Virtual Field Trips: The Way Forward
Students at Portsmouth University, UK, didn’t allow COVID-19 to ruin their big field trip to Malaysia. They organised a virtual trip. They collected field data which they can use for their university field course module and learnt about conservation issues in Malaysia. This shows when there is a will there is a way.
The students from the BSc Environmental Science course at Portsmouth University, UK, should be traveling around Malaysia for their biology field trip now. They would have been working with Fuze Ecoteer to learn about urban ecology, as well as visit tropical rainforests in Taman Negara and Merapoh and then finish up studying marine ecosystems in the turquoise blue waters of Perhentian Islands.
However, due to COVID-19, things had to change. But, the pandemic shouldn’t put things to a complete stop. Conservation entities like Fuze Ecoteer, which is a social enterprise conservation travel company, are suffering with 98% of school field trips to Malaysia being cancelled in 2020. It is not just Fuze Ecoteer that are suffering but right across the conservation and ecotourism sector as highlighted by Conservation Careers.
The lock down caused by COVID-19 though has led to novel ideas such as virtual field trips, which have boomed in the past few months. You can take trips to see hurricanes, visits to zoos and even visit the Grand Canyon.
Fuze Ecoteer offers virtual field trips to all over Malaysia and that is just what the students from Portsmouth University did. The Portsmouth University students had to do a fieldwork assignment based on this trip. They were transformed from their homes to visit the people and communities on the ground in Malaysia.
They experienced 3 different topics over three days ie 5-7th May 2020. They spent two hours learning about sea turtles in Malaysia and how the Perhentian Turtle Project conducts photo identification research using the facial scutes of the turtles and how that research has helped them identify over 350 individual turtles nesting and feeding at the islands. Then, they had a detailed briefing from Izereen Mukri of the Malayan Rainforest Station learning about how the station collaborates with research entities to conduct studies on species such as flying squirrels, clouded leopard and more. Izereen also gave an insight on how they use camera traps to study species behavioural patterns.
“[I] learnt an extensive amount of information about how camera trapping is set up and works in the field and also gained a lot of knowledge about why many species are under threat within Malaysia’s rainforests! Was a very interesting session and watching the camera trap footage was just incredible!”
Finally, the third session was conducted by Siti Naquiah who taught the students how the Perhentian Eco Education Project involves the local primary school children in basic citizen science initiatives such as Coral Watch and the Big Micro plastic survey by Portsmouth University.
The students will use the data collected by the organisations to generate reports for their university third year fieldwork module.
COVID-19 shouldn’t stop us from doing things but we just have to do things a little differently. Virtual field trips and even virtual volunteering can really make a difference to small NGOS around the world as we all change to face the new world.
Want to keep up your conservation learning during COVID-19? Find out more about virtual field trips offered by Fuze Ecoteer and other organisations.