Marine Biology Experience

Two days in the fins of marine biologists

Program Description

Over a two day period, students will experience different aspects of a marine research career. Students will visit two coral reef habitats in Hong Kong and investigate how water quality affects marine biodiversity using an array of field sampling techniques. Instructors will guide students through the scientific process including making observations in nature, generating scientific questions and hypotheses from observations, collecting specimens in the field, testing hypotheses through data collection, and summarizing and sharing their findings.

Students can expect to

  • Develop a scientific question and hypothesis
  • Collect water samples and analyze eight aspects of water quality
  • Observe two coral reef sites via snorkeling
  • Collect and process marine biodiversity samplers (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures; ARMS)
  • Get hands-on experience with a diversity of marine life (fish, crabs, shrimp, sponges, sea slugs, and more!)
  • Collect and graph biodiversity data
  • Present their results to other students and scientists

Project Overview

Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, yet marine biologists are still working to understand how so many organisms can coexist in the same space. In this program, students will investigate whether water quality at two different reef sites in Hong Kong is correlated with the biodiversity at those sites.

To measure biodiversity, we will use cutting edge Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) deployed at each site. ARMS act as mini marine hotels, attracting the animals that live in these environments. Students will collect the ARMS from each site, disassemble them, and sort and identify the diversity of organisms the ARMS have attracted.

Day #1
Fieldwork: Reef Observations, Site Surveys, and Collecting Water Quality Data

Students will board a research vessel and visit two coral reef communities in Hong Kong: Bluff Island and Sharp Island. At each site, students will collect water samples from different depths and measure eight water quality parameters: temperature, salinity, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, ammonia, and phosphate. Students will snorkel at each site to observe the reef communities, survey shallow water ecosystems using line intercept transects (LITs) and help instructors retrieve the ARMS samplers.

Day #2
Biodiversity Sampler Processing, Species Identification, and Data Presentation

Students will work in a laboratory at the University of Hong Kong to disassemble and process the ARMS samplers. Students will sort and learn to identify the large diversity of organisms that have colonized the ARMS. The identity and abundance of each species found at each site will be recorded. Each student will be assigned one group of organisms and under instructor guidance, create their own graph examining patterns between water quality and biodiversity within that group to test their hypotheses. Graphing will be tailored to each student’s individual level, with advanced students working with the software R. Each student will present their graph and their interpretation of the data to the group in short (3-5 min) presentations at the end of the day.

Logistical Details & Fees

Ages: 12 – 15
September 11 & 12 (Sat – Sun)
9 am – 3 pm (longer field day)

Location: Hong Kong Island, Bluff Island & Sharp Island
Fee: $5,800 HKD

*The camp requires a minimum of 8 students to sign up in order to run, otherwise, your money will be refunded
**Maximum 16 students per class.

Day 1: Onboard the research vessel

  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Rain jacket
  • 2 L water for drinking
  • Packed lunch
  • Towel
  • Change of clothes

Day 2: Indoors, at HKU

  • Laptop/tablet
  • Closed-toed shoes (required for lab access!)
  • Long pants (required for lab access!)
  • Packed lunch

Detailed Schedule