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March 27, 2018

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Concordia’s mission to save coral reefs

Coral reefs are filled with an abundance of marine life where fish have a symbiotic relationship with the reefs, gaining nutrients and shelter from predators. However, 16 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been negatively affected by climate change, black and white band diseases and tourist damage.

Most corals spend 10 years generating an inch of new growth. Due to this slow pace, it struggles to regenerate fast enough every time a part of it is inflicted by disease, affected by global warming, or is broken off as a souvenir.

Due to the lack of scientific information, not much can be done to limit the destruction of reefs. Scientists believe coral reefs will die by 2050 if no action is taken.

Students at Concordia International School of Shanghai decided to do their part to protect coral by embarking on a Marine Ecology Research Program.

Concordia students have traveled to Phi Phi Island, Thailand, over the past five years. Students stay on a boat, Manta Queen 3, for 11 days and dive approximately six times each day, with the eventual objective to retrieve data on coral reef and various other marine life. These vital measurements are then sent to “Reef Check” to compare and contrast data to ensure that the reef remains healthy.

Students are split into three groups: fish, invertebrate and substrates. The “Fish” group focuses on counting different species of marine life found along the transact line. The “Invertebrate” group counts the plethora of sea urchins and clams that litter the ocean floor, while keeping an eye out for uncommon creatures such as minuscular mantis shrimp ducking behind the coral.

The “Substrate” group uses a plumb bob, a weight with a pointed tip, to identify the type of ground it hits. This can include anything from dead coral to gargantuan and vibrant clams. Overall, the process of checking the coral reef around Phi Phi Island helps to identify potential problems that exist and note trends of growth.

The Marine Ecology Research Program, led by Concordia High School science teacher, Joel Klammer, allows Concordia students to be hands on with the environment and learn how to establish a relationship with Mother Nature.

Last year was the tenth anniversary of the research program in Phi Phi Island and the result was favorable.

This summer, students will embark on a new adventure to Koh Lipe, Thailand.


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