Hook­ing up for sci­ence

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH - –By­na­tal­ieheng

RIMBA is nei­ther an NGO nor a con­sul­tancy or a so­ci­ety. It is a re­search group, ac­cord­ing to co-founder Gopalasamy Reuben Cle­ments.

The term, how­ever, just does not seem colour­ful enough to de­scribe this group of young sci­en­tists who be­lieve their spe­cial­ist skills can be utilised for a greater good.

The brain­child of con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gists Cle­ments, 32, and Sheema Ab­dul Aziz, 33, they first came up with the idea for Rimba be­cause they felt many sci­en­tists in Malaysia were work­ing in iso­la­tion.

Their vi­sion for Rimba is to grow a net­work of sci­en­tists who can work to­gether and ex­plore con­ser­va­tion is­sues more in­ten­sively.

He says the group­ing al­lows them to col­lab­o­rate and lever­age on each other’s ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Most of us are do­ing our own re­search projects, are af­fil­i­ated with uni­ver­si­ties and work­ing on every­thing from molec­u­lar evo­lu­tion to ele­phant ecol­ogy.”

With fund­ing and re­sources ever an is­sue when it comes to re­search, the group present them­selves as a use­ful tool to help fill in the blanks about what we need to know to make con­ser­va­tion ef­fec­tive. The al­liance of re­searchers banded to­gether last Novem­ber.

“Our goal is to com­mu­ni­cate our sci­en­tific find­ings to the govern­ment, which man­ages the forests in Malaysia, so these can be used to im­prove wildlife man­age­ment.”

Rimba read­ily makes its project find­ings ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic through so­cial me­dia. Face­book and Word­press are plat­forms that bring ad­ven­tures from the for­est straight to fans online. The field diary posts de­liver colour­ful, bite-sized snip­pets re­veal­ing the re­searchers’ en­coun­ters with the weird and won­der­ful.

Face­book users get a glimpse of “what­ever we see in the jun­gle”, ac­cord­ing to Cle­ments. A post from Aug 3, for ex­am­ple, sees Face­book users greeted by a Wal­lace’s fly­ing frog, cap­tured in bril­liant green. The July 6 post dis­plays a thorny green fe­male Malaysian jun­gle nymph (the heav­i­est in­sect in the world).

“Our main pur­pose in reach­ing out to the pub­lic is to raise aware­ness and let peo­ple know (about all the in­ter­est­ing wildlife in) our project sites.”

Their Face­book page rep­re­sents a fo­cal point not just for re­searchers, con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gists and NGOs, but any­one who is in­ter­ested to learn more about, and get in­volved in, con­ser­va­tion. Their Word­press site of­fers up­dates of their projects and links to sci­en­tific pub­li­ca­tions.

Rimba is also a plat­form to nur­ture independent-minded sci­en­tists to get out there and tackle un­ex­plored ques­tions. Cle­ments’ ad­vice to young as­pir­ing con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gists is, first of all, to take a road trip.

“See your land­scape, see Malaysia. Think of ques­tions, pick an or­gan­ism or an ecosys­tem and study it in­ten­sively, and then pub­lish a few pa­pers. You can do some­thing like a sim­ple re­view, or a re­view on the sta­tus of some­thing. Just con­cen­trate on build­ing up your CV, be­cause the more cred­i­ble you are, the eas­ier it will be to get fund­ing for projects you want to do in the fu­ture.”

Hope­fully, Rimba’s go-get­ter at­ti­tude will in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists to use their skills to build up knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of is­sues im­por­tant to con­ser­va­tion. To quote Rimba’s catch-phrase: “We need a jun­gle out there.”

Mea­sur­ing over 17cm in length, the fe­male Malayan jun­gle nymph is sup­pos­edly the heav­i­est in­sect in the world.

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