Professional staff: Prof. Cindy Lam, Department of Ocean Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST); Ms Helen Wong, Dean of Students' Office, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)
HKUST is rich in biodiversity because of its unique geographical location. It attracts different HKUST members (including staff and students) to take photos and document the ones they are interested in. The HKUST Biodiversity Map and virtual tour trails are, therefore, developed from their work into a systematic collection of biodiversity information and photo albums. The project aims to induce students’ interest and curiosity in appreciating nature and spreading local biodiversity and conservation knowledge. It can also facilitate a flexible learning atmosphere to learn outside the classroom. Currently, the Map consists of four categories of over a hundred species with detailed descriptions mapped against the campus map. In addition, there is a 360 virtual trail to the Chinese Garden featuring butterflies and host plants along the way.
The Map has been utilized academically to strengthen students' learning. Prof. Cindy Lam has promoted the Map in some related foundational courses and used it in a field trip course for trial demonstrations. Students are also involved in co-creation activities, such as designing biodiversity routes, collecting biodiversity information, and assembling data and materials to contribute to the Map. Students can use these active learning activities to integrate their learning into real-life practices. Besides, the Map has been used for student engagement, well-being, and belonging building. For example, in the New Student Orientation, the Map was incorporated into a Campus Scavenger Hunt to help students familiarize themselves with the HKUST campus while appreciating and gaining awareness of the nature surrounding the campus. Ms. Helen Wong commented that the Map is a good complementary element. Students may not be interested in biodiversity initially, but they were introduced to it in their daily route at HKUST, which built a linkage to their needs and became meaningful to them.
Challenges were encountered in both cases. Firstly, the GPS is not that accurate in identifying the exact location. More hints and assistance had to be given to facilitate students recognizing the species during activities. Secondly, the natural habitat of species was inevitably affected by adverse weather conditions. The damage caused made it more challenging for users to discover the species listed on the map. For instance, major construction works were carried out on campus since the project had piloted. The disturbances to the habitats, such as noise level and loss of trees made it more difficult to spot certain birds or butterflies in the area. To this, Ms. Wong added that departments involved in campus maintenance could be included to review possible solutions between conservation and regulations compliance.
When asked about the future development of the Map, the project team stated that they are eager to promote the Map to a broader community through regular student engagement activities and plugging the Map into HKUST App. In addition, Prof. Lam remarked that students are welcome to join to expand the Map beyond the four categories.
Biodiversity Map: https://oces.hkust.edu.hk/innovative-teaching-tools
Biodiversity Butterfly Trail: https://biomap-dev.hkust.edu.hk/BiodiversityTrail_ChineseGarden/
ArcGIS StoryMaps of the HKUST butterfly: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/ae6a2b365ddd4ad1b7db4f22399d2da3