HKBioBlitz wins ECF funding!

Written on . Posted in Biodiversity

The Environment and Conservation Fund of HKSAR has approved HK’s first large scale BioBlitz!

We are holding the event on 24-25 October 2015 in Tai Tam, HK with support from the University of Hong Kong Swire Institute of Marine Science, Civic Exchange, Bristol Natural History Consortium (UK), National Geographic Young Explorer- HK Explorers Initiative and many other organisations.

A BioBlitz is a 24-hour race to record as many species as possible in a specified area similar to WWF-HK’s famous Big Bird Race.

As well as collecting valuable species information, a BioBlitz aims to engage the community to explore nature and create awareness about their local wildlife. School groups can take part too by joining expert guided explorations and activities before the race begins.

ECF aims to promote individual behavioural and lifestyle changes to protect the environment and achieve sustainable development, specifically action projects which will make a real difference to HK’s environment. Priority themes include conservation of biodiversity in particular marine conservation.

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Capacity building on horseshoe crabs

Written on . Posted in Biodiversity, Marine conservation

6 March 2015 / Dr. Paul Shin and Dr. S.G. Cheung, Associate Professors of the Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University Hong Kong kindly met with Vickie and Jenna to build capacity on horseshoe crab surveying of Tai Tam this coming summer.

Horseshoe crabs are known as “living fossils” first appearing some 450 million years ago in the Ordovician era- well before the dinosaurs! There are now 4 species worldwide and in Hong Kong you can find two, the Chinese horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus) and Mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda).

Asian horseshoe crabs are listed as IUCN Data Deficient but the IUCN Horseshoe Crab Specialist Group established in 2012 is making progress towards revising their Red List Status. This is needed to form an effective international conservation management strategy, see this 2013 article.

After thorough discussion about our local substrate and geography we agreed on a suitable survey strategy. After that we were privileged to be given a tour of the lab including the crab tracking technology!

This is a citizen science-friendly survey, interested schools email us if you’d like to get involved. We can’t wait to share what we find!

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2015 ECF EECA Sharing Session

Written on . Posted in ESD

2 March 2015 / Did you know that the Government has a $5 billion dollar fund for supporting community green projects? On Monday we were invited to join an afternoon at the Science Museum to find out more at the annual ECF EECA Sharing Session.

The Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) was set up by the Government in 1994 to provide funding for local non-profit organisations (including universities) and community groups to conduct research and for energy conservation, waste reduction and environmental education projects and activities.

ECF has ambitious aims and projects must measurably contribute to the overall environment of Hong Kong, raise environmental awareness of the local community, or mobilise the community to take action to improve the environment.

In 2014 the ECF reported total equity of $5.96 billion following a cash injection of $5 billion (interestingly- of which $4.7 billion was invested in the Exchange Fund, used as a reserve to back the Hong Kong dollar). Some $205 million was distributed to 383 projects in 2014. This must make Hong Kong one of the best places for public funding support for green projects in the world!

The Government is encouraging organisations to use for ECF to support Hong Kong’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) related projects and in line with this made Biodiversity one of the four priority themes for 2014-2016.

There was a full house in the Science Museum auditorium for an informative session with a schedule of presentations, exhibition panels and Q&A.

Ryan Leung of Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre gave an overview of Biodiversity and related issues as potential areas for action.

Lo Wai-yan of Hong Kong Bird Watching Society presented on a unique programme to engage senior citizens in birdwatching and biodiversity in 10 urban parks, with some 500 senior citizens successfully trained as birdwatching guides, in turn reaching some 7,000 members of the public over one year.

Mr Kwong Hing Siu of Ying Wa Primary School and Mr Pang Ching-kuen of China Holiness Church Living Spirit College talked about their schools’ experience of setting up organic farms on the school roof and in a 30,000 square foot former carparking space shared by three schools respectively. Mr Pang candidly shared the downs as well as ups of their experimental organic farming eg natural disasters- a good learning experience for the students nonetheless!

Dr Samuel Chui of the Environmental Protection Department and EECA Sub-Vetting Committee member gave a short presentation with advice to applicants reminding that the goal is to measurably improve participants’ environmental knowledge leading to behaviour change, and that projects must be sustainable, ideally coordinating with broad stakeholders and partners (helpful to lower costs).

The next round of EECA General Projects closes on 20 April with $13 million available; good luck! For details see EECA website.

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Visit to Mai Po with WWF-Hong Kong

Written on . Posted in Uncategorized

17 February 2015 / WWF-Hong Kong kindly invited us to visit Mai Po Ramsar site and observe their popular 4-hour Secondary school Mangrove Ecology programme.

We joined around 30 Upper Secondary students from Tai Po on a guided tour covering habitats including reed beds, gei wais (traditional shrimp ponds), mangroves and mud flats that make up Hong Kong’s 1,500 hectare Wetland of International Importance. Winter (January – April) is the best time to visit when the site becomes a haven for migratory birds including the Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) (IUCN Red List- Endangered).

The visit is part of our new initiative as the newest Hong Kong members of WLI, to build capacity and knowledge for best practice in wetland education at our site in Tai Tam, and support development of other programmes around Hong Kong.

Big thank you to Cecily Yip, Education Manager for WWF-HK for her time and we look forward to future projects!

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Green Politics talk- Victoria Shanghai Academy

Written on . Posted in Uncategorized

16 February 2015 / We were invited to Victoria Shanghai Academy to give an interactive talk on “Green Politics- Do you have the will to power?” for around 100 Grade 6 students.

This talk was developed by our Education Associate Director Dr Vickie Yau for UNESCO Hong Kong Association’s Fostering Global Citizenship Youth Programme 2014-15.

Thanks to VSA teachers Matthew Wong and Andrew Webb for organising our visit.

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HKU ELSS 2014/15 inauguration

Written on . Posted in Uncategorized

12 February 2015 / Congratulations to the new cabinet of the 2014/15 Environmental Life Science Society of the University of Hong Kong (ELSS)!

ELSS are a society of first year students majoring in Ecology & Biodiversity at HKU with the mission to promote the study of environmental life science and to raise students’ concern on ecological and environmental issues.

Back in 2013 we met representatives of ELSS 2013/14 through the consultation to draft Hong Kong’s first Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP), and were able to support them to organise a hands on (ie wet, messy, but fun) intertidal ecology workshop at Tai Tam for Secondary students.

Prof. Yvonne Sadovy of HKU’s School of Biological Sciences gave one of the speeches at the event. She noted that Hong Kong is an urban society and joins more than 50% of the world’s population which now lives in cities, but that there is often a disconnect between urban city dwellers and nature.

According to a recent survey, half of Hong Kong children had never walked barefoot on grass, and that in her field courses to Starfish Bay students regularly showed up wearing high-heeled shoes. And yet students still choose to study biological sciences…

She asked us to think about the balance between development and biodiversity conservation, because isn’t that ultimately a question of quality of life?

Prof. Sadovy said there were three ways of changing: you have to know, you have to care, and then to change your behaviour. Her three wishes for the ELSS Embracers were: 1) talk to schools and show your passion; 2) reach out to the university first year students; and 3) be demanding consumers‎ and make good choices for sustainability, write letters to push for a difference as this works- just look at the ivory campaign on Facebook.

We were also struck by the speech by Roy Cheung, ELSS Chairman 2013/14 who unfortunately couldn’t attend on the day. He said to “do what you can, with what you have, where you are” and that knowledge is power and then we should act on it- don’t just leave comments on Facebook!

Thanks Embracers for the fantastic event (and thoughtful gift!) and we look forward to working together to “speak up for nature”!

Highly recommend their Inauguration Video.

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UNESCO-HK / UNEP-DHI Eco-challenge 2015

Written on . Posted in Events

On 31 January, UNESCO HK Association with HK Digital Game-based Learning Association and other HK-based and international organizations held a workshop for their annual Eco Challenge for Water and Environment, using the platform developed by UNEP-DHI, Aqua Republica.

The platform uses a virtual game model that simulates management of water, land, natural resource and development. As a key part of the workshop, we ran a session for the students to help them understand the complexity of water resources and the challenges associated with management and development. This year, the theme was specific to the environment of Singapore.

This year, over 450 students signed up for the Eco Challenge, and 130 students attended the workshop. Aside from HK, 12 other countries in and around Asia signed up for the challenge. Over February and March, students will compete locally and the winners will proceed to attend the international competition in Korea in April.

Good luck to our Hong Kong participants!

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More photos here.

JCEIA Annual Conference 2015

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24 January 2015 / We attended the annual conference organised by Joint College Environmental Innovation Alliance (JCEIA) about municipal solid waste.

JCEIA are a group of students and graduates of environmental related subjects who believe they can and should do something to make the world better, and they regularly act on this- from organising conferences for information and ideas exchange, to innovative street action such as their Bag Back campaign reducing use of plastic shopping bags, one shopper at a time!

The waste conference was a fantastic event with a full house and fascinating presentations from Government, NGOs and corporates. See programme here. Did you know that in Hong Kong:

-we recycle 50% of our MSW, which is comparable to Berlin? (unfortunately the rest is landfilled, unlike Berlin where it is converted into energy)
-we are among only two airports worldwide that uses seawater for flushing?
-we throw away 1.36kg of MSW per person per day, 40% of which is food waste? And that the Government has pledged a $1bn recycling fund to promote innovation in this sector.

All showing us that Hong Kong is doing surprisingly well, but we can do better and there is huge potential for innovation and growth in this sector. Environmental graduates take note!

**JCEIA were clear that this was to be a waste-free event and to their credit all but a few of the 400-plus participants brought their own mug!

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