The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium has been selected as part of the US Department of State’s Museums Connect program, which linked it with a museum in California to promote education on coral reefs, organizers said yesterday.
As part of the project, 10 junior-high school students from Pingtung County visited San Diego from Jan. 22 to Feb. 5, accompanied by teachers and staff from the museum in Pingtung County, to learn more about marine ecology.
The students also had the opportunity to interact with students from High Tech Middle Media Arts School in San Diego, which is also participating in the project.
Victoria Zhuang, a student at Pingtung’s Hengchun Junior High School, said the US trip helped her learn more about California’s ecology and improve her English-language skills through interaction with the US students.
Zhuang, 14, said her group shared their knowledge about coral reefs in Taiwan.
She said that on weekends, she often goes snorkeling in the waters off Pingtung, where there are several types of coral reefs.
In addition to observing the development of artificial coral reef ecology at a San Diego aquarium, the Taiwanese gained hands-on experience in setting up aquarium tanks for marine creatures, such as sea horses and jellyfish.
This is the first time the Museums Connect program has sponsored an aquarium project, said Ryan Roberts, director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s American Cultural Center.
The issue of protecting coral reefs around the world “is something that requires everyone’s efforts to learn more, to understand” what needs to be done, Roberts said at a news conference in Taipei to introduce the achievements of “Coral Reef Ambassadors.”
The project between the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium and San Diego’s Birch Aquarium aims to promote international cooperation on education on coral reef conservation, the organizers said.
The Pingtung museum is dedicated to coral reef conservation, coral husbandry and related research, while the Birch Aquarium provides ocean science education and promotes ocean conservation.
As part of the project, three students from High Tech Middle Media Arts School, along with a teacher and a Birch Museum staff member, arrived in Taiwan on Monday last week for a nine-day visit.
The US students went on snorkeling and scuba diving trips to get a close look at Taiwan’s coral reef ecology, which they said was the most impressive part of their experience in Taiwan.
“I learned a lot about coral reefs, so I’d like to see them again,” Sierra Baruh, 13, said.
There are no naturally occurring coral reefs in San Diego, she added.
Katia Ceballos, 12, said snorkeling was also her most impressive experience of the trip. Videos shot by her group may be posted on a Web site about coral reefs that her class plans to set up, she said.
The US students will head for home today.