$1.3 mil grant will send students to China

by Hannah Beausang

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Hannah Beausang, Staff Writer

San Diego State received a $1.3 million grant to study the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey, more commonly known as the golden monkey, in relation to conservation.

National Science Foundation awarded the grant for members of the biology, educational technology and geography programs to conduct research on the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve. SDSU students will work alongside the team to observe the effects sustaining ecological systems.

SDSU geography professor Li An is the principal investigator of the project. An’s previous conservation research helped secure the grant. The NSF grant is competitive and this year, only 10 percent of applications were funded, according to An.

Students will be selected through an application process. The team is seeking highly qualified students and well-versed in the subject areas to take on specific tasks for the project. SDSU graduate students are currently in China conducting research for the project.

An said the project is meant to bridge the natural science and social science gap and combine multiple areas of expertise in order to gain broader perspective on the project and the conservation effort as a whole.

The golden monkey, which is the focal point of the project, is endangered and serves as a symbol of conservation for China. In addition, the well-being of the monkey population is an indicator of the overall health of ecosystems.

The project studies what An calls “monkey-people conflict.” Human inhabitants of the area want to utilize the ecosystems but there are not enough resources to sustain both, monkeys and mankind.

The team hopes to create a long- standing payment system to give people initiative to protect the environment by providing alternative options to support themselves other than the use of ecological resources.

In a previous excursion, An installed nonintrusive cameras on the reserve to monitor the monkeys’ behavior and the effects of outside influences on the ecosystem.

“We want to know how monkeys make use of certain areas with human presence and without human presence and see other factors, such as elevation, slope and vegetation type, may affect habitat use of the monkeys,” An said.

SDSU associate professor of biology Rebecca Lewison and her student team will focus on the ecological systems studying the integration of humans and natural systems.

“The ultimate goal is to answer some specific questions about our field site and about how these socioeconomic forces influence the ecological systems and visa versa,” Lewison said.

Associate Professor of educational technology Minjuan Wang is handling the educational component of the project. Wang participated in a workshop from the SDSU Center for Regional Sustainability and will incorporate into her research.

She will work with schools in San Diego and China to develop a conservation curriculum.

Using WebQuest, an online lesson plan, to create interactive programs for K-12 students, Wang hopes to use the program to connect San Diego schools and Chinese schools to foster cultural exchanges.

Wang plans to record footage of the reserve, as well as classroom activity, to show in her classes at SDSU in preparation for future collaboration.

The professors agree the project is applicable across many platforms and can help develop a framework that could be used for similar projects in the future.

“This same type of project could easily be something that would be done in San Diego,” Lewison said. “This loop and the importance of understanding the linkages and the relationship between human and natural dynamics is something that is relevant in general.”

An called the project “important and challenging.” There are difficulties to overcome with the research, but the team hopes to gain a valuable new perspective on conservation and prevention.

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