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iPlant Training Camp adds new dimension to the exploration of WHU
Author:Hu Zixin  Date:2019-06-22  Clicks:

Wuhan University has long been appreciated as one of the most beautiful universities in China. This is largely attributed to the luxuriant vegetation covering the campus, which provides faculty and students with a unique natural environment. The many flowers and plants may even, occasionally, rouse our curiosity: what is the name of this obscure grass? Is this flower one of those well-known cherry blossoms?     

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A student carefully observing leaves

While these questions may only occur to you from time to time without really drawing your attention, a group of WHUers have embarked on a journey of exploring the mystery of these plants on campus as part of the WHU iPlant Training Camp. Funded by the National Specimen Information Infrastructure and Chinese University iPlant Association (CUiPA for short), the WHU iPlant Training Camp provides students an opportunity to learn how to recognize and distinguish plants in our daily life systematically, aiming to develop a database that covers all plants in Chinese universities and help to enhance the awareness of species conservation and ecological education at university.

The WHU iPlant Training Camp consists of two sessions: indoor lectures and outdoor activities. Du Wei, a lecturer of the Department of Plant Science in WHU’s College of Life Sciences, is in charge of the training camp and arranges the courses carefully. He is a jovial teacher with great passion and a good sense of humor that provokes students’ interest towards plants.

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Lecturer Du Wei and students during the class

During the first lesson, lecturer Du tells the students where the journey of the world of plants begins. “When you first begin to notice the obscure plants around you, the door of a new world opens up. I hope you can treat plant learning as an embellishment of your daily life, a bridge across which you find the beauty of nature.” He encourages the students from different departments of WHU to embrace nature with a relaxed mood. “The process of learning requires accumulation from day to day. You can start from the bushes under your dormitory, the flowers along the avenue to the teaching building.”

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Lecturer Du Wei and students during outdoor activities

Experiencing, observing, recording, sharing and writing are the main elements of plant study, which indicates that sitting in the classroom is merely a small part of learning. The first outdoor class is held early in the morning, on the lawn in front of the 5th teaching building, providing our learners with a refreshing place for plant observation. During the class, students learn the skills of plant photography, the criteria of which are quite different from general photography..

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Students observing flowers

“Unlike portraits or some other photos that utilize plants as background, the aim of plant photography is to present the plant clearly. If you want to know the name of a species, it’s essential that you have pictured it in a professional way before consulting others. Any ambiguity may lead to inaccuracy.” Lecturer Du shares his experience of plant photography and plant identification, emphasizing the significance of capturing the main features.

Summarizing and writing also contribute to plant recognition. Students are divided into several groups to study together and make plant-related presentations. A WeChat official account is also established to publish essays written by amateur plant specialists. Impressions of plants, scientific plant painting, and guidance for flower viewing - all these present us with a wonderful world of plants.

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Photo of WHU iPlant Training Camp

It is the first year that the iPlant Training Camp has been held in WHU and it will continue on an annual basis. If you are also curious about the plants around you and somehow have the desire to learn, don’t miss it!

Photo by Cui Wenjing & Zhang Xu

Edited by Zhou Siyan, Li Yushan, Zheng Yayun, Shi Weiya & Hu Sijia

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