Public Viewing Laboratory

Public Viewing Laboratory, more commonly known as Turtle Laboratory, is a new project of Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU) through a collaboration with The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort. The purpose of having Turtle Lab in a resort is to educate the in-house guests about sea turtles and introduce them the sea turtle conservation effort. This lab also serves as a research station, whereby experiment related to sea turtles will be conducted. Meanwhile, it is also a platform for SEATRU to reach out more people in order to create a connection between the scientist community and the society.

There are two experiments on-going in the lab, which are digging activity and swimming activity of the sea turtle hatchlings. The in-house guests are able to view the entire experimental setup of both experiments and observe the hatching process from the outside of the lab, making this as a “Public Viewing Laboratory”. On behalf of SEATRU, I was appointed by Dr Uzair, the supervisor of my Master Degree (also the current team leader of SEATRU), together with Dira to initiate this project and run the lab from planning to execution. Starting from 15 April 2018, Turtle Lab is officially my working space (lab+office)!

Marine Conservation Counter is attached with Turtle Lab. It displays the preserved samples of sea turtles and corals to allow the in-house guests to have a close-up observation on the physical appearance, while it helps the in-house researchers and marine biologist to explain better. Balqis, the in-house marine biologist, is the person-in-charge for Marine Conservation Counter. Having Turtle Lab and Marine Conservation Counter side-by-side, three of us are working really closely. We share our knowledge on sea turtles and corals with the visiting guests. During the conversation, the guests also learn a lot about the marine issues such as plastic pollution, ocean warming etc. Turtle Lab and Marine Conservation Counter are the places for public education, outreach, and raising awareness on protecting our nature. Other than getting tan skin and sunburn during the vacation at Redang Island, the guests are also bringing these knowledge back home!

Upon the completion of the experiment, the hatchlings in the laboratory will be set free. To enhance the engagement with the guests, we hold turtle hatchling release together with the guests. Other than having hands-on experience on handling the hatchlings, the guests are educated about the proper way of interacting with wildlife like sea turtles and the standard operating procedure (SOP) set by SEATRU during the release event.

Turtle Lab has been running for four months and so far, we are receiving very positive response and feedback from the in-house guests. Every visitor is impressive for a laboratory established in a resort, especially the parents. They are very glad that their children get to be exposed to the scientific knowledge of sea turtles and the conservation effort done in Malaysia. Despite of the challenging part, I enjoy working at Turtle Lab as I love talking with people, especially about sea turtles! Through conversation, a lot of idea and opinion can be exchanged between one another and sometimes, and it could even build a friendship!

NOTE: The words highlighted in orange will be the topic of next article. Stay tuned to find out more!

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Turtle Laboratory and Marine Conservation Counter.
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Only the authorized personnel (Balqis, Dira and I) are allowed entering the lab. The guests can only view the lab from the Marine Conservation Counter. This is also the space where we interact with the guests.
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The videos looped on TV help the guests to understand better during our explanation.
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I literally work in an “aquarium”.
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My working desk (in front of the whiteboard). The oven is used to heat up the sand, vermiculite and perlite, allowing them to be reused for the next batch of experiment (It’s not for cooking turtle eggs or baking cake!).
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Experimental setup for my research on digging activity.
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We recorded these information (batch number, nest number, hatching success, how long the eggs have been incubated in the lab, and the hatched day) for every batch of eggs.

 

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The “hot spot” for guests to take photos of the baby turtles!
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The guests are always excited to check on the progress of hatching activity!
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When the guests saw these preserved corals, the first question that they will ask is “Why there are so many bleached corals out there?”
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The guests also like to ask, “Are these real?”

 

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Met these two Japanese guests, Jun (left) and Aya (right) at the lab. Knowing that they would like to taste the local food and they can’t speak English very well, I decided to help them by being their translator and brought them to a restaurant. We communicated with simple English, body language, and even Google translate. They were impressed when I am able to speak a little Japanese. We had a great time together!
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Tali (left) and Maddie (right) from UK came to Turtle Lab every day during their vacation to see the baby turtles. Tali also told me that the information and knowledge (e.g. the biology and life cycle of sea turtles) that she learnt from Turtle Lab will be presented in her school project of the summer break.
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A hand-drawn turtle by Clea from France, a 11 years old girl and I love her drawing so much! Her brother, Luca and she stayed at Taaras for 2 weeks and they came to the lab every day to learn about sea turtles. She can’t speak English (we need her mum to be translator or Google Translate), but the language is no longer a barrier when someone is very enthusiastic to learn!
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