2005 Student-Faculty Fellows: Lawrence University
Philippines: Reassessing the Value of Montane Forests and Degraded Lowlands for Bat Conservation
Mentor: Jodi L. Sedlock, Biology and Environmental Studies
Students: Laura Corcoran, ’05; Marin Damerow, ’07; Shi-Hsia Hwa, ’05; Benjamin Pauli, ’06
Jodi L. Sedlock
The field research I conducted with Lawrence students this summer in the Philippines was extremely rewarding professionally and personally. The students provided a continual source of energy and enthusiasm that enhanced every aspect of the field experience. Working with art and biology students demonstrated that it is possible and fruitful to fuse art and science in a field setting, and has motivated me to pursue similar multidisciplinary projects which use art to communicate scientific findings to a broad audience. Moreover, working in an area where the interests of people and wildlife were at odds with one another provided me – and the students – a first-hand account of biodiversity conservation in a Philippine context. Many of these experiences will provide rich case studies for discussion in my Conservation Biology class. Also, the specimens collected on the trip (some of which may be new to science) represent important pieces in the taxonomic puzzle I am attempting to solve. Overall, the trip was immensely rewarding. Working in the field with undergraduate students enhanced my research experience and reaffirmed my love of teaching at a liberal arts institution.
I left the United States to go to the Philippines in eager excitement. Not only would this trip be my first time out of the Western world, but studying and drawing bats with a field biologist would be an experience that combined many of my interests – art, science, and nature. During the three weeks in a field research camp on Mt. Isarog, I was able to see first hand a field biologist at work. I got to handle and draw many different bat species as well as an array of insects in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Following the research experience, I spent a week at the Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (CSSAC), where I helped to create an educational poster that will be hung in various community centers to inform people of the benefits of bats and what they can do to help bats survive. While working on the educational poster I got to work with CSSAC faculty and staff, as well as observe the everyday workings of CSSAC and experience Philippine culture (transportation, cuisine, markets). Upon returning to the States, I wrote a short essay which will be included in a larger report about our study in a Philippine environmental magazine. This fall and winter I will be working on art for a show about our experience. I hope that through writing and art I can help others to see bats through the eyes of someone who finds them fascinating.
Researching in a foreign country with my professor provided me with a once in a lifetime opportunity for learning. The experience allowed for a deeper understanding in my field of study, of the world, and of myself. I was able to further develop my relationship with my professor who taught me a great deal about research and our topic of study. I am also now aware of the possibilities of research and the preliminary steps in making it possible. This experience has contributed to my personal development and increased my desire to perform future research.
Despite a long-standing interest in zoology, I had never worked with wild animals before visiting the Philippines’ Mount Isarog National Park this year. Living in the jungle and with its inhabitants for three weeks was also a novel experience for me, as was learning to identify the local bats. Since I hope to become a veterinarian and study infectious diseases, the introduction to fieldwork was valuable. Trapping and measuring bats taught me not only the correct way to handle bats, but also about their behavior and the distribution of different species. It was exciting to be able to quantify how many bats, and which types, occurred on the mountain and to discover the presence of some rare species. A less satisfying experience from the fieldwork was seeing the degree of human encroachment in the national park in the number of farms and freshly felled trees in the areas where we were sampling. I learned from Dr. Sedlock and her Filipino colleagues that bureaucracy and poor enforcement are often responsible for frustrating conservation efforts.
My part in our team’s output is (to date): illustrations for an educational poster targeted at local farmers, a comic strip on bat handling for the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines, and an essay for Haring Ibon magazine. I am glad for the chance to make a small contribution to a country which gave me a taste of its wonderful forests, and to the people in the farming communities and college which hosted us. Drawing parallels between the Philippines and Malaysia was irresistible to me as a citizen of a neighbouring country, and it produced several insights about the interactions between politics, culture, economics, and ecology in both countries. Ultimately, I hope that both will be able to become stable developed nations without losing their precious biodiversity.
Researching bats on Mount Isarog in the Philippines provided me with invaluable experiences – both professionally and personally. As an ecology student who focuses on terrestrial ecosystems, the experience of conducting fieldwork in a foreign country allowed me to further understand how field ecology is conducted in the professional world. It allowed me to further exercise and refine my field skills, as well as acquire completely new abilities. Furthermore, the ASIANetwork sponsored research was professionally valuable in that it helped me solidify my professional plans and decide on a career devoted to issues of wildlife conservation. In addition to the professional experience, my time in the Philippines was also incredibly valuable and fulfilling on a personal level. The things I was able to observe and experience will be with me for the rest of my life.