August 24th, 2018
Vicki Zhang, Zhenglin Yu
作者：Zhenglin 和 Vicki
Our day started off with a delicious buffet breakfast. The professors weren’t lying when they said that the food here is good. And we found forks; eating has never been so efficient!
It was game time when we got to Chongjin Island though. The professors divided us into 3 teams for ‘The Big Hour’, where we tried to see and ID as many bird species as possible. Not to brag, but our team won! Thanks to Allen and Huining’s fast identification skills, Olivia’s quick work with the DSLR and Zhenglin’s sharp eye, we saw 13 native species, including the Eurasian tree swallow, intermediate egret, little egret, and the oriental turtle dove.
After lunch at the Dongtan wetland reserve canteen, we gathered outside and started debated the different conceptions of nature between the Canadian and Chinese students, and compared solutions to ongoing problems. It was emphasized that China does care about nature, but due to the country’s long history and sheer number of people, there are few places that are untouched; nonetheless, there are places in China are virtually untouched. Meanwhile, although Canada has the notion of a pristine wilderness, there are still millennia of Aboriginal history. We concluded that there was no real “correct” solution on how to restore wetlands and care for nature, but it was a stimulating discussion. We also talked about the importance of museums and botanical gardens. Apart from education, museums and botanical gardens function as outreach facets, as archives and as research stations.
We also presented the biology and ecology of our team mascot, of which our groups were named after! They were educational and had some fun twists. The Red-Swamp Crayfish group did a dance, and the Chinese Fire Belly Newt group quizzed us on their species distribution. A common theme was that these species are facing anthropogenic threats. The Yangtze Finless Porpoise uses echolocation for navigation and hunting, but noise pollution will disturb their ecology. The Black Faced Spoonbill is frequently disturbed by humans during mating season. The Yangtze Alligator burrows underground, and since they disrupt agriculture, face human prosecution. Finally, some species were invasive. The Canada Golden Rod is invasive in China since it outcompetes native plants; similarly, the Red-Swamp Crayfish is invasive due to their high fecundity and resilience.
Finally, we visited an organic farm. These farmers employ polyculture, growing rice with soft-shelled turtles and crayfish. This is a mutualistic relationship – the turtles and crayfish eat the insects and weeds, and the rice and floating plants provide shelter and physical structure. The farm has found the optimal total yield per volume of water body, while being ecologically-friendly. Organic fertilization techniques are employed: nitrogen-fixing legumes are grown during the off season, the rice crops are fermented after harvest, and animals excrete waste that naturally fertilize crops. It’s an uphill battle for this farm though, since insects may congregate from other pesticide-spraying farms, affecting yield. Despite this, there are ways to increase revenue through branding. The Ministry of Agriculture’s goal of integrating polyculture in 6.7% of farms in China by 2020 can be reached using this organic farm as a model, and hopefully it will encourage farmers to use sustainable methods and reduce pesticides and fertilizers.
We ended the day with hot pot! It’s a new experience for a lot of our Canadian students, and it was so much fun. Conversation and beer flowed, we watched Ernest eat a lot of meat and ruffage, and we tried a lot of new and delicious foods. We are nearing the end of this field course, and it feels bittersweet, but we are still making the most of these jam-packed educational days.