Professor Martha Conklin and postdoctoral researcher Sarah May visited Thailand after last year’s tsunami to train volunteers in the GLOBE program, which provides opportunities for students to participate in scientific research.
Authorities in Thailand’s Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) aim to help the country progress toward becoming an international scientific contributor. Pornpun Waitayangkoon and her staff, who coordinate GLOBE in Thailand, requested that Conklin visit to train 80 Thai professors to take hydrologic measurements. The volunteers then returned to their own areas to pass the knowledge on to local teachers.
Conklin had also been scheduled to do GLOBE work in India; however, because of the tsunami, that leg of her trip was cancelled. The disaster also necessitated other adaptations.
Sarah May, a UC Merced postdoctoral researcher trained in biology who focuses on GLOBE work, went to Thailand to teach volunteers how to census marine invertebrates along with Thai researchers Mullica and Krisanadej Jaroensutasinee. The beach where they had planned to work was devastated by the disaster. Fortunately, the group found a suitable place to work on the Gulf coast of Thailand, which didn’t experience the same destruction.
But even on the affected coast, May observed that the ecosystem seemed to be moving toward recovery. The dynamic nature of the ocean means that organisms can float in and repopulate an area with relative ease. Also, disturbances to a system can temporarily increase diversity at a site. With the schools that were affected by the tsunami helping collect data using GLOBE protocols, May and her Thai colleagues hope to document the recovery of coastal marine invertebrates after the tsunami.
Questions remain about how well documented the coastal areas were before the tsunami.
” Without scientific records of before, it’s impossible to assess accurately how the system is doing after,” Conklin explained. That’s where GLOBE can come in, deploying large numbers of data-gatherers to document the situation accurately.
“It’s common for scientists to meander into educational outreach,” Conklin concedes. “Sometimes those projects seem to fizzle out when funding dries up. But in Thailand we saw a formidable will to implement GLOBE in a sustainable way. We can learn from them as much as they can from us.”