Sunday, January 29, 2012

Our new Programme Leader

Heartiest congratulations to Dr Edgar for on his appointment as our new programme leader!

I'd also like to thank to Dr Bill Duane for his exemplary leadership and guidance while he was at the helm.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Interesting reads

  • Why it's so hard to get anything from JSTOR, explained.
  • The real answer to why exercise is good for you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Talk about creating a wildlife corridor

Our departmental hallway on the first floor became just that this week.

A medium-sized lizard was found lurking behind our hallway bookcase yesterday. It'd sought refuge in a rolled-up map, and when Gabriel unraveled it, the poor thing panicked and scrambled around, causing an outward scattering of shrieking humans.  Eventually it was chased to the ladies', which we have since avoided.

Today I saw it poke his head out from behind the dustbin right next to the doors. When I excitedly announced its presence, Dk Hasharina performed an impressive leap through the doorway. My entrance and Gabriel's were similarly speedy but less acrobatic.

Soon after, our corridor neighbours came out for what is perhaps their only close encounter with wildlife this day/week/month, and made me wonder: How many academics does it take to capture a lizard?

Everybody along the corridor can authoritatively suggest some policy measures to protect wildlife habitat. But when it came to a stray lizard, we were stumped.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Interesting reads

  • ICT has become an integral part of urban life, so much so that signal receivers pop up everywhere, merging into the physical environment. Signal Space is a research project by the Pratt Institute School of Architecture in New York that takes a closer look at "broadcast and antenna infrastructure", examining their spread and forging future design concepts.
  • Related to the above, this site shows some examples of signal towers disguised as trees. The fake palm tree/signal tower is really cute!
  • #Riot reads like a thriller, with mobs and social networks as the bad guys. This Wired Magazine article investigates how recent riots around the world used social networking as conduits for mobilising support and action.
  • An MSc in urban regeneration student talks about the joys of postgraduate study in this article.
  • Location-based services on mobile devices can help us avoid unsafe places and plan our journey better (even keep women safe while on the go), but will it make us lose our street smarts?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Interesting: The Atlantic Cities

"Interestingness curator" Maria Popova, from the awesome site Brain Pickings posted a link on her Twitter that led me to The Atlantic Cities, a wonderfully informative and engaging site about all things urban. Some of the stuff that I found interesting:

How our brains navigate the city

The great urban-rural happiness debate

Defining cities in a metropolitan world

Monday, January 16, 2012

Newsworthy: Dr Bill Duane on sea-level change mapping

It's turning out to be a newsworthy week for our programmes (and it's only Tuesday). Dr Bill Duane is featured in today's The Brunei Times (link to article here).

Research needed to map sea-levels

(Above) Infographics show how rising sea-levels will affect Brunei. (Right) Mangrove forests being cleared to prevent flooding. As sea-level rise, mangrove forests can relocate deeper inland.Picture: BT file
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
ECOSYSTEMS along the national coastline need to be studied in-depth in order to formulate policies to tackle rising sea-levels as a result of climate change, said a researcher from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

Dr William John Duane, programme leader for Environmental Studies and Geography & Development, highlighted specific research opportunities in the country during an International Consortium of Universities for the Study of Biodiversity and the Environment (iCube) workshop in UBD.

He said that the research would help create policies on how Brunei should look to respond on the rise in sea-level in the not-to-distant future.

In an interview with The Brunei Times, he said there were some data available from a study done in 2002, but said that there could be more work done to make the information more complete as well as to create a more accurate map of ecosystems along the Brunei coast.

Dr Duane noted that with that information, it was possible to form very long-term policies on how to tackle eventual sea-level rise. "It is inevitable," he said, pointing out that as they know more about the effect of climate change.

In 2007, the fourth annual report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which predicted sea-level rise (18 to 59 cm) by 2100 was heavily criticised to be too conservative, he said.

"It was unrealistic because it did not contain information from ice-melt as they did not understand much about it at the time," explained Dr Duane, noting that they had only used figures from how much the sea was going to rise based on the volume of water expanding due to increase in sea-temperature.

Studies made in 2009 and 2010 by other researchers predicted a rise of more than 100 cm and 200 cm respectively. "By 2014, the IPCC will be publishing their 5th report," he shared, noting that while he is not certain, he believed the number would probably be higher.

He said that the seventh point of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was to aim for environmental sustainability as well as reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. For Brunei to achieve a "net-zero" biodiversity loss, it must first understand completely what it needs to replace in the event of rising sea-levels.

"For example, the mangrove forests," he said, noting that as the sea-level rises, it could allow mangrove forests to be created further in-land, replacing the ones that were lost. He said that research would help map out the areas which needs to be converted, taking into account ecosystems with many different species.

He noted that while there were many policy options available to the government, science should help make the government create informed decisions.

"It will not just be a matter of science, but also a matter of policy."

He pointed out the range of policy responses available to the government, ranging from reclamation of land to non-intervention, and said that research on coastal environments would help decide what can be used.

He explained that while areas such as Bandar Seri Begawan and other populated places will need to be protected by physical barriers, other areas might be better preserved through adaptation and allowing nature to take its course. "That needs to be researched," he said.

During the iCube workshop, one of the participants suggested that because Brunei is a small country, it might be possible to erect coastal protection for the entire coastline. Dr Duane said that it might be economically challenging as it would be a construction work of some 200-300 kilometres.

He later explained that it would also cause the loss of biodiversity, as coastal environments not protected by the wall would be lost. "The wall would stop the move of these environments further inland" he said, explaining it would create a reduction or an outright loss of those environments.

The Brunei Times

Newsworthy: Dr Hjh Dulima's peatland talk

Our colleague Dr Hjh Dulima is featured in yesterday's The Brunei Times (link to article here), as the copy below shows.

'Manage peatlands for resilience to climate change'

File photo shows members of the media and SCB officers during a previous field trip to the Kuala Balai peat swamp forest. Picture: BT file
Monday, January 16, 2012
PROPER water management is crucial in maintaining the peatlands, which play a major role in mitigating climate change, a local expert in biogeography and environmental studies said.

In her presentation "Managing Peatland for Resilience to Climate Change" at the iCUBE workshop on Thursday, senior lecturer in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Dr Hjh Dulima Jali, stressed the importance of proper water management and capacity building in ensuring peatlands can regenerate.

According to her, water management is the critical factor that determines the possibility of regeneration of peatlands. The level of water has to be balanced between the survival of the agricultural plants and the maintenance of the peats, she said in an interview with The Brunei Times.

"Not to high for it to be affecting the plants but not too low that the peats will be oxidised, the peats become dry."

Water level is one of the main factors that promote or prevent regeneration of forests in the peatlands, she explained. When peatlands are disturbed, it can cause the lowering of the water table, which can dry the peatlands and prevent plants from growing.

Ensuring proper water management is not just the responsibility of the government, it involves all parties, from policy makers to the local people, she added. Hence, she called for the involvement of all stakeholders in ensuring peatlands are properly managed as they play a crucial role in the mitigation of climate change.

"(We need) good governance, well-aware, well-versed people...clean government, no corruption and proper implementation of policies, and enforcement of policies."

Dr Hjh Dulima advised for thorough investigations on peatlands to be conducted before any development is implemented in the area in order to optimise use of the peatlands.

This, she said, involves the cooperation and collaboration of relevant departments such as the Public Works Department and the Forestry Department, among others.

Before implementation of projects, some of the things to look at are the impacts of sand extraction, the impacts of widening the drains and the impacts of flood mitigation measures, she said.

She added that capacity building or awareness must be raised on the roles of peatlands to encourage people to conserve them.

"If people understand the role of the peatlands and how it is impacted, then proper and adequate measures will be taken," she told the paper.

Dr Hjh Dulima is currently working on a rehabilitation project to find out the best practices of conserving peatlands in the region. Among the items she worked on were what kind of species can be used, types of timber best promoted and types of water management strategies to be imposed to preserve the peatlands.

The Brunei Times

Monday, January 9, 2012

Interesting reads:

  • Ethan Zuckerman calls this article on delving into the history of a new Walgreens site using the web and public databases "journalism of place/journalism by aggregation".
  • "When the internet was new, its early enthusiasts hoped it would emulate the greatest serendipity machine ever invented: the city." - In Search of Serendipity by Ian Leslie.
  • This Tel Aviv squatter map has a label that reads "A house without people for people without a house".

Friday, January 6, 2012

Can social media really instigate social change?

Do listen to this fascinating talk by Ethan Zuckerman that addresses the issue:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Interesting: A new year and a fresh batch of interesting reads

Happy new year! 2011 is widely tauted as a big year for visualization, crowdsourcing and social media and 2012 is predicted to be even bigger.

We are welcoming a new batch of students this week and will commence Semester 2 next week (January 9). In the meantime, below are a fresh batch of new reads from all over. 

Ken sent over some very thought-provoking, even controversial, articles:

From my Twitter feeds and other sources:

  • A former Miss America (from Hawaii) is compiling a Map of the Human Story. This is an absolute must-read for all social scientists, as this project by Elizabeth Lindsey (an anthropologist specialising in cultural intelligence) incorporates mixed mediums (audio-visual, maps, text, etc) to examine spatio-temporal socio-cultural and political changes, and to convey the wisdom of the elderly. A brief introduction also here. Dr Lindsey also talks about 'curating humanity's heritage' in this Youtube video of her TED talk.
  • This newly published journal articles traces the evolution of crowdsourced street maps in Germany and compares OpenStreetMap data with commercial data from TomToms.