The Thailand Project: Marine and Coastal Ecology of the Indo-Pacific

Meeting Location              Bangkok, Thailand
 Program Dates        Winter 2018: January 22 - March 6, 2018
   Winter 2019: 
January 22 - March 6, 2019
 Accommodations    Primarily camping, occasional youth hostel or rural lodge
 Language    English instruction
 Courses    ESCI 437A, ESCI 437B, ESCI 437C
 Credits    15 quarter credits or 10 semester credits
 Prerequisites    One college level course of ecology or similar                     
   18 years of age


            Thailand Program Costs, Winter 2018
 $  150      Application Fee
            $4150      Program Fee
            $2750      Estimated In-Country Group Fee
            $1300      Estimated Airfare/Visa
            $  800      Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending 
            $9150      Total Estimated Cost

            Winter 2018: Program fees due by November 1, 2017              

            Thailand Program Costs, Winter 2019
 $  150       Application Fee
            $5500       Program Fee
            $2900       Estimated In-Country Group Fee
            $1300       Estimated Airfare/Visa
            $  800       Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending 
            $10,650   Total Estimated Cost

            Winter 2019: Program fees due by November 1, 2018               


Join us as we investigate firsthand the distinctive coastal ecology and key habitats of mainland and offshore islands of southern Thailand and Indonesia. This region’s aquatic habitat supports some of the highest diversity of tropical marine life anywhere on earth, with hundreds of species of fish, coral and other invertebrates intermingled in a complex habitat. We will study coastal mangrove forests, sea-grass estuaries, low wave-energy beach communities, and fringing coral reefs on outer islands where the waters are crystal clear. We will also explore the impact of local fishing practices: operations that range from small-scale cast nets to large commercial trawlers. In addition, there are shrimp farmers, charcoal collectors, agriculturalists, and tourism developers, making human ecology a second major theme of our program. In some locations, appropriate, small-scale harvesting of marine resources offers a sustainable local lifestyle; in other locations, human activity is disrupting the environment. And even seemingly tranquil coastal communities are vulnerable to external environmental threats. Our field studies will allow us to observe, research, and experience these complex challenges firsthand.


thailand-islandTeam members will participate in an ecological survey of key Indo-Pacific coastal habitats in southern Thailand and Indonesia. Island field sites include the tropical island archipelagoes of Ko Surin and Ko Adang in Thailand and one or two field sites in Indonesia, which we will be visiting for the first time in 2018. In each of these locations, extensive, well-developed fringing reefs surround numerous islands, providing an excellent natural classroom and research environment for understanding coral reef ecology. On several islands, effective conservation efforts have resulted in fish that are generally larger and more abundant; whereas, on other islands, long-term human impacts have changed the composition of the reef community to one that supports smaller fish and larger, more abundant invertebrates. Our Indonesia sites are deep within the ‘coral triangle’, which holds significantly more species of fish and invertebrates (including corals) than any other place in the world.

Throughout our field studies we will research and survey selected coral reef fish species. We will conduct transects to compare particular aspects of different reef ecosystems, and, while snorkeling, use GPS and underwater digital photography to document changes over time at designated sampling sites.

Mainland coastal sites are another important component of the program. These include Trang Estuary and Khao Sok National Park, a freshwater habitat near the Andaman Coast of southern Thailand. With its extensive sea grass beds, the area around Trang Estuary supports Thailand’s only population of dugongs, a gentle, grazing marine mammal sometimes called a sea cow. Here we will research ecosystem management by evaluating strategies to mitigate existing threats to the coastal ecology.

This project presents a singular opportunity to assess issues that affect coastal and marine environments in Thailand and Indonesia, to investigate the habitat firsthand, and to develop possible strategies to solve problems posed by resource extraction, coastal development, and climate change. By the end of the project each of us will have gained an in-depth understanding of many coastal and marine animal species and about indigenous seafaring culture groups.


Ph.D. in Biological Ecology, UC Davis, 1991
Chris is a conservation scientist who has conducted field studies and led natural history expeditions in Asia for over twenty years. His main academic focus is the ecology and geodynamics of mountain environments. He is also interested in the marine world, environmental control of species richness, and strategies for habitat conservation. He lives in Chiangmai, Thailand, and teaches part of the year at Payap University. Chris has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 1990 and has taught in China, India, and Southeast Asia. He currently leads our Indian Himalaya, Thailand and Nepal Projects.

M.S in Environmental Management, Mahidol University, 1996
Thanit is a cultural ecologist whose research interests include conservation and sustainability. She consults for Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and has worked throughout Southeast Asia with research organizations to develop effective survey methods and indigenous communities to design culturally appropriate teaching materials. Thanit has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 1998 and has taught in Thailand, China, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Thanit currently teaching our Thailand Project.