Conservation through education

Stuart and Cheryl DeLandre studied the intelligence of elephants on a EarthWatch project in Thailand, and are amongst other EarthWatch volunteers, research assistants, a class of Thai students and teachers. Picture supplied

Stuart and Cheryl DeLandre studied the intelligence of elephants on a EarthWatch project in Thailand, and are amongst other EarthWatch volunteers, research assistants, a class of Thai students and teachers. Picture supplied

CONSERVATION through education was what led resident Stuart DeLandre into the jungles of Thailand to get inside the minds of elephants.

Over 11 days Stuart and his wife Cheryl took part in the Thinking Like an Elephant project, which gathers information on the intelligence and behaviour of one of the world’s biggest mammals.

The project is an EarthWatch Expedition. The international non-profit organisation uses a citizen science model to raise funds and recruit volunteers to lend a hand in field research.

As the principal of the Illawarra Environmental Education Centre at Killalea State Park, Mr DeLandre said the project gave him insight into how “hard science” can be used to inform conservation through education.

“Through this research we learned that elephants co-operate with one another on tasks and that elephants can recognise themselves in the mirror,” he said.

“This information identifies how they think and helps form education programs and generates awareness for school children and communities creating better empathy toward elephants and their situation.”

During Mr DeLandre stay, the team of volunteers designed an educational lesson based on the data they discovered in their elephant research and delivered it to a group of Thai students.  

“It really proved that the vision of one person, through science, can enable the conservation of wildlife,” Mr DeLandre said.

“Through the model of citizen science, we are running a three-day Climate Watch camp at Killalea, where students work to collect data on the flora and fauna for research purposes.

“This monitors various species on our Climate Watch Trail, which helps Australian scientists respond to climate change.”

Mr DeLandre said program participants play a watchdog role, whereby they monitor the patterns and behaviour of about 30 different species in Killalea State Park and report their findings on the climate watch website. 

For more information on the Climate Watch program visit climatewatch.org.au or download the Climate Watch app. 

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