How protected are marine protected areas?


DEB News




Diversity at a glance


"In the News"

Book Review

Wild Corner

Recent Publications

Information for Contributors



Miscellany (pdf)

Indiana Jones?! Safety issues on exploration of underground water channels in Hong Kong
BBR-----More than a race!
BBR-----A special experience in HK
A meaning way for for Enviromental Life Science Students to spend the summer holiday

A meaningful way for Environmental Life Science Students to spend the summer holiday

by Damgy H.L. Chan
Environmental Life Science Year III student

It is always a headache for students to decide what to do during their three-month long summer holiday. Some students spend their time traveling abroad, some do summer jobs, some play around, and some do nothing at all! I used to be one of latter students, but in my last summer holiday I found a very meaningful way to utilize these three months’ time – to be a summer research assistant in DEB!

Although being educated in our department, it is unfortunate that most Environmental Life Science students know little about DEB or about practical aspects of conducting researches. I was glad to be given a chance to work as a summer research assistant in our department last summer holiday. During this period, I learnt many things and gained much work experience. I would like to take this opportunity to share this wonderful experience with you.

Being a summer research assistant supervised by Dr. Benny Chan, I was assigned to work in two major areas: the Museum of the Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS; see Porcupine! 26) and in a research project undertaking laboratory and field programmes of potential indicators for monitoring marine pollution supervised by Dr. Benny Chan and Dr. Kenneth Leung.

The first part of my work included rearranging and labelling specimens of the SWIMS museum, along with updating their database. Given that the previous update of the database was done 10 years ago, it was not an easy task to deal with! Nonetheless, I improved my organization, time management and computer skills. Besides, I learnt numerous scientific names and made contact with nearly a thousand species of specimens, many of them new to me! But most importantly, I worked in such a beautiful environment at Cape d’Aguilar and got to know the staff and postgraduate students at SWIMS; not many students have ever visited there.

The second part of my work included studying the distribution pattern and abundance of barnacles (Tetraclita squamosa, Tetraclita japonica and Balanus amphitrite) and limpets (Cellana grata and Patelloida pygmaea) in 60 sites, trawling fishes for histopathology studies and taking photographs of crab specimens. Whenever the weather was fine and the tide was low enough, my colleagues and I did field work intensively. Although we were born and grew up in Hong Kong, we had never been to most of the sites before and would probably not visit some of the sites in the rest of our lives again. Thus, we regarded the field trips as eco-tours, and we all enjoyed ourselves and learnt much about field transect sampling techniques.

Most of the sites we visited for the limpet survey were rocky shores, but some were artificial vertical seawalls in Victoria Harbour which were difficult to access. For that reason, we reached those sites by ‘Kai To’ (i.e. a small boat that sails you anywhere you want, acts as an aquatic taxi). Working on a Kai To was quite troublesome because the sea was not calm enough to maintain our balance. I even got seasick when everyone was busy in collecting the samples! Fortunately, my colleagues shared my workload and let me take some rest, so that we could finish the fieldwork by the end of the day.

Another part of the research involved trawling. That was the first time I worked on a shrimp trawler. Luckily, the trawler was not as smelly as I thought, so that the working environment was quite nice. Every time the fishing net was pulled out of water, we felt surprised because none of us could predict what we could find in it. Apart from the target species we needed, we also got crabs, shrimps, squids, rays, sharks, corals, sea pens, sea fans, brittle stars and different types of rubbish. Once we had sorted out our target species, my colleagues and I started to check their histopathology and dissect their livers on the board and store the livers in liquid nitrogen. Doing dissection on a trawler was a great experience as my colleagues needed to cut the livers out precisely and also needed to avoid cutting their fingers in a vibrating environment! When we finished our work, we rested on the roof of the trawler from where we could see Chinese White Dolphins, jellyfishes and egrets! But the most impressive thing during trawling was eating lunch that was cooked by the fishermen who cooked our by-catches (e.g. shrimps and mantis shrimps). The food was so fresh and was filled with our hard work; hence we thought the food was very delicious.

After trawling, I was asked to take photographs for the crab specimens being caught. Well, I used to know nothing about photography, but after training, I learnt this skill! I was also taught how to improve the quality of the photographs by using computer software such as Photoshop. I am grateful to the staff in the Virtual School of Biodiversity (VSB) for teaching me the techniques in editing and handling digital images.

To cut a long story short, even though the work for a summer research assistant in our department was quite tough and challenging, I think it was very worthwhile. I have learnt many things that will be beneficial to my studies especially in my final year project (e.g. sampling techniques, ecological experimental design and species identification) and had many unforgettable experiences last summer holiday. In addition, I developed a sense of belonging to our department because I understand it more than I did before. Last, but not least, I would like to say a big thank to Dr. Benny Chan for giving me the chance to be his summer research assistant and granting me so much knowledge on barnacles, dissection, species identification and photography.



For more information, contact

Copyright © 2000