Opening ceremony for the 41st exhibition at the Okinawa Municipal Museum

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While the streets were bustling with Halloween-related activities on October 31, the opening event to the 41st exhibition of the Okinawa municipal museum titled “The entrance to Yanbaru – Nature of Okinawa City” (やんばるの入り口 沖縄市の自然) was also taking place. The exhibition aims to present the results of a five year survey conducted by the Okinawa municipal museum dedicated to documenting the natural environment of Okinawa city.

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Collaborating with a local museum and sharing the same field site and data, having an allocated space at the local museum exhibition, cooperating with the museum to have a joint talk event about the exhibition, all of the above are great achievements for the OKEON Churamori project given its goal to to revitalize the museum network and the amount of effort that has been put into achieving that.

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At the opening ceremony, guests from OIST, led by vice president Neil Calder, lined up and participated in a ribbon cutting.

We are very thankful to Kawazo san and Tone san who has continued to assist us, as well as everyone else at the museum. From this point on let’s continue to work together to cultivate a collaborative environment.

Below is the Japanese:

街がハロウィーンイベントで盛り上がった10月31日(月)、沖縄市立郷土博物館では第41回企画展「沖縄市の自然やんばるの自然」のオープニングイベントが行われました。沖縄市立郷土博物館が5年もの時間をかけて、沖縄市内の自然環境を調査した結果の集大成です。

 一方「OKEON美ら森プロジェクト」にとっても、地元博物館との協働のもとに同じ調査地とその情報を共有し、地元博物館の企画展の中にコーナーをもち、企画展の中のトークイベントまでをも協賛で行えることは、私たちが目指す博物館ネットワークの活性化への取り組みの大きな大きな成果です。

 セレモニーでは、われらが沖縄科学技術大学院大学(OIST)の副学長ニール・コールダーが市長さんを始めとした皆さんに並び、テープカットをしました。

 企画展はもちろん、これまでずっと助けてくださったカワゾエさんやとねさんを始めとした、博物館関係者の皆さんに感謝しつつ、今後とも、さらなる協働体制を発展させていけるよう、頑張ります!

OKEON Churamori Project presented at International Congress of Entomology 2016

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The nearly one-week long XXV International Congress of Entomology, under the theme Entomology without Borders, took place in Orlando this year from September 25-30. It brought together the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline with over 7000 participants and over 2000 talks, with topics ranging from biodiversity conservation to ecology and evolution to science communication.

Yoshi, a staff scientist of arilab and the coordinator of the OKEON project, represented the rest of the OKEON team at the conference by presenting a poster on the project. The poster, titled OKEON Chura-mori Project: A new environmental monitoring project in Okinawa, Japan , introduced the project and described its various components, including GIS, field network, genomics pipeline, as well as emphasized its collaborative nature by outlining the various partners of the project.

You can see the original poster here.

How can OIST’s OKEON project collaborate with Okinawan society so that both benefit in some way?

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While there are many different ways to answer this question, one important collaboration is with high schools in Okinawa. OKEON Chura-mori Project has been developing a new model of high school – university collaboration which benefits students, teachers and researchers alike.

For the past year, OKEON has worked with Futenma, Kyuyou, Kaiho and Hentona High Schools. Each school has collaborated with OKEON in slightly different ways, but students have primarily focused on ants found in their local area as the material of their school research activities. Planning and conducting scientific research is often beyond school curriculums, so in order for the high schools to take part, OKEON project leaders Yoshi and Masako created a training programme for high school teachers.

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The programme involves lectures, and a course for planning research, collecting, sorting, mounting and identifying ants.

By taking part, teachers can gain the skills and know-how to create their own research programmes using data from the OKEON project. For Kawabata-sensei, his study of ants during his university years led him to have a personal interest in revisiting the laboratory. Takara-sensei did not research biodiversity at university, but having done Time-Unit Sampling at his school for a year before taking part in the programme, his ability to identify species is already extremely high. Both teachers spoke about how they were looking forward to working with their students to come up with a research plan using their new skills based on current research. Their goals included wanting to encourage students to develop their interest in science and research, but also to create a knowledge network between teachers which exchanges information, and has access to but is not dependent on a university faculty.

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The high school teachers trained by OIST will have the skills and know-how to implement environmental monitoring activities and research, and specialist biodiversity data collection. These skills will in turn be passed down to the next generation of high school students.

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Once a full cycle has been completed (the student’s research is generally for a year), teachers and students can develop and improve their research methods, thereby improving the scientific capacity of the entire community. Because each high school will have unique ways of researching and contributing to OKEON, as well as different goals, there is scope for a self-sustaining network to evolve where teachers and students can share research methods and data.

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This high school teacher training programme is valuable to OIST and OKEON for two main reasons. The first is that there are enormous amounts of data being generated through OKEON, and the sampling system is currently focused on winged insects. Students will be able to focus on worker ants in their local area, generating data which can become the basis for further research at OIST.

The second reason is that this programme is a way to contribute to the sustainability of Okinawan society in the broadest sense possible. Through the training of high school teachers, OIST and OKEON can contribute to education in Okinawa. At Hentona High School, for example, there are specific classes pertaining to the environment, within which this research can become an important component.

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Students can take the specialist research skills they learn into their further study, perhaps even coming back to OIST to work with OKEON data. OIST can play an important role in allowing a strong research community in Okinawa to flourish, which will have the capacity not only to understand but to appreciate and protect the biodiversity of the island.

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