Preserving Guyana’s Biodiversity a Major Concern Among Current Students
Not even the overcast skies and occasional showers managed to dampen student enthusiasm today as thousands of secondary school students flooded the University of Guyana campus as the Career Day activities commenced. They congested booths, buildings and campus roadways as they explored the institution’s grounds and indulged in all UG had to offer.
Among the departments represented along the Main Road was the Department of Biology. Clad in their royal purple tee-shirts, the students did their best to feed, entertain and attract potential students with cakes, games and a wealth of knowledge about Guyana’s abundant flora and fauna.
Some students were eager to talk about their degree experiences.
“You learn about diverse species of animals. You learn about your own country’s biodiversity. You learn about the different policies they have in order to protect these endangered species,” Nerissa Surajpal stated. She, like many of the other fourth-year students, will soon complete her Bachelor’s degree in General Biology. She hopes that her local qualifications will ultimately launch her into an international Master’s program in Ornithology – the study of birds.
Another student, Arianne Harris, stated that she was also doing the Bachelor’s programme with aspirations of becoming a conservationist.
“I care about animals, and I want to make sure that some valuable flora and fauna species don’t go extinct,” she said as she lounged in the Assistant Dean’s office. As 3:00 drew closer and the smell of coffee wafted around the air-conditioned room, the coolness and promise of caffeine seemed to do little to revitalise the students exhausted from the day’s numerous activities.
“There is now the whispering of oil…[and] there is also the development aspect,” Harris continued, “As we become more urbanised, it begs the question: what happens to the wildlife? Where do they go?”
This concern about conservation often manifests in the courses offered by the Biology department. According to Harris, every programme manages to include some aspect of conservation and preservation within its literature.
Even the recently re-established University of Guyana Biology Club has a few conservationist slants. The current president of the club, Rovindra Lakenarine, stated that the UG Bio Club has plans to participate in every science-based event day throughout the year. Thus far, they have hosted tree re-planting activities around the Centre for Biological Diversity on campus, participated in the International Coastal Clean-Up in September 2017 and, more recently, World Wetland Day 2018 on February 2nd. Each event was focused on raising awareness about Guyana’s vulnerability to both climate change and pollution.
As Guyana continues its march toward social, infrastructural and economic changes, Harris’ question looms ominously in the background. What WILL happen to Guyana’s ecosystems, flora and fauna in the years to come? The Biology Department’s students offer a glimmer of hope. Their lecturers have already sowed the seeds of conservationism in their minds. Guyana is vulnerable, yes, but the country’s biodiversity is now in the good hands of young, locally trained, passionate scientists working diligently on behalf of our voiceless natural resources.