Study Travel on Ecological Restoration and Envrionmental Education in USA
By Junko Oikawa
Ecological restoration is currently defined as the process of renewing and maintaining ecosystem health. In practice this usually implies deliberate and some extensive human intervention in the nature conservation status of an area through processes such as habitat recreation or species re-introduction. Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, governments, institutions and international conservation organisations have put increasing emphasis on the need to recognise social, cultural, political and economic factors as aspects that should be integrated into biodiversity protection strategies. As a fine example of the positive repairs of degraded ecosystems, ecological restoration is becoming a common component of biodiversity strategies internationally.
Following some literature research, the author, Junko Oikawa, a student of the Kew Diploma Course 32, carried out a study trip to investigate theories and practices as well as to gain knowledge of new approaches in ecological restoration and environmental education as tools for biodiversity conservation.
This trip, supported by the Kew Guild, the Henry Idris Matthews Scholarship, the Sainsbury Orchid Funds (the Bentham-Moxon Trust), the Kew Rotary Club, the Orchid Living Collection Section of R.B.G. Kew and the Royal Horticultural Society, was originally designed as a scholarship project of the Kew Diploma Course and took place for four weeks between August and September 1996. Eastern United States was chosen as the ideal location to carry out this project, as several organisations in this area have been particularly innovative in their philosophy and activities on environmental education and ecological restoration.
To extend the study, attendance at the `International Congress on Education in Botanic Gardens’, held in New York, was also integrated with the visits. This was an excellent opportunity to meet professional educators from around the world and to accumulate further knowledge of the proposed subjects to be studied. In addition, the participation of the Congress provided a challenge for the author to represent the Sainsbury Orchid Project carried out by R.B.G. Kew with her ideas on Botanic Garden Education as her original poster display at an international meeting for the first time.
The main places to be visited were the University Wisconsin Madison Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Garden, Illinois Nature Conservancy, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Central Park and New York Botanic Gardens. Together with various meetings with educational staff and volunteers, there were several opportunities to participate in their projects on ecological restoration and environmental education during that time. A study of flora of North America in the field was also carried out. It was a great pleasure for the author to meet an ex-Kew student, Gregory Armstrong, who is a Director of the Madison Arboretum.
It is hoped that the information accumulated during this tour will be shared with many people who are involved in ecological restoration and environmental education in England and Japan, the author’s home country, as well as many others. Certainly, there is no doubt this experience will encourage Junko Oikawa in her future career.
Finally, the author would like to thank the Kew Guild for their support for this study trip.