Course awakens nature awareness
Have you ever met some natural “intruders” at Lingnan University? Apart from the Lingnan cats who enjoy sunbaths around us, there are many tiny living creatures which are often misperceived as typical mosquitoes. Emily Kwong Siu-chi, a recent Lingnan graduate from the Department of Chinese who enrolled in the course “Natural History of Hong Kong” last semester, has paid much efforts in identifying insects on campus. “We caught an adult Tessaratoma papillosa, whose identity as a pest on lychee trees was unveiled after hours of investigation,” said Emily with her amusement in exploring our nature.
“Natural History of Hong Kong” is a cluster course offered by Lingnan’s Science Unit under the Core Curriculum and General Education Office. Instructed by Prof Jonathan Fong and Dr Xoni Ma, it aims to build an appreciation of Hong Kong’s nature habitat. “I learned about various topics on biodiversity as well as approaches on conservation and sustainability adopted by the HKSAR government and non-profit organisations,” recalled Emily.
Apart from lectures, Emily gained most of her out-of-class learning experience in the eight field trips to various destinations. “We left footprints on many rural areas like Mai Po and Nam Sang Wai. Among these, the field trip to Pak Nai was the most rewarding,” said Emily, sharing how she was amazed by the opportunity to have a closer look at wild crabs. “It was so interesting to observe how they develop their ways of survival. They are very sensitive to surrounding movements, so we had to stay still and avoid moving too much to scare them away. We found the investigation challenging but filled with fun.”
Not only had Emily acquire knowledge on the ecology of crabs, she had also gained insights on nature conservation. “The field trip taught us about marine habitat. As the crabs always hide themselves inside the burrows, we had to pay extra care not to bend their claws by accident when observing them. Otherwise, they may lose the ability to hunt or protect themselves,” she elaborated on how she has understood the impact of human actions on nature, “even a tiny move can cause harm to our environment.”
With increased awareness on nature, Emily has started to observe the biodiversity around her proactively. “Ladybugs are usually red with black spots, appearing in their circular shape. Surprisingly, there are actually some other species which look quite alike to them,” she said. Later, when visiting Taize in France, she was astonished by the Pyrrhocoris apterus which also looks eye-catching in its red-and-black pattern. “I had stayed there from May to August and was lucky enough to observe their growing process as they mate in June. Without attending this course, I may have only seen them as typical ladybugs and will not observe them in details for appropriate identification of species,” Emily attributed her habit of self-learning to the course.
Aspired to be a teacher, Emily is currently pursuing a postgraduate programme for primary education. “This cluster course at Lingnan perfectly complements the curriculum of General Studies regarding environment and experiment in my postgraduate studies. I feel confident in bringing my future students out for a field trip or picnic to share what I have learned and experienced. Hopefully, it can arouse their interest on nature, especially those uncommon species,” she appreciated Lingnan’s diverse curriculum for enriching her intellectual realm so as to inspire the young generation on the importance of nature conservation.