LAGUNA - For seven days, 20 young participants from various organizations braved the outdoors of Mt. Makiling and learned more about biodiversity conservation during the UPLB Museum of Natural History’s annual Summer Short Course on Biodiversity for Beginners last 17-23 April 2017.

Fifteen Biology students from Adamson University, three Environmental Management majors from Ateneo de Naga University, one Environmental Scientist from consultancy group AECOM, and one Senior High School Biology teacher from Agusan del Sur comprised the latest batch of MNH Short Course “alumni” after they presented the results of their simple biodiversity surveys during the course’s closing program last 23 April.

Over-all coordinator Florante A. Cruz said the short course serves as an introductory primer targeted for students and young environmentalists who want to pursue biodiversity conservation as a field. “We want more students to be instilled with the passion for preserving the ecosystem,” he said.

The Museum started offering the course more than a decade ago and has become popular in schools that offer biology courses. “Of course, the spread of the museum’s name and our scientific work is also our goal,” Cruz added.

The short course, who already have hundreds of participants from schools all over the country, prides itself for ensuring that the informative lectures are supplemented by actual practice. Majority of the hours spent daily were dedicated to hands-on fieldwork rather than classroom discussions.

One difference of this year’s offering compared to the past is the number of participants. The organizing committee made sure that the trainor-student ratio is greater so that the students will be able to maximize their learning without getting too exhausted.

Senior High Biology teacher Rainer P. Sularte, who came all the way from Agusan del Sur, said that the short course inspired him to do and engage more in conservation studies in his locality. “The knowledge, skills, and attitude I learned from this course would greatly help shape the minds of my students,” he added.

True enough, participants were able to hear talks from the acclaimed curators of the Museum led by its Director and ornithologist Dr. Juan Carlos T. Gonzalez during the series of lectures held on the first day. Day 2 to 6 of the course was dedicated to collection of specimens using different sampling and surveying techniques.

One of the most thrilling activities done during the course was the collection fieldwork for assorted fauna using the different sampling techniques. The activity, which ended at around 9:00 in the evening, got the participants to closely interact with local fauna in Mt. Makiling.

Participants were able to set up mist nets to capture bats and birds, traps for rodents, and used opportunistic sampling to collect arthropods, amphibians, and reptiles. The collected amphibians and reptiles were identified in the field by wildlife biologist James DV. Alvarez.

Insects caught were sorted out in the laboratory with the help of the Museum’s entomologists. BS Biology major Jason Frank P. Beloy from Adamson University said that he had a hard time classifying the minute insects caught using the pitfall trap. Yet, he described the whole course as “one of [my] most memorable experiences.”

On its last day, the participants were made to discuss the used methods and present the results of their field surveys. Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo, MNH ¬curator, remarked during the discussions that “students should learn the proper presentation of data and usage of tables and charts” and it is the very reason why the course requires the participants to present their results.

The Museum is eyeing more collaborations with local and foreign institutions for the short course for the next years to come. “We want to make it broader in terms of content, but still explicit in terms of practicum,” Cruz said.

The organizing committee plans to extend future course durations to allot more time for participants in the field. The sentiments resonate to most of the participants who also suggested to extend the course to two weeks.

Participants, according to Cruz, should be able to “truly find what they want as a specialization and what they would be really passionate about.”

“Also through the course, we want to instill nationalism and pride in the participants; that the Philippines is indeed very, very rich in biodiversity,” he ended.

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