Foreign biodiversity researchers to embark on Bukit Teraja expedition

National 2 minutes, 33 seconds

TEMBURONG

BIODIVERSITY researchers from international universities will gather in Brunei for a Bukit Teraja expedition in rural Belait to study flora and fauna next year.

Researchers from the International Consortium of Universities for the Study of Biodiversity and the Environment (iCUBE) - which Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) is a member of - will be here in the middle of 2017, said UBD’s assistant vice chancellor of global affairs yesterday.

The expedition was one of the five outcomes of the third iCUBE Governing Board meeting that concluded last Saturday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the iCUBE Governing Board members’ visit to Temburong’s Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre yesterday, Dr Joyce Teo said the meeting focused on iCUBE moving forward with a broader scope.

“We had a trip to Bukit Teraja in June 2014 (iCUBE Bukit Teraja Scientific Survey) to collect baseline data in preparation for the full Bukit Teraja expedition that will be carried out likely end of June, early July of 2017”, she said.

Bukit Teraja is a forest reserve listed under Brunei’s Heart of Borneo initiative, consisting of mostly mixed dipterocarp forest with some peatswamp forest bordering the Ulu Mendaram Conservation Forest.

The iCUBE website said Bukit Teraja had recorded a number of endemic floral species.

The meeting also discussed iCUBE’s plan to expand its members.

“There are already a number of people calling and emailing us to join iCUBE, because we are the first consortium in the world that really focuses on biodiversity,” she said.

Set up in 2011, iCUBE aims to promote collaborative research, disseminate knowledge and promote awareness and understanding on issues and problems related to biodiversity and the environment.

During the meeting’s opening ceremony last Friday, UBD Vice Chancellor Datin Dr Hjh Anita Binurul Zahrina Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wijaya Dato Seri Setia Hj Awang Abdul Aziz said with a number of universities showing interest in joining iCUBE, they plan to expand the iCUBE membership to other institutions or invite these institutions as iCUBE observers.

iCUBE comprises a group of eight research universities that are committed to research and education on biodiversity, climate change and the environment.

Dr Teo said: “We’ve also talked about having more multilateral programmes, which is very important for the consortium. We would like to see more multilateral collaboration in education and in research.”

The meeting then deliberated new iCUBE initiatives such as the first iCUBE Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform, the first of its kind to offer extensive online modules in biodiversity and environmental studies.

“It would be very interesting to see whether we can convert this into a ‘blended’ platform where, for example students of National University of Singapore (NUS) can take this module for two modular credits and do their field work right here at Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre for the other two modular credits,” Dr Teo said.

“These are the points that we see will bring the consortium of eight universities together and move forward. We could see more research collaboration and educational collaboration through the iCUBE platform”, she added.

The Brunei Times