Faculty of Environmental Studies, University Putra Malaysia Posts

on 5 Jun, 21:30

Fully funded PhD scholarship with MEME (Uni. of Nottingham) to study wild elephant population in P. Malaysia

Fully funded PhD scholarship with MEME (Uni. of Nottingham) to study wild elephant population in P. Malaysia
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Scholarship – PhD in Tropical Conserva4on Ecology

Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME), School of Environmental and Geographical, University of NoEngham Malaysia Campus

Project title

Status of the wild elephant popula1on in Peninsular Malaysia

Project description

Asian elephants Elephas maximus play key and irreplaceable ecological functions in ecosystems but have become endangered due to the rapid decline of their populations in recent decades. The main threat for Asian elephants is the combination of habitat loss and the resulting human-elephant conflict (HEC), especially in the form of crop raiding. Peninsular Malaysia is home to ~ 1500 wild Asian elephants, whose range has drastically declined since the middle of the 20th century. However, we know little about the status of this elephant population, especially about elephants occurring in forests outside Protected Areas (such as National and State Parks) but inside in Central Forest Spine (CFS) landscapes.

The Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) is offering a fully-funded PhD scholarship to study the status of the wild elephant population in Peninsular Malaysia’s forests, especially elephant distribution within CFS landscapes and factors affecting it. The specific focus of the study will be decided later on as part of the student’s work developing the final research proposal. This will include the specific research questions, geographical scope, and relevant methodological approaches (e.g. remote sensing, molecular work, and /or social science techniques). MEME is a 9-year research project run in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) of Peninsular Malaysia. MEME is an interdisciplinary and holistic project that studies wild elephants behavior, ecology, and their interaction with people and aims to bring a science-driven conservati1on of elephants in Peninsular Malaysia. MEME is part of the School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC, hLp://www.no[ngham.edu.my/EGS/index.aspx). More details about MEME can be found in our website and newsletter.

Candidates are expected to meet the following requirements

• Being a Malaysian citizen

• Having a Master (or equivalent) in Conservation Science, Ecology, Environmental Science, Geography, or a relevant discipline (including environmental economics and other social sciences).

• Possessing a good command of English and Bahasa Malaysia.

• Being highly mo1vated and able to work resourcefully, independently, and in a team.

The successful candidate will be en1tled to a 100% tui1on fee waiver, a monthly s1pend of RM2500, and

an annual research budget of ~ RM30,000, for a period of three years. MEME has 4WD vehicles and a field station in Gerik, Perak. This scholarship is sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby and UNMC.

How to apply

Applications should consist of (1) a Curriculum Vitae, (2) academic transcripts, and (3) a short (1 page

maximum) statement letter describing the motivation to pursue this PhD. Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz at ahimsa.Camposarceiz@nottingham.edu.my. Applica1ons, specifying the scholarship being applied for, should be sent by email before 5th July 2017 to MEME’s Project Manager at Praveena.Chackrapani@nottingham.edu.my.

on 21 Apr, 21:13

Looking for TCS Interns!

Looking for TCS Interns!
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We are looking for a few interns who are independent, proactive, fast-learners, love to meet new people, are passionate about the environment, possess a valid driving license and a vehicle and who would like to contribute to turtle conservation in Malaysia

Your basic responsibilities as an intern includes, but not limited to, the following tasks:
– Assist in the execution of research and conservation projects
– Assist in the planning of new outreach programmes
– Assist in/Lead our Turtle Discovery Trips
– Assist in/Lead Turtle Camps held with school students
– Assist in our Public Outreach Campaigns
– Assist in/Lead our Fundraising Activities

Of course, you will be trained accordingly on the job (what better way to learn, right?). Accommodation is provided for. TCS-related expenses and mileage claims will be reimbursed.

If you are interested to join us as an intern, please send a cover letter and your resume to pelf@turtleconservationsociety.org.my

[Please share this with your friends/contacts/students.]

on 21 Apr, 21:09
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Xiwen Yeoh

Become a fossil fuel online fellow

Become a fossil fuel online fellow
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Climate Tracker is looking for 5 online fellows to write about the fossil fuel industry in their countries.

Who can apply?

You have to be from one of the eligible countries: DRC, Senegal, Uganda, Ecuador, Bolivia, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Poland, China, India, Bangladesh, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Nauru, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Venezuela, Russia, Mexico, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya.

You have to be between 18 and 30 years old and have a bit of experience writing and publishing.

What will I gain?

You will have to write articles about the fossil fuel industry in your country. We will help you refine your style, give you resources, tips, feedback on the articles… You will learn a lot about journalism and climate change and you will have personalised assistance from the Climate Tracker team.

The fellowship also includes a payment of 150$.

I’m interested – What do I have to do to apply?

You only have to go to the left-hand side of the screen, press “get started” and start replying to the questions we have written for you.

Link: http://app.climatetracker.org/competition/0074ca57-68d6-466f-baf3-d2fe4930920d/introduction

on 28 Jan, 18:19
link by
Xiwen Yeoh

Volunteering with MareCet – Matang Dolphin Research

Volunteering with MareCet – Matang Dolphin Research
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Nothing could have been more exciting than seeing an offer for a volunteering opportunity with MareCet on dolphin research in Matang during the dull exam weeks! I am not a person who crazy over dolphins that I want to swim with dolphins so so much (most people asked me whether I swam with dolphins when they knew that I went to this research), but I love animals in general. It could be a great opportunity for me to practise what I learnt so far in Environmental Science since we have limited opportunities to go for a real serious field trip due to limited budget and equipment in our faculty. After checking the dates (almost right after my exam weeks, for 5 days), I immediately sent an email to the contact provided in the picture posted by Langkawi Dolphin Research (this Facebook page is managed by MareCet) and a few days later, the email informing me that I got the offer greeted me in the morning which really made my day~

 

 

Established in 2012 (quite recent!), MareCet is the first and only non-profit NGO in Malaysia that is dedicated to the conservation and research on marine mammals. They started off in Langkawi for dolphin research, and then expended to Matang for dolphin research as well and in Johor for dugong research. They have carried out the dolphin research in Matang for the past two and a half years merely in data collection to determine the abundance and distribution for three species of dolphins: Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, Indo-Pacific finless porpoise and Irrawaddy dolphin. The methodologies used in this research are line transect method and photo ID. For the line transact method, straight lines are drawn on the map of the sea we are going to cover. The boat will cover the lines we have decided and any dolphins seen will be recorded. The exact locations will be marked using GPS so we can know where the dolphins were seen. For photo ID, the photos of the left and right sides of the dorsal fins will be taken (except finless porpoise, of course) in order to identify each individual since the pattern on their dorsal fins is different, just like our finger prints.

This is the specially made metal platform for observers to have 360 degrees view on sea (which means 360 degree sunlight exposure!!!).

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The team I worked with!

(from left) Mr. Yusry, Vivian, Sandra, me, Sandy, Mr. Khairul.

I joined the second part of this 10-day survey. As a first-timer who had not spent long hours on the sea, I was glad that it was only 4 days (took a day off due to heat stroke lol). It was quite surprising that there were only four girls including me, and two local skippers. The head in this survey was Vivian, a 26-year-old phD student from UM, with Sandra who is going to study marine mammals for Master, Sandy who is a vet and also me, the youngest of them all. Basically, this was our daily routine: load equipment to car, breakfast, unload equipment and load equipment to boat, depart from jetty, start survey, lunch (on boat), end survey, unload and load equipment to car, clean equipment, key in data, dinner. During the survey, there would be three observers: two on the metal platform who would knock the metal frame with metal rod to alert the skipper to stop when there was any sighting, and one on the boat, looking out for dolphin. The other one person will be the data recorder.

Cockle-processing site under the morning sun. Do you know that Matang produces a lot of the cockles we consume?

 

As the least experienced, I was the data recorder most of the time, with lots of help from Sandy. Every event going on had to be recorded, including departure, break, starting the search, sighting etc. Besides, the weather, condition of the sea and water quality would be recorded as well during some occasions. Despite of the fact that marine conservation is important and research should be carried out to facilitate the effort, it was a really dull work. Imagine having to stay on the boat from morning till afternoon, looking out at the sea as the water turned from muddy colour to green or vice versa, trying to ignore the seasickness whenever the boat stopped, having to eat bread for lunch and dolphins might not show up at all throughout the tiring day. I felt like a salted fish being dried by the warm sea breeze and the oven-like heat from the sun (even though I was under the shade most of the time).

One of the fishing villages that we passed by.

 

Heading towards the sea!
(This is the mirror-like sea state I hoped for every day, hahaha) 
Beautiful sky with…the ripple made by a dolphin. My handphone camera was too slow to capture them!

 

The first problem that I wanted to overcome was seasickness. And coincidently, on my very first day, the sea was the roughest with 0.7m high swell (wave), sea water kept splashing into the boat that I had to wear the raincoat and keep all my belongings in the cooler box. Even though I bought the pill that prevents seasickness, but I was told that they would make me feel groggy, so I took half a pill on the first day (which proven useless) and no more for the rest of the survey. Luckily everything was better for the following days that it was not a big problem although I still hoped that the boat did not have to stop moving. The second problem was, there was no toilet on the boat, and we had to settle it in a bucket. It was a very big challenge for me even though it seemed like a normal thing for people who spent lots of time on sea. I wished I could pee standing.

I have seen the first dolphin in front of my very eyes on the second day of the survey, even though I didn’t see anything at first when I heard the exciting clinking of metal on the platform. The group of dolphins was swimming at quite some distance away, so we steered closer to the dolphin so that photos can be taken and details of the dolphins can be recorded (species, behavior, number etc.). They were the humpback dolphins (people commonly call them ‘sousa’, pronounced like ‘susah’ to me, hahaha), which were the most shy-less compared to the other species. I was very lucky to see them swimming up close to the boat, showing off their grey and pink body. We did bump into some finless and Irrawaddy on the other days, but they kept a distance from the boat and disappeared quite quickly that I didn’t manage to capture anything on my phone. Even for sousa, I had to take videos and then screenshot them to save as photos.

 

Despite of all the sweat and boredom on boat, I learnt a lot from these humorous and yet experienced people about the dolphins, the sea and also coastal birds! I am grateful that I made the right immediate decision for wanting to join this survey as a volunteer because it is wonderful to be surrounded by people who really care about the environment. All the awkwardness and gingerness when I first met them dissolved slowly as we spent more and more time together, working and also sharing knowledge of our respective field. Even the skippers told us lots of funny stories about their experiences in being tour guides in Matang. I really miss our last dinner together, the laughter was so healing that I feel energetic again to do something for the sake of environmentalism.

Thanks again for making this survey a great experience, I would surely join again whenever I can. *wink*

on 7 Oct, 11:10
link by
Xiwen Yeoh

Oxygen — Identification of Water Pollution

Oxygen — Identification of Water Pollution
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“Do you know why do we need to measure the oxygen concentration in the water?”
“To test whether it is enough for the fish to breath?”

Ok that was a sample answer most probably will be given by normal people who are not into Chemistry or Water Science. The basic knowledge that we know about oxygen is, all living things need oxygen to breath and stay alive. From the perspective of Environmental Science, the oxygen concentration in the water means something more, and we call the oxygen ‘dissolved oxygen’ (DO). Oxygen is soluble in water, that’s why aquatic life can breath underwater!

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(image taken from Michael Prescotts’s Blog)

Conditions Affecting DO Concentration in Water

At normal room temperature and pressure, oxygen, like any other gases, is the most stable in gaseous form. So they can easily escape from the water into the atmosphere if the water condition is not ‘favourable’ for it to remain in dissolved form. These are a few key conditions that affect the solubility of oxygen in water:

Temperature

When we boil the water, DO absorbs heat and expands, making it much lighter than the water and thus leading to the ‘escape’ as it rises. This is the reason we don’t change the water in fish tank with boiled water, which is deprived of oxygen.

Atmospheric pressure

At a higher altitude such as on a mountain, we might not be able to breath as easy as when we are at sea level due to low atmospheric pressure up there. Because of the low oxygen concentration in the air under low atmospheric pressure, the DO concentration in water will be lowered as well.

Salinity (saltiness)

Salty water contains salt, which is ionic compound. These ionic compounds will attract and attach to water molecules, causing the water to hold less oxygen molecules, which are neutral. Thus, sea water can dissolve less oxygen compared to fresh water!
[if you are interested to know, the solubility of oxygen in fresh water (at 25°C & sea level) is 8.3 mg/L while in sea water, it is 6.7 mg/L]

(image taken from Stevens Water website)

Relating DO Concentration with Indication of Water Pollution

Sometimes, the fastest way to wipe out the entire aquatic life in a region is not through poisoning them with toxic pollutants, but through taking away the oxygen in the water which is vital for life. The only consequence of depleted oxygen in water towards the aquatic life is death. According to the National Water Quality Standards for Malaysia & Department of Environment Water Quality Index Classification, water belongs to Class I should have DO concentration more than 7 mg/L. What does it mean when the DO concentration is lower than that?

Accumulation of Organic Matter

Organic matter sounds like good stuff for the growth of plants, but when they accumulate in the water, it turns out to be not so good. Chemistry-cally speaking, organic matter is made of carbon chains which will be break down by microorganisms into simpler form so that it can be used as nutrients. The carbon will be converted into carbon dioxide which requires oxygen as shown in the equation below:

C  +  O2  à  CO2

If there is a lot of organic matter, there are a lot of carbons. So a lot of oxygen will be used, causing the oxygen in the water to run low. By doing some simple calculations, you will know how many grams of carbon will immediately consume 7 mg of oxygen in 1 L of water. These organic matter might come from the animal wastes of farms, discarded internal organs from slaughterhouses, dead animals carcases or plants etc.

Accumulation of  Nutrients

Accumulation of nutrients in water can be caused by the accumulation of organic matter, but it can be also resulted from the direct discharge of nutrients into the water, most probably due to the excessive chemical fertilizers used in farms that are washed into the water by rain. The nutrients can come from the detergent we use too (to be more specific, the nutrient mentioned isphosphate)! It is true that the aquatic plants will benefit from these excessive nutrients available for their growth, but there are some ‘bad guys’ who will feast on these nutrients as well and quickly multiply in number. These guys, again, are microorganisms. They are given more incentives to grow their population, thus raising the competition of grabbing any oxygen available with other aquatic life.

Infestation of Microorganisms

This one is obvious, to put it in a simpler way, the water will be too crowded with microorganisms gasping for air to breath. It can be indirectly caused by the two points I mentioned above, but same as nutrients, the direct discharge of microorganisms especially bacteria into the water happens too, where untreated sewage effluent is channeled into the water. Where does the sewage come from and what kind of microorganisms it contain? Er…it comes from your toilet…?

How about Phytoplankton that Produces Oxygen?

Phytoplankton behaves just like plants living on land or in the water. They carry out photosynthesis to produce oxygen, so they constantly supply the water with the goodness all aquatic life will be happy with. Like other aquatic plants, they react positively towards the excessive nutrients available in the water and all of the sudden they bloom, covering the water surface with a tint of green (usually). There comes the disaster. The aquatic plants at the bottom of the water will not get enough sunlight as the phytoplankon covers up the water surface. Eventually, those plants die and the story begins with accumulation of organic matter, moves on to the accumulation of nutrients, and then the infestation of microorganisms. There goes all the oxygen. This phenomenon is called eutrophication.

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(image taken from Slide Player)

Differences between DO and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)

If you have not heard of DO, you might not have heard of BOD as well. DO is the current dissolved oxygen concentration of the water, while BOD is the rate of the dissolved oxygen being consumed by the microorganisms in the water. So, if DO goes up, BOD will go down. To perform this analysis, the water sample will be collected using BOD bottle, a glass bottle with a glass stopper which can make sure that no air goes into the water sample collected.

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The legendary BOD bottle. There is another version which is in amber colour to avoid penetration of sunlight so that the microorganisms in the sample will not carry out photosynthesis which will influence DO reading. We should always hold the bottle by its neck if we are going to perform analysis related to the microorganisms in the water because our body temperature might cause changes to the results (microorganisms like warm environment).

Then we will take the initial reading of the DO concentration which will be performed immediately after collecting the water sample. The analysis can be done either with the traditional Winkler method, or with the modern technology – DO meter. Winkler method involves using a chemical which captures dissolved oxygen in the water so that we can proceed to analyse how much oxygen-capturing chemical has been used to calculate the concentration of dissolved oxygen. Ok that sounds like too much work. So it’s faster if we use the DO meter!

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The DO meter, the most convenient invention ever compared to the traditional Winkler method! By just inserting the probe into the sample, the reading can be recorded when it becomes stable.
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Thanks to the improvement on the instrument we are using now, this DO probe has a mini stirrer attached to it so that we don’t have to stir while taking the reading from the DO bottle.
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DO meter probe in action! It fits so well into the BOD bottle that we don’t have to hold it and air in the surrounding won’t get into the bottle and affect the actual DO content in the sample!

Up to this point, we have just measure the DO, not the BOD. The BOD bottle containing the sample will be sealed and placed inside an incubator at 20°C for 5 days, giving the microorganisms some time to use the oxygen in the bottle so that we can measure the DO again to see how much oxygen has been used up in the 5-day time.

So…

Now you know the reasons we shouldn’t throw food waste into the drain or wash the detergent into the river. Whatever input we give to the water, there will be an outcome which might not be desired to everyone.

References:

1) Radojevic, M. & Bashkin, V. N. (1999). Practical Environmental Analysis. Cambridge, UK: The Royal Society of Chemistry.
2) Manahan, S. E. (2009). Environmental Chemistry (9th Ed). Florida, United States: CRC Press.

 

P/S: This post was taken from the Confessions of An Environmental Student blog.

on 4 Oct, 19:07
link by
Xiwen Yeoh

Haze – Air Pollutant Index (API)

Haze – Air Pollutant Index (API)
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(screenshot taken from Air Pollutant Index of Malaysia)

 

The sun has been less scorching and the scenery has been blurry for almost a month. Holding an umbrella, I walked towards the faculty, trying my best to breath through nose despite of the burning smell, hopefully this amazing creation given by God can filter away the smoke suspending in the afternoon air during this hazy season. As a person with over 18 years of sinus experience, minimizing exposure towards the haze is a must to prevent triggering allergic condition but this trans-boundary man-made phenomenon has cornered many of us to the state that we have to stay in air-conditioned room whole day long, if it is available. Simply staying indoor to avoid the haze is no longer a temporary solution unless you shut off all the ventilation you have in the building. Haze has brought so much discomfort to our daily lives but how much do we actually know about the figure that we have been watching closely every day hoping for school closing to get information about the haze condition?

Development of Air Quality Guideline in Malaysia

1989 – Recommended Malaysian Air Quality Guidelines (RMG)
1993 – Malaysian Air Quality Index (MAQI)
1996 – Air Pollutant Index (API)
[API closely follows the system of Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) of United States, now known as Air Quality Index (AQI)]

Air Pollutant Index (API)

We have been using the API system since 1996 (just found that I am older than this system, hahaha) and I believe that most people only know that the higher the reading of API, the worse the air quality (don’t even border to remember the exact figure for each category, unless the lecturer is going to test us in the exam). As you can see in the image below, as soon as the API exceeds 100, the air is considered as unhealthy. Unlike what is usually displayed, API does not stop at the status hazardous (>300). If you refer to A Guide to Air Pollutant Index in Malaysia published by the Department of Environment in 2000, if API exceeds 500, it will be declared as emergency state and the public will have to follow the order of National Security Council. We have experienced school closing and many locations reached unhealthy state which is already bad enough (think about the sore throat you are having now!). Can you imagine thecondition in Indonesia where API is over 1000?

You might find that some colour coding for API you get on internet is different from this one. The one which starts the colour with green is actually AQI. So make sure that you don’t mixed up both similar systems.
(image taken from Google Play)

Calculation of API

This was a really tricky question to me because even thought I am an environmental student I had never thought of knowing about it at all (credits go to Dr. Tengku who made me feeling ashamed of not knowing)! API is not only a measurement for the severity of haze (it should be called suspended particulate matter), but also for the other 4 pollutants: ozone, carbon monoxide,nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Data will be collected using 52 continuous air quality monitoring stations set up throughout Malaysia (yes, we have only 52, you can now imagine the cost needed for each equipment). Then, the sub-index of each pollutant will be determined respectively according to the standards given. From the 5 sub-indexes we get, the highest one will be the API figure (of course the pollutant responsible towards this reading will be stated.

What to do then?

There is no way we can fly over to Indonesia helping them putting out the fire. Besides doing self-protection (wearing mask, staying indoor etc.) and complaining regarding how bad the haze is on Facebook, we are just waiting and praying for this hazy season to come to an end. The effort of a single person (stop smoking, stop open burning, reduce driving etc.) might be too small to make a difference, but there are a few NGOs who are working hard on solving this problem by educating the public regarding haze and also encouraging the people to stand up for our rights of clean air who need our support.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore & People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze)

Well there are more to explore on this topic (what is haze, peatland fire, slash and burn agriculture etc.) and all the information is accessible on Google. Haze is a problem that has been haunting us every year. Turning a blind eye towards the already blurry vision is not a solution. Lets get started by educating ourselves, and then figure out the little things that we can do to contribute to this bigger fight towards haze.

Photo taken last year as I cycled to class. It seems that this problem has been on-going  for years but why do we forget about it easily after the hazy season ended and embrace the next one one year later?

References:

1) Department of Environment. (2000). A guide to air pollutant index in Malaysia (API) (4th ed.). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Department of Environment.

2) Department of Environment. Air pollutant index of Malaysia. Retrieved from http://apims.doe.gov.my/

P/S: This article was taken from the Confessions of An Environmental Student blog.

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