Friday, August 12, 2011


(Excerpt from an Article Published at Ti Similla, Official Newsletter of the Academic Staff of UP Baguio in July 2011 Issue)

by Zenaida G. Baoanan

My attendance at the International Seminar on Natural Resources, Climate Change, and Food Security in Developing Countries held at Graha Pena, Surabaya, Indonesia on June 27-29  was a refreshing escape from the daily routine of doing administrative functions and teaching in the classroom.  Surabaya is the second biggest city in Indonesia, next to Jakarta, the capital city.  The name comes from a legendary battle between “Sura” (a shark) and “Baya” (a crocodile) to establish territoriality over the place and to declare who is stronger.  A symbol of the city are statues depicting these two animals circling each other.   The fight between these two animals might actually depict the battle of Surabaya native people to regain freedom against foreign invaders.

The seminar was very successful, with more than 200 participants from Asian countries including Japan, Thailand, China, Malaysia, India and of course Philippines.  It served as an opportunity to disseminate the output of our research and at the same time listen to experts, researchers, and practitioners addressing the impact of climate change on natural resources and food security, especially in developing countries.

The keynote speech of the Agriculture Minister of Indonesia presented the strategy and policy of Indonesian government in overcoming the effects of climate change on the natural resources for sustainable food security.  Dr. Hugo Alfried Volkaert of Kasetsart University, Thailand addressed the issues of food security through plant genetic resources. The plenary talk of Dr. Lin Qing of Fujian Normal University in China focused on how to optimally allocate land resources in response to the need for economic development.  Dr. Bustanul Arifin of Lampung University, Indonesia discussed the role of private sector in overcoming the impacts of climate change.
Plenary speakers: (from left) Dr. Hugo Alfried Volkaert of Kasetsart University in Thailand, Dr. Zenaida Baoanan, Dr. Lin Qing of Fujian of Normal University in China, and Dr. Takeshi Takayama of Kagawa University in Japan
My plenary topic and that of Dr. Takeshi Katayama of Kagawa University, Japan were more specific.  Dr Katayama discussed the chemistry and chemical utilization of woody biomass and introduction of a project of agroforestry of Falcata in Indonesia and the effective utilization of the wood wastes.  On the other hand, I addressed the issues on climate change effect on natural resources and ecology by giving a case study on the effect of climate change to molluscan population and ecological dynamics. Mollusks remain as an integral part of the web of life in forests as they consume organic material on the forest floor and recycle plant and animal wastes.  Native species of mollusks are considered habitat-specific and usually found on relatively undisturbed areas. The land snails and slugs can serve as indicator of forest health status since they are vulnerable to environmental changes such as changes in temperature, soil chemistry, and weather. The same is true for marine habitat.   The increasing temperature stress and a declining saturation state of seawater aragonite may be diminishing the ability of calcifying organisms such as mollusks to deposit calcium carbonate.  It is no wonder that in the 2002 IUCN Red list of threatened species, mollusks have the highest proportion of recorded extinctions among the major taxonomic groups of animals. 

Several papers were presented in the different parallel sessions, including a paper which I co-authored  with Steve Obanan of the University of the East.  The paper, entitled “Land Snail Diversity of Mt. Polis, Central Cordillera Range, Luzon Island, Philippines,” is part of the output of projects funded by the Creative and Research Scholarship Program, Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of the Philippines.  Another highlight of the conference was the search for Best Oral Paper for professional and high school categories and the Best Poster Competition.  I was requested to join the panel of judges in the Best Paper Competition together with Dr. Hugo Volkaert (Thailand) and Dr. Sudarsono (Indonesia).  The delegates from the Philippines proudly bagged the Best Oral Paper in both categories while Indonesia won the Best Poster.

An International Conference will not be complete without a tour.  The organizers arranged a nature and city tour on June 29 as a post-conference activity.  We were brought to the Wonorejo Mangrove Forest. The participants watched the students of UPN Veterans East Java plant mangrove in the area. We passed by the Suramadu Bridge which connects the Surabaya to the Maduru Island. According to our tour guide, it took about six years to complete this 5.4 km longest bridge in Indonesia and was only opened to public in June 2009.

A friendly pose at the longest bridge in Indonesia, the Suramadu Bridge. (From left)  Dr. Hugo Alfried Volkaert, Dr.Baoanan, PSSN President Dr. Jesusa “Susan” Ortuoste and ISSNAT President and seminar head organizer, Dr. Sukendah
The scenery at the Sidoarjo Mud Flow took a new spin in the sight of the participants. It reminded us on how nature can take control of shaping the Earth’s landscape. Sidoarjo Mud Flow also known as Lapindo mud, is a mud volcano in the subdistrict of Porong, Sidoarjo in East JavaThe area was once occupied by a village but since the volcano started its eruption in May 2006, it continued spewing mud which turned the place into a barren land of hot mud.  Controversy turns on the contention that this  biggest mud volcano in the world was created by the blowout of a natural gas well drilled by PT Lapindo Brantas.  Company officials, however, contend that it was caused by a distant earthquake. While the eruption is considered as a major disaster, the new landscape created by the mud flow became an excellent site for scientists to conduct research to better understand the nature of mud volcano.
Scenery of the Sidoarjo Mud Flow.  Who would have imagined that this area was once a village?
Becoming a UP traveling scholar not only opens windows for professional growth and international linkages but turns into a chance to meet new friends and learn the culture of other countries.  The language barrier was compensated by the warm friendship and hospitality of the host institution and the people I met in the conference.  The mayor of Surabaya even hosted a dinner for all the participants, showcasing the cultural dances and songs in Indonesia.
This international seminar signaled the start of collaboration with the Center for Agricultural Biotechnology, Kasetsart University in Thailand, the Agriculture Faculty of the University of Pembangunan Nasional (UPN) “Veteran” East Java and the Philippine Society for the Study of Nature.  The 25 delegates from the Philippines headed by the National President Jesusa “Susan” Ortuoste, joined the rest of the participants in witnessing the inauguration of the Indonesian Society for the Study of Nature (ISSNAT) with its main office temporarily set at UPN. 

Philippine delegate to the conference with Dr. Sukendah
According to Dr. Sukendah, the founding President of ISSNAT, the cooperation between the two societies can be realized because they both advocate developing strategies towards wise and sustainable use of nature. We are hoping that this collaboration can inspire other participating countries in establishing new Societies for the Study of Nature in the near future.  In the inspirational message of Dr. Ortuoste at the opening program, she challenged the ISSNAT to double the number of delegates who will attend the Annual Convention of PSSN to be held next year at General Santos City. With the plan of inviting foreign participants, PSSN might stage its Second International Convention. This is surely an event worth waiting for.