Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Tallest Tree

I would like to comment on the news item that appeared in NST 26th January 2009 page 16 on the World's tallest tree. According to Mr. Evernius Andrew, the RA at the Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, the stand of Shorea faguetiana Heim (Dipterocarpaceae) or Seraya Kuning Siput at 88.32 m tall is the only tree recorded among the tallest in the World in the year 2005-2007. And accordingly, this stand is among the 10 tallest tropical trees in the World. Ironically, according to Prof. Peter Ashton (Ashton, 1982, Fl Malesiana), the specialist on Dipterocarpaceae, this species is only medium-sized. In Peninsular Malaysia, this species is widespread, and locally it is known as Seraya Hitam or Damar Siput. Some years ago, foresters reported the same species as having the tallest stem in Kelantan, but the measurement was not taken accurately. In Terengganu there are many stands of Cengal, Neobalanocarpus heimii (incidently this species is named after the forester who described S. faguetiana) whose diameter at breast height is enormous, measuring the arm-length of 12 people. Tropical forest areas are amazing in housing spectacular novelties and monumental trees and other plant life forms, including Rafflesia and Rhizanthes, and others.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Diversity begets Unity

Today, 13th January 2009 the Faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia celebrated her 10th anniversary with pomps and shade of purple. It was on 19th July 1999 that the faculty was officially formed from a process of academic restructuring that lasted for about 1.5 years. In 1996 there were three faculties of science at the main campus in Bangi, namely, the Faculty of Life Sciences, the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences and the Faculty of Mathematical Sciences. The three were functioning very well academically. With the Faculty of Natural Resources Sciences moving from Kota Kinabalu to Bangi, it made the existing science faculties redundant. Hence, the Chancellory felt it was a good opportunity to restructure the four faculties to make them more relevant and competitive. Furthermore, in that decade the private holdings and corporations were undergoing restructuring and so were many public universities in Australia, United Kingdom and USA.
We started with diverse, faculties, academics and programmes as inherited from the old schools - a great diversity of curricula and departments. And we were united into a mega-faculty with dreams and aspirations of becoming one of the leading faculty of science in the country and the region. This year we embarked on self-assesment and evaluation to find out whether we were able to grow on our presumed strength or we just continue to fucntion where we were. Many programmes were arranged for the whole year beginning with the launching of the celebration this morning by the VC Dato' Prof. Dr. Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Sahabudin, and tonight we are going to have the faculty dinner. Happy anniversary FST

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

Digitising biodiversity

There have been talks and discussion among the researchers in Malaysian biodiversity about putting biodiversity databases in web-based digitised meta-data for the consumption of researchers and the public at large. This honourable effort is great if we think Malaysian public should at least understand our rich biodiversity and the environment. I view this phenomenon in two categories.
1. Public education. The school children, students and the educated public have the right to understand the diverse flora and fauna that inhabit this land of ours. They want to know their names, habitats and conservation value. They want to know how many types or species are there in our country. What is their range of distribution, etc
2. Researchers. Graduate students in particular want to know the community diversity, their interaction in the wild, their use etc. The taxonomic composition and their genetic make-up etc.
They want to view their holotypes or lectotypes, they want to know their phylogenetic relationships, they want to know their past distribution, etc.
I was told SING had digitised the type specimens in its holding, just like Kew or Leiden. FRIM has got their holdings in BRAHMS format when they embarked on the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia project, UKM has started to follow suit with our holdings so that public at large can view what we have in our reference collection. In fact this is one of the plan of action under the National Biodiversity Policy.