Dr. Espaldon Named 2016 UPLB Outstanding Researcher

School of Environmental Science and Management Professor and former UPLB Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Dr. Maria Victoria O. Espaldon was named 2016 UPLB Outstanding Researcher for Social Sciences in the senior faculty category during the 107th UPLB Foundation Day Anniversary Celebration. The awarding ceremony was held last March 4, 2016 at the Makiling Ballroom of the Student Union Building, UPLB. Currently, Dr. Espaldon is the program leader of the projects “Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (SARAI)” and the “Monitoring and Detection of Ecosystem Change for Enhanced Resilience and Adaptation (MODECERA)”. The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquaculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) funds both projects. A UP Scientist I and former Dean of SESAM, Dr. Espaldon has a total of 58 publications, she is author and co-author of several articles in ISI and refereed journals, as well as books and monographs. One of her co-authored books entitled “Changing Philippine Climate: Impacts on Agriculture and Natural Resources”, received the 2015 Outstanding Book Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). Dr. Espaldon is also the chair of the UPLB Interdisciplinary Program on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction. She is also part of the development of the Environmental Codes of Laguna and Batangas provinces, and Tanauan City. 

New Project to Document and Evaluated Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiatives of Laguna, Sorsogon, Cagayan, and Benguet

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) of UPLB is all set for a new Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR) project called “Documentation and Evaluation of Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness and Response Projects in Four Provinces: Cagayan, Benguet, Laguna, Sorsogon”.

The DPR project has been funded by the UN World Food Programme (UN WFP) and is a second wave of the previous documentation and evaluation project with an expansion to include 11 municipalities under the WFP’s DPR programme-Phase II, namely: Rizal of Laguna, Casiguran, Irosin, Juban, Santa Magdalena of Sorsogon, Atok, Kapangan, Kibungan, Tublay of Benguet province, and Sta. Teresita, Ballesteros of Cagayan.

The team of experts from SESAM, led by Mr. Thaddeus Lawas, made courtesy calls with the first two provinces in February, 2016 and had initial findings on the risks and DPR projects from each town. The locals of Sorsogon are facing threats from volcanic hazards since the province is the home of one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines.  Surrounding the Bulusan Volcano are the barangays of Irosin, Casiguran, and Juban- located in a permanent danger zone, which requires constant education and information on preparedness and response measures for locals for future volcanic eruptions. Meanwhile, typhoons, floods, and landslides were common risks faced by the four towns of Sorsogon and Rizal, Laguna.

The two provinces conducted several DPR activities such as establishment of disaster operation center, emergency response team, capacity building trainings, needs assessment, contingency plans, and IEC campaigns.

Specifically in Irosin, they established Climate Resiliency Field Schools, a non-formal education for farmers. The school has trained hundreds of farmers and provided farm weather advisories to help them decide on the crop variety and planting season in response to the changing climate. Casiguran also showed the gender awareness approach to disaster management by training women as “Banig” sleep mat weavers, which can lead to strengthening existing capacities of women and maximizing local resources. As a sub-project for solid waste management, the municipality of Rizal, Laguna has developed a Material Recovery Facility in Barangays Talaga and Antipolo, as a way to address river clogging and pollution.  

One of the project’s main goals is to identify the best disaster risk reduction practices of each town based on the different DPR initiatives done by the LGUs. The team is also working to document and evaluate the levels of preparedness and resiliency. The results of the documentation will be put into a documentary video and a package of IEC materials such as radio plugs, stickers, interactive CD, and mobile app.

This seven-month long project is contributing to the UN-WFP and the Philippine Government ‘s nationwide advocacy to build local capacities and resilience to disasters (Minji Na).

SESAM Joins Mining Symposium

The Rushurgent Working Group (RWG) of the National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines-Diliman organized the symposium entitled “2016 Hunt for Ore Deposits: Emerging Trends” last January 25-26, 2016 at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City. The School of Environmental Science and Management of UPLB was one of its collaborating institutions, along with the USAID-STRIDE as the funding agency for the UP Diliman Project, and APEX Mining Co., Inc. represented by its Chairman, Dr. Walter W. Brown and Executive Vice President for Exploration, Dr. Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., for the two-day event that brought together international and local experts who presented their researches on the various aspects of mineralized districts of the Philippines. Geoscientists from the academe, industry and government sectors presented developments, cutting-edge techniques and new schools of thought in the exploration of various ore deposits. In addition, environmental and social science researchers likewise discussed social, environmental and disaster risk management concerns as they relate to various stages of mine development and operations.  More than 35 scientific papers were presented as plenary talks and poster presentations during the two-day meeting. Engineers and geologists from different mining corporations presented updates on their mineral resource exploration activities, including concerns with quality control measures and other issues that influence a mine’s outputs.  This symposium was also a tribute to one of the pillars of Philippine Geology, Dr. Rudy Obial, an expert in the field of economic geology and in the exploration of various ore deposits. Dr. Obial was a key figure in the formulation of the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code and the Competent Person Accreditation System for Geology. Both regulatory systems have been crucial contributions in setting the practices of the minerals industry in the Philippines to be at par with those of international standards. Dr. Obial also contributed to human resource development in the earth sciences through his unselfish sharing of time, knowledge and resources in mentoring students and young professionals in the field.  The Philippines is rich in mineral deposits, due to its geographical location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. “Our country ranks fifth in the world in terms of mineral deposits,” said Atty. Wilfredo Moncano, Director, Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) Region XI, who delivered a keynote address.   Aside from the abundance in mineral deposits, the country should also take pride in the quality of its human resources that is truly world class in their skills, experience and innate ability to understand complex systems. In his keynote address, Dr. Walter Brown emphasised that Filipino geologists and engineers are one of the best in the industry. “You should be very proud, Filipinos are truly world-class,” said Dr. Brown.  Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (Research) of the UP System was the Chair of the symposium’s organizing committee. She encouraged students and young professionals to take advantage of the event as it is a good opportunity to link up with and seek new knowledge from the experts in the mining industry. Around 200 geologists, mining practitioners, policy makers, students, researchers, faculty members and representatives from different government institutions attended the symposium.

SESAM is now CHED Center of Excellence in Environmental Science

The School of Environment Science and Management (SESAM)- University of the Philippines Los Banos has been recognized as a Center of Excellence (COE) in environmental science by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) through their Memorandum Order (CMO) no. 38, together with other 47 academic disciplines that was released last December 23, 2015.

SESAM is included in the new list of institutions of COEs and CODs (budding candidates for COEs in the future) from different fields that were covered by the CMO: Agriculture Education, Business and Management, Criminology, as well as Engineering Education, Health Professions Education, Humanities, Information Technology Education, Science and Mathematics, Social Sciences, and Communication.

Being a COE, SESAM is regarded as an institution “which continuously demonstrate excellent performance in the areas of instruction, research and publication, extension and linkages and institutional qualifications.” The selection of the departments to be distinguished in the list of COEs and CODs only happens every two years, meaning this status will be effective from January 1, 2016 up until December 31, 2018.

Having signed the said CMO herself, CHED chairman Patricia Licuanan said, “The new COEs and CODs will be given research funds from project proposals geared toward the development or improvement of the programs, particularly cutting-edge technology in different disciplines,” referring to the Section 8 (f) of RA 7722, otherwise known as the Higher Education Act of 1994, wherein it aspires for the sustainability/development of the excellence of higher education institutions (HEIs) through government support.

Dr. Deceibel F. Eslava, Dean of SESAM urged the faculty and REPS of SESAM to have more outputs in publication, research and graduates, as CHED will review the COE status of the school after three years.

            The other institutions that were also rewarded by this designation in UPLB are the College of Agriculture (CA), College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), Institute of Computer Science (ICS), the Institute of Statistics (IS), and College of Development Communication (CDC). (Matthew Delminguez and Thaddeus Lawas)

ENS 299 Class Holds Seminar on DRRM and the Changing Environment

ENS 299, or the Graduate Seminar Class held a seminar entitled “Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) and the Changing Environment” at the Rola Multipurpose Room, College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR), UPLB Last 28 October 2015. The seminar is a culminating activity of the class handled by Dr. Mark Dondi M. Arboleda, Assistant Professor at the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The lecture entitled “Impact of Climate Change in the Philippines” by Dr. Veronica P. Migo, the Head of the Central Analytic Services Laboratory in the National Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), UPLB, discussed about Climate Change Mitigation Programs in the Philippines. Dr. Migo is a licensed chemist, and academician and researcher, and a graduate faculty of Chemical Engineering, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Microbiology, Soil Science, Microbiology and Environmental Science and Management.

“The global scenario is even the greenhouse gases would be stabilized at existing levels, anthropogenic warming and sea level rise will continue for centuries to come… the world temperatures may rise between 1.1°C and 6.4°C during the 21st century,” Dr. Migo said. She then discussed the impacts of climate change in the Philippines for agriculture, livestock, food security, seacoasts and marine, water availability and flooding and human health. She concluded, “For the way forward, there are three pillars: (1) strengthening the planning, execution and financing framework; (2) enhancing leadership & accountability; and (3) building capacity and managing change.”

Mr. Elvis S. Cruz, who hailed from Rizal, and currently a Planning Officer 3 and the Assistant Regional Director for Administration and Finance of the Office of Civil Defense – Region IV-A discussed about the historical perspective on disaster management, the current legal basis of RA 10121, the enhanced National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Framework, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). In his presentation entitled “RA 10121: The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System (PDRRMS)” he mentioned the importance of engaging the academe in DRRM. “The possible areas of collaboration are knowledge management and education, awareness and advocacy campaign, preparing for effectiveness response, risk identification and risk reduction,” Mr. cruz said.

The last speaker was Dr. Teofredo T. Esguerra, a mountaineer and medical doctor who serves in rescue missions in local and international communities, talked about “Emergency and Disaster Configuration (EDC).” Dr. Esguerra is the subject matter expert for DZMM and the television show in ABS-CBN “Red Alert.” He is currently the Disaster Crisis Lead of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

He discussed about the things that are needed to be put into mind regarding disasters, which he synopsized into P’s: Psyche, Paradigm Change, Proactive Configuration, Positive Attitude, Profile your community, Patterns, PLAN, Personalize the Capacity, Pack Up, Pile Up, Prioritize, Post It, Publish It, Practice, Polish the Drill, Participate, Partnership, Pedal Out, Pull Out, Palpate the Earth, Plant Trees, Pray and Perspective. “Chances will always favor the prepared mind,” he said.
The event was attended by 38 UPLB students, faculty and staff.

Benham Benthos Team Presents Expedition Results in a National Conference

UPLB Benham Benthos Team at PAMS13 (L-R): Saul Rojas, Prof. Owen Nacorda, Dr. Hildie Nacorda, Dr. Ana Lantican, Kim Tangkilan, Kristyl Pardo, and Gill Salgado. (Saul and Dr. Ana on microbes, Prof. Owen and Kim on benthic algae, Krystil on sponges, Dr. Hildie on interstital fauna, and Gill on Benham knowledge products. Engr. Aaron Hilomen (third to the left) is drawn to provide a Sea Torpedo tool in documenting the Benham Bank’s underwater features)

General Santos City, South Cotabato – Proponents of the Benham Benthos research project of SESAM presented biodiversity papers during the 13th National Symposium of the Philippine Association of Marine Science (PAMS) held last October 22-24, 2015 at the Greenleaf Hotel, General Santos City. The event had the theme “Moving towards Resilient Marine Ecosystems.”

Dr. Hildie Maria Nacorda, Project leader and SESAM Professor, presented highlights of last year’s documentation of the Benham Bank’s coral reef bottoms, progress of the Team’s analyses of sample collections, and proposals for the next phase. Prof June Owen Nacorda, Professor, Institute of Biological Sciences-College of Arts and Sciences, provided a taxonomic account on benthic macroalgae, particularly of the dominant Halimeda species found on the Bank’s coral reefs.The conspicuous sponges were described in detail by Kristyl Ckaye Pardo, while Saul Rojas reported on potentially new discoveries on the Archaea microbes isolated from carbonate sediments.

The Team is starting to prepare for another joint expedition in May 2016 during this final leg of Project implementation. The Project anticipates using technologies, courtesy of a partner organization, to be deployed for documenting life and biodiversity at greater summit depths and along the slopes of the Bank. The Project is funded by DOST/PCAARRD-GIA and is the third component of the “Exploration, Mapping, and Assessment of Deep Water Areas” research program. The Project continues to collaborate with UPMSI, UP-NIGS, DA-BFAR, experts based in UP-Baguio, UP-Mindanao, Xavier University-McKeough Marine Center, DLSU, as well as professional diving instructors. This network foresees the engagement of the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and cooperators from UPV-Tacloban.

Filipino NASA Scientist Lectures About Climate Change

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Los Baños Climate Risk Studies Center (UPLB CRSC), held its 7th Green Seminar Series entitled “Cryosphere Chapter of the IPCC WG1 Report – Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis” last 16 October 2015 at the SESAM Lecture Hall.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Balik-Scientist Dr. Josefino C. Comiso presented a lecture entitled “IPCC Assessment of Our Climate in 2013 and Insights into the Unusual Strength Typhoon Haiyan”. Dr. Comiso, a senior research scientist at the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory of the Goddard Space Flight Center. He graduated with a BS degree in Physics from the University of the Philippines, with a Master’s Degree in Physics from Florida State University and a Ph. D. in physics from the University of California in Los Angeles. He had been the chief scientist in many NASA aircraft missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. He also has been the recipient of several NASA awards, and had been the coordinating lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 1 (WG1) 5th Assessment Report (AR5) “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis,” which was published in 2014.

“What the people do realize sometimes is the climate is actually changing not just because of natural variability but because of what we human being had been doing in the last hundred years,” Dr. Comiso said. He explained that the climate has been changing because of anthropogenic causes in addition to the natural causes. “The earth has warmed up by about 1 degree in the last century,” he said. “But the trends are not uniform,” he added.

He mentioned that the temperature anomaly of climate change indicators, which are land surface air temperature, sea-surface temperature, and marine air temperature, are increasing; the sea level is increasing and the summer arctic sea-ice extent is decreasing. Among the different components of climate change, which are solar, volcanic, oscillatory and anthropogenic, he concluded that the anthropogenic components contributed most to the increase in temperature. He stressed that the total radiative forcing is positive – the largest contribution to this was caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750. He also presented the projections for changes in surface temperature, precipitation, sea ice and PH.

“The impacts of climate change are extreme events, flooding, drought, landslides, fire, dead trees, sea level rise, health, and loss of biodiversity,” Dr. Comiso said. “With this list, we need to do something about it,” he added.

In the last part of his lecture, he stated how the trends in sea surface temperature (SST) could explain the occurrence of Haiyan last November 2013. “If you look at SST anomalies in October, that’s the anomaly, and it expanded to November, so Haiyan occurred sometime, at 8 of November, and that’s when SST is very high,” he said.

The event was attended by a total of 97 participants, consisting of UPLB students, faculty and staff.

The Green Seminar Series, which is regularly being held by the UPLB-CRSC, aims to promote awareness campaign and exchanges of scientific knowledge and risk-based action and policy planning for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

SESAM Holds Alumni Homecoming and Symposium 2015

The program started with the usual Loyalty Day Parade in the morning, followed by an Orientation for New Students was held at the SESAM Seminar Room. The faculty, staff, students, alumni and gathered for the lunch ‘salo-salo’ at SESAM grounds.

The SESAM Alumni Homecoming and Symposium was formally opened by by Dr. Decibel F. Eslava, the Dean of SESAM. She then introduced one of the guest speakers in the Symposium, who is Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, a Professorial Lecturer of SESAM. He is an academician in DOST-NAST and had been the executive director of PCMARD for two decades, who has a specialization in aquaculture.

In his talk, Dr. Guerero looked into the theme of the symposium which was “Environmental Leaders: Making Choices That Matter”. “Academe should connect with civil society/institutions outside academe… we cannot work in isolation,” he said. Patience, ownership, persuasion, transparency, has a good science and good governance should be the choices an environmental leader should make, according to Dr. Guerero. “Be a good leader first in your home, then become a good leader in your community,” he added.

Dr. Rico Ancog, Assistant Professor and the President of the SESAM Alumni Association, laid out in the objectives of the symposium. Dr. Carmelita Rebancos then introduced the 1st alumna awardee, the 2015 Outstanding SESAM Alumna for Aquatic Environment Research, who is Dr. Adelaida T. Calpe.

Dr. Calpe graduated MS and PhD Environmental Science in 1991 and 2005, respectively. She is currently the Head of the Project Formulation in the Monitoring and Evaluation Section, Inland Aquatic Resources Division at the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD). The title of her lecture was “Shrimp Industry Strategic Science and Technology Program.” In her lecture, she discussed about the different technologies used to prevent diseases and increase shrimp production. “As an environmentalist, one of my criterions is really looking at technologies that would be developed that should be environment-friendly,” Dr. Calpe added.

The second alumni awardee, the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding SESAM Alumnus for Academic Leadership, is Dr. Resurrection Sadaba, a graduate of MS Environmental Science from the School in 1990. He is currently the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in the University of the Philippines Visayas. “The academe has a very important role in advocating for environmental stewardship,” said Dr. Sadaba. His lecture consisted of oil spill advocacy – stories of oil spills in the Philippines, especially around mangrove areas and lessons learned about the various oil spills. “There is a big need to overhaul the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan,” he concluded.

The event was attended by 84 UPLB students, staff, faculty, SESAM alumni and guests.

SESAM’s 6th Green Seminar Series – Climate Scenarios: Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP)

We are responsible for the kind of world our future generation will live in. No matter what we do, even if we stop all our CO2 emissions now, it is inevitable that our planet will get warmer since there are still residual emissions left caused by the industrialization from the past decades.

The 6th Green Seminar Series by the School of Environmental Science and Management entitled “Climate Scenarios: Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP),” was held last July 16, 2015 at the SESAM Lecture Hall. This was discussed by Dr. Gemma T. Narisma, an Associate Professor in the Physics Department of Ateneo de Manila University, Associate Director for Research, and Head of the Regional Climate Systems Program of Manila Observatory.

According to Dr. Narisma, RCPs are “representatives” of the pathways of radiative forcing or the additional energy taken up by the Earth’s system caused by the greenhouse effect. There are four RCPs namely, RCP 2.6, 4.5, 6, and 8.5. The best-case scenario is RCP 2.6 wherein the Earth’s radiative forcing (expressed as Watts per square meter) shall be maintained to only reach 2.6. The Earth’s warming will continue beyond 2100 unless we try to aim for RCP 2.6. Last 2011, the Earth has already reached 2.29 as its radiative forcing.

“If the Earth’s temperature will increase to more than 2°C, it will result to the extinction of some plants and animals, stronger typhoons, decrease in agricultural production, long-term damage of the coral reefs, higher sea levels, and source of and access to clean water will be severely affected. These effects will in turn affect other aspects of the ecosystem”, said Dr. Narisma.

Development and CO2 emissions are closely linked to each other and because of this, it is difficult to cut down on the emissions that are the results of industrialization. Dr. Narisma believes that technological advancements that reduce carbon emissions are one of the keys to develop our countries in a cleaner and greener way. However, the challenge would be getting these technologies to our country and considering that the Philippines is a developing country, we do not have the needed resources yet to create sustainable innovations that will help cut back our emissions.

It is imperative that the national government will take action and add to their priorities in climate change the need to cut back our emissions as early as possible so as to avoid the abrupt increase of the Earth’s temperature and maintaining the RCP level lower than 2.6 in the coming years. The local government units (LGUs) are significantly tasked in downscaling the scenarios shown by the RCPs to give a higher-resolution picture of how these radiative forcing affect our country and the lives of the locals. Dr. Narisma hopes that when policy-makers and nation leaders are shown these facts and data, they will be motivated to establish better and effective policies, programs, and projects that are related to climate change and conduct better risk management trainings with a local- and nation-wide approach.

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.