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NUS and STEP reaffirm commitment to develop young environmentalists as joint environment programme enters its fifth year

13 November 2017 | Education , Community
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NUS and STEP reaffirm commitment to develop young environmentalists as joint environment programme enters its fifth year

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (STEP) today kicked off the fifth STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme, an annual event aimed at nurturing youths to become strong advocates for environmental conservation.

The STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme is organised by STEP in partnership with the NUS Climate Change and Sustainable Environment Research Initiative hosted by the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) at NUS.

The programme was started in 2013 to spark youth’s passion and interest about the environment. The five-day programme designed specifically for students aged between 13 and 15 offers participants opportunities to take part in field trips and attend lectures delivered by leading environmental scientists. These activities help students better understand and appreciate the environment. To date, the programme has trained and nurtured close to 500 students in Singapore and across Asia.

Professor Leo Tan, Chairman of STEP and Director (Special Projects) at the NUS Faculty of Science, said, “STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme was set up to reach out to a younger group of youths. The earlier we help these youths kick-start their journey on environmental conservation, the more likely they will continue to take positive actions towards protecting their environment throughout their lives.”

STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme 2017 saw the participation of more than 130 participants from Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Held from 13 to 17 November 2017, STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme 2017 will focus on the topic “Fragile ecosystems”. Fragile ecosystems are habitats which are highly sensitive to changes in the environment. Southeast Asia is home to some of these fragile ecosystems such as cloud forests and coral reefs. Participants of this year’s programme will learn how small changes in the environment can significantly change ecosystems.

Professor Wong Sek Man, Director of TMSI at NUS, said, “As we become more empowered by globalisation and new technological advances, it is easy to neglect the damage we are doing to the environment and other organisms living amongst us. Environmental conservation requires a collective effort from the government, industries as well as individuals. Through the STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme, we want youths to understand that they too can play a part especially when they start early.”

Activities of the five-day programme will include a series of lectures by eminent scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceangraphy at the University of California. Professor Greg Rouse delivered a keynote lecture on “Deep Dark Secrets” at the opening of the event, and shared insights on lesser known creatures living in deep oceans. Emeritus Professor Lanna Cheng, who is an alumna of NUS, will share her adventures on the high seas in her lecture “A Bug’s Life – On the Open Ocean”. Dr Zeehan Jaffar from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science will speak on “Goby and Shrimp Symbiosis: More than Meets the Eye” to educate students on the delicate associations between gobiid fishes and burrowing shrimps in tropical coral reefs. In addition, six volunteers from local organisations will share with the students their experiences working for different environment causes.

Participating students will also visit Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve and St John’s Island. In addition, they will make a trip to LKCNHM at NUS to learn about conservation and the Singapore whale. 

The students have been organised into teams and they will compete through written essays, oral presentations and poster presentations to demonstrate their understanding towards different aspects of climate change and environment sustainability. The winning teams will win prizes sponsored by STEP.

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