Marine Biology Experience 2020

This program will be postponed for a later date due to the recent Covid-19 updates in Hong Kong. We are looking to move this for Fall 2020.

You may fill out the sign up form if you wish to join this program and we will keep you updated on the final details.


Over a two day period, students will experience different aspects of a marine research career. Instructors will guide students through parts of the scientific process including making observations in nature, generating ideas from observations, collecting data and specimens in the field, testing ideas through experimentation, and summarizing and sharing their findings. Students will be divided into two age groups (10-13 and 14-17) to tailor the experience to different learning levels.

Dates: August 10 – 11, 2020 (Monday – Tuesday) 


Day 1: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (9 Hours) 

Day 2: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm  (7 Hours) 

Program Locations:   

Day 1: Hoi Ha Wan

Day 2: Hong Kong University 

Ages: Group 1: Ages 10 – 13

            Group 2: Ages 14 – 17

Fee: $6,000 HKD / Student 

          *Sign up in pairs, $200 HKD off per student

Day1: Fieldwork


Students will work in groups to collect marine biodiversity data along high shore to low shore transects on a subtropical tidal flat. Students will collect, identify, and count organisms that live on top of the flat (epifauna) and within the sediments (infauna), as well as measure water quality parameters (temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient concentrations) across the flat. Students will be able to observe the unique behaviors of Hong Kong’s tidal flat creatures including the burrowing behavior of soldier crabs and the feeding behavior of the innkeeper worm. Each group will collect specimens of two species they encounter for laboratory measurements on Day 2. 

  • 10-13 year olds: A more guided experience will be provided to these students, with clear instruction and a scientific question. Emphasis will be placed on observing biodiversity and behaviors.
  • 14-17 year olds: Older students will focus on collecting robust data along their transects and be encouraged to formulate their own scientific questions to answer in the experiment on day 2. Emphasis will be placed on using water quality parameters to explain trends in biodiversity across the transects. 


We will explore two other marine environments: mangroves and coral reefs. Students will take water quality measurements in these environments for comparison to the tidal flat. Students will walk and wade through mangrove trees, observing the unique organisms that make this ecosystem their home. Students will also be able to swim or snorkel in a coral reef environment, or at a beach for less experienced swimmers. 

  • 10-13 year olds: Younger students will be encouraged to explore each ecosystem by making observations and searching for organisms.
  • 14-17 year olds: Older students will be encouraged to think critically about the differences between ecosystems and how they may be explained by other factors such as the water quality measurements they take and hydrology/geology.

Day 2: Labwork


Students will use laboratory facilities at the Kadoorie School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong to run an experiment with their specimens collected from the tidal flat. Students will measure the respiration rates of two species across different salinities. 

  • 10-13 year olds: Students will be provided with the experimental framework and emphasis will be placed on running the experiment and understanding general trends in the data. Students will be guided through making simple graphs that summarize their findings. 
  • 14-17 year olds: Students will be encouraged to formulate their own experimental design, apply statistics to evaluate and understand their data, and to make graphs that summarize their findings. 


Students will get hands-on experience trying other laboratory techniques using live corals as an example study organism. Techniques will include measuring the rate of photosynthesis, photosynthetic yield, and using a microscope to examine specimens and count cells. The course will conclude with students presenting the findings of their experiments and what they learned.

  • 10-13 year olds: Emphasis will be placed on hands-on experience using different types of equipment and the meaning of the different measurements students will take. Group presentations will focus on basic interpretation of collected data and what students learned in the course.
  • 14-17 year olds: Emphasis will be on how each technique can be integrated with each other and with field work to answer different types of scientific questions. Group presentations will include the scientific question, hypotheses, methods, simple statistical analyses, graphs, and conclusions.

What students should bring:

Day 1:

  • Bathing suit
  • Water shoes (no flip-flops, neoprene booties are ideal)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Rain jacket
  • 2 L water for drinking
  • Packed lunch
  • Towel
  • Change of clothes

Day 2:

  • Laptop
  • Closed-toed shoes
  • Packed lunch



Day 1: Field Work

Intertidal flat

9:00 Pick up at Admiralty MTR station
10:15 Meet at Wong Shek Pier to take the 10:35 ferry
10:35 – 11:15 Ferry transit; introduce course and demonstrate methods
11:15 – 13:00 Water quality and transect data collection 
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

Mangroves and coral reefs

14:00 – 14:30 Transit to Hoi Ha Wan
14:30 – 15:30 Mangrove exploration and water quality sampling
15:30 – 17:00 Snorkeling and swimming on a coral reef and beach
17:00 Depart Hoi Ha Wan
18:00 Drop off at Admiralty MTR station
Day 2: Lab Work


10:00 Pick up at Admiralty MTR station
10:30 – 12:30 Groups run experiments measuring respiration across different salinities
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

Other lab methods

13:30 – 15:00 Groups try other laboratory techniques (measuring photosynthesis, microscopy, cell counts)
15:00 – 16:00 Investigate/analyze data, make figures and presentations
16:00 – 16:30 Group presentations 
17:00 Drop off at Admiralty MTR station

About the Instructors: 

Dr. Inga Conti-Jerpe is a coral reef ecologist passionate about understanding and protecting marine biodiversity. Inga completed her PhD in coral ecology at the University of Hong Kong, where she investigated the relationship between coral nutrition and resistance to different stressors. Inga has extensive experience teaching hands-on science courses in the lab and field locations around the world including the US, the Caribbean, South Africa, and Hong Kong. Her favorite aspect of teaching is physically visiting and exploring ecosystems with students to better understand them.

Dr. Phil Thompson is a coral reef ecologist. His research interests are how corals in different parts of the world will be affected by climate change in different ways based on the physiological adaptations of the corals themselves to their specific environments. Phil is currently involved in a multi-year coral restoration project in Hong Kong’s Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, and will test the question, do diverse assemblages of restored coral species help to promote biodiversity in the community. In tandem with his academic career track, Phil has been teaching biology and marine science to secondary school and undergraduate students for more than a decade and believes the best way to teach science is through experiential, hands-on learning.