MaLisa’s proposal abstract:

Baseline assessment of mangrove restoration projects in abandoned shrimp farms

Mangroves are vital ecosystems that are at risk. After large scale destruction of mangroves there have been recent attempts to rehabilitate the areas. However, many of these efforts have failed. The attempts that do not entirely fail are often stunted or slow growing. With the proper background research before planting, the success rate is much higher. However, baseline assessments of the replanted areas still need to be made in order to see how things change over a period of time. This experiment takes basic ecological assessments of the re-planted mangroves along with photographic analysis that could be used in the future for further studies that can track how the mangroves are doing in the future.   

"The Red Stick"
Cultural oddities:

So I needed a stick that was a meter long for my research in the mangroves.

First off, trying to ask for a stick when you don't speak very much of the language can be quite a challenge. After pantomiming stick and them showing us various lengths of straight things we settled on a tall red stick with two prongs at the top.

You would think the difficulty of buying a stick would be the end of it, but it wasn't. We then had to walk back to our hotel with the stick. No big deal, right? Well, the first person the see us was surprised and dodged around us. Okay... Then only a little farther down the street an old woman looked at me, looked at the stick, and then broke out into a big smile. Umm.... That isn't normal. We walk the rest of the way back to our hotel attracting the attention of every person on the street and even some people on motorbikes. The reactions varied from more smiles to longer than normal stares for the odd Farangs. I made it to the lobby of our hotel and literally every worker saw me and then burst out laughing. Well then....

I went back to my room to process what just happened. We bought a stick... It was red with two prongs on top... Maybe it was a ceremonial stick of some sort? Did it have some sort of Buddhist meaning? There were so many different props for the Buddhist ceremonies that I wasn't sure. Was it implying that I was engaged? Was it a stick meant only for boys or monks? What was going on? Why was it so funny?

I went back to the lobby, sans stick, with a Thai-English dictionary in the hopes that the people working in the lobby could possibly explain the meaning. They were all smiles as they tried to explain what the stick meant. From what I understood, the stick is actually used for the Girl Scouts, though the exact meaning for the girl scouts is unknown. I suppose that is a good alternative to the other possibilities, but I still don't understand why we got so many looks or the laughter. Oh well. Now it is just a red stick. I cut off the two prongs to make the stick one meter in length for my project. I still get looks for carrying around a smaller red stick, but that is probably because I am a Farang walking around twirling a red stick, not so much that it was related to the girl scouts...

MaLisa in Ban Thale Nok
"So far my research has been going okay. I am looking at mangrove restoration so I have been visiting various sites in different stages of regrowth. There is very little "true" mangrove in Thailand left because so much of it was used for lumber or destroyed for other reasons. The oldest forest I have been able to visit so far was only 35 years old, but even that is a stark contrast to the abandoned shrimp ponds that are in the process of regrowing.

So far, one of the biggest challenges for my research has been actually getting sites to sample and then identifying the plants within my transects. There are around 37 species of mangrove plants and associate species, but many of them look really similar. The flowers and seeds are the main diagnostic ways to determine the species, but many of the plants are not currently in bloom.

One thing that was really fun for my research was getting to walk on the prop roots of some of the mangroves. They stand several feet off the ground and sometimes they are so dense that the only way to get from point A to point B is to climb over them. I fell a few times into the mud below, but I wasn't injured. I just need to be more careful when climbing.

Of course, not every day is research filled. I got to spend a lot of time in the village and learning about the research that the others in my group are doing. So far it seems that they have a lot of juicy information about the shrimping industry... "  - MaLisa

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