Monash University bringing science in the rainforest experience for students

Monash University bringing science in the rainforest experience for students

Winner of essay competition, student Chok Ka Lok from Yu Yuan Secondary School, Sandakan with Mr Alan Lawrie from Faculty of Science, Monash University Australia

Monash University’s Faculty of Science organised a workshop called Science in the Rainforest for students from Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan in April 2017. This is the first ever science workshop organised by the Faculty outside of Australia, and Sabah is the perfect location with our rich diversity in flora and fauna. The initiative is a great opportunity to bring together some of the top organisations in Sabah and Australia that are working in this area to improve the awareness among our students of the various Sciences degree that are available as their first choice for undergraduate programme and hopefully as their career in the future.

This workshop was a collaborative effort involving Monash University Australia, Rainforest Discovery Centre Sandakan, Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and A3 Education & Training, who brought in the student participants from Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. The event was organised to bring better understanding among the future generation where student participants will have first-hand information about the benefit of studying science particularly in the areas of natural environment, botany, zoology, biotechnology, tropical environmental biology etc.

The students at Paganakan Dii doing science experiments in groups

18 students from both Institut Sinaran, Kota Kinabalu and Yu Yuan Secondary School, Sandakan participated this programme during the Easter break from 14 to 15 April 2017. Among the activities covered during the Science Workshops are two science experiments conducted by Michael Jaeggi and Simone Cook, a couple of Monash University students who flew in from Australia. The experiments were conducted during the first evening at Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat where all participants were staying and our students proved to have the capability to handle the topics very well.

The science activities continued on the second day early in the morning at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. A very comprehensive briefing and back-end tour by Ms Slyvia Alsisto and Dr Nabila Sarkawi, a wildlife veterinarian at the Sepilok Orang Utan Conservation Centre. This tour gave our students insights on the importance of ecological and biological conservation activities. We even have students who expressed interest to become a volunteer to be with the Orang Utan during school holidays.

The students with Ms Slyvia at the feeding area viewing platform at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

The activities continued at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, where the Education Officer Ms Risnayati Lumma assigned sun bears monitoring activities for the participations. The sun bear behaviour monitoring activities is very important in understanding the sun bears behaviour to allow the researchers to decide on their readiness to be releases into the wild and survive. This was first time for many of our students to see sun bears in real life and the important task of helping to preserve the forest for our wildlife.

The participants at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation, Sandakan

The final science activities after lunch was a forest research tour to identity large flora and fauna found in the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), Sandakan. This entomology tour was led by Mr Hubert Petol, the officer in-charge of ground maintenance and interpretation at RDC and it introduced the students to many of the endangered species of flora and fauna and appreciate the diverse variety of species available in a 1st class forest found only in very few parts of the world. Although it was raining the students were very eager to do the canopy walk and they understand that being a scientist also involves being out in the field in all kinds of weather conditions. The highlight of this tour was when the students spotted the flying femur – a very rare sight even for researchers based there.

Forest research tour led by Mr Hubert Petol at Rainforest Discovery Centre under the rain

The other highlight of this event was selecting the winner on essay submitted by students in order to join this workshop. The prize is a 3-day 2-night fully paid return ticket to visit Monash University’s Faculty of Science at its campus in Melbourne and a one-to-one consultation with the Faculty Dean. The prize was won by Chok Ka Lok from Yu Yuan Secondary School, Sandakan, who impressed all four judges from Monash University. He will be visiting Monash University Australia in November 2017.

Overall the Science workshop has been a success and we hope to have more of these workshops for our students in Sabah in the future.

Monash University is ranked 45 for Chemistry, 44 for Biological Sciences and 28 for Life Sciences and Medicine, QS World University Rankings by Subjects 2017.