Study Abroad Program helps restore endangered species in Thailand
UCLA Environmental Science students aid Thailand's tsunami-affected villages.
Last summer, 28 students, enrolled in the Institute of the Environment’s Thailand Travel Study program, participated in restoring the water onion (Crinum thaianum) as part of their fieldwork and community service in the 2004 tsunami-affected villages. The plant (pictured here) grows ribbon-like leaves up to 60 inches in length and has star-like white flowers that “…look like fireworks displays of the 4th of July,” according several students.
Photos by Michael Silverman
The students were part of a work group, which included the Youth Conservation Club of Kuraburi City, Phang Nga Province, that assessed the water quality of streams with the water onion vis-à-vis those without, and also transplanted specimens from on stream with an abundance to a more protected area “… as part of the local IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) pilot preservation and restoration plan,” according to Thailand’s IUCN project manager, Somsak Soonthornnawaphat.
This particular species has been found to exist only in these watersheds, and nowhere else in the region or the world according to IUCN studies. Two reasons for the water onion’s rapid decline are policies that promote river dredging, and secondly, the aquarium trade, which exploits the natural growing plant for the home fishpond and aquarium market. “We estimate that only 3 – 5% of its natural habitat remains,” Somsak explained.
This year, the five week program will continue academic fieldwork and community service in the beach and coastal communities on Thailand’s North Andaman Seacoast. The Summer program, which allows open enrollment, is directed by Michael Silverman, Ph.D., Lecturer at the Institute. For further information contact Michael at email@example.com
Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2010