Working Towards Climate-smart Farmers

July 15 – “You don’t just accept the reality, and the geographical situation of Dumangas,” Hon. Rolando Distura said during the orientation-workshop on Climate Field School (CFS).

“You have to further enhance S&T,” he added. He discussed how Dumangas has been constantly focusing on its agricultural potential, despite the many different geographical cons. One big proactive move of their municipality to address the agricultural problems is their continuous CFS.

Mr. Eugenio Decastillo, Jr., Municipal Agriculturist, disccused about the CFS overview. The overview gave the SARAI team an image of how the Dumangas farmers were before and after adopting CFS. Mr. Ricky Dador, Weather Observer Dumangas Agromet Station, showed the team how Dumangas does their daily and seasonal forecasts.

Four farmer-graduates of CFS also participated in the event, and shared their experiences after applying their CFS learnings. The common points they discussed were how CFS has helped them increase their yield, and how the daily forecasts helped them make decisions to minimize their losses in the presence of an extreme weather event.

The event is the first of the many partnership activities of the municipality of Dumangas and Project SARAI.

University of Texas Hydrologist Lectures on Groundwater Researches

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) co-hosted with the UPLB Environmental Science Society invited Dr. Meinhard Bayani Cardenas, an Associate Professor and William T. Stokes Centennial Teaching Fellow from the Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin for the 34th Talakayan Series for Environment and Development (TSED). Dr. Cardenas’ lecture entitled “Devastation of aquifers from super typhoon Haiyan’s storm surge and Taking stock of Earth’s groundwater and its renewability” was held last 13 July 2015 at the SESAM Lecture Hall.

Dr. Cardenas completed his PhD in Earth and Environmental Science (Hydrology) at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. He also took his MS in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and BS in Geology from the University of the Philippines Diliman. His research interests are hydrology and hydrogeology, its physical (primary focus), chemical and ecological processes. He was also a recipient of numerous awards in his academic career.

Dr. Cardenas said that they made a detailed documentation of flood levels, groundwater table elevations and salinity, electrical resistivity, and modelling after super typhoon Haiyan hit Samar. “We found that Haiyan’s storm surge reached 7m above sea level along Samar Island, Philippines, which led to contamination of crucial aquifers by infiltrating seawater,” Dr. Cardenas said. And he said that a contaminated surficial aquifer will take years to recover. He added, “strategies for reducing vulnerability to intense storm surge-caused groundwater contamination and mitigating its effects are needed… especially by the government institutions.”

For his second lecture, He mentioned, “we wanted to take stock of Earth’s groundwater – how much groundwater there is on Earth, and how much is renewable.” For the study, they made three methods: first, they quantified the total volume of groundwater using hydro-geologic databases and quantified the porosity of Earth’s upper 2 km (terrestrial); then by compiling tritium (3H) concentrations (a groundwater age indicator of less than 50 years) of aquifers around the world and then they used groundwater flow and age simulations. He concluded that groundwater, with a renewability timescale of 50 years, the total volume is 1,410,000 km3, and less than 6% of all groundwater is renewed. “Pumping in agricultural regions can deplete groundwater quickly at current rates and half of groundwater-supported agriculture outpaces the hydrologic cycle under natural conditions,” Dr. Cardenas stressed, and because of this, he hopes on a better utilization of groundwater.

The ‘Talakayan’ is a regular seminar series as an avenue for experts in environmental science to share their knowledge and experiences and to inspire students to pursue their research and academic initiatives. It was attended by 35 students, faculty and staff from SESAM and other colleges in UPLB.

Testimonial Ceremony for SESAM Graduates Held

“Ang mga palamuti ay kayo (you are the ornaments) and the learnings that you gained,” Dr. Decibel F. Eslava, Dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), reminded the MS and Ph. D. graduates during their 2015 Testimonial Ceremony.

The event, which was co-organized by the UPLB Environmental Science Society, was held at the SESAM Seminar Room last July 3, 2015. The MS and Ph. D. graduates of 2015 together with their families, as well as some of the SESAM faculty and staff attended the ceremony.

Dr. Carmelita M. Rebancos, coordinator for the Program for Instruction of SESAM, presented the graduates. Afterwards, selected graduates were asked to share their experiences as a student. Amyel Dale L. Cero, one of the MS graduating students, noted how holistic the environmental ecience program in SESAM is. Meanwhile, Clarice C. Pulumbarit, another MS graduating student, encouraged her fellow graduates to “be involved in a career that would make SESAM proud.”

“Hindi madali na mayroon kang Dr. sa harap ng pangalan mo o Ph. D. sa likod. Dapat kaya mong panindigan,” (It is not easy to have a ‘Dr.’ prefix, as well a ‘Ph.D.’ suffix in your name, you must be able to use it responsibly) Gregorio Y. Ardales, Jr. said during his testimonial. According to him, education never stops. He encouraged his colleagues to raise the awareness of the youth with regards to environmental science. Another Ph. D. graduate, Richel E. Relox thanked SESAM faculty for helping her finish her degree. According to Relox, she will now be focusing on environmental projects in Mindanao particularly the anti-mining projects in Surigao.

After the testimonials, the MS and Ph. D. graduates each received certificates of recognition from Dr. Eslava, former Dean Dr. Leonardo M. Florece, SESAM Professor Emeritus Dr. Enrique P. Pacardo and Dr. Rebancos.

In his message, Dr. Florece encouraged the graduates to “try to contribute to the advancement of Environmental Science.” He added that one of the ways to do this is to pursue the publication of their research.

SESAM has 15 MS graduating students and 9 Ph. D. graduating students. In total, they have 24 graduating students for academic year 2014-2015. The top MS student is Patricia Marie A. Cabredo while Dr. Ardales, Jr. gets the highest average for the Ph. D.

SESAM First in UPLB to Conduct Fire Drill and Safety Seminar

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), in cooperation with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – Los Baños, held its very first fire drill last July 1, 2015 at the SESAM lecture hall. All SESAM faculty and staff attended this event, as well as the UPLB University Police Force (UPF) and Community Support Brigade (CSB). SESAM is the first unit of the university to conduct such a drill, amidst the call for a better preparation for an earthquake that may happen due to a possible movement of the West Valley Fault System.

Dr. Decibel Eslava, dean of SESAM, and a geologist by profession, emphasized the importance of being prepared in times of disasters. Before the fire drill began, officers from the BFP first gave lectures on fire safety and first aid.

“Para mapatay ang apoy, dapat alam muna ang pinagmulan,” (before trying to put out a fire, you must know its source first) FO2 Zion William Maningas noted during his lecture on fire safety. He discussed the chemistry and anatomy of fire, its causes, and how fast it can spread. FO2 Maningas also tackled the different types of fire, how to extinguish them, and what to do when trapped in a burning building.

FO2 Jefferson Samson, on the other hand, gave a lecture on first aid, which focused on the different ways to respond to an injured person. He demonstrated the various ways to bandage an injured body part, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and CPR, and how to transfer an injured person to a safe place.

After the lecture, the fire drill began. The faculty were instructed to go back to their offices while the UPF and CSB participants stayed outside the SESAM building. At the sound of the alarm, everyone went out of their offices and gathered at their muster point. The BFP-Los Baños representatives assessed the reaction time and behavior of the SESAM faculty, UPF, and CSB during the fire drill. Afterwards, there was a demonstration on properly operating a fire extinguisher.

“Time is of the essence ‘pag dating sa sunog,” (in an event of fire), Municipal Fire Marshall Annalee Atienza reminded the participants during her closing remarks. The fire drill ended with the giving of certificates and tokens to the resource persons.

Dr. Decibel F. Eslava Appointed as New SESAM Dean

After getting the nod from the UP Board of Regents on May 27, 2015, Dr. Decibel Faustino-Eslava, a geologist, is appointed as the ninth dean of SESAM.

Dr. Eslava obtained her PhD in Geology from the University of Hong Kong in 2009. She had her Master of Science in Earth Systems from Kumamoto University in Japan (2003), and also another Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of the Philippines Diliman (2000). She graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1997 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Geology.

She has research interests in climate change impacts, adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management, bio-geology, environmental geology, geologic hazards, geochemistry, paleomagnetism and tectonics. Currently, she coordinates and co-teaches Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics, Contemporary Issues in Environment and Development, and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Perspectives from the Natural and Social Sciences. At present, she heads the Project 4 (Capacity Building and Knowledge Building) of the Smarter Approaches to reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry (SARAI).

She accepted officially the position at a turnover ceremony held last 29 May 2015 during the SESAM Planning Workshop at Verdant Springs Resort, Los Baños, Laguna, where Dr. Leonardo M. Florece, the ormer dean, handed over to her the official SESAM seal. She will be serving as the Dean of the School for three years.

Laguna E-Code Back On Track

With the renewed interest from the Provincial Government of Laguna, the crafting of Environmental Code resumed and a public forum was held last 22 May 2015 at the New College of Arts and Sciences (NCAS) Auditorium at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. This activity was held in order to solicit comments from the public, most especially from the constituents of Laguna, on the Environment Code being drafted and developed by faculty and staff of SESAM, as commissioned by the Provincial Government of Laguna.

 Dr. Leonardo M. Florece, professor and former Dean of SESAM, gave an overview of the Environment Code. “The Environment Code is a blueprint or a written guideline that codifies and integrates all existing national laws on environmental protection and harmonizes these with the local governance system to promote the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature, as provided in Article 16 of the 1986 Philippine Constitution”, Dr. Florece said.

The public forum was an exhaustive and detailed checking of every provisions of the e-code. Led by Dr. Ma. Victoria O. Espaldon, SESAM Professor, the audience from various sectors in Laguna were asked to comment on the 18 articles of the environmental code. These articles are:

(I) General Provisions, (II) Natural and Cultural Heritage for Ecotourism Development, (III) Sustainable Development of Forest Resources and Conservation of Biodiversity, (IV) Use and Development of Mineral Resources, (V) Sustainable Water Resources Development, (VI) The Laguna de Bay and Its Tributaries, (VII) Sustainable Management of the Seven Lakes of San Pablo City, (VIII) Energy-Use Efficiency and Traffic Management, (IX) Sustainable Agriculture and Agricultural Waste Management, (X) Ecological Waste Management, (XI) Air Quality Management, (XII) Eco-Industrial Parks and Waste Management, (XIII) Environmental Impact Assessment, (XIV) Green Incentives for Environmental Technologies, Activities, Designs and Buildings, (XV) Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, (XVI) Information and Education Campaign and Knowledge Management, (XVII) The Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office and Related Units for Environmental Management, and (XVIII) Penalties and Miscellaneous.

Hon. Neptali B. Bagnes, Provincial Board Member (3rd District), reiterated the commitment of the Provincial Government to pursue the legislation of the E-code. “Rest assured, we will work together to finish this e-code so that the future generation will live in a much better place”, said BM Bagnes.

Dr. Decibel F. Eslava, Dean of SESAM, led the open forum with queries coming from the private sector and LGU officials of various municipalities of Laguna.

The Public Hearing was done as one of the final steps in the development of the E-code, of which after will be its review and approval by the Provincial Government of Laguna. The project on the Development of the Environment Code of Laguna was coordinated by Dr. Espaldon and headed by Dr. Florece as the project leader. Participants attended the event were from local government units, government offices, companies and universities/ academe.

SARAI Training on Portal Design and Web Writing for SARAI Research Assistants

CEC, UPLB – SARAI Project 4, in collaboration with SARAI Project 3, conducted one-day training on portal design and web writing on March 24, 2015 at the Continuing Education Center (CEC), UPLB. The training aimed to equip SARAI Research Associates to become more effective on data processing and delivery since they are the ones involved in processing data/information that will be disseminated to various stakeholders.

Ms. Aletheia Canubas of the Department of Development Journalism, College of Development Communication, UPLB, discussed on how information can be packaged and be laymanized for stakeholders. “If the people can’t understand the information you are feeding them, then, it is useless”, said Ms. Canubas. She started her presentation by engaging the participants to play Taboo. This game can help the participants to communicate more effectively to the target audience. She explained that laymanizing does not only means translating of technical information from English to local dialects but most importantly is to make people understand the information to make informed decisions. 

 “Communication of scientific outputs is a challenge that we, in the research and academe, is facing every day. It is communicating the tricky business of science”, Ms. Canubas added.  

In order to reach wider audience and communities, the SARAI Project 3 is developing an integrated and collaborative information system for climate resilient and sustainable crop production or the SARAI Portal. This is an online knowledge portal managed by the team that will hold various information such as crop advisories, crop forecast, information/learning tools, planting calendar. In line with this, Mr. Toni Jon Monserrat, instructor from the Institute of Computer Science presented a lecture on portal design.

This training is under the capacity and knowledge-building component of Project SARAI, headed by Dr. Decibel Eslava, of the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), UPLB.