Sunday, July 21, 2019

Landscape Ecology and Caffe: Reflections of a Graduate Student/Barista

Text and photos by Jabez Joshua M. Flores
Ph.D. Environmental Science student

This is the wonderful view from our room in Ostello Parco Monte Barro.
I began my professional career as a barista back in 2007. I worked behind the bar and operated the espresso machine like a musical instrument. Every day was like a performance. And of course, going to Italy--the birthplace of the espresso--was a dream for me. Fast forward 12 years, little did I know that what would bring me to Italy was my research as a graduate student at a scientific gathering. In retrospect, I realized my coffee dream was not hindered by a career change. It's like hitting two birds with one stone. So every time I passed by a bar in Italy, me and my wife would savor every sip of 'caffe'!

My classmates  listening to a lecture (L-R): Martina, Adriana, Xingyue, Xueying, Gaoyuan, Tasuka, and Annegreet

Attending the 10th International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress in Milan and the IALE-Europe Ph.D. course in Monte Barro, Italy was life-changing for me for two reasons. First, it's Italy. And second, it was a scientific gathering where I felt my research belonged to. To those following this blog, you already might be familiar about what we do. But in a nutshell, my research is both weird and complicated. Probably it's because of the complexity (or obscurity) of the subject matter? It's not what you would call a 'mainstream' topic in science. I don't know. Sometimes I believe the funding we get was given out of the sheer novelty of our work. Anyway, I felt that the papers I presented during the past two events was at the right place at the right time. 

Our paper session group discussing our final presentation for the course.

People studying landscape ecology are very particular about patterns and processes...and design. And not just aesthetic design but also functional and ecological design. I met a lot of architects, landscape architects, and urban planners and I also talked to some civil engineers, geographers, and biologists. We shared experiences and exchanged insights (and calling cards!) regarding each other's work. For me permaculture design was not hard to communicate. Some people may call it other names but we're basically talking about the same thing. A common ground was not hard to establish. Opinions and approaches may vary but we all wanted to design a sustainable future for our world. By the way, the world congress theme was 'nature and society facing the anthropocene: challenges and perspectives for landscape ecology'.

Our excursion to the Parco Archeologico dei Piani di Barra 

Out of the 900+ world congress participants (but I think there were at least a thousand people over there), 14 of us went up to Monte Barro Regional Park (an hour away from Milan by train and then by van) immediately after the closing program to take part in a 5-day Ph.D. course organized by the IALE-Europe team. It's like they were taking us to the mountains to make us focus on our research projects...and give direction to our lives. 

Mentors and students listening intently to the final presentations

All of us were Ph.D. students at different stages of our research. Most of my classmates were on their proposal stage and some of us were just writing our manuscripts (actually, it's the hardest part!). I wasn't supposed to be in this event but my academic adviser encouraged me to participate because he said it would help me with my writing process. And it sure did.  

Jacques and Veerle discussing during our last session

At the beginning of the course, we presented our respective posters explaining the scope and progress of our research. There were 14 students and our 5 mentors spent a considerable amount of time asking questions and commenting on our presentations. It took us the whole day to finish this exercise! I'm not sure if I did great job explaining my poster, I probably blacked out. But I had the feeling they understood the scope of my study and what I was trying to accomplish. So that was a good experience for me. Another is learning from the presentations of my classmates. We came from different disciplines, so I took notes, asked questions, and tried to learn as much as I can. Learning about their research topics and how they do research really broadened my perspective. It made me aware of the social and ecological contexts of their places and how they respond to it.

My classmates (L-R): Zhengkai, Leajim, Tasuka, Caleb, Laura, and Adriana

Our mentors brought books for us to read during our stay at the hostel. I borrowed the Multifunctional Landscapes book and read it every night before I went to sleep. I wanted to make the best out of my stay in Monte Barro and focused on listing down questions that I would ask for the paper sessions. Plus, I needed all the inspiration I could get to finish my manuscript. 

Xingyue, Xueying, and Gaoyuan  discuss during the poster session

Our class was divided into four groups for the paper sessions. This was the time for us to discuss a specific section of our research with our mentors. I was grouped with Annelise (Belgium), Gaoyuan (China), and fellow Filipino, Leajim. Annelise and Leajim are studying heritage sites while Gaoyuan is researching on public parks. We were lucky enough to be in the group with two mentors, Veerle (Belgium) and Andreas (Denmark). I consider it a special opportunity to discuss one's work with a small group of people who can really dissect and scrutinize your work. Honestly, I haven't discussed my research this extensively to anyone. I was yearning for fresh input and honest opinion. What's great about this exercise is that one session is dedicated entirely to your study! Receiving insights from landscape ecologists was what I needed. I now know what to do. 

I enjoyed this session with Francois and Tasuka where we discussed the beautiful Italian landscape from the terrace of the hostel

I enjoyed the lecture sessions by our mentors, Jacques, Andreas, Angela, and Veerle. And also Francois whom I always had the chance to talk to especially during meals. My classmates...such a special group! I think having a small class works best because I got to talk to all of them and really form friendships with each other. I hope we could get the opportunity to collaborate on projects and visit each other's countries. Overall, I'm just really happy I was able to be part of this landscape ecology community. This doesn't happen very often. But I'm sure this bond will last a lifetime!

With my roommates Zhengkai and Caleb

Our only group photo! I apologize for the quality, it was taken by a drone at night!

Lunch at Lecco with my classmates

Special thanks to my funding agencies for making this trip possible: UP Office of International Linkages, SEARCA, Fondazione Cariplo, IALE-Europe, and DOST-SEI.

Follow me on Instagram for daily photos of our trip to Italy: @thebeigetable
You can also follow our research at @permacultureresearchph


Friday, July 19, 2019

Research on Permaculture Presented in 2 Landscape Ecology Events in Italy

World congress delegates. Photo by Lula Bacchetta from IALE 2019 Facebook Page

Oral presenters of Symposium  74: Biocultural Landscapes During the Anthropocene during the 10th IALE World Congress. Photo by Catherine Bucu-Flores

University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
Ostello Parco Monte Barro, Galbiate, Italy
July 1-10, 2019

Phase 2 of our research on permaculture  design in the Philippines was presented earlier this month at the 10th International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress at the University of Milan-Bicocca in Milan, Italy. The paper entitled, "Creating a Network Model of System Component Connectivity to Visualize Agroecosystem Interactions in Ecologically Designed Permaculture Landscapes in the Philippines" was presented by PRPH lead researcher and UPLB graduate student, Jabez Flores, as a 15-minute oral presentation in Symposium 74: Biocultural Landscapes During the Anthropocene during the fourth day of the congress. The presentation discussed the development of a holistic network model using a sample data set and an actual data set obtained from a farm in Pitogo, Quezon. The research aims to use this model to describe the multi-component network structure of 11 more permaculture landscapes in relation to family food security. Work on this endeavor is currently ongoing.

Jabez presenting his paper during the symposium. Photo by Catherine Bucu-Flores

Jabez was one of the awardees of the IALE Travel Grant. Photo by Lula Bacchetta from IALE 2019 Facebook Page

In addition to this, a poster entitled, "Let's Democratize Drones! Using the Ryze Tello Drone as a Tool for Ecological Farm Design and Landscape Ecology Research" was presented during the poster sessions of the congress in July 1, 2, and 4.

Jabez explaining his poster to Caleb Toroitich from Kenya. Photo by Catherine Bucu-Flores

The poster on drones was quite popular during the congress! Photo by Catherine Bucu-Flores

After the World Congress, Jabez went to Monte Barro, Italy to take part in the 5-day IALE-Europe Ph.D. course. Along with fellow Filipino and UPLB-SESAM student, Leajim Villanueva, the two of them were the first Filipinos ever to represent the country in the Ph.D course program.  The course was attended by 14 students from all over the world.

Lecture session at Ostello Parco Monte Barro during the 5-day Ph.D. course.

Jabez and Leajim Villanueva of UPLB-SESAM

The Ph.D. course was an opportunity for our research to be heard and scrutinized by some of the best scientists in the field of landscape ecology. These include Angela Colucci (co-author of Smart, Resilient and Transition Cities: Emerging Approaches and Tools for a Climate-Sensitive Urban Development); Veerle Van Eetvelde (co-author of Landscape Perspectives: The Holistic Nature of Landscape); Andreas Aagaard Christensen (co-author of Landscape Ecology, International Encyclopedia of Geography); Jacques Baudry (co-author of Changing Landscapes: An Ecological Perspective); and Francoise Burel (co-author of Landscape ecology: concepts, methods, and applications)

A separate blog article will be posted by Jabez to share his experiences during the Ph.D. course.

We would like to thank our sponsors for making this trip possible: UP Office of International Linkages, SEARCA, Fondazione Cariplo, IALE-Europe, and DOST-SEI.

Thank you for believing in our work! More to come!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Permaculture Vlogs Showcased at Green Unconference 2019

Kai Farms, Silang, Cavite
June 9, 2019

Today the PRPH team had the special opportunity to show a couple of videos and share some insights about our vlog series during the last day of the Green Unconference 2019 at Kai Farms.
Thanks to Paulo Sandoval of Tara Farms PH and Nu Wave Farmers for sharing how the vlogs helped him network with people interested in permaculture. Thanks also to independent filmmaker, Brian Sulicipan, for also sharing his experience while filming for the Permaculture Research PH team. 
Special thanks to the Philippine Permaculture Association staff for being there to support us, we appreciate it very much! 
And lastly, to Karla DelgadoAmena Anantishi Bal, and the staff of Kai Farms for inviting us to this event! 
Shout out to fellow speakers Sarah Queblatin and Earwin Belen! To a better tomorrow!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Research on Permaculture Presented at the DOST-ASTHRDP Graduate Scholars Conference at PICC

Presenting partial results of our study at the DOST-ASTHRDP Graduate Scholars Conference 2019.
Photo by Kinsey Meg Perez
Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay City
May 2-3, 2019

As this generation faces a changing climate, we are in need of practical solutions to address food security that can be accessible to all sectors of society.

Permaculture is a design framework based on ethics and systems thinking that can address this challenge. The concept went mainstream via the internet in the mid-2000s, when its practitioners' online actions have manifested into the intentional transformation of physical and socio-ecological landscapes.

The research is the first of its kind in the country to study and document designs from the household to the municipal level in different ecosystems and social contexts.

Borrowing tools from multiple disciplines, ecological network structures of permaculture designs were modelled using network theory, general systems theory, and landscape ecology as theoretical foundations. Social network analysis was used as a tool to analyze the interconnectivity and multifucntional relationships of six component categories visualizing a complex web of relationships.

Network statistics and structures varied across twelve sites in the Philippines and key design components influencing food security were identified. Most notable were coconut trees, endemic bird species, aquaponics, and the preservation of indigenous knowledge. Results were made public using originally produces content via the video blog format on our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Permaculture is about integrating different sustainable traditions, appropriate technology, and best practices and incorporating it into your own culture...your family culture, community's a new sustainable culture that uses technology to work with nature.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Science Poster on Permaculture Wins 3rd Place at the Plant Biology Forum at UPLB

Presenting our poster. Photo by Marj delos Angeles, Plant Biology Division

UPLB, Los Banos, Laguna

April 29-30

Another victory for permaculture! Yesterday at the very first Plant Biology Forum at the Institute of Biological Sciences, UPLB, we presented a very short snippet of our research work in a poster entitled, "Modelling Plant Assemblies in a Permaculture Farm: An Example in Pitogo, Quezon." The presentation features the permaculture design of Weng and Bittie Glinoga of Glinoga Organic Farm--the very first permaculture site that we studied.

The poster summarizes how the role of the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) in creating unique plant assemblies that can be found in the farm. We visualized the agroecosystem as a network with six (6) system component categories: biotic, abiotic, manmade structural, technological, socio-economic, and cultural. Each component is represented as a node and connected with edges. The criteria used for creating linkages are use, proximity, function, interaction. The data to create these linkages were gathered using direct observation and rapid rural appraisal (primary data), ecological profiling (secondary data), and a biodiversity survey (in a 50x50 meter sampling quadrant). Data collection was completed in just 3 days. Though it must be noted that we have not yet included the qualitative data in our model (we're still in the process of doing qualitative coding).

The network model that was created was a snapshot of the farm during that time, August 31 to September 2. The system is dynamic and components are evolving. But we highlighted 3 technological components that made the coconut tree valuable to the system (keystone species): hugelkultur, raised beds, and stingless bees. These three technological components can be standalone thesis studies themselves! You can watch the design explanation on our YouTube Channel:

You can learn a lot from permaculture designers. If you want to learn more, it's a good experience to visit the sites and talk to the people themselves. As for our work, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have so much to do, 11 more sites to analyze. Up until now we're still unearthing a lot of things from Quezon. We're very excited to share as much information to the public.

Post from Facebook
Glinoga Organic Farm in Pitogo, Quezon was the first permaculture site we visited and studied last year. Through years of careful observation of nature and creative use of natural resources, the farm owners and staff have created one of the most unique and complex designs we have seen. In this poster that I presented at the Plant Biology Forum 2019 at the Institute of Biological Sciences, UPLB, I explained the multiple functional relationships that the coconut tree has created for other trees and plants plus the other component categories in the system.
My poster entitled, Modeling Plant Assemblies in a Permaculture Farm: An Example in Pitogo, Quezon won 3rd place in the event! Though I explained that not all data has been embedded in the model yet. I would like to dedicate this accomplishment to Weng and Bittie Glinoga, Kuya Jeff, and the staff for showing us how to live sustainably and mindfully with nature. Thank you for sharing your permaculture wisdom!

The Poster

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Researcher’s Blog 01 - Permaculture in the Philippines: When and where did it start?

Permies convene in Los Banos at the 2nd Philippine Permaculture Convergence held last year.

Phase 1 of PRPH’s research is to find out how the permaculture movement began in the Philippines. Though it’s impossible to pinpoint ‘who’ exactly is responsible for this (everyone has their own story!), it is possible for us to identify the key figures in the movement and then start from there.  

By now a lot of people must have heard about ‘permaculture’ especially those in the organic farming and backyard gardening circles. And probably you…because you have access to our Facebook page or this blog site. But did you ever wonder when it arrived in the Philippines?  

For sure ‘permaculture’ has been taught in agriculture schools and undergraduate courses. And even graduate courses. But the topic, according to some, was only mentioned ‘in passing.’ It wasn’t really discussed thoroughly. 

If you ask permaculture designers (also known as ‘permies’) here how they learned about permaculture, I’m sure they all have different stories to tell. But what we do know is that permaculture began in Australia in the 1970s and was immortalized by the book, Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison (1988). He’s the co-founder of permaculture along with DavidHolmgren (if you’re a UP student you can borrow a copy from the UPLB MainLibrary).

When our research team traveled the country to interview permies, there was one common theme in their stories: The Internet. This was not surprising at all because I myself am a ‘student’ of Google and YouTube.

If we check Google Trends, there was a sudden spike in Google searches for ‘permaculture’ in March 2005 in the Philippines. This was 7 years prior to me discovering permaculture.

So the best place to start looking for permies is online. In social media, in particular. And on Facebook to be more specific. The research team searched for permies in public databases (i.e. Permaculture WorldwideNetwork), searched on Google, asked for referrals, and we also posted a survey using Google Forms. Then in 2018, we were able to come up with a list of 144 self-proclaimed practitioners using this methodology. But do these people know each other? Is it possible to create a social network using this list of names? We can do this by creating a social network map or a sociogram. A sociogram consists of actors (or nodes) and links (or edges) to help visualize social relationships. Using social network analysis as a tool, we can find out who are the prominent nodes using an index called Degree Centrality. Which basically is the number of links attached to a node. In other words, yung pinaka-sikat (popular). Social network statistics was obtained using Social Network Visualizer, a free software which you can download here.

To make the long story short, one particular node stood out…Node 2. It had a DC score of 48 out of a possible 143 (33.56%) connections. The closest DC score was 31. We then ranked the nodes according to DC score and asked them one by one if we can visit them. We visited the first 12 people to respond to our request. And Node 2 was one of them.

If you’re a permie, you probably know Node 2. He’s Bert Peeters. The same Bert Peeters who taught you permaculture in Cabiokid, Nueva Ecija or any Philippine Permaculture Association (PPA)-led PDC course. Bert was also my teacher back in 2014 in Cabiokid. This was finally my chance to ask him, “Bert, how did you get into permaculture???” To those who don’t know him yet, Bert is a Belgian development worker who has been in the Philippines since his early 20s. He speaks fluent Tagalog and is currently the Executive Director of PPA.

How did he come across permaculture? He heard it from Columban priest, Fr. John Leydon, in 2000. From there, he searched it online and attended courses in Scotland and Australia where he met Geoff Lawton—whose video, Introduction to Permaculture Design, was the first permaculture video I watched.

Then we learned the backstories of the other 11 permies we interviewed together with their family, friends, and employees for a total of 19 actors. I then made a sociogram which I called a ‘Mentorship Network Graph’ (see photo) tracing the passing on of permaculture knowledge. Red nodes are external sources, yellow nodes are the ‘actors’ we interviewed, and the white node, that’s me. I wanted to see how I was related to all of them. We can see from the graph how Bert is connected to Geoff Lawton and Geoff is connected to the founders of permaculture itself…Mollison and Holmgren. Bert is a mentor to almost all of the yellow nodes except for nodes 10 and 11 who both came from the United States. It’s also interesting to note that node 13 also got her permaculture exposure from a Catholic network in the US.

The sociogram doesn’t suggest that permaculture in the Philippines began with Bert Peeters. It only shows how influential he is in the movement today—a movement that is also growing online. Even his students have formed permaculture networks of their own. For sure there are some people who knew about permaculture even before Fr. John Leydon or Bert Peeters did. It was just good timing. The early 2000s was the era when the internet started to go mainstream in the Philippines. Facebook started in 2004 and YouTube was founded in 2005. It was easy for people to look for resources and courses.

It was just good timing.

That’s it for this blog! There’s more to Phase 1 that we would like to share. Stay tuned!

*I hope to do this regularly until I write the draft of my dissertation manuscript in July. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Agriculture Grad Gives Tour of Permaculture Center [VLOG E06]

Para sa aming pang-anim na episode, sisilip lang tayo saglit sa Isabela Permaculture Development Center o IPDC. Dito kumuha ng Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course sina Weng and Bittie Glinoga ng Glinoga Organic Farm (Vlog Episode 1). Kasama din namin sa episode na to si Enrico Navea ng Lorenza's Garden and Food Forest Farm (Vlog Episode 5).

Landscape Ecology and Caffe: Reflections of a Graduate Student/Barista

Text and photos by Jabez Joshua M. Flores Ph.D. Environmental Science student SESAM-UPLB This is the wonderful view from our room...