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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-Sumateran Turles) in November of 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

During the second quarter of 2017, Dr. Ruyani and his group carried out four primary activities on their PEER project. First, they completed their study of the terrestrial habitat for Heosemys spinosa, a priority in the second year of their project, in June. H. spinosa is endangered and very hard to find in the Bengkulu area. The animal is also relatively easy to stress and requires special care. Second, six of the seven students on the project (undergraduates and graduates) have finished their research in both science and learning. They are now processing their data and writing their theses and they will complete their final exams in late July. Third, construction of a new area for H. spinosa has been completed in the turtle learning center at the university. The center now features living collections of four species of Sumatran turtles, namely Cyclemys odhamii, C. amboinensis, Siebenrockiella crassiocollis, and H. spinosa. The center is designed as a place where children can get hands-on experience with Sumatran turtles. Fourth, the development team on the project will be implementing three learning modules created this year, specifically designed for early childhood education teachers, undergraduate students in the sciences, and undergraduate students in the humanities. All of the teaching modules are undergoing validation and are expected to be put into use for turtle conservation training beginning in early August. In a related development, Dr. Ruyani has signed a memorandum of understanding with a local primary school regarding collaboration on environmental education.

Later this year, the team will host visits by partners from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Allison Sermarini, a biology undergraduate student, will travel to
Bengkulu August 14 – October 23 to study Sumatran turtles in cooperation with Dr. Ruyani’s group. In mid-December, Prof. Jay Lennartson, Prof. Corey Johnson, and several of their students from UNCG visit to work with the PEER team on joint GPS and GIS mapping and assessment of reptile and amphibian habitats in the greater Bengkulu area.

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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