The Keystone Species

In AP biology class, we’ve just finished up our Unit 1: Ecology!!!! We’ve talked about important subunits including Biomes, Population Ecology, Population Growth, Community Ecology, Energy & Matter, and Conservation Ecology. 

In our last subunit, we had an assignment and that is to write a report about the conservation issue for a particular species/community/population in Cambodia. In that report, we have to describe its ecological significance, value to human communities, threats and the effects on biodiversity, current conservation actions, predictions, and our future recommendations. 

I chose to talk about Indochinese tigers; why? Well, Cambodia was known as a country with the second largest Indochinese tigers’ population in 1999. And guess what? Due to anthropogenic threats such as poaching of tigers and it preys, habitat fragmentation, and habitat degradation caused by massive deforestation, it is now pronounced functionally extinct. The last seen tiger was in Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri on November 2007. Inspired by the success of India, the government is working on tiger reintroduction to Cambodia specifically to the Eastern Plains Landscape. 

We as the human might think that tigers are dangerous and that they eat us, but we are solely responsible for the loss of this precious species. Why should tiger be reintroduced to Cambodia? How is it this important?

Read my full report here: 

Conservation In Cambodia

Writing, Writing

One the projects I joined for Round 1 of this school year is called Theatre Play. This is a year-long exploration in which we write our own play and perform it. So, in this first round, we’ve been working to shape our ideas for what we want our play to be about and write the script for the plays. Then, we’ll start recruiting actors and practice the performances in the following rounds. 

After various discussions, we’ve decided that our plays should be centered around the idea of relationships including the romantic relationship, peers, family, and social relationships. We then divided into four groups to take on different topics. My team is in charge of writing about peers relationship, but it hasn’t finished yet. 

The play will be in Khmer and perform it to Khmer audiences. Each of our plays has the message(s) that we want to convey. So stay tuned to our performances. 


After the incredible physics course last year, we’re now taking an introductory chemistry class with our new facilitator. 

We’re going through lessons such as scientific methods, isotopes, moles, ions, electron configuration, and emissions. 

Our latest lesson was on emission; we learned how atoms emitted energy to visible colors when it becomes excited.  So, let’s break it down. Throughout history, scientists had been debating whether lights act as waves or particles. But, in this unit, we’re learning when lights act as waves. Ok, what does that have to do with emissions? So, when some amount of energy hits an atom, some of its electrons become excited and jump to a higher energy orbital or excited state. Then, those excited electrons will release the energy as photons which are the visible colors and jumped back to its ground state. Those visible colors are release with different wavelengths that produce different colors. 

We also did a flame test lab on this lesson. It’s fun because..we get to wear those lab coats and it looks cool. Actually, there’s more than that. First of all, we lit up the Bunsen burner with lighters, then we put the different compounds of chloride and see observe the changes in the flame colors. Those compounds are barium, calcium, copper II, lithium, potassium, strontium, and an unknown #1. Then, we have to record all the data of different compounds and write a lab report for it.

My personal favorite is copper II:

This is the color produced when copper II reacted with flame


Are we ready…?

“How many hours you got for these projects?  What is your next class? Have you done any homework? What is the homework since I missed class today?” 

Voices of the senior are rising along the hallway trying to figure out what are they doing in their last 2 years of high school. 

Our schedule has just gone through tremendous changes; word to describes it would be ‘A LOT’. The education team is trying to shape our curriculum as similar to universities as possible to get us prepared. 

For our project-based learning, last year, we were picked to be on one certain project at a time. When we don’t like it, we can blame the facilitators. However, now, we have the right to choose what do we want to do that fits best with our passions and we get to experience a variety of things. So, if we don’t like it, it’s our fault. 

For me, it’s about science. I joined an advanced placement biology class or AP Biology which is like ‘the best’; I’m glad I joined. Then to maintain my literature skill, I’m a member of a school newspaper team called the Liger Edge and also participated in a Theater play that will be writing plays for performances. 

Building more on an established relationship with the International Labour Organization, I’m also a member of a team to help ILO implement soft skills training in Cambodia. On the other hand, I also joined a team that will be creating a podcast channel and talking about Cambodia to the rest of the world. 

It’s a lot, isn’t it? That’s not just me, that’s everyone else too. We have seminar hours with our facilitators and extra hours that we have to work independently on each of those projects. We were expected to spend 22 hours cumulatively for all of our projects a week. So, we have to use them wisely..!

It’s hard, but as we go along and think about it; we’re privileged to experience this during our time in high school!



New school year 2018-19 kicked off with the SAT Bootcamp!!! yay… For the first two weeks after the summer break, two wonderful women, Amanda & Kim, volunteered to teach us how to take the SAT. 

“How to take the SAT”; as simple as that. 

But, things turned out pretty fun. Wait, but before the fun, we had to take the PSAT digitally on the first day of school; then we can start the boot camp. 

Clock ticking and two hours already passed; I didn’t realize the first class on the reading section with Amanda came to an end. So many words, so many strategies, so many readings… We went through the three main types of passages in the SAT: literary narrative, social science & natural science, and historical persuasive. Then we started to analyze 10 different types of questions and learned different strategies for each type of question!!!! 

I personally found historical persuasive passage is the hardest to understand because I’m not native American and it is antiquated English that no one uses nowadays.  

On the second week, our main focus shifted to writing and language section. Similar process: analyze questions types, learn the strategies, and practice it. 

“Keep the hardest passage for last and if you’re running of time, make an educated guess.” – Amanda. 

Shifted to the math section, Kim was here to teach us every shortcut we could take for math problems. We played games (math-related) and practiced lots of problems. We set goals for ourselves for how many questions we planned to get wrong (psychologically, it makes us feel less stress). 

“In real life, you have to do the proper steps, but for the SAT, it’s shortcut.” – Kim

The teachers spoke really fast and we got tons of homework every day which fried us for these first two weeks; however, this depicts what our lives are going to look like in universities. It’s hard for high schoolers, but we have to be prepared for everything because the graduation is in two years’ time. 

Despite all the work, we were able to create a strong bond with them. We’re so grateful for having you guys here. 

Image may contain: 40 people, including Amanda McCarther, people smiling, people sitting and outdoor




How I Changed Cambodia 2017-2018

I’m just a kid grew up in a small town, who decided to persevere her unknown passion which later is discovered. From the first time I’ve been introduced to science and its branches,  I’ve already found my area of focus. It illuminates me into the world of satisfaction; I get it, I learn it, I feel safe, and I want more. A strong bond has made between us since that time on—we’re like uranium 235 and uranium 238—almost inseparable isotopes. Everything I did in science is going to last. Undoubtedly, science is creating immense impacts on generations; scientific discoveries and inventions will continuously formulate extraordinary progress; as said by Edward Teller, “The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.”

Nevertheless, STEM education and hands-on learning often weren’t exposed to Cambodian students. Just like many others developing nations, Cambodia is one of those who is still struggling to enhance quality education or even access to education. Approximately 31% of Cambodians live under the poverty line which leads to the unaffordability for children to go to school and yes; illiteracy rate is high.

However, even though some get the chance to attend regular schools; subjects weren’t fully incorporated into the curriculum. Public schools’ atmosphere in Cambodia every day is just students listening to teachers explaining. It just wasn’t a healthy environment. One of the reasons was because our model of the education system was adapted from French model of education system during the French colonial period. Another major reason also derived from the loss of educated people due to the tragic genocide during the Khmer Rouge regime. Our education system steadily develops since.

Privileged by attending a unique school—Liger Leadership Academy—I now know what education should really look like. Students at this school are committed to being the future “change agents” of Cambodia and by perceiving quality and high education, this is the future hope of Cambodia. They taught students to look at the world in a bigger picture and use it as a classroom. During my school year, I became really interested and wanted to pursue further in the science field. Science, in general, is very broad in terms of how many branches it covered; however, the one that really matters the most to me is biology.

Given the opportunity to join an exploration, a seven-week course, on HIV/AIDS; my blood is pumping every day. In this exploration, students dove deep into the science behind HIV/AIDS. We discussed how this virus was often mistaken and was badly connotated in Cambodia. We put ourselves into people living with HIV position: how extremely hard it can be to find treatments, preventions, and how bad of the stigmas & discrimination that they receive from the surroundings. Furthermore, we’ve discovered that topic like HIV/AIDS is forbidden in Cambodia; they don’t even talk about it. Therefore, we felt the importance to normalize the conversation, making it as our daily conversation. As a result, our final product was to conduct a workshop raising awareness on HIV/AIDS!

Through this marvelous experience, I’ve become confident in disseminating information relevant to HIV/AIDS. Before the workshop begins, I took a deep breath because I’m about to do something remarkable, I’m about to share something my heart feels authentically proud of. We divided the workshop into four sessions: Basic science of HIV/AIDS, Transmission & Prevention, Treatment, and Stigma & Discrimination. We are educating people to understand that HIV is just the same as other viruses, that AIDS is not a consequence of bad activities, that people living with HIV are just like people living without HIV, and that the only difference between them is people living with HIV need to take their treatments. This is a big step towards real change with 13-, 14-, 15-, 16- year-olds to be able to talk about such sensitive topic. One of my favorite moments was when I asked participants to share their personal experiences regarding HIV/AIDS and to me, it felt like I’ve made a special connection and created a safe space for them to share. We’ve reached a step towards combating HIV/AIDS discrimination through normalizing conversations, dispelling common myths, and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS transmission, prevention, and treatment.

As my knowledge keeps expanding across the biology spectrum, I am currently pursuing marine biology which I found really fascinating. I felt the confidence to join a team—Liger Marine Research Team—which is a group of eight young passionate marine researchers that devote themselves to protect the Cambodian ocean. Our project is to recolonize the overfished and damaged Marine Ecosystems of Cambodia. As this team keeps progressing throughout the years, big accomplishments have been made! We created a baseline survey on a damaged ecosystem, which used to be a seagrass meadow and try to restore the beauty of it. A few months later, we deployed our first artificial habitats 300 meters away from Koh Seh, an island runs by a Non-profit organization called Marine Conservation Cambodia, MCC. Koh Seh located far down the Kep archipelago next to Vietnam border and is a conserved area meaning only certain activities are permitted to happen. Those artificial habitats encompass a 21 concrete block artificial reef and a “cluster” which is a fish aggregation device acts as the alternative of plastic buoys to mark the location of the artificial reef as well as providing shelter for fish.

All these activities allowed to happen because of a proposal that is made by MCC to the Cambodian government; proposing the Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA). MFMA is an 11 354 hectares protected area and is the second one in Cambodia after Sihanoukville province. In this process, they will be working on protecting sensitive habitats from illegal unreported and unregulated fishing and restoring the “dying jewels of Cambodia.”   

We know that it’s really working. A month after the deployment, it attracted more than 50 catfish, various Jacks, and we know exactly that with the more hard amount of efforts, there’s going to be more chances of rehabilitating lives.

In addition to that, whenever I’m underwater, I can’t take my eyes off whether to see the improvement or the destruction that is happening. It’s like magic, everything else disappears, except the magnificent view of this underwater paradise. Those priceless moments will always inherit into my memory. We made history here, the youngest certified scuba divers and marine researchers in Cambodia.

However, what we are doing are not going to be enough. Therefore, we’re doing this to inspire many more individuals how ignorance some human beings are to overlook the importance of understanding the world’s problems and to truly open their eyes and feel the irritation when they saw all those destructions. Approximately 40 percent of Cambodian lack knowledge of HIV/AIDS. Sex education, which is helpful to reduce risks, is prohibited in school curriculum.  MCC said, although plastic is not designed or produced in Asia, 82% of leakage into the ocean occurs in Asia. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish population. Rate as having the highest IUU fishing, up to 34 percent of the overall catch, in the Western Pacific; as said by World Ocean Review. How long are we going to stay blind? As young kid, I’m investing my time and my energy to what I love doing and I know others should too.

Model United Nations Khmer version

On May 23rd, Liger host the first ever Model United Nations modified in Khmer version. In my committee, feeding the world’s growing billion and air quality control topics are being debated on. Followed the MUN rules, we have changed them to our Khmer language. It was a successful experience; it allows our students to improve their public speaking in Khmer and to actually learn technical terms that were being discussed. I was a delegate representing Germany, a great country for these topics, I now have gained confidence in public speaking. Undoubtedly, we have to have this kind of experience again in the near future. 

Here are some pictures:

Plenary Session

Going Back | May 24th-29th

Going back home! We were welcomed warmly by MCC for our return. This trip is probably the last for the rest of the year. We’ve learned a lot!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do any underwater survey due to the overwhelming destructive fishing. With bad visibility, we can’t do any survey. However, we took this opportunity to get our heads on dolphins survey, cluster, and work on some presentations. 

According to what we’ve seen this trip, to everybody who thinks that we shouldn’t care about the ocean, put your head down there and see the destruction that human made. Because compare to deforestation, the destruction is much more visible while we can’t really see the destruction underwater. This trip has forced us to step out of our comfort zone, we had to dive with bad visibility, reflect, and think that’s why we’re here. 

Seagrass washed up on the beach, plastics pollution, trawling, dead fish, bleached coral, and bad visibility. We’ve seen them all and we’re going to show this threat when we go to a Marine Conservation Congress in Kuching, Malaysia. We are privileged to join this conference as the youngest Marine biologists and get to present our project. We spent most of our time working on how we can proudly represent LMRT, MCC, and Liger. We’ll make a video, a scientific poster, and a presentation. With the best effort, we hope to raise awareness about Kep archipelago, Cambodia. We won’t stop here and we’ll live up to the hope. 

Just because we can’t do the survey this trip, this doesn’t stop us from being productive. There is a lot more work we can do out there.

Doing cluster
Practicing dolphins survey
Doing an official dolphins survey–The observer and the note-taker
Irrawady dolphins spotted!
Making art items from trash
Working on a conference presentation
With our dive instructor

Physics Behind Dr. Strange’s superpowers

Doctor Strange

Dr. Stephen Strange known as Dr. Strange is a fictional character appeared in the Marvel Comics and debuted in 2016 as one of the superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His first movie, “Doctor Strange” initially released on November 4, 2016, was a successful science fiction movie starring very passionate actors and very quality content. In the movie, Dr. Strange suffered from a severe traffic accident caused him to broke both of his hands. Then, he decided to go on the journey of finding a cure to his broken hands; his last choice was to get a mystic healer from the “Ancient One”. In the process of healing; he’s also learning mystical arts from the ancient one, gaining his superpowers in various ways in order to protect this universe. All of his superpowers seem like magic; however, it isn’t really magic; therefore, let’s go debunk Dr. Strange’s superpowers by science!

Astral Projection

One of Dr. Strange best superpowers is Astral Projection. Astral projection is allowing your body to travel in a spirit form. To do that, one must be separated completely from the physical form. However, this is not really a scientific event that can be proved, but rather a psychological theory. Nevertheless, this superpower is fantastic in a sense that it can allow you do different things in your body form and your spirit form. This might happen a lot to those who usually do meditation.

The Eye of Agamotto

An incredible item that wore by Dr. Strange is the eye of agamotto. It allows for time manipulation, dimensional travel, and see through illusions and lies. As seen in one of Dr. Strange’s scenes; he has the ability to travel through a hole and appear in another place and that is called “Dimensional Travel”. The eye of agamotto makes that happen! According to a physicist Lisa Randall, “the only possible interaction between dimensions is through particles.” In the movie, Dr. Strange manipulates the particles inside the eye of agamotto that can hop into other dimensions, then those particles can create a black hole for him to travel through! Since we know that particle is the only way to interact between dimension, it is possible for dimensional travel if we can manipulate those particles.

As said that the eye of agamotto can also enable the user to see through the illusion. For example, one of the scenes showed the illusion of a city in various dimensions:

People might question what are these weird dimensions of the city. To explain, Ancient one once said, “We harness energy and shape reality.” This illusion is not magic and so does every magician, they did not create something that is “magic” instead they “shape the reality” for people to fall for. There’s no such thing called “magic”; however, because our perception is limited, magicians are trying to shape and alter it so that we believe in it. They did not change reality, only perceptions did. That same thing applies to Dr. Strange’s ability to see through the illusion, the image above is neither upside down or sideway; however, it “appears that way through a refracted repeating image.” So, how do they shape reality? Well, when Dr. Strange first met with the Ancient One, he saw crystal lights. It started with photons; according to a scientist Mikhail Lucan, “They created a special medium in which photons interacted so strongly that they began to act as though they had mass and banded together.” When photons interact so strongly, it becomes atoms, then they become solidified light or light crystals. When Dr. Strange first knows how to use his power he created a crystal wall:  

As you can see here, there are multiple Dr. Strange’s faces on that wall which basically means it is refracted repeating image. In addition, the city’s image case is when it happens on a bigger scale!

Cloak of Levitation

Last but not least, an item that is worn by Dr. Strange is the cloak of levitation. It is capable of giving its master the ability to fly, providing aids and assistance during battle, and even have emotional feeling and affection with its master! Well, that’s unexplainable. There is a possible chance that the cloak is made out of a unique material that allows that master to fly; however, having affection and feelings are sort of magic since it is not a living object. It doesn’t really follow any science rules and that is normal for movies. In order for any science fiction movie to look incredible, something in it have to look impossible!

To sum up, Dr. Strange is capable of doing awesome super powers and following physics rules. At the same time, the MCU is a really well-known company of creating powers that are relevant to our science rules and using it as an entertainment and also education for all ages.


Works Cited

“Doctor Strange’s CLOAK OF LEVITATION Explained! (MCU).” YouTube, YouTube, 10 June 2017,

FilmTheorists. “Film Theory: Doctor Strange Magic DEBUNKED by Science.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 Nov. 2016,

Hybrid0027. “How Doctor Strange Travels Dimensions | Super Science.” YouTube, YouTube, 22 Oct. 2016,

“The INFINITY STONES: Part 6 | The Time Stone (MCU).” YouTube, YouTube, 1 Mar. 2017,

“What Are DOCTOR STRANGE’S Powers?” YouTube, YouTube, 3 Oct. 2016,

fluidicbeats. “The Powers of Doctor Strange Explained.” YouTube, YouTube, 3 Nov. 2016,

LMRT Trip | April 5th-8th

LMRT has really made a fantastic and big progress this year! We have our own new reef that located 300 meters from Koh Seh. We deployed an artificial reef involving 21 blocks and a cluster on top of it. An artificial reef is an Anti-trawling marine habitat for lives and cluster is a triangle shape bamboos that tied together that can also act as habitat for fishes. Every time we go down to Koh Seh, we only made things progressed by being productive. We finished a cluster in 2 days and we managed to do replicates of surveys. 

This is our 4th trip to Koh Seh of 2018 when we first deployed the blocks in March, after a month, it has drastically progressed. As usual, we did three surveys: fish, invertebrate, and substrate. In just a month, we recorded around 50 catfishes, 20 snappers, 20 Jacks, 14 paradise whiptail, and so on. We spotted a stingray, shrimp, anemone, collector urchins, and conch. We have brought a bucket of rocks to drop around those areas. Hopefully, in the future, we can bring corals to there as well. The more things we put down there, the more chances of bringing lives. This is what we’re proud of, we’re restoring the marine habitat in this sandy areas; just by having an artificial reef, we already made positive changes to the place and even more in the future. Definitely, we’re going to do more, deploy more, survey more; that way, we give shelters, we protect the ocean! The young Cambodian marine conservationists are rising!

Here are some photos:

The cluster we did
The type of anemone we found at our reef!


Doing the cluster
Heading off to survey!
Doing more cluster!