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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 - November 2018

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

As 2017 drew to a close, Dr. Ruyani and his team performed GPS and GIS mapping and assessment of reptile and amphibian habitats in the greater Bengkulu area. Some of this work was carried out in cooperation with Prof. Jay Lennartson, Prof. Corey Johnson, and eight of their students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who visited Bengkulu December 12-16, 2017. The PI and his colleagues also organized the Bengkulu International Conference on Science and Education (BICSE) 2017, held December 14-15. Project researchers made five presentations at the conference regarding their recent results. In addition, the team prepared their implementation plans for the third year of their PEER project. The target species for this third year will be Manouria emys (Asian forest tortoise), and the researchers will therefore be working to create a space for M. emys in the turtle learning center they have set up, as well as an ex situ conservation habitat for the species on the campus of Unib. In addition to their U.S. partner and colleagues from UNCG, the team at Unib has found another potential colleague in their ongoing PEER efforts. Dr. Patricia G. Patrick, faculty member from Columbus State University and editor of the book Preparing Informal Science Educators, Perspectives from Science Communication and Education, will visit Bengkulu January 31 – February 6, 2018, to see firsthand the Sumatran turtle conservation program and the pioneering informal science education work being carried out by the PI and his colleagues.

So far, the PEER project has succeeded in providing (1) four ex situ conservation sites for Sumatran turtles (C. oldhamii, C. amboinensis, S. crassicollis, H. spinosa), (2) a turtle learning center with exhibits on the same four species, (3) seven teaching modules validated for use with students of very young ages through university undergraduates, and (4) a teacher training center in herpetology and environmental education based on the validated teaching modules. All these achievements have the potential impacts of improving understanding, appreciation, and conservation behavior of the young generation of Bengkulu concerning Sumatran turtles, and more than 500 students have participated in the project so far.

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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