Tag Archives: Malaysia

Final field trip

My PhD research is a year behind schedule.  The process of getting my research permit and subsequent visa was supposed to take 4-6 months.  It eventually took 14 months and left me with a very short period to complete my field data collection.

I have now finished two data collection trips to Malaysia and am now back in Kyoto processing the data and getting ready to analyze, write, and publish.

Over the course of the two trips I conducted 59 interviews, interviewed 75 respondents, taking 34 hours and 14 minutes.  Interviews were conducted in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Kota Kinabalu, Kudat and Semporna.  I interviewed government officers, consultants, NGO representatives, and fishermen.  During the second trip, I had the help of a great research assistant, Lau Chai Ming, who assisted with translations and scheduling of appointments.

Chai Ming - My research assistant for the second trip.  Was really lucky to find such a great assistant.

Chai Ming – My research assistant for the second trip. Was really lucky to find such a great assistant.

We hung out around fishing jetties in Kudat and Semporna and met with fish traders and fishing boat owners. Trawlers are common in Kudat.  They drag a net behind them along the bottom of the sea and scoop up anything that is living along the bottom.  Its a pretty destructive form of fishing.

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We also got to visit Pulau Banggi and see the great work of the Banggi Youth Club.  The Youth Club conducts awareness activities with local communities and works closely with WWF.

Some members of Banggi Youth Club.

Some members of Banggi Youth Club.


In Semporna we observed the Mabul tuna landing.  Fishermen use small boats to spend 2 to 3 days at sea and pull up tuna with just a line and a hook. Without any other equipment they can land tunas that weigh up to 70 kg.  The ones we watched them land were in the 20 to 30 kg size.

We were even lucky enough to get invited onto a purse seine boat during a trip out in Semporna.  Unfortunately, there was a full moon the week we were in Semporna so the purse seiners were not able to fish very much.  They spent most of the week at the jetty doing repairs and mending nets.  On our last night we got invited out.  Here’s a short video of one of the exciting parts – little fish jumping in green light.


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The Coral Triangle: Saving the Amazing Undersea World of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste

Nearly one year after we started working intensively on the book it is finally published and available for sale.  My co-author, Eric Madeja, and I traveled to Indonesia, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines as we collected stories and images for the book.  We met some really wonderful people along the way and had incalculable support and assistance from friends and loved ones.

Front cover of The Coral Triangle book

Front cover of The Coral Triangle book

Writing this book was an adventure.  It turns out that I enjoy writing but it is a painful process!  Who would have guessed that it would be that hard.

You can download and read some excerpts from the book below and find more about the book and the Coral Triangle at http://www.coraltriangle.org

The Coral Triangle Contents The Coral Triangle Preface The Coral Triangle Foreword The Coral Triangle Credits The Coral Triangle Sample

Action Asia articles

As part of the project to write a book about the Coral Triangle, Eric Madeja and I are publishing a series of articles in Action Asia magazine.  The first two have appeared:

November 2013: Pearls in Shells about sea turtles in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia (038-39 Env)

January 2014: Growing pains: Entering its second decade, the young nation of Timor-Leste is trying to forge an identity that melds sustainability with the need to develop its economy (032-33 Environment Jan14)

March 2014: Fresh fish, same old problems: Like so many places in the Coral Triangle, Palawan is struggling to find ways to make the valuable live reef food fish trade more sustainable (036-38 Environment Mar14)

May 2014: In palm oil’s uncertain grip: The growth of the industry in Papua New Guinea helped lead to the discovery of Kimbe Bay’s rich reefs, but it is also one of the threats to those same reefs (034-36 Environment May14)

July 2014: Divided islands, shared fate? Uncertainty about climate and about communities’ ability to manage their impacts clouds the future of the beautiful Solomon Islands (coming soon)

As it turns out, I like cycling too!

It seems that I like cycle touring.  I’ve done 3 so far.  In 1999, I cycled the C & O Canal from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington DC.  In 2012, Nate Badenoch and I cycled from Kyoto, Japan to Seoul, South Korea.  In 2013, I cycled with two friends from Kota Baharu to Kuantan, Malaysia.  There are more trips planned! Stay tuned.

More to come soon……..IMG_8017

I like bird watching

I like bird watching.  Somehow, its become part of my family.  My mother, my aunt and uncle, and some of my cousins can often be found in the woods, wetland or coast with binoculars.  But, I’m not very good at it.  But being in nature and enjoying the search and seeing something interesting or beautiful is a little thrill.


Most of my birding over the past 10 years has been throughout Sabah, Malaysian Borneo with Mount Kinabalu as my favorite destination.  at 4095 meters, Mt. Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea and home to many of Borneo’s highland endemic birds.

My biggest success is having spotted Kinabalu’s Whitehead 3 – Whitehead’s Broadbill, Whitehead’s Trogon, and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter – and I’m happy to have accomplished it with my best birding partner, Angela Lim.  It took us several years and a few rather harrowing encounters with the Liwagu Trail, but we did it.

Whitehead’s Broadbill (Calyptomena whiteheadi)
Whitehead’s Trogon (Harpactes whiteheadi)
Whitehead’s Spiderhunter (Arachnothera jullae)

Some of my other favorite birding spots include the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan, Fraser’s Hill in Peninsular Malaysia, and the Kinabatangan River.

Fraser's Hill clock tower