Posts Tagged ‘ATBCAP2019’

Lanka’s biodiversity a global heritage: Asia-Pacific scientists urge Govt. to intensify conservation efforts

October 8, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190922/news/lankas-biodiversity-a-global-heritage-asia-pacific-scientists-urge-govt-to-intensify-conservation-efforts-369502.html published on SundayTimes on 22.09.2019 

Tropical biologists and conservation scientists representing 29 countries have appealed to the Sri Lankan government to redouble its efforts to protect the country’s unique biodiversity which they describe as a global heritage.

Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke

The tropical biologists and scientists were in Sri Lanka to attend the four-day global forum of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Asia-Pacific (ATBC-AP).

Sri Lanka is home to more than 8,600 plant and animal species, of which more than 1,600 are endemic to the island.

In their appeal, the experts call for the setting up of ecological corridors to link fragmented biodiversity-rich habitats, especially in Sri Lanka’s wet zone, the incorporation of the valuation of ecosystem services into Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and increased efforts to conserve the biodiversity in the Mannar region.

About 350 participants from 29 countries attended Conference held at the MAS Athena complex in Thulhiriya from September 10 to 13. Their appeal and recommendations were included in a end-of-summit communiqué which they called the Thulhiriya Declaration.

Established in 1963, the ATBC is one of the largest international scientific and professional organisations engaged in promoting research, education, capacity building and communication regarding the world’s tropical ecosystems. ATBC’s Asia Pacific Chapter was established in 2007 and the Thulhiriya conference was their 12th annual gathering.

The conference was inaugurated by President Maithripala Sirisena by planting an Atamba (Wild Mango) tree at the MAS Athena premises.
Addressing the gathering, the President said the tropical countries like Sri Lanka faced an imminent threat to biodiversity in the face of climate change, accelerated development efforts and population growth. He said it was important that scientists find ways address the problems by striking a balance.

The event’s co-chair, Dr. Sampath Seneviratne, justifying the decision to invite a political leader to inaugurate a conference on science, said: “We can discuss science within our own academic circles, but we need to take this knowledge beyond these walls toward policy level to make a real impact on conservation. That is one of the main reasons of getting the president of the country to inaugurate the ATBC-AP conference.”

To sustain the momentum of the conference, the organisers established the Sri Lanka Ecological Association (SLEA), a professional body, with the aim of providing advisory services to the Sri Lankan Government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Adding some diplomatic lifelines to the science forum were French ambassador Eric Lavertu and Indian High Commission diplomat Sanjana Arya.

ATBC global President Dr. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz

During the three-day conference, about 30 symposia were conducted through five parallel sessions where as many as 200 papers were presented.

Seven eminent local and international scientists delivered keynote addresses.

Before the conference was convened, several workshops covering technical subjects were conducted followed by research-oriented field tours.

ATBC-AP chairperson Dr. Enoka Kudawidanage said the conference offered opportunities for scientists and practitioners to gain new insights and knowledge while acquiring skills to contribute towards capacity building within the Asia-Pacific region.

“As there were foreign scientists with number of them eminent experts in their fields, the event had been particularly an opportunity for participants to get networking, collaboration and learning” said Dr. Kudawidanage, who was also elected as the Secretary of the ATBC-AP chapter for the coming year.

Professor Nimal Gunatilleke, the co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the conference, said Sri Lanka and India’s Western Ghatts were collectively considered as one of the global biodiversity hotspots, and therefore, the collaborative opportunities the event created were enormous.

India was represented by a contingent of about 60 scientists.

ATBC-AP chairperson Dr. Enoka Kudawidanage

The tropical region is the area near the equator and between the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. The tropics comprise 40 percent of the Earth’s surface area; but have diverse habitats ranging from rainforests to deserts and from savannahs to mangroves. With most biodiversity hotspots spread in the area, the tropical zone is home to 80 percent of the earth’s species. But with India and China making up a part of the tropical regions, it is expected that the two countries would harbour half of the human population by 2030 causing huge pressure on natural ecosystems.

The conference became a forum for local researchers to meet experts from the Asia and Pacific region. Dr. Kanishka Ukuwela, who conducted a research on skinks in Sri Lanka, met an Indian scientist who is researching on skinks of India. “In this age of communication, we could collaborate through different means of technology – but it is not like sharing the research interests talking on a live chat face to face,” said Dr. Ukuwela after having a friendly skinky chat with his Indian counterparts.

ATBC global President Dr. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz of the University of Nottingham told the Sunday Times that ATBC-AP were happy to be here in Sri Lanka, pointing out that there was a good diversity of delegates from different institutes and disciplines.

“Sri Lanka has a big role in tropical ecology and produced some of the eminent researchers such as Prof. Savithri Gunathilleke,” he said.

In 2016, Prof. Savithri Gunathilleke was honored as an ATBC Honorary Fellow – an award given to researchers who have provided life-long distinguished service to science and tropical biology.

Need of using innovation in wildlife conservation stressed

September 19, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190915/news/snake-specialist-charmed-by-the-attention-368310.html  Published on SundayTimes on 15.09.2019

WildLanka is the annual symposium of the Department of Wildlife Conservation that brings together wildlife researchers and administrators of the country. All keynote speeches were delivered by experts from other fields – one was an ICT expert, while the other two are engineers.

Chandana Sooriyabandara – the DG of Wildlife

DWC head Chandana Sooriyabandara at the symposium

Innovative solutions devised collectively by experts are needed to address wildlife challenges, was the message that emerged from speeches at a symposium on ‘Innovation for Conservation’, held at Waters Edge from September 2-3.

The first speech was delivered by the group chief information officer and the center head for Virtusa Sri Lanka, Madu Ratnayake.

“When we say innovation, often the technological innovation comes into our mind. But there can be innovation in other means that can help to achieve conservation successes. The way we work, methods, work process are some of the areas that can be improved by innovation,” he said.

Delivering the keynote address on “Using Technology in protecting wildlife and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts,’’ Mr Heminda Jayaweera, the chief operating officer of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology, stressed the importance of identifying the issue before providing a solution.

The engineer said that innovative solutions can emerge from the collective efforts of experts from different fields.

The Minister of Wildlife and Tourism, Mr John Amaratunge was chief guest of the WildLanka symposium.

“Through WildLanka, the department aims to encourage research on wildlife, which is required in taking management decisions in conservation. More importantly, we want to improve the research capability of the department itself, while encouraging wildlife officers to carry out more research on relevant fields,’’ said Chandana Sooriyabandara, the director general of DWC.

Held for the sixth year, WildLanka 2019 witnessed 46 research papers. Twenty of these were presented by wildlife officers of the DWC and the rest by researchers at universities and other institutions. The presentations were judged by experts and recognised at the end of symposium.

The research papers based on presentations made at the symposium are published in WildLanka, the journal of the department. The DWC has been publishing this quarterly science journal since 2006. The symposium is its annual event.

“WildLanka is a peer-reviewed journal where the papers are assessed for accuracy and quality by an editorial panel of experts. Experts from India, Malaysia and the US are also part of the WildLanka editorial board,” said Chief Editor, Ms Nilanthi Rajapakse.

There has been a gradual increase in the contribution of research papers to the WildLanka journal and it is encouraging, she said. For example, over 75 papers were presented at the symposium, whereas only 46 was selected, Ms Rajapakse, said.

A deputy director of DWC, Ranjan Marasinghe, said the department also tries to use technology in conservation and management
The DWC introduced the SMART (Spatial Monitoring And Reporting Tool) patrolling in a number of national parks to measure, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of wildlife law enforcement patrols and site-based conservation. SMART helps the patrolling groups to collect field data.

Technology tools for wildlife research
 The three-day symposium of Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s Asia-Pacific chapter (ATBC-AP) held this week involving about 400 scientists (with half of them foreign) working on tropical biodiversity also demonstrated instances of using innovative methods in wildlife study.Lakimini Abeywardhana, who studied IT and is doing post-graduate studies at University of Colombo, presented her research developing an application to identify tiger beetles. This is a rare groups of bugs and this illustrates how experts from different fields can assist wildlife research.

“This was started towards the end of 2017. Not having images due to their endemicity and rareness has been an issue and I’m now trying to increase the accuracy of the app with limited images,” she said.

Tharaka Kusuminda, a doctoral student at University of Ruhuna illustrated how he used sound to identify the bat species, the painted bat.

“Bats use ultrasound to find their pathway and food and these are out of our hearing range. To be sure whether a particular species of bat is in an area, rigorous observation has to be done. Sometimes, you need to catch one. But I identified the frequency of the painted bat and now we could record the sound and by analysing, we could find out the presence of painted bats,’’ Mr Kusuminda said.

Catharina Karlsson, a researcher of frogs, shared information about innovative identifying devices she used for her doctoral study at Malaysia’s Kinabalu Park.

“There are about 15 species of frog in the study, but they are so tiny and usually hidden under logs and so on. But each species has a unique sound, so I developed a device to record the sound. Its analysis helped to identify the frog,” said Ms Karlsson. “It was not easy. The devices failed initially, but with the assistance of my father in assembling the electronic devices properly, I could gain the results,” she said.

Watch video on Catharina Karlsson’s study through following link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-o33wtcTmQ

Environmentalists, conservationists gather for tropical biodiversity conference in Sri Lanka

September 19, 2019

The 12th Asia-Pacific Chapter Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) got underway yesterday (Sept 10) at MAS Athena in Thulhiriya. Published on SundayTimes Online on 11.09.2010 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/article/1102195/environmentalists-conservationists-gather-for-tropical-biodiversity-conference-in-sri-lanka


By Malaka Rodrigo

The 12th Asia-Pacific Chapter Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) got underway yesterday (Sept 10) at MAS Athena in Thulhiriya. The conference which was inaugurated by the President will go on till September 13. President Sirisen opened the sessions with the planting an Atamba (wild mango) tree.

ATBC is one of the largest international scientific and professional organizations engaged in promoting research, education, capacity building and communication regarding the world’s tropical ecosystems.  The Asia Pacific Chapter was established in 2007.

The tropical region is the area near the equator and between the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere.

The tropics comprise 40% of the Earth’s surface area; but has diverse habitats ranging from rainforests to deserts and from savannahs to mangroves. With the majority of biodiversity hotspots spread in the area, the tropical zone is home to 80% of species that live on earth.

With India and China making up a part of the tropical regions it is expected that it would harbor half of the human population in the world by 2030.

“This indicates that the problems faced by the environment and wild animals as well as plants would be enormous. Science has the answers on how to sustain life, so this is an important summit for Sri Lanka,” said Country representative of ATBCAP, Dr.Enoka Kudawidanage.

The theme ATBC-AP 2019 is “Bridging the Elements of Biodiversity Conservation: Save–Study –Use” which is in line with the global, regional and local agendas for the conservation of natural resources accompanied by sustainable development.

Reiterating the significance of this gathering, the co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the conference, Emeritus Professor Nimal Gunatilleke said that, “This timely meeting of over 300 international and local scientists and other stakeholders is being held in Sri Lanka at a time when the international community is trying to find new strategies to sustain life on this planet.”

The Chairperson of the Conference, Dr. Enoka Kudavidanage is confident that, “this conference creates a platform for local and international scientists, as well as conservation practitioners, to network and initiate collaboration while sharing their findings at a global forum.”

She went on to say that twenty-six symposia with over 200 oral and poster presentations are being made by the participants on a wide range of topics aimed at bridging the elements of biodiversity conservation.

While university students and researchers are also taking part in this conference  Co-chair of the Conference, Dr.Sampath Senerathne said the conference was an important opportunity for such groups to learn and network with experts from different parts of the world.

While seven eminent national and international scientists are due to present keynote and plenary presentations during this four-day international conference, several workshops covering technical subjects were conducted before the conference and will be followed by research-oriented field tours.

The wholesome experience creates opportunities for scientists and practitioners to gain new insights and knowledge while acquiring skills to contribute towards capacity building within the Asia-Pacific region.