Student - February 10, 2011

Face to face with a shark

Who? Christoph Hoppe, third year Coastal and Marine Management student at VHL in Leeuwarden
What? Research into coral spawning
Where? Koh Tao Island in Thailand
Why? Assisted in coral research, with daily diving thrown in

'I had never heard of the island of Koh Tao until another student told me about the 'New Heaven Reef Conservation Programme'. This is a programme in which students from all over the world get a chance to take part in coral research. After a preparation period of about three months, things got going. Suddenly, I was having a whale of a time amidst the wonderful peace and exotic beauty at my internship site.
I first had to undergo an intensive diving course and was given lessons about the underwater world. These were necessary so that I would know how to carry out coral research work in a safe and accurate way. I liked the diving part tremendously. I didn't have any diving experience before, but I can say that I have caught up nicely in the meantime. Diving opened up a new world for me. I had such an unforgettable time. I encountered enormous schools of fishes in all shapes and colours, and came face to face with a shark!
I assisted in a coral spawning project, in which research was carried out into artificial propagation of corals. The work was intensive and difficult. For example, you had to be ready in a jiffy to collect suitable samples when it appeared that the corals were propagating. One of the problems was the El NiƱo current which makes the sea water too warm for corals. Due to this, the results were unreliable, unfortunately.
I also helped in the 'Save Koh Tao' festival on the island, during which its indigenous folks and tourists there for the diving were informed about the decline in the quality of the sea water. My internship has been a fantastic learning experience, something I often keep thinking back to, especially when I sense how hectic things are here in the Netherlands. I would then close my eyes and picture myself again in my hammock, soaking in the peace on the island.'