Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, had a summer packed with exciting field work teaching a course in a pristine biogeographical island group in Indonesia.
Through the London based organization Operation Wallacea (OpWall), Reza, a native of Bangladesh, helped lead academics and students in the focus area of Wallacea Forest ecology. According to Reza, the Wallacea region of Indonesia is extremely important for understanding the origin and evolution of animals.
“My job as a forest ecology lecturer was to instruct, advise and support research projects the students were working on,” said Reza. “The highlight of the job was teaching students from different backgrounds, where a majority of them came from highly respected universities from all over the world.”
In several groups, Reza taught students from Oxford University, University of British Columbia, Harvard University, University of Edinburgh, University College of London, University of Bristol, Trinity College and Nottingham University.
“Teaching students from all these highly-ranked universities was the best experience I’ve had in my career,” he said. “I learned so many new ideas and got a completely different perspective of teaching over the summer.”
One of Reza’s goals was to expose himself to a completely different classroom environment — where teaching was not always set up with familiar settings.
Some of the lectures were taught in a village right outside the forests of the Buton Island in the Sulawesi region. Other lectures were far from the village and took place after a long day of hiking.
“The facilities in the remote forest camps were very basic and there was no audio-visual support, or anything similar to that,” he said. “In such conditions, the biggest challenge I had was to make all the students interested in the lectures.”
In addition, OpWall organizers invited Reza to conduct guest lectures on wildlife biology, culture and religion, and methods of getting into colleges and universities in the United States.
OpWall was pleased with Reza’s performance and informally invited him to teach again next summer, pending his availability.
“Life is full of surprises when you are out of your own familiar environment,” added Reza. “Things are completely different when you are in a new place, in a new culture or in a new country. I strongly encourage Delta State students to experience new places, new cultures and definitely new countries.
“I always encourage my students by saying ‘experience is something — no one can give it to you, and once you get it, no one can take it away from you.’”
Reza is a strong advocate of students taking advantage of international study opportunities. He continues to explore student exchanges between Delta State and international institutions and can assist those those interested in studying biology abroad.
In addition to teaching university students in Indonesia, Reza also conducted research on the unique wildlife and biodiversity of Sulawesi. Formerly known as Celebes, Sulawesi is the largest island in the Wallacean region. This area hosts amazing wildlife where Asian and Australasian plants and animals meet.
Academic leaders benefit from OpWall funding for high quality field work, enabling them to publish papers in peer reviewed journals. This model enables the collection of large temporal and spatial datasets used for assessing the effectiveness of conservation management interventions. Reza is currently working on papers from his findings over the summer.
“Working with OpWall was a privilege for me, and I am grateful to OpWall for all their support,” he said. “I am quite sure it would not be possible for me to do similar research on my own without their support.”
Learn more about the organization at http://opwall.com.
For more information on Reza’s trip, or information on international coursework, contact Reza at 662-846-4242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.