A group of students from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) has spent the summer discovering the diverse habitats of the UAE as part of their Environmental Science studies.
The students set out on a voyage of discovery to study and record different types of flora and fauna that inhabit deserts, mangrove forests and wadis, the human impact on these communities.
One of the , consisting of undergraduate students Abeer Nazim, Nashia Kamran, Karan Jhaveri, Nooren Khan and Priyanka Shewakramani were among four teams that visited the Mangrove forests at the Ras Al Khor Sanctuary in Dubai. They photographed six different species of trees and plants, eight bird species and sea creatures such as Tilapia fish and crabs.
“The trip was very exciting,” said Karan Jhaveri. “We did not expect to see so much biodiversity right here in Dubai, practically in our backyard!”
“Visiting the sanctuary was such an incredible experience,” said Nashia Kamran. “The sanctuary had viewing posts that had very informative charts about the various types of birds that do visit the sanctuary. With the current population of birds, we could clearly see the impact of migration on an ecosystem, and at the same time, appreciate the need for such sanctuaries for flora and fauna to flourish in without human interference.”
All the photographed species that were taken by the students were sent to be identified by the Wildlife Specialist at Dubai Municipality and Consultant to Dubai Safari, Dr Mohammad Ali Reza Khan.
“The students were very thorough in their research, capturing photos of a variety of plants, birds, insects and fishes,” said Dr Khan. “Capturing photos of eight different species of birds in summer when most have migrated away to cooler climates takes a lot of time and patience. These students truly demonstrated that professionalism and interest.”
Another group, one of three to choose to study wadis, visited Wadi Wurayah National Park under the guidance of Dr Jacky Judas, Research Manager at Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF. The undergraduate students, Barun Arora, Emima Abraham, Manisha Tejwani, Raina Rebeiro, Romi Agarwal and Vikas Vijayakumar, hopped into two cars and left Dubai at 4:30 in the morning to reach the park early enough to watch nature come to life at day-break. The group spotted dragonflies, Jayakar Oman lizards, Arabian toads, spiders, beetles, Geckos, Fig trees and lots more.
“I have never had such an adventure and I have lived in this country practically all my life,” said Manisha Tejwani.
“The sheer beauty of the wadi, its biodiversity and waterfall made for a very quaint scene that needs to be protected from human intervention,” said Raina Rebeiro.
Another student, Romi Agarwal said, “Now that we visited the park, we understand why it is so important for us to learn about these biomes, their importance and significance to the ecosystem and the kind of damage that we humans can do if we are not aware or do not care.”
Dr Judas said, “The students came well prepared in full hiking gear, with enough water to sustain them throughout the trip and an enthusiasm that is always key to student learning. I believe the trip was very fruitful for the students.”
All the groups felt that the experts, Dr Khan and Dr Judas were extremely knowledgeable and very helpful in their studies.
Ms Zeenath Reza Khan, lecturer of Environmental Science at UOWD, said “We believe in guided discovery as a method of learning that encourages students to look for the answers, rather than giving them the answers.
“Asking students to visit the different types of habitats helped students take notice of the existence of such communities right here in the UAE, rather than showing them videos or teaching them out of text book. It definitely helped them engage with the local nature and become more aware individuals, which is the reason we set such activities as part of subject assessments.”
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