Sunday, April 26, 2009

Academy of Science - 14th AGM

1. Yesterday 25th April, as usual as a Fellow of the Academy, I attended the 14th Annual General Meeting of the Science Academy of Malaysia. The meeting started 10 minutes after 10 am and went on as scheduled.

2. The Presidential address was good especially coming from a corporate engineer who wished to see a more meaningful and effective academy in Malaysia. In his capacity as the President, he had visited the Royal Society in London and he tried to make a comparison between a 14-year academy with a 350 years old institution that is full of scientific history. Well, he has the right to compare.

3. The Royal Society as well as other science academies elsewhere had a long illustrious history and scientific innovations and ideas for their Fellows were real scientists who made their names in hard research. Many of our Fellows are not even scientists and let alone had done scientific research in their life times.

4. Apparently, the average age of the fellows of the academy is about 70 and in yesterday inception of 18 new fellows, the average age is 57. Among the new fellows are Prof. Dato Zaini Ujang (UTM Vice Chancellor), Prof. Datin Paduka Aini Idris (UPM Deputy Vice Chancellor), Prof. Phang Siew Moi (UM), Prof. Dato' Halimah Badio Zaman (UKM) and Dr. Wan Abdul Rahman Wan Yaacob (ex RRIM). The academy incepted two new senior fellows including Tan Sri Mustafa Babjee.

5. As in previous years, there were similar debates on the academic criteria to be adopted for the inception of new fellows. While there were those who had wanted to limit the number, there are also who would like to see some deserving scientists to be admitted as fellows. As an academy of science, I would like it to grow bigger in lights of Malaysia wants to be developed by 2020, hence the academy must pursue good science and scientists. The definitions of "academy" must be upheld and preserved and I didn't agree with the admission of some fellows in the past. But they were admited on certain purpose, it is only the founding fellows knew their criteria.

6. All in all, the academy is developing and I look forward to contributing to it in my own small ways.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Biodiversity of Recreational Forests

1. Peninsular Malaysia has more than 100 recreational forests, including Forest Parks. Though they were established from the logged-over forests, their biodiversity is diverse and rich. These forests contai both the ecosystem diversity and species diversity.

2. The state of Johor has 6, Kedah (25), Kelantan (3), Melaka (4), Negeri Sembilan (14), Pahang (24), Perak (13), Perlis (4), Pulau Pinang (3), Selangor (7), Terengganu (13) and Federal Territory (1). Just imagine Kelantan with a big population has only three in comparison with Melaka and Perlis which ah less the 400,000 populations. As I told a friend, the Kelantanese also suffer from urban stress and they love to visit recreational forests to create themselves, als they have a choice of three only.

3. Recreational forests as a functional forest class under the Protection Forest have a role to play in biodiversity conservation. They have a great potential to be developed as one of the high-end recreational areas for they offer many amenities to the stressed public.

4. In addition, the biodiversity within them are diverse and rich and many of them have not been evaluated for the biodiversity content. I remember I was told that Costus oligophyllus and Vatica yeechongii, the former is a new record and the latter is a new species are collected in the vicinity of recreational forest in Selangor.

5. I hereby urge the Forestry Department in the respective states either to establish more such forests or dod some ecologicxal evaluation in order to harness their potential value, in line with look beyond the logs slogan as stated by the former DG, Dato' Zul

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day

On Wednesday the 22nd the whole planet celebrated the Earth Day. There were many kinds of celebration. Last night I watched de Caprio narrated and produced a film about it which was aired under HBO channel. Bernama TV organised a chat show. I have the following wishes for the Earth Day Malaysia.

1. I want to see cleaner rivers. Every year DOE reported the increasing number of dirty rivers in Peninsular Malaysia and a lot of public money had been spent to clean these rivers from physical pollutants but not from chemical pollutants. The non-point sources of river pollution are still pouring their greases and chemical effluents into the dying river ecosystem. We really need an auto-monitoring electronic system to take care of this menace.

2. I want to see a proper waste management system. The three zones in Peninsular Malaysia have got their care-takers to manage the waste but I have yet to see them working. After every festive seasons we still saw heaps and heaps of waste piling along the road-sides, much to the envy of cats and dogs. What had happenend to the recyclers?

3. I want to see zero littering in public. I drive from my homes to the campus passing through Bandar Baru Bangi and Jalan Reko and I still observe people throwing litters and wastes from buses and cars. I am sure elsewhere in the country people are still doing this bad habit. I am happy to note that Kuching and Kuala Terengganu are very clean cities.

4. I want to see a better public transport system. I hate to travel to Kuala Lumpur for meetings as I can't rely on public transport and I don't like to drive myself because of traffic jam. When can I carry my bag and travel by bus or trains to meeting like my friends in Tokyo and London and other cities did.

5. I want to see less but efficient use of fuel energy. Many drivers were observed to speed their cars and motorcycles as they approached the traffic lights and round-about and I could not understand their behaviour to waste their fuel this way. Granted they could pay for the petrol but I was told we are still a net-imported of the fuel.

6. I want to see the states taking care of their biodiversity. The rich biodiversity belongs to the state but they don't have the human capacity and vision to harness this green capital to their socio-economic benefits except Sarawak and Sabah. I want to see Biodiversity & Biotechnology Institutes established in many other states.

7. I want to see great public awareness of the environment. The teachers in kindergardens, schools and the lectures in the universities could play an important role incalcating this among their pupils and students. After all they will inherit this earth from us.

8. I want to see a better design of buildings. I am impressed with the green designs implemented elsewhere to save house energy, water and make the house enbironment more pristine. I imagine Hijjas Kasturi and my friend Chris Wong are at this now. I want to see the architects, designers and engineers work together for a better physical landscape that minimise natural resources.

9. I want to see a better earth governance. I hate wars that destroyed cities, towns, dwellings, mosques, museum, artefacts and even pollute water supply to the innocents. I would like to see more Gorbachevs, Obamas, Bruntlands, Gores, etc. However, I don't see among the Malaysian leaders who champion the Malaysian environment and our planet Earth. The majority paid lip services in their respective ministries, after all they didn't even discuss this in their political party meetings.

10. I want to see the governments implement sustainbale development, whatever it means to them. The seeds were germinated in the RM9 document after all.

Thanks and Happy Earth Day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Unity in Diversity - The case of UKM

1. Last year UKM as a research university identified 8 research niches to propel it to higher level in research and innovations. Initially there were only six (renewable energy, regional sustainable development, medicine and health technology, informatics contents, nanototechnology and advanced materials & globalisation, cultural diversity, nation building & national integrity), and later the Chancellory added another two, namely Climate Change and Biodiversity for Technology Development. When the six niches were introduced there were comments and some dissatisfactions from and amongst certain quarters as many other strong research fields were not clearly identified.

2. The VC and the ex DVC explained that the six and later eight niches are very inclusive, almost if not all research interests within the university are taken into account and it is up to individuals to identify and find his/her own niche. This is a fair statement. I must admit that it is an utmost difficulty for some individuals to find and identify their niche within the existing 8 niches as fileds in R & D are diverse. As academics, many of us are very specialised in our own small but important field and some of us are egocentric in our out-looks.

3. I believed other universities must have identified similar niches too as they are very generic, though they might have used different terminologies. Years ago Emer. Prof. Mohd Nordin Hassan and Emer. Prof. Muhammad Yahya were flagging six research priorities areas for the university and they were not much different from the present ones, except rebranding was introduced.

4. In the science and technology cluster, several micro-niches emerge. They are :
a) Biodiversity - the study of natural resources; flora, fauna and minerals of both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems
b) Biotechnology - the application of modern techniques and methods in the study of natural resources for improved products
c) Advanced materials - the study of physical and chemical materials for industries
d) Natural products chemistry - the study of potential products of pharmaceuticals importance from natural resources
e) Food science and technology - the study of improved foods and their security for the expanding industries
f) Mathematics and Statistics for industry - the applications of mathematics and stattistics to improve the existing indistries

5. I also believed that in the ocean of great diversity within the university, the 8 niches could bring all of us in unison to achieve the mission and vision of UKM as a research university. The university is willing to please and accomodate every academic if the academic is willing to give the Chancellory a viable chance. What is needed is a strong research leadership at the niche, cluster and group levels and also a great support from both the PPPi and the office of the Bursar. The support from the former had always forthcoming but from latter is more desirable. To my simple mind there should be a group of finacial officers at the Bursar's office who understand what R & D is all about. This had been our cries for the last decade. If the university wants to movea step ahead from a RU to an APEX university, transformations at all levels are called for. This is in line with the VC's address of 17th April 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gaining Momentum Promoting Excellence

At 0930 hr on the 17th April 2009, the Vice Chancellor of UKM, YBhg. Prof. Dato' Dr. Sharifah Hapsah bt Syed Hasan Shahabuddin delivered her VC Address to the citizens of UKM. I attended the auspicious address and the foolowings are my humble remarks and comments.

1. The address was an excellent one in lights of the national transformations which the YAB PM is about to embark nationwide to bring all Malaysians together as One Nation. Her address which was inspired by the great idea of YAM PM, addressed the very core business of UKM moulded the national context.

2. The three pillars, education, research and service are our core business as a lecturer. We give lectures almost every week to impart some knowledge to the younger generations. We supervise their project dissertations and theses. We conduct some research projects and publish the results generated to inform the minds of the public and scientific community. We serve the community at large. I have been doing these since January 1979 without much regrets.

3. Built on the successes of UKM in 2008 and before, the VC wishes to sustain and push the momentum to a greater height so that the potential of UKM is elevated further and realised by the year 2018. Why 2018? This is very commendable.

4. I'm moved by her inner desire to put back the place of Bahasa Melayu as a lingua franca of UKM. She emotionally stated that Bahasa Melayu has been the heritage of UKM which has been entrusted to all of us. We have been successful in educating young Malaysian in Bahasa Melayu since 1970 and why did we change to a foreign language , called English?

5. She talked about the role of the 8 research niches identified by UKM to spearhead the changes in research culture. Though I have my critic on the identification of the 8 niches, I agreed that the 8 niches could be "homes" to every academics in UKM. These 8 niches are able to promote UKM as a Research University in a few years.

6. The challenges posed by the VC are tremendous and many and they come in many forms and relevant to different strata of the citizens. I'm so worried about the delivery system, as did the previous government under Pak Lah. It took several Ministers and government agencies to derail some of the projects and the government delivery system went almost kaput. Like-wise it will take 20% sceptics and agents of no-change to derail her Vision for UKM.

7. I like her analogy of UKM knowledge environment to a big virtual bird. May she fly and glide like a raptor to the year 2018 without much glitches and sabotage. The big bird might need a battery though to assist her in case there is no air current!

8. I also like her analogy to a golfer. In this case I'm touched by her recommendation to use better tools because I'm still using a 3-wood browining to drive my golf ball. Last night I watched Bagger Vance caddying Mr. Randolf Junnuh playing against Mr. Bobby Jones and Mr. Walter Hagen. Though it was a draw after four gruelling days, there were many lessons which Bagger Vance imparted to all of us.

Lastly, I wish to congratulate YBhg Dato' VC for her excellent address and wish all the stake-holders at UKM to help her achieve her vision. Thanks

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Biodiversity of Melaka - Fauna

As promised I hereby completed a brief introduction to the biodiversity of Melaka. In spite of the small size of the forest reserves and the fact that all the forests are fragmented and disturbed, Melaka still is home to many animal communities and species.

1. Dr. Neelam Shahab of SIRIM Bhd. reported a total of 119 fungal strains being isolated from the leaf litter and soil sampled in various forest reserves; 74 strains had been identified genetically and 19 remained unidentified. This itself poses a very sound academic challenge to uncover our fungal biodiversity.

2. Dr. Shahrul Anuar Mohd. Sah of USM reported a total of 21 bat species, both fruit-eating and insect-eating species, caught by the Harp traps and mist nets during the surveys. This ensures pollination of both the mangroves and durians in Melaka. Mr. Shahfiz Mohd. Azman of FRIM reported a total of 12 small mammal species caught during the short expedition and Tupaia glis is the most common.

3. Mr. Mohd. Hadzri of USM reported 10 orders of aquatic insects from the small streams of Melaka, most of them are still undientified. Dr. Norela Sulaiman of UKM reported a total of 192 species in 12 families of moths were sampled together with 86 taxa of butterflies. Dr. C Y Choong also of UKM reported the occurrence of 37 species of odonates. Dr. Fauziah Abdullah of UM reported a total of 126 taxa in 12 families of beetles. Dr. Faszly Rahim of UKM reported the occurrence of many taxa of termites infesting the mangroves of Melaka. This is an interesting phenomenon that require a more intensive study because the fate of mangrove conservation lies in its ability to withstand the attack of these termites! Dr. Y F Ng of UKM for the first time reported the infestation of flower and fruit thrips on the ornamental plants at Air Keroh Botanical Gardens.

4. Mr. K O Chan of UKM reported the occurrence of two rare and interesting reptiles in Melaka. A new species of lizard, Cyrtodactylus batucolus had been reported and described by Prof. Lee Grismer from Pulau Besar. As far as it is known, this new species is only found here. It is worth noting that Pulau Besar also is home to Rhizophora stylosa (or bakau pasir). Another species, C. pantinensis, that is known from Gunung Panti, Johor has been discovered in Melaka.

5. Dr. Pan of FRIM reported the observation and sighting of 96 species of birds in 35 families. Tanjung Tuan (Cape Rachado) is already on the naturalists map for watching raptors during their south-north migration. In fact this is an annual event organised by the Malaysian Nature Society and the State Government of Melaka. According to Dr. Pan, both Bukit Beruang and Air Keroh Recreational Forest are the best spots to watch lowland and open country birds.

This concludes my summary of the biodiversity of Melaka.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Biodiversity of Melaka - Botanical

As promised in my last post, below are some significant findings made by those botanists who took part in the 2008 scientific expeditions to the various forest reserves in Melaka.

1. There are 46 species names in 31 families which took the name of malaccense or malaccensis etc. According to Ahmed Zainuddin (AZ) only 39 are left, the others had become synonyms. We are not surprised as Malacca was Straits Settelements and many colonial btnaists and naturalists were there. AZ also commented on the Melaka tree, Phyllanthus pectinatus

2. Nasir Mohamad or Cik Gu Nasir of Pusat Latihan Perhutanan Kepong reported the observation of 38 species in 5 genera of the dipterocarps; Shorea (21 species), Dipterocarpus (7), Anisoptera (4), Hopea (4) and Vatica (2).

3. Dr. Mohd. Nazre Salleh reported the observation of more than 281 species in 51 families, excluding orchids, climbers etc. A total of 17 species are believed to be endemic in Peninsular Malaysia. We feel there is need to prepare a fuller document on the "Plants of Melaka".

4. Dr. Rusea Go only found a total of 21 species of orchids, she believed the total number recorded for Melaka is over 100 species with 5 endemics. Many of the earlier records are difficult to observe and find because of the much disturbed forests now.

5. Dr. Wan Juliana reported a total of 87 exclusive species of mangroves out of the possible total of 104 in Peninsular Malaysia. After all only 92.18 ha of mangroves are left in the state. The existence of Browslowia tersa needs some efforts to conserve.

6. The mosses are represented by 33 species (ca. 6.8%) in 21 genera and 9 families; 22 taxa are new records for Melaka.

7. Ms Chan Yoke Min reported the occurrence of 4 species of rare plants in a small patch of Bukit Senggeh FR; they are Begonia herveyana (believed to occur here, Pulau Tioman and Pulau Tinggi), Impatiens albo-flava (occurs also in Perak and Pahang), Peperomia malaccensis (only here) and Argostemma tenue (known also from Bukit Tampin). These four rare species need effort for in situ and ex situ conservation efforts as they are under great threats of a transmission lines running across the forest reserve.

In the next post I will discuss the fauna. Thanks

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Biodiversity of Melaka

1. Last year from 30th of March to 4th of April, more than 80 scientists yound and old camped in Ayer Keroh Botanical Gardens. We conducted our biodiversity surveys in almost all the remaining forest reserves in the state.

2. From 1-2 April 2009, the same scientists went back to Melaka, but this time we were camped in a better place called Hotel Equatorial to discuss last year's scientific findings. In conjunction with the seminar, a coffee table book entitled, "Melaka - Where Forestry Began" was launched.

3. From a great beginning during the colonial days with more than 37,000 ha of good forests that produced jelutung, cengal, karas etc, what is left to-day is just over 5,000 ha scattered in the state. There is a VJR at Tanjung Tuan sand-witched by lands that belong to Negeri Sembilan; there is remnants of mangroves at Sungai Linggi; disturbed forests at Sungai Udang; a small patch at Bukit Beruang; three fragmented forests at Bukit Senggeh, Batang Melaka and Bukit Sedanang; and of course the bigger Ayer Keroh Recreational Forest.

4. Realising the state has so little natural resources, that's why Melaka has embarked on biotechnology and one of its products was sampled during the dinner. It was Melaka Fruit Juice! One other potential sector that Melaka should capitalise is ecotourism.

5. I will talk about her botanical and zoological biodiversity in my next posts. Thanks