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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Developing science and learning research capacity of Bengkulu University in ex situ conservation of Sumatran freshwater and terrestrial turtles

PI: Aceng Ruyani (ruyani@unib.ac.id), Bengkulu University
U.S. Partner: Catherine Matthews, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Project Dates: December 2015 - January 2019

Project Overview


The project was featured on a the Trans7 TV program "Dunia Benatang - Kura Kura Sumatera (Animal World - Sumatran Turtles) in November 2016.

Science education at the K-12 levels in Bengkulu does not focus on biodiversity. Fieldwork is rarely included as an instructional technique at any educational level, and there is little focus on local conservation issues. Bengkulu University (Unib) recently started a graduate program for teachers with the theme of “Natural Conservation Education for A Better Life.” In conjunction with this graduate program, Unib has also started a pioneering conservation effort, "Unib Campus, A Safe Home for Turtles,” with educational components at the K-12 level and at the university as part of the Science Teacher Education curriculum track. Meanwhile the U.S. Government-supported partner from North Carolina has engaged equal numbers of high school students, girls and boys, with a focus on rural minority students, in summer residential programs that teach the students about herpetology by involving them in research on native species. Teachers are included as participants in the summer programs and graduate students are able to earn university credit by participating. The main goal of this PEER project is to develop both science and learning research capacity through cooperation between UNC Greensboro and Unib using the field of herpetology as a venue to improve conservation education and, indeed, conservation itself. Furthermore the cooperation is designed to achieve the following goals; (1) identify some safe habitats for five species of turtles, (2) increase science and learning research capacity through the thesis research of nine graduate students, (3) develop teaching modules, (4) develop both indoor and outdoor learning resources, and (5) establish a new teacher training center in herpetology and environmental education on the green campus of Unib.

This project will support the spirit of the program “Unib Campus, A Safe Home for Turtles,” which is a novelty for Indonesia. The existence of the turtles on the Unib campus will be a learning resource for conservation education for the young people in Bengkulu. This model of conservation efforts through educational approaches is designed to be completed over three years, as an attempt to improve the competence of biology teachers in Bengkulu and other provinces of Indonesia. This project will change some paradigms of science education so as to approach the criteria of “teaching green,” among others. It will foster a personal connection with nature, connections with other people and other species, and help participants move from awareness to knowledge to action. Furthermore, it will help move science education in Bengkulu from a very formal model to a more culturally appropriate effort for increasing young peoples’ knowledge, appreciation, attitudes, environmental awareness, and involvement in nature conservation in Bengkulu. There is a clear distinction between scientists and science teachers in Indonesian universities, with scientists focusing on pure biology (science) and science teachers focusing on learning biology (pedagogy). Some educational institutions in Indonesia still emphasize this dichotomy between content and learning, which has been noted as a classical problem in science education. This project will develop both science and learning research capacity to show that these two identities can co-exist in a single individual and that this can be very beneficial.

Summary of Recent Activities

Although there were some delays due to the recent Ramadan season and Eid, the PI Dr. Ruyani reports that construction of the ex situ conservation site for Manouria emys should be completed by the end of July 2018. Meanwhile, he and his team continue to maintain and monitor the four existing ex situ conservation sites for Cyclemys oldhamii, Cuora amboinensis, Siebenrockiella crassicollis, and Heosemys spinosa, as well as the Turtle Learning Center. The center has produced more than 10 babies of C. amboinensis, indicating that captive breeding of this species is feasible at this facility. In other recent news, two more students, Elvida Sari Yunilorosi and Julita Restarida Pasaribu, have completed their theses on Sumatran turtles and passed their oral examinations, which means that the project has now exceeded its original target of supporting nine theses. The target of producing at least nine teaching modules was also achieved after the development of two new modules. The main activities remaining to be completed on the project included continuing the captive breeding program, conducting conservation education training using the two new validated modules, and disseminating the results of the project. New research funding recently received from the Government of Indonesia for 2018-2020 will be useful in facilitating these activities. In addition, the PI has been appointed director of the Research Center for Biodiversity Conservation at Bengkulu University for 2018-2020. The PEER project also received high marks from the central government’s accreditation assessors, which served as the basis for establishing the Department of Biology of Education at the university with an accreditation rating of A.

4-125 Turtle!4-125 Artifical Turtle Habitat4-125 Conservation Training
One of the turtles under observation.An artificial turtle pond created by the project team.Students learn conservation techniques and herpetology under Dr. Ruyani's direction (photo credit: Dr. Ruyani).



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