Friday, February 10, 2012

Matters of science students

1. In the last two weeks or so the alarming reduction of the number and also percentage of science students in schools were discussed in some newspapers and meetings and as a scientist I am compelled to say a few words.
2. The Science Chair of National Professor Council from USM who is a mathematcian suggested special monetary allowance be given to science students and this was arrogantly dismissed by an officer from the Ministry of Education who said the Ministry has other better ways to address this issue. I remember in the 1960s the good students were given some $20-$45 per month to motivate them to study better and the majority ended up doing science.
3. The VC of UM suggested the teachers to relook at the ways how science is taught and he recommended more IT oriented way and also more field-based. The Deputy Minister of Education wants to look holistically. Some suggested establishing more science residential schools. Jolly good that many people are interested to talk about this and the Ministry and its agencies to discuss this. It is fact that science students will one day become doctors, opticians, pharmacists, engineers, biotechnologists, zoologists, food scientists, geneticists microbiologists, IT specialists etc etc.
4. I just want to say these
(a) Do we have scientific institutions in the states where our natural resources are held?
(b) Do we encourage to establish scientific institutions in our beloved country like the Botanic Gardens, Herbarium, Natural History Museums, Science Centres etc?
(c) Do we have excellent and dedicated science teachers in schools like those of the 1960s?
(d) Do we have the school and university labs well equipped to make science teaching enjoyable?
(e) Do we ever look at the salary scheme of the science teachers and lecturers? Do we ever assess our science curricula?
Otherwise you people out there can talk and talk forever. After all this is NOT a new issue at all it is as old as our Independent Nation.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rain Forest for Ransom

1. I would lke to share with my followers the gist of an article entitled "Rain Forest for ransom" written by Bryan Walsh that apperared in Time December 19, 2011. The article is about the rain forest in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador. This is obviously part of the world famous, the Amazonia.

2. The Yasuni National Park is ca. 10,000 sq. km in area situated on the western fringe of the Amazon basin, it is on the eastern border of Ecuador, south-west of Colombia and north-west of Peru. It has been considered by many scientists to be the single most diverse spot on the planet. However, the oil companies have found rich deposit beneath the park's forest of ca. 900 million barrels of crude worth billions of USD.

3. The Ecuadorian President is willing to forgo drilling and leave the National Park intact in exchange for international donations ca. USD3.6 billion over 13 years. This proposal not only will conserve the rich biodiversity but also prevent the emission of 800 million tons of carbon dioxide. This proposal appears like an environmental blackmail to some - pay the Ecuadorians or the forests and biodiversity will go.

4. According to the Ecuadorian biologist David Romo when you go to Yasuni you will find a new species and it would take 400 years just to name all the insect species out there. There is an estimated 100,000 insects per hectare, the highest concentration on earth. According to botanist Gorky Villa, there are 655 tree species per ha and there are 28 threatened or near threatened vertebrate species there, including the whiet-bellied spider monkey and the giant river otter. It is also a bird watchers' paradise as there are ca. 600 species. The park also harbours ca. 30% of the Amazon's amphibians and reptiles.

5. In future there will be more and more of our rain forests that are put to ransom ans more and more findings of non-biodiversity products. The Maliau Basin Conservation Area came to my mind as the basin is equally rich in forest biodiversity but the forests are sitting above a rich deposit of coal.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Kota Damansara Community Forest

1. Somw years ago ca. 2003 the Malaysian Nature Society and the concerned Friends of Kota Damansara took the case of Kota Damansara Forest Reserve to the state government. At that time the communities were so much concerned with the physical development occurring around their residences within 6 km of the green lung. After a long social fights the Forest Department gazetted it as a permamament forest reserve in 2010 and designated it as a community forest.
2. In April 2010 the Forestry Department and MNS organised a 4-day scientific expedition to this fragmented island forest and more than 80 scientists and KD residents too part. The JMG staffs came to study the geology, the PERHILITAN staffs came to observe the small mammals and the young scientists from FRIM, UM, UPM, UKM, Putrajaya Botanic Garden and MNS came to study the various aspects of flora and fauna. And this week on 11-12 January 2012 we all met at SEGi University College KD campus to discuss the findings.
3. En. Awg. Shaffie of Selangor Forestry Department introduced the concept of community forest and showed us the slow and steady loss of the former Sungai Buloh FR to the current 321.7 ha of Kota Damansara FR. Dato' Shaharudin Mohd. Ismail ex Deputy DG of Forestry Dept. Semenanjung Malaysia gave us an excellent historical perspectives of forest management in Selangor beginning in 1896 to the present day. Dr. H F Lim also gave us the social perspectives and fate of Temuan of Bukit Lanjan.
4. Ms Phon of FRIM told us that there are records of 17% of the peninsula's butteflies are found here. And this was supported by Dr. Norela Sulaiman of UKM. Dr. C Y Choong reported 48 species of odonates and Mr. Daicus Belabut of UM reported 24 species of amphibians and 8 species of reptiles and Dr. Y F Ng reported three new records of thrips for Malaysia, 2 generic records (Priesneriola & Amarothrips) and 1 specific record (Phibalothrips longiceps).
5. Ms. Thi of FRIM and Dr. Y S Tan of UM briefed us on the diversity of macrofungi observed and collected in Kota Damansara FR.
6. En. Ahmed Zainuddin of Putrajaya reported more than 129 species of angiosperms oberved here and this was supported by the assessment done by Rafidah A. Rahman of FRIM. Rafidah addede that the populations of Orchidantha fimbriata and Cyrtandra cupulata are worth studying in details. Mr. Razali Jaman of UKM reported more than 24 species of ferns. Ms Y M Chan reported two begonia species endemic to the peninsula are found here, B. holttumii and B. aequalateralis.
7. Mr. Henry Goh of MNS reported 67 species of birds from 16 families including some migrants and this supported by Ms. Farah Shafawati who did some mist-nettings. Prof. MMaketab of MNS & UTM read the analyses on water quality. All in all it was a very successful seminar as the KD communities and SEGi were very supportive. Let us wait for more outcomes of this in some planned actions to show-case the KD Community Forest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012