Passing on the love for nature
EACH time Monash University Malaysia School of Science (Education) deputy head Associate Prof Dr Catherine Yule enters Sarawak, she is both awed by its beauty and saddened by what she sees.
“I’ve been travelling to Sarawak regularly since 1990 and each time as we fly over the state, the devastation of its natural forests is so apparent,” she said.
Dr Yule, who introduced and has been conducting a unit called Tropical Terrestrial Biology to third year students since 2001, has not only been visiting Mulu for her own personal research but has been bringing students from both Monash Malaysia and its Clayton campus in Australia for an annual field trip to the World Heritage Site.
“Mulu is a World Heritage Site and perfect for the field trip as there are so many different environments for students to conduct their research. There are rivers, swamps, caves, bats and so much more. At any one time, students are doing projects on frogs, on bats, carbon storage, small animals and the list goes on,” she said.
In their most recent trip, 29 students from Clayton joined 24 from the Malaysian campus in spending five days at Mulu. Apart from literally getting their hands and feet dirty in one of the most beautiful natural sites in the world, the stu- dents also learn to work in intercultural groups.
“For every trip, the day before we leave Mulu, the groups will make power point presentations on their findings. This is a great opportunity for group work, working on their interpersonal skills as they communicate with people from different nationalities and cultures,” said Dr Yule.
For her students, their time in Mulu was inspiring.
“The students really enjoyed themselves and the trip just inspired their research. Most of them said it was an experience they will remember for life,” said Dr Yule.
“Mulu is very well run, and is such a joy to visit. The place is special. There is always something new and it’s so beautiful,” she said.
However, she said it is disheartening that too few Malaysians realise how beautiful the Mulu Caves are.
“Most of the visitors to Mulu are foreigners. Each time I’m there, I see so few locals and it’s sad because people don’t know what they’re missing out on.”
She said that the devastation of rainforests in Borneo, specifically Sarawak and Indonesia’s Kalimantan, was shocking and believes that unless drastic changes are made, the only places with forests will be the national parks.
Dr Yule is a tropical freshwater ecologist, studying rivers, swamps and lakes and looking at them as an entire ecosystem and how they all work together. She has merged her passion for her research with a fierce determination to inspire those under her charge to share her love for nature.
“What inspires me is that I can really make a difference. When I think of some of my past students who are now working with NGOs to help displaced indigenous jungle people, or of another student who fought to ban styrofoam packaging on campus, I feel a sense of satisfaction.
“My role is to influence them, and they go out and do these things that they are passionate about. That is my biggest joy,” she said. Dr Yule hopes that all her students will grow to love Malaysia and go to places like Mulu so that they would experience its beauty for themselves and want to preserve and take care of this country.
“Foreigners like us can spearhead the conservation movements, but ultimately we can only do so much. We need the locals to take charge of the change, to make these changes,” she said.
For details on courses, speak to counsellors at 03-5514 6000/013200 5572, or visit www.monash. edu.my. Be part of the illustrious Monash alumni, the March 2014 intake is now open for enrolment.
Students from Monash Clayton Campus joined students from Monash Malaysia on a five-day trip to Mulu.