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2nd Governing Board Meeting


2nd Governing Board Meeting

iCUBE holds 2nd Governing Board Members’ Meeting

UBD held the biennial iCUBE 2nd Governing Board Members’ Meeting on 28 January 2013. iCUBE, which stands for the International Consortium of Universities for the Study of Biodiversity and the Environment, brings together a core group of research universities from around the globe to form a consortium to address both research and educational issues and problems related to biodiversity, climate change, and the environment. Comprised of a group of eight research universities who share a common vision and are committed to research and education on biodiversity, climate change and the environment namely King’s College of London (KCL), University of North Carolina (UNC), Korea University (KU), University of Auckland (UA), University of Bonn (UB), Monash University (MU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and UBD, the Consortium seeks to promote collaborative research, disseminate knowledge and promote awareness and understanding on issues and problems related to biodiversity and the environment. The Consortium also seeks to create and strengthen existing international linkages by promoting intellectual and educational exchanges and interaction among scholars and students. Having the privilege to host the 2nd Governing Board Members meeting, UBD chose Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park as the meeting venue. The meeting was chaired by Associate Professor Dr Azman bin Ahmad, in his capacity as the Acting Vice Chancellor for UBD. The meeting was held as an avenue to update members on the current activities and development as well as to discuss the future direction of iCUBE. The meeting resulted in a proposal for an extensive research expedition to Bukit Teraja, along with the incorporation of a reconnaissance visit to the Bukit Teraja Protection Forest (BTPF) & the White Sands area. Bukit Teraja was chosen as it was included as one of the forest reserves in Brunei Darussalam’s Heart of Borneo (HoB). Research on the area will generate biodiversity and environmental data that will help the authorities to manage the long-term protection and conservation of the Teraja area under the Brunei Darussalam HoB initiative, and to highlight the Teraja forests as one of the biodiversity hotspots of Brunei Darussalam’s HoB. In its capacity as a centre of research excellence and expertise in Brunei Darussalam, UBD has proposed a two-week expedition to the Teraja area under its iCUBE Initiative to be conducted in May – June 2014. The main aim of the expedition is to gather baseline data on the flora, fauna, geology, climate and hydrology of the Bukit Teraja Protection Forest and its surrounding areas. Potential areas of research include carbon sequestration (as Teraja is a potential carbon sink for surrounding areas), gene bank research (as the area is a possible gene bank for rehabilitation and reforestation projects), bioprospecting (the biodiversity of Bukit Teraja potentially translates to a large number of plants for medicinal and other economic uses) and ecotourism in the Bukit Teraja Conservation Forest. Some of the expected outcomes of the proposed expedition include: • Publications in high–impact international journals to raise the profile of Brunei Darussalam’s HoB within the scientific community. • A report on the biodiversity and environment of the BTPF for the Brunei Darussalam HoB National Council. • A UBD-organised iCUBE conference to discuss the findings and results of the Teraja expedition. • Seminars and public lecture series on the Teraja expedition to disseminate information on Teraja and Brunei Darussalam HoB to the general public. • Biodiversity checklist of the flora and fauna of BTPF to highlight common endemic species as well as species with conservation and protection priorities. • A dedicated website on the results of the Bukit Teraja expedition (linked to the UBD and iCUBE websites) to showcase the expedition to the international communityThe White Sands area is a unique ecosystem and believed to have arisen from Pleistocene terraces formed during the higher sea levels of the interglacial periods in the past. Locally known as Kerangas (heath forest), it has developed on the infertile, nutrient-poor, highly acidic sandy soils. The forest is very vulnerable to disturbance, particularly burning, and much of the coastal Kerangas forest in Brunei Darussalam has been seriously damaged. Studies conducted by UBD researchers and students have shown that several different strategies have evolved to allow plants to cope with the poor nutrient status of the White Sands area. One of the most spectacular is carnivory – plants that obtain nitrogen by catching and digesting insects. There are several plants in the White Sands area that do this – the Sundews (Drosera), the Bladderworts (Utricularia), and the Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes). Some studies even show how some carnivorous pitcher plants capture the faeces of bats and sequester nitrogen from it. Further research projects on the impact of climate change related to the growth and development of some parasitic plants and other flora species are currently in progress. Issues on biodiversity and environment are at their peak, especially with the rapid evolution in climate change and terrestrial landscapes, so iCUBE is looking forward to engage in collaborative work and accelerate the current momentum. This will include developing more activities among iCUBE members and building a deeper and sustainable relationship with each other. According to Professor Keith Hoggart, the Vice Principal for Arts & Sciences and External Affairs in KCL, “We would like to see more joint research collaborations, joint publications in top-tiered journals and more student involvement in such activities. This will create a snowball effect in encouraging and motivating other students to ‘jump on the wagon’ and increase interaction between scholars and students.” Hence, the establishment of the iCUBE website is hoped to act as a central platform not only for disseminating the latest information, but also as a focal point to generate and discuss ideas and materialize them into research collaborations. The iCUBE Research Seminar Series which will be broadcasted via the iCUBE website, for instance, will not only benefit the partner universities academia and students, but also members of the public. As Professor Keith puts it, “Whatever is done in iCUBE for example through the various workshops, research findings and discoveries, and seminars has important messages and lessons that can also be shared with countries from other parts of the world.” With eight strong active players, including UBD, iCUBE is strenuously working towards consolidating iCUBE partners. Another iCUBE partner member, Dr Jacqueline Beggs, Director for Joint Graduate School in Biodiversity and Biosecurity, University of Auckland, comments, “iCUBE partners can leverage against each other’s strengths by encouraging collaborations in non-biodiversity areas such as social sciences, health sciences and economics; as they are all interrelated to biodiversity and the environment.” With UBD and Brunei Darussalam chosen as a site for tropical field courses for Postgraduate and undergraduate students, the University of Auckland has shown a great interest in collaborating in terms of research on marine and terrestrial systems. Dr Jacqueline adds, “Biodiversity and the environment is a vast field to explore and work on, ranging from the value of biodiversity, restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands, aquatic and marine ecosystems, biodiversity and management of urban landscapes, climate modelling and climate change, hydrology, and invasive species, just to name a few. There is certainly plenty of room for potential and future collaborations among iCUBE partners.”

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