Pass­ing on the love for na­ture

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - EDUCATION GUIDE -

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 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.

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