ANNOUNCEMENT: Processing of examination permits

Dear SESAM students,


Regarding the processing of examination permits:

Note that the Graduate School continues to process examination permits and that deadlines have not changed, nor has the academic calendar. At least not yet. 

In order to remain compliant with academic requirements, please make sure that if you are applying for an oral comprehensive exam, outline presentation, or final examination, you are still required to submit the necessary permitting documents. If you already had your committee members and me sign the said documents, please scan and email to the GS, copy furnish SESAM through Tita Malou and Jeran (mgmendoza9@up.edu.ph and jjbunzo@up.edu.ph). If the signatures are not yet complete, please scan the document, secure the concurrence of your committee members by email, screen capture their replies, and send all those images in one email to Tita Malou and Jeran (mgmendoza9@up.edu.ph and jjbunzo@up.edu.ph). They will forward your request to me. If everything is in order, I will send my approval to you, for your action (meaning, you need to send all the docus to the GS yourself). 

As per the GS, they will be extending maximum leniency in processing applications, but you also have to try your best to beat the deadlines and meet meet requirements. 

From Dean Decibel V. Faustino-Eslava

SARAI Conducts a Drone Training for Agricultural Applications in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro

MINSCAT, Alcate, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro – The Project Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate the Agriculture as an Industry (SARAI), in partnership with Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MINSCAT) conducted a two-day Drone Training for Agricultural Applications last March 12-13, 2020 at MINSCAT Main Campus at Alcate, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. 

This training is one of Project SARAI’s objectives to capacitate the co-implementing SUCs with the skills and knowledge in operating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) also known as Drone and processing aerial images for agricultural applications. According to Prof. Nelio Altoveros, SARAI 2.2 (Maintenance & Enhanced Connectivity of Existing AWS Units under PCAARRD) Project Leader and a Professor from Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, UPLB, this training aims to fully optimize the application of UAV agriculture and research.

The team led by Prof. Altoveros demonstrated basic drone flying operations, specifically, how to navigate the remote control, the pre-flight checks, set-up and the post flight checks. He also introduced several types, models, and applications of drones and the fundamentals of drone operation. 

At first, the participants tried to fly drones using the Flight Simulator. After the simulation, experts and the participants went outside for the actual hands-on experience. 

On second day of the training, Dr. Ranzivelle Marianne L. Roxas-Villanueva, SARAI Project Staff and also a Professor from IMSP, CAS, UPLB discussed the Aerial Imaging and Processing of the Aerial Images. Participants tried hands-on processing of aerial images using their laptops. The processed aerial images taken inside the MINSCAT Campus were then presented to the MINSCAT President Dr. Levy B. Arago, Jr. The university president was impressed and had a positive response to the adaption of drones for agricultural applications and research. 

On the other hand, Mr. Rodel L. Pompa, an Agricultural Extension Worker of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro said “Makakatulong ang technology at ang training na ito sa aming LGU since mapapabilis nya yung monitoring sa mga taniman specially ‘pag may bagyo” (This technology and training will help our LGU since it will hasten our monitoring of crops particularly during typhoons).Faculty and Researchers of MINSCAT, Agricultural Engineers from DOST Provincial Office, Agriculturists and Technicians from different LGUs such as Calapan and Pinamalayan, and from the Provincial Agricultural Office of Oriental Mindoro attended this two-day training. -RM Areglado and Reg Regalado

US Extension Professionals Visit SESAM

Extension professionals from different universities in the United States visited the School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB), as part of their Philippine tour and to discuss future collaborations under the International Extension Professional Development Program. In cooperation with the Office of Institutional Linkages (OIL), the program brought experts from Utah State University, Iowa State University, Colorado State University and University of Wisconsin last 12 March 2020.

Dr. Decibel F. Eslava, Dean, SESAM presented an overview of SESAM– about the people, the academic programs and the completed researches. She also shared the current activities of the Earth Systems Research Team (EaRT) Laboratory and the Benham Rise. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Rico C. Ancog introduced the projects under the Ecosystems Services and Environmental Policy (ESEP) Laboratory. Dr. Patricia Ann J. Sanchez, head of the UPLB Interdisciplinary Studies Center (IdSC) for Water, elaborated the importance of the center’s role in managing the water resources of the country. 

For his part, Dr. Yusof A. Sucol, Coordinator of the UPLB Climate and Disaster Risk Studies Center (CDRSC) said they partnered not just with the other units of the university to build disaster-resilient communities. Lastly, Dr. Christine Casal demonstrated the technologies developed by the Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (Project SARAI).

Dr. Celina Wille, Extension Assistant Professor, Utah State University, said it was a pleasure to come to UPLB seeing all the work done in the country. “This is an opportunity to see what is also beyond the extension work and we value engaging with professionals like you”, Dr. Wille told SESAM faculty and staff. With more than 27 years of extension work from Michigan State University, Texas A & M and Utah State University, Dr. Wille is already looking forward after this presentation. “I hope we can work something together in the future as we have an existing memorandum of agreement with UPLB”, she stressed.  

This is part of the 10-day “International Extension Professional Development Program” hosted by UPLB, through OIL, for the Utah State University. The group presented the US Extension Program Model to UPLB constituents last 09 March 2020 at CEC Conference Hall.

Integrated Counter Measures Key for Flood Control – Japanese Professor

Establishment of infrastructures for flood control is not enough to stop inundation of urban areas, according to Dr. Hiroaki Furumai, Professor, Research Center for Water Environment Technology, Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Furumai stressed that meteorological data, hazard maps and other flood monitoring information are also needed to effectively implement flood control measures.

In his presentation entitled “Challenges Towards Real-Time Forecasting and Control of Urban Flood” last February 14, 2020 at the School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB), Dr. Furumai illustrated the integrated management by various stakeholders. It included the establishment of river measures, such as multipurpose storm water reservoir, drainage pump station, underground river establishment, river improvement (banking/dredging); basin measures in different zones, such as in water retaining area, water retarding area and lowland areas; and damage reduction measures. In addition, house and city planning measures, risk information provision, evacuation measures and hazard maps must be disseminated. All stakeholders must also practice green conservation, Dr. Furumai added. 

Dr. Furumai also discussed their project on real-time prediction and control of urban flood risk. The real-time sensing of water level of the drainage system in Tokyo are detected by wifi-enabled sensors installed in manholes. The data from sensors will be transmitted to a cloud network and will be used for data assimilation. Data assimilation can adjust for predictions and can create new predictions for possible future floods.

The integrated data from the sensors, along with other meteorological data will aid the disaster managers in emergency response. Citizens will also receive SMS about the flood levels, which will enable them to make informed decisions during flood events, according to Dr. Furumai.

River administrators must consider a combination of these measures to save more lives and prevent more damages. “There can be damages but it is important that nobody will die. In Tokyo, a 50 cm inundation is still acceptation as it only creates minimal damage”, Dr. Furumai said.

He said there is an increasing trend of torrential rainfall events in Japan with more than 20 events in the last 10 years. “One of the worst Tokyo flood was experienced during Typhoon Hagibis in October 4, 2014”, he said. Faculty, Staff and students of SESAM attended the lecture, which is co-presented by the UPLB Environmental Science Society.

Colliding Plates Created Volcanoes in the Philippines

Convergent boundaries, where plates collide into each other, formed most of the volcanoes in the country, according to Dr. Decibel F. Eslava, Dean of SESAM and UP Scientist III. 

In her lecture under the “Living Dangerously” Series in February 20, 2020 at the School of Environmental Science Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños, Dr. Eslava said there are 24 active volcanoes in the Philippines, mostly formed by oceanic-oceanic convergent boundaries. This is when the oceanic crust subducts under another oceanic crust, creating pressure that pushes the magma upward producing volcanic eruptions. 

Dr. Eslava, who earned her PhD degree in Geology at the University of Hong Kong, said the Philippines was formed by two terranes, namely the Sundaland/Eruasian/Palawan Continental Block and the Philippine Mobile Belt. Sundaland has older materials and came from Southern Asia, while the Philippine Mobile Belt has younger volcanic belts and a tectonically active zone. Majority of the active volcanoes in the country are located in this zone.

“After the Pinatubo eruption in 1991, volcanologists never used the term ‘dormant’ anymore”, Dr. Eslava said. Before the 1991 eruption, Mt. Pinatubo is heavily forested mountain, with no historical account of any eruptions. Thus, she added, volcanologists now created three classifications– active, potentially active and inactive volcanoes. 

Active volcanoes are those with recorded eruptions in the past 10,000 years, such as Taal and Mayon. Meanwhile, potentially active volcanoes are geomorphologically young, such as Mt. San Cristobal of the Mt. Banahaw Complex. Inactive volcanoes on the other hand are deeply weathered edifices, such as Mt. Makiling.

The types of volcanoes are also based on their forms and types of eruptions produced. Shield volcanoes are large, broad volcanoes with a wide base, for example are Hawaiian volcanoes, Mouna Loa and Mauna Kea. The composite cone or stratovolcanoes are the most common form of volcanoes. The best example is the conical Mayon Volcano. Another type is the cinder cone, which is usually a ‘one-shot volcano’ or only erupted once. An example of a cinder cone is the eroded and quarried hill located in Pansol, Calamba.

As for eruption types, volcanologists named some categories based on the characteristics of well-known volcanoes around the world. The least explosive type is called Hawaiian, which has less than 2 km plume height. It is usually a non-violent lava flow eruption. Meanwhile the Strombolian type, with a plume of 10 km or less, is a lava-fountaining eruption, named after the Italian volcano Stromboli, found in the Mediterranean Sea. Another type is the Surtseyan, with an ash plume height of 20 km or less, was named after Surtsey volcano in Iceland. Bigger eruptions such as Plinian, has more than 55 km of plume height. An example is the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

Dr. Eslava said it is important to further study volcanoes so scientists can make more accurate predictions. It entails using many technologies and data from remote sensing, seismicity, ground deformation, hydrology, gas and geophysical measurements. 

Most Taal eruptions in the past were violent with thousands of casualties, according to Dr. Eslava. But with further monitoring, volcanologists will better understand Taal’s characteristics and help the decision-making of officials in relation to disaster risk reduction and management, as well as in the information dissemination to the community. 

SESAM Joins Taal Relief Drive

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) participated in the relief effort “Galing sa Puso”, for the benefit of Taal volcano eruption victims. Led by the Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the group visited evacuation areas in Brgy. Minalin, Ibaan and Poblacion, Laurel, Batangas last 13 February 2020. 

The evacuation center in Minalin, Ibaan hosted the evacuees from the Volcano Island, Municipality of San Nicolas. Meanwhile, recipients of the aid from Laurel, Batangas were those who are staying in evacuation centers or temporarily living with relatives outside the 7 km danger zone. 

Aside from giving relief goods, an Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign also was conducted in the evacuation sites. Mr. Ericson Bariso, a Science Research Specialist I of PHIVOLCS, delivered a lecture about volcanic hazards, as well as updates on the status of Taal volcano. During the lecture in Ibaan, Batangas, the children recalled that faithful day of 12 January 2020 when Taal Volcano erupted after 43 years of quiescence. A child named ‘Toto’ said he was just playing with his friends in that Sunday morning when suddenly their parents rushed to get them out of the island immediately. While on the boat, he saw a large column of smoke coming out the crater. “We were frightened, it was my first time to see Taal in that state”, Toto said.

Mr. Bariso noted all the eyewitness account of island residents who experienced the precursors of the eruption. He said these accounts will help them in studying Taal’s behavior and predicting future eruptions as well. He mentioned that Taal’s volcanic unrest is already declining, as it exhibits weaker steaming and lesser number of earthquakes. Incidentally the following day, PHIVOLCS lowered Taal’s alert level from 3 to 2.

More than 160 families from the volcano island benefitted from the relief drive in the evacuation center in Ibaan, Batangas. GSP, PHIVOLCS and SESAM handed over school supplies to the children who attended the IEC, while parents were given vegetables, bags and storage boxes. 

Meanwhile, in Laurel, Batangas, Former Vice Mayor Filimon Austria and Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) Chairperson Sylvia Austria were very thankful to GSP, PHVOLCS and SESAM for selecting their town as recipient of the ‘Galing sa Puso’ relief drive. Rice and grocery items were given to more than 300 families. Twenty shovels and 15 vegetable packs were also turned over to the ABC of Laurel, Batangas.

Senior high school students of Laurel, Batangas participated in the IEC campaign. “Let us listen to the experts’ advice regarding Taal volcano’s eruption and you should also tell your parents about this additional information”, said former Vice Mayor Austria.

Led by Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta, GSP President and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (Research), University of the Philippines System, the group coordinated with the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office of Batangas and the ABC of Laurel to identify the needs of the evacuees. Volunteers from SESAM, PHIVOLCS and the National Institute of Geological Sciences joined the relief effort.

Mathematical Models Aid Scientists in Solving Disease Spread

In the wake of the public health issue regarding the spread of the COVID-19, the world continues to race against time to find a vaccine and control the epidemic. At present, 46,997are infected with three confirmed cases in the Philippines according to the Department of Health.

Medical professionals are in the forefront of this battle and governments are implementing measures such as quarantines and travel bans to insure the containment of the virus. 

But aside from the medical field, the involvement other branches of science could also be the key to win the war against COVID-19.  The branch of science that could give us a huge lift in solving the epidemic can come from unheralded source– mathematics. Yes, its math. We may think it is just the algebra or calculus that we encountered in school, but mathematics also provide the models that could guide scientists and other medical professionals abstractions to trace and simulate the spread of viruses and infections.

Dr. Jomar F. Rabajante, Associate Professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, UP Los Baños, discussed the importance of mathematical modeling last 12 February, 2020 at the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM). His presentation entitled “Insights from Mathematical Models of Infectious Disease Dynamics” was the first topic under the ‘Living Dangerously’ Lecture Series of SESAM. Dr. Rabajante is concurrently a Junior Associate at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. A graduate of Doctor of Science degree in Mathematical and Systems Engineering (major in Environment and Energy Systems) from Shizuoka University, Japan, Dr. Rabajante’s research interest is on mathematical modeling of complex biological and social systems.

In his presentation, he mentioned mathematical modelers can be valuable non-frontline members of the ‘early responders’ team during an outbreak. Evidence-based decisions to prescribe possible epidemiological and social strategies to effectively and efficiently prevent or control emerging diseases that could initiate pandemics could be derived from mathematical modeling. 

Dr. Rabajante proposed the Susceptible-Exposed-Infected (SEI) framework to prevent epidemics during large events, e.g., during parties or concerts with huge crowds. The aim of the model is prevention so the Recovered compartment in SEIR framework is not considered, hence the simulation runs do not predict the whole disease outbreak in a community.

“There are so many factors to be considered in modeling, such as duration of contact, mode of contact and possibly the environmental conditions. With more data available, forecasting and prediction will be more accurate, eventually it help the government making informed-decisions”, said Dr. Rabajante. 

He added that there can be infecteds who are super-spreaders or super-virus-shedders, and there can be infecteds who are isolated. Virus transmission in different settings or locations may also vary, such as transmission inside households, hospitals, offices, cruise ships and airports may have higher transmission rates compared to an open space such as parks.

Further, Dr. Rabajante stressed Socio-economic and political factors (e.g., long duration of lockdown and travel ban) as well as influence of media can also affect the dynamics of the epidemics. In the midst of uncertainties, an effective risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) is essential to prevent infodemics, an excessive amount of information including disinformation and misinformation, that can be detrimental to public health control strategies. Moreover, the virus itself can mutate as it circulates from human to human, and other routes of transmission maybe possible (e.g., fecal-oral transmission, aerosol transmission). As the situation continuously progresses, continuous surveillance and updated predictions are necessary, hence, prescriptions of models may change. 

More than 100 faculty, staff and students from UPLB and other schools attended this first ‘Living Dangerously’ lecture series. The activity was supported by the Continuing Education and Training Division of SESAM and UP Environmental Science Society.