By Jakub Bystricky & Diogo Costa
Manta consists of two different branches – Mangrove Restoration, and Coral Monitoring. It is also the first official “Global Concern” of UWCT, having benefited from financial awards to further support and propel the project.
The mangrove restoration part of Manta originally consisted of Alessandro in Grade 10, supervisor Kru (“Teacher”) Jalal, and myself (Jakub Bystricky).
I had no experience with mangroves except for the planting trip we did during the orientation week at the beginning of Grade 11.
Luckily, Kru Jalal showed us and helped us understand how the mangrove ecosystem functions. Afterwards, we explained the importance of mangrove forests through some presentations to other students at UWCT.
Once Kru Jalal said, “I’ve led several planting trips where our community has planted over 4,000 mangroves since I arrived at UWCT and my dream is to have a mangrove nursery here on site.”
And I have to say that Alessandro and I liked that dream too. So we had a plan.
As we needed money, we decided to use a “Global Concerns Fund” (GC). We went through the long process of becoming a GC and finally got our project approved. However, we didn’t become a GC alone.
Coincidentally, another group with similar interests was also trying to be a GC club and they also didn’t have enough members.
It was a coral monitoring group supervised by Kru Chris Lahey. The solution came naturally – we created one club: “Manta”. Finally, we were able to start working on the nursery and coral monitoring.
During Term 2 we had more members signing up for the mangrove nursery and all the pre-ordered materials were already on site.
Although the building process was slow at first, the pace accelerated towards the finish, and now we have 400 mangroves inside the nursery already!
We learned a lot in the process such as how to dig trenches, keep our measured lines straight, create concrete, set up a shade net, collect mangrove seed pods and create a water pump that would simulate the tides.
Finally, I would like to mention few people who without which we would hardly make it. From the staff: Kru Ned, our “Site Manager”, Kru Len, Khun Coco and the school maintenance team.
Also the students: Katuta, Benjamin, Eduard, Ronnie, Filippo and all the students from the coral part who came to help when they were free. I can’t wait to continue our work in Term 3!
The coral monitoring part of Manta was initiated by three Grade 11 students: Blue, Saryu, and myself (Diogo Costa) alongside our supervisor Chris Lahey, in collaboration with Sea Bees – an SSI-certified local dive school.
Later on, as a formal invitation was sent to other students, five more students joined the group – Agatha, Angel, Haris, Joalis and Sarah.
The intention with this branch of Manta was to establish a UWCT student divers’ team capable of undertaking active and positive intervention on the corals reefs of Phuket.
For the school year of 2016 and 2017 – the first year of this group – collecting data, as a way to monitor the development of the coral reefs in the area, more specifically the ones surrounding Nai Yang, became their core goal.
To do so, all eight students enrolled and successfully completed the Open Water Diving Course that currently enables them to dive as deep as 18 metres.
Following up on this achievement, the group created an appropriate methodology for the collection of the data they set out to collect.
This methodology has since been applied into their dives; all the information collected has then been submitted to Coral Watch, a trusted international database used by other UWC schools.
As the third and final term of the school year begins, the focus is on finalising the two final dives of the year and compiling all the data.
Afterwards, as the low season starts in Thailand, the group will cease their diving season and participate in the Mangrove component of the CCA.