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As a university that includes sustainability element as one of its main pillars, it is important for Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) to preserve the flora and fauna found within the USM compound. EcoHub, established on 17 December 2008, is a previously abandoned green space preserved by USM as a living lab. It is home to many unique flora and fauna that can hardly be found elsewhere. Located at Lorong Pegawai, close to the Centre for Global Archaeological Research, EcoHub was officially opened by the the former USM Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.
EcoHub aims at becoming the “nature repository” for storing information with regard to the campus ecological surroundings, preserving exotic flora and fauna which can benefit the community within or outside USM. As a living lab, students, lecturers, and researchers at USM are welcomed to carry out their research on the flora and fauna found in EcoHub to produce findings that can be beneficial to other researchers.
Throughout the establishment of EcoHub, various species of living plants have been preserved to ensure that the plants can benefit the future generations. Three groups of plants; orchard, herbaceous, and forest encompassing 150 different species can be found in EcoHub such as Ixora javanica, Mallotus paniculatus, Antidesma cuspidatum, Vitex pinnata, Tetracera indica, etc. A number of herbaceous plants found in EcoHub have many medicinal properties, one of which is the ability to treat diseases including cancer. Moreover, since the area has many shade trees, 115 types of birds such as Brahminy Kite, Asian Koel, and Asian Glossy Starling which can hardly be found elsewhere can also be spotted in the area.
Under the coordination and supervision of the Centre for Global Sustainability Studies (CGSS), USM, a number of projects have been carried out to improve the current condition of EcoHub to accommodate visitors of the living lab from inside and outside USM. CGSS has collaborated with students from a sustainability course coordinated by CGSS, WSU101 (Sustainability: Issues, Challenges and Prospects) to label the plants found in EcoHub. The labels which consist of some basic information about the herbs such as the origin, characteristics, and usage were installed at several areas where the plants are located. The labels would allow visitors to learn about the plants found in EcoHub during their visit. CGSS has also collected the information of birds found in EcoHub which was then converted into an information board and displayed at EcoHub for visitors to see. The map of EcoHub is also installed in several areas in EcoHub to accommodate EcoHub visitors. Visitors can also learn about the living web of EcoHub (the infographic is adapted from Beacon Food Forest in Beacon Hill, Seattle) in which CGSS has also put up the information in EcoHub. It is hoped that EcoHub can become an advanced living lab in Malaysia as well as one of the sustainability-based tourism spots in Penang. For more information about EcoHub, visit https://www.facebook.com/ecohubusm.