Curtin Malaysia environmental engineering students learn about wildlife conservation

Miri – 7 July 2022 – A variety of activities were recently organised by the Faculty of Engineering and Science at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) to enable its environmental engineering students to learn about wildlife conservation in Miri.

The activities included a field trip to the Kuala Baram Wetlands about 40 minutes from the city centre and a short distance from the university campus. 11 students led by unit lecturer Dr. Tay Ai Chen conducted a survey of the wetlands to determine its geographical features and its role and importance to wildlife. This gave the students a better understanding of the ecosystems and biodiversity of Miri’s wetlands.

Extending over 600 hectares, the Kuala Baram Wetlands is a popular location for bird-watching in Miri, being a haven for a wide variety of indigenous and migratory birds, and much of the Curtin Malaysia campus is in fact surrounded by the wetlands. The area consists of mudflats and mangrove forest, salt pans, prawn and fish ponds, as well as freshwater lakes and rice paddies which are ideal habitats for wetland birds.

Dr. Tay also led a group of 16 students to the Piasau Nature Reserve (PNR), Miri’s unique urban forest reserve dedicated to the preservation of indigenous wildlife about 5 kilometres from the city centre.

While there, the students were briefed by park warden Louis Velda Anak Dominic Salon, who also took them on a walking tour of the reserve to give them further insights into the resident flora and fauna, including its famous Oriental-pied hornbills; the management of PNR by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, and the ongoing wildlife conservation and forest rehabilitation activities there.

Another activity for the students was a guest lecture on bird identification by Lee Bor Seng, a committee member of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri Branch. He gave an overview of MNS Miri activities and explained different aspects of bird identification such as bird topography, plumage features, bird habitats, and birds commonly found in Miri. Lee also led the students on a bird identification survey at the Curtin Malaysia campus.

Student Woo Jun Fui said he was most fascinated with the Kuala Baram Wetlands as he felt very close to nature there. This view was shared by his coursemate Diya Merlin Varghese, who said it was the ideal birding spot. She said the PNR was also an excellent location for wildlife observation and photography.

Another student, Jonathan Tham Kar Yern, summed up the field trips as being very enlightening and educational as they allowed the students to see and experience first-hand what they learned in class.

Dr. Tay said field trips and industrial talks are an essential part of student learning at Curtin Malaysia and proved very effective in the students’ learning of their ENST 2002 Wildlife Conservation unit.

“The field trips and talk enabled them to gain a very good understanding of current conservation practices by relevant agencies. We highly appreciate the support and assistance given by these agencies towards our learning activities,” she said.

Environmental engineering programme coordinator Dr. Tan Yee Yong, meanwhile, said it is good that students can participate in physical field trips again after over two years of just virtual field trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is always better to physically observe the wildlife and experience their habitat. There is nothing like actually being there and being a part of it. We will definitely organise more field trips and guest lectures so our students get the best learning experience and the practical knowledge they need for their future careers,” said Dr. Tan.

Curtin Malaysia offers Curtin University’s Bachelor of Engineering in Environmental Engineering, which provides a broad scope of environmental engineering, including water treatment, solid waste management, and domestic and industrial waste water treatment. Graduates of the course can find employment in areas such as environmental impact assessment, air pollution prevention and control, environmental monitoring and management systems, environmental consultation, soil erosion prevention, noise monitoring and control, recycling systems and oil spill recovery.

It is a four-year honours course accredited by Engineers Australia (EA) and the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM), and recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

For more information on Curtin Malaysia and the courses it offers, visit its website at https:// or look for Curtin Malaysia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or Tik-Tok.

Students with a village boy at the Kuala Baram Wetlands.

Students with PNR park warden Louis Velda Anak Dominic Salon.

Lee Bor Seng of MNS Miri giving his guest lecture.

MNS Miri’s Lee Bor Seng with the students during bird survey at Curtin Malaysia campus.