Dr Evelyne Kuo: nature conservation at wetland park

29 September 2015

Ecologist, Dr Evelyne Kuo, has been working at Hong Kong Wetland Park since January 2015, as a Nature Conservation Officer for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

As a child, Kuo loved to be at one with nature- an attribute that has grown into a curiosity to understand how organisms are affected by the natural environment and human actions, and a passion for nature conservation. During her PhD studies at University of California, Davis, Kuo spent six years travelling along the US coast whilst researching factors that determine the distribution of marine organisms, and the potential impacts of climate change on intertidal snails.

Kuo is keen to share her passion for nature and conservation with the wider community, so she is well suited for her role as a Nature Conservation Officer for the Hong Kong Government, where is able to focus on environmental education of the general public.

Hong Kong Wetland Park, where Kuo is currently stationed, is a 61-hectare conservation area, which serves as an ecological mitigation area to compensate for wetlands lost during the development of Tin Shui Wai New Town in the 1980s. The aim of the park is to provide a world-class conservation, education and ecotourism facility for local residents and overseas tourists.

With her team of 23 staff, Kuo’s job at Hong Kong Wetland Park is to come up with and carry out engaging educational programmes, for visitors from kindergarten age to adults. Activities range from knowledge-based guided tours and seminars, to family-oriented “edutainment” drama and art workshops. The goal of Kuo and her team is to enable the public to learn more about the rich wetland biodiversity – there are over 250 species of birds, 160 species of butterflies and 50 species of dragonflies recorded at Hong Kong Wetland Park – and to build up public awareness and support for wetland conservation.

Participants of the education programmes are given questionnaires to evaluate their learning outcomes. For Kuo, it is very satisfying to see high scores result from the work of her and her team at Hong Kong Wetland, as it indicates that they are successfully carrying out their aims to educate the public about conservation and wildlife.

However, raising awareness alone is not enough. Kuo stresses the importance that people “carry this understanding into a commitment to change their attitudes and behaviour, from small things in our everyday life, such as taking shorter showers instead of baths, to taking direct action by, for example, participating in nature conservation activities.”

To strike a healthy balance between meeting its conservation, education and ecotourism objectives, Kuo points out that two-thirds of the park area is actually conservation area closed off to visitors, to minimise human disturbance to the wildlife. The park also employs staff dedicated to monitoring the wildlife, and managing the vegetation and aquatic habitats. Others patrol the park to ensure that visitors do not engage in behaviours that disturb plants and animals.

Hong Kong Wetland Park has received a number of local and international awards for its architecture and landscape design, granted by prestigious organisations including the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Institute of Landscape Architects of the United Kingdom, and Urban Land Use Institute of the USA. The Park was also voted by the Hong Kong general public as one of the “Ten Hong Kong People Engineering Wonders of the 21st Century”.

Dr Evelyne Kuo completed her BA in Biological Sciences in 2006, at Cornell University. From 2006- 2012, Kuo undertook her PhD at University of California, Davis, where she specialized in Marine Ecology. Kuo received a Croucher award in 2006 to support her PhD studies in the US.

To view Dr Evelyne Kuo’s personal Croucher profile, please click here.

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