of the coral) basically are expelled from the coral, and the coral cannot survive without it so dies. The result of the zooxanthellae leaving is that the coral turns bright white all over so it is very obvious. It is not 100% known the causes of coral bleaching, but it is likely to be as a direct result of increases in water temperature. There was a huge worldwide bleaching event in 1998 and it was thought that these would become more common in the future with increases in sea surface temperate. Luckily this hasn't happened again, but it is thought bleaching is once again becoming more common in the Coral Triangle over here. After the last dive on saturday me and richard got back into the boat last and were immediately handed a glass of wine. In one of the dive groups, this guy had proposed to his girlfriend underwater so there was a mini celebration, which was cool.

Saturday night me and Kit met a few people in the hostel and headed out for some beers with them. We then came back a bit later and this British couple had a bottle of dodgy 50% malaysian spirit that was just horrific. It was bright pink. We then headed out to a club about 1am. Again there was a live band playing- it must be a staple of Malaysian night culture. I was standing chatting near this group of Malaysian people who had a big bottle of whisky in the middle of the table and immediately they were pouring me drinks and chatting away, which was a right bonus as it was about £4 for a bottle of carlsberg! So yeh had a good night, which was pretty heavy and headed back to the hostel about 5am for a bit of kip. I think I woke up about 11 and went down stairs to eat some toast. I planned on staying up but couldn't face it and headed back to sleep with a killer headache. Kit somehow managed to stay in bed all day, only to get up at what must have been 8pm. That meant I had to go in search of food solo. Ate in this chinese "coffee shop" as they call them here, but basically a restaurant on the street. Had some pork in a broth with rice. They also give you fresh garlic and chilli to mix with soy sauce, which is just awesome. Love that and get it as much as possible.

Got a reasonably early night in as had to be up early in the morning for this WWF Marxan training conference I'd managed to get myself onto through MRF. It was taking place at the Promenade Hotel and somehow I was the acting representative for MRF. I wasn't totally sure what to wear so I slapped on my linen trousers and a shirt and headed out early in the morning. I rocked up pretty much on the dot in this right swanky hotel and whipped out my WWF invitation and was directed up to the first floor. I registered at the desk thing and was given this pack and a free WWF Marxan t-shirt, which I was pleased about. I went in and sat down and watched the room fill up around me. They were all representatives from various government agencies around Sabah and some NGOs also. It was run by Carissa Klein from the University of Queensland, who I have read a few her papers on marine protected area design before, which was pretty cool. She was really nice and as we were the only white people there, we spent a lot of time talking in the various breaks we had. We started at 9 and then had a break at 10.30 where they served fried noodles outside. I declined, knowing lunch was only a couple of hours away- but that didn't seem to stop anyone else who all munched their way through a huge pile. Lunch was at 12.30 and was the biggest buffet I have ever seen in my life. Literally, rows and rows of different food. Then to top it off there was another break about 3, where they served mini pizzas and cake. I have never seen so many people eat so much food in all my life. They certainly made the most of it! The training was an introduction to Marxan, which is a conservation planning software. It is a type of geographical information system, which basically mathematically plans where protected areas should be from looking at many different types of data both biological and economical. It was really interesting and I think I will look to get some experience of using the programme professionally if I can when I get back to the UK, as it certainly is the future of protected area planning and I can't see people being able to get away without using it when planning MPAs. There was this sort of game during the training where you were given data for all these different areas on a map- which included the cost of establishing a protected area in that grid and the amount of coverage for 3 different habitat types. The idea of the exercise was to work out how to select protected areas to cover a set amount of each habitat type for the lowest cost possible. And I am extremely proud to say I absolutely destroyed the whole room. The absolute lowest score, which was worked out by Marxan was 1786 points and I managed 1845. The next best was about 2400 and then the rest were 3000+, with a lot being up near the 4000 mark. So I got a massive round of applause, which was really cool and immediately boosted my confidence in being there! I chatted to a lot of people, who were really interested in why I was there. I spoke to this guy who has submitted an application for a masters project to work on fisheries landings up in Kudat so offered to show him round and get him out on some fishing boats if he wanted. The more help we have up there the better! So yeh I had a really cool time at the training today and feeling very satisfied with everything. Back up to Kudat tomorrow though. The next week will probably be pretty boring out on the boats, but will write if anything exciting happens. Don't hold your breath though. x

Posted by mburgass 02:50 Archived in Malaysia Tagged events

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