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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 (, 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

By the end of 2018, the PI Dr. Ruyani reported that construction of the ex situ conservation area for Manouria emys (Asian forest tortoise) had been completed, with the turtles provided with appropriate shelter, water sources, ponds, and plant species as feed sources so the area can be used as an outdoor habitat for M. emys. Graduate student Fitri Anna has successfully completed her oral examination on her thesis research on Heosemys spinosa (spiny turtle), so the project has now exceeded its target of nine theses to be supported. The Turtle Learning Center (TLC) created as part of the project has become widely known in Bengkulu as a service provider for helping students of various ages, from early childhood through university undergraduates, learn about conservation of Sumatran turtles. Several schools have sent students and teachers to visit TLC, including a group of students with disabilities in late January 2019. The final two teaching modules on Sumatran biodiversity conservation that were created under this project have been revalidated by experts (Dr. M. Lutfi Firdaus, Dr. Afrizal Mayub, and Dr. Sumpono) and revised. The teaching modules have been implemented so far for two groups of 50 participants each, with one module built around the theme of religious-socio-cultural wisdom and the other based on informal science education. Dr. Ruyani will provide further information on results and impacts of the project and planned future activities when he submits his final report in early March 2019.

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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