An understanding of the theory of Conservation Biology is never complete without practical engagement or field experience to test hypotheses and to see first-hand projects that support biodiversity conservation and management. More than fifty NUS Foundation Biology and 200 level environmental science students joined the Division of Environment and Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the Samoa Conservation Society (SCS) to learn about conservation projects being implemented by the two organizations and to understand simple approaches to monitor biodiversity. The Malololelei Recreation Reserve was selected for the field work as it is an accessible site with a range of easily observed native biodiversity and is also the focus of conservation efforts, including rat management. Rats are a major threat to our native biodiversity and hence rat management in key biodiversity areas is a key strategy to protect native biodiversity.
The two days program started on Friday 15th March 2019, with a one hour lecture presentation by James Atherton (President of SCS) and Moeumu Uili (Principal Officer National Reserves-MNRE) providing an overview of Samoa’s biodiversity and conservation efforts. The main goal of the presentation was to try and inform and inspire students to take a greater interest in Samoa’s environment and biodiversity.
Apart from serious and intense course works the fun part is basically getting yourself close to nature doing field work. And this was when the students were engaged on a full day of activities with a feel of the actual surveys and research works conducted for specific taxa and different ecosystems. The field excursion with students at the Malololelei Recreation Reserve took them through the various methodologies used for researching different species of plants and animals and their habitats. The fifty five students were divided into five different groups and were assigned to rotate around the different taxonomic research stations. These stations included plants, birds, terrestrial reptiles, butterflies and also rat management. Each station had its own facilitating personnel from MNRE, SCS and NUS to take the students through the specific methodologies for surveys in the field, background information and species identification. This was an interactive one day course of field experience which revealed to the organizers the greater need to continue this momentum not only with the university students but also with primary and high school students.
To mark this first year of success for this program, a total of 2000 native seedling of montane and lowland trees were planted at the Malololelei Reserve to reinforce our commitment to environmental protection and biodiversity conservation for Samoa. We thank our key Partners Bluebird Lumber and Hardware and the Two Million Tree Campaign through the Forestry Division for supporting this initiative with the National University of Samoa.