Third field campaign

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3. Field campaign: Hainan, China, 12.09.2017 – 08.12.2017


Ester Thomsen, Mao Kailin, Chen Shiquan (from Hainan Academy of Ocean and Fishery Science) and Lena Wawrschin preparing to go to Yelin to check the seagrass.
Lena and Lin Fang at the seaside of Yelin (Wenchang). Lena is preparing her diving equipment to analyze seagrass.
Ester and Lin Fang aside a fish pond detecting pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen of the water …
… still detecting pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.
At 4th of October, the Chinese traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone gathered in the restaurant and had delicious Chinese food, like a big family.
Mao Kailin with a local fish farmer. Mao was asking some questions like what kind of animals are in the ponds, what do they feed to them, how long do they keep the water in the pond, what was the last time of water change, or do they use any medicine and if so, what kind of medicine.
Ester, Mao Kailin, the driver, and the farmer waiting for some analyses.
There are a lot of fish ponds such this in Yelin and Changqi. They usually raise groupers or shrimps.

— Mao Kailin, MSc student at Hainan University



A few days after reaching Hainan, I arrived in Wenchang in September. There, I spent the next few weeks collecting samples of swimming crabs and clams from a variety of environments. I collected samples in places like mangrove swamps, beside aquaculture pens, and off busy fishing harbors. My crab traps only got stolen once!
Here are some impressions from my field work:

I returned to Haikou to do research at the University of Hainan in October. Here, I did exposure experiments on mussels. I also worked up biomarkers on the samples I brought back from Wenchang. The University of Hainan and Haikou have a wonderful combination of amenities and scenery. The campus has two lakes, open-air markets, and an open-air workout area.

— Robert Boumis, MSc student at ZMT (Subproject 7)


September-October 2017

As all good things come to an end the last ECOLOC field campaign has started for us. On the 11th of September four students from ZMT meet at the airport to start the long travel to Hainan Island for the last round of sampling. Around midnight we arrived at the hotel near the Hainan University and had a few hours of sleep and a chance to acclimatize to the hot and humid weather. Our first day in Haikou we spent organizing essential things. We needed Chinese SIM Cards and mobile data. This makes us more independent by allowing us to use translator apps, maps and most important: WeChat. WeChat is the Chinese WhatsApp. It includes a function to translate the messages from English to Chinese and vice versa. Unlike last time, WhatsApp was blocked by the Chinese government just like Facebook, and other Google services. No WhatsApp is probably the hardest restriction for the German participants. It closes the window to the world and restricts communication and contact with friends and family at home.

Due to the great organization beforehand of our German and Chinese coordinators, our equipment already passed through customs, waiting for us at the Hainan University. Thanks to our Chinese office-angel Nan Xiang who helped us with the SIM-cards, took care of hotel reservations, purchased material on the internet and so many things more, we could already bring all the equipment to Qinglan on Thursday, the 14th of September. As a typhoon hit the south of the island on that day, electricity was switched off at the university at 12 am, we were very grateful for the numerous helping hands. Due to the support we got most of the material down from the 4th floor to the ground floor before elevators were shut down. Half of the students could go to Qinglan with the truck, while the other two took the bus. For safety reasons the train service was shut down on that day.

During the next day we build up our temporary laboratory in a hotel room. Since we have been in the same hotel before, the staff already knows us and our unusual needs. The beds were removed from the hotel room and tables and chairs were quickly organized.

For “Team Seagrass” Saturday, the 16th of September, was the first sampling day. In the first week we were very successful sampling three transects at different sites along the coast. Since the transects were all sampled by walking and swimming, we are very restricted to good weather and good tides. This time we were lucky and had both during the first week. Furthermore, we could set up the fertilization experiment. We will fertilize a seagrass meadow over 6 weeks and measure the effect at different levels of the ecosystem. Weekly, the fertilizer needs to be refilled.

Meanwhile more German scientists arrived. First, we could welcome Inga Nordhaus, who arrived in Qinglan on Sunday, the 17th of September. Furthermore Larissa, Tanja and Lukas (Team “Organic Pollutants”) from RWTH Aachen arrived a few days later. Apart from their own sampling, Tanja and Lukas spontaneously helped out Bobby and Valérie (Team “Benthos”) with sampling and processing their material.

After all foreign scientists had time to acclimate in Qinglan, a meeting with Wang Darou, the head of the cooperation from Chinese side, and his working group was set. Plans for this sampling campaign were shared, suggestions and recommendations were made and discussed, support for the sampling was guaranteed and arranged.

I was surprised. It seemed as if this time everything will simply work out how it was planned. Experience has taught me, that this is never the case. It turned out that it didn’t, as usual. First problem, we had to shift our control site in Yelin, because it was too close to traps a local fisherman would set for fishing. Unfortunately, we could not explain that we are not interested in fish at all, on one hand due to our minor knowledge of the Chinese language. On the other hand, the locals mostly speak Hainanese, which is even more complex and quite different from Mandarin Chinese.

On Wednesday, the 4th of October, we got support from Chen Shiquan, Mao Kailin, Fang Lin and other students and scientists from either the Hainan University or the HAOFS (Hainan Academy of Ocean and Fishery Sciences). Also, it was our weekly sampling day in Yelin, a good chance to present and explain our experimental setup to our colleagues. Unfortunately, the weather was not playing along well. Fortunately, we had a great help from our Chinese partners, who were supporting us with additional hands that day and made sampling much more convenient. That day, also problem number two encountered. It turned out that after two weeks of fertilizing, local fishermen have decided to build a big dip net right next to our fertilized site. The material was pulled directly through our experimental area. The trace looked like a giant underwater lawnmower was being driven all across the site. The shading we installed was torn away and removed completely with all our equipment, the seagrass was ripped apart all over the setup. I had to hope that during the next weeks the seagrass will recover, before I start my seagrass experiments.

Since the foreign scientists are not allowed to go on a boat for sampling, the Chinese side was so kind to help out. On Thursday, the 5th of October, the scientists and students sampled incredible 5 stations in the Bamen Bay for us in record-breaking time, in pouring rain. Thanks for this! You did a great job!

Currently, we experience a week of monsoon like rains and strong winds. Hopefully this would be over soon. On the following day we tried to sample stations further offshore in Changqi. The waves, rain and the wind made sampling in the sea too dangerous, so this plan was cancelled and postponed. Furthermore, the sight underwater got very poor. When the weather gets better, we would try to sample these points by the end of the week.

Luckily, the rain stopped around the afternoon, this gave us the great possibility to draw a nice benefit from the local knowledge of our partners. They lead us through the mangrove forest into a tidal flat, where we got new impressions about the local distribution of seagrass. Also and again, we got a big support that facilitated taking samples, even when the sun was already setting.

— Esther Thomsen, PhD candidate, and Lena Wawrschin, MSc student at ZMT (both Subproject 6)


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