Learning 9 Nov 2022

DP science ecosystem investigation

By CIS Communications
Photograph by DP science teachers

As part of their IBDP coursework, grade 11 and 12 students studying biology, geography and environmental systems & societies (ESS) must fulfil certain hours of fieldwork in order to successfully complete the Internal Assessment (IA) portion of their studies. In September, sixty-nine grade 12 students travelled to Rompin and Rawa Island in Malaysia for five days to conduct their fieldwork.

Guided by teachers and OrcaNation, students conducted hands-on outdoor research in a variety of biologically diverse environments. At Rompin State Park, Biology and ESS students collected data in primary and secondary rainforests, freshwater rivers and mangroves. Geography students undertook tree-planting and kayaked along the Rompin river to explore the idea of adventure and ecotourism as a sustainable alternative to mass tourism.

Investigations centred around how different factors influence specific aspects of an ecosystem or the correlation between different variables, which allowed for varied research topics.

Higher level biology student Amanda E. investigated the relationship between the distance from the low-water mark and the fauna richness of the Rompin mangrove. One student compared the biodiversity between a primary and secondary rainforest while another researched the relationship between the velocity of a stream and the abundance of vertebrates found there. Scientific tools and techniques like transect lines, quadrats, clinometers, sampling nets, soil infiltration techniques, water testing kits and more were used in the data collection process.

The majority of geography work was conducted at the beaches and reefs around Rawa Island during the second half of the trip. Geography students collected real-time data that monitored coral reef health and investigated the abundance of different marine life in relation to human activity. They also used GoPro’s to get footage that would be used for analysis during snorkelling sessions. Students who collected data earlier in the week at Rompin attended a statistics workshop led by OrcaNation. This session helped them to identify the most appropriate statistical analysis method for their IA research question, to carry out their chosen test (including the Mann Whitney U test, Spearman's rank correlation, Pearson’s correlation, chi-squared test and student’s t-tests) using Excel, and to interpret the results accordingly.

However, it wasn’t all work and no play! After years of pandemic-related restrictions, grade 12s were just incredibly happy to experience a class trip again. Seniors enjoyed their leisure time snorkelling and kayaking while exploring the rich marine life around Rawa Island. Coral variations, anemone and schools of fish were abundant. Some students were fortunate enough to spot blacktip reef sharks, blue-spotted rays and even the odd turtle.

According to Amanda E, particularly fond memories include staying in the stunning accommodation lodges located at the very heart of the Rompin rainforest, exploring marine life underwater, and ending the day with a view of the sunset from the beaches at Rawa Island. “The entire IA trip was so enjoyable. Being able to collect my data on-site was such a privilege and a definite highlight of my senior year.”