Universiti Brunei Darussalam is the first university in Southeast Asia to collaborate with the Galapagos Science Center (GSC). The Center is ideally located at San Cristobal Island of the Galapagos Archipelago – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ecuador. Galapagos is home to a diversity of endemic flora and fauna and it is truly a biologist’s paradise for the comprehensive study of biodiversity, environment and conservation.
The collaboration materialised originally from UBD’s connection with the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill under the auspice of iCUBE. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UBD and GSC was officially signed on 3 October 2012 in UBD. The newly established GSC is a partnership between UNC and USFQ (Universidad San Francisco de Quito) and it is co-directed by Professor Stephen J. Walsh and Professor Carlos Mena. A separate MoU between UBD and USFQ was officially signed on 19 August 2013 and this auspicious event took place at the USFQ campus in Cumbayá, Quito of Ecuador.
In October 2012, UBD also had the great pleasure of hosting a visit from the Co-Director of GSC, Professor Stephen J. Walsh, who is also a Lyle V. Jones Distinguished Professor of Geography of UNC at Chapel Hill. Professor Walsh presented a public lecture entitled ‘Human-Environment Interactions in the Amazon Rainforest and the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador’ at UBD. In his talk, he highlighted the significance of remote sensing techniques in predicting future landscape changes and how these techniques can be applied to Brunei.
In July 2012, two delegates represented by Associate Professor Dr Hjh Zohrah Hj Sulaiman, Acting Vice Chancellor of ITB (Institut Teknologi Brunei) and Dr Faizah Hj Metali, a lecturer in Faculty of Science, UBD conducted a reconnaissance visit and attended a research meeting in San Cristobal and Isabela Islands for 10 days. Both researchers were formally invited by Professor Stephen Walsh to discuss research areas of mutual interests with scientists from UNC and USFQ. In addition to biodiversity, several potential areas for collaborations, such as marine ecology, entomology, oceanography, food security and agriculture, health sciences, social sciences, energy studies, GIS, spatial analysis and modelling, hydrology and landscape changes, were also discussed.
In August 2013, the same two UBD scientists have returned to the Galapagos Islands to study the population genetic structure of marine fish and the impact of invasive plant species on soil properties. The studies will create capacities for potential collaborations and extensive networking with researchers from the UNC, the USFQ and other member universities of the Galapagos International Science Network. These two research areas are also of high relevance to Brunei Darussalam, since the Sultanate is one of the tropical biodiversity hotspots in Southeast Asia. These two projects were supported by UBD-University Research grant (UBD-URC).