Rays of the sun washed over us as we gathered under the iconic Nuga tree (Banyan tree) in front of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences. It was the perfect atmosphere for a gathering for the BEEZ members (members of the Base for Enthusiasts of Environment Science and Zoology). A very thrilling session marked with exaggerations and amazing realities in equal measures made our evening a memorable one.
Our spirits were high as the speaker entered the gathering with his usual smile. Everyone was eagerly looking forward to hear from one of the most influential conservation biologists and behavioural ecologists of our time.
His strong focus on field exposure has always provided hands on experience to many of our undergraduates who have excelled in nature studies. His way of teaching resulted in increasing their enthusiasm and instilling in them an exquisite interest about environment. Being his students, we recall the memories of many field excursions he used to take us on; to Sinharaja, Kumana, Wasgamuwa, Maduru Oya, Bundala and many more; to places that we had never visited before.
An individual who is truly connected with nature and its wonders, he is none other than our very own Prof. P. Nihal Dayawansa; Professor of Zoology in the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences of University of Colombo.
“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely…Sunshine almost always makes me high….”
It was a simple song that many of us have heard on multiple occasions before. However, hearing this song in the context of appreciating and connecting with nature, gave it a whole new meaning. It became more than just a song to us, but a reminder of the fulfillment working with nature can bring.
It turned out to be one of the best story telling documents of an ecologist. A glimpse of his field diary was shared as a video before the talk.
Starting on that high note, Prof. Dayawansa further resonated with the audience by sharing his childhood days with nature, being a kid who maintained a small zoo at home. It was a story relatable to many of us. Those memories revealed his intriguing mix of passion, humility and desire to continuously evolve with nature. Thus, he created a portrait of his life, where he lived in harmony with the natural world.
His words were warm, placid and was injected with candid blessings upon the future of the budding ecologists and field biologists in the audience. The words are sure to be imprinted in almost everyone’s mind with the notion of “to be inspired for better days with nature”, one of the roots in his address, which, in fact, the Nature Talk is all about.
During the nature talk we got to know Prof. Dayawansa as an author of several publications and many of the publications are results of his love towards nature. He has had a special interest towards butterflies and thus, being actively involved in studies on butterflies have paved the way to Bula Bebe (Hello Butterfly) – a book on butterflies of Fiji, which exemplifies his outstanding international contribution towards wildlife.
According to Prof, images aren’t just pretty pictures. Like words, images too are iconic, creative and a powerful tool which can persuade and inspire people. ‘Envitoons’ is one such inspirational approach of Prof. Dayawansa’s in teaching and creating awareness towards nature education. The picture of ‘Thani-aliya’ (a single wild elephant isolated from the group) was the most fascinating one which made us all laugh.
The best part of the talk was the unexpectedly given opportunity to touch and hold one of our slimy friends that we encounter in day today life ! It was a great chance for many who had never handled animals, to get closer to amazing creatures in nature.
The talk sailed smooth without a single moment of awkward gestures. Indeed it was a well spent quality time on a Thursday evening under our very own trees in Faculty of Science, where the trees themselves would also vouch for!
This truly mind blowing much wanted creative boost with Prof. Dayawansa led us to imagine endless possibilities in life with an abundance of overwhelming ideas of true worth and value. We are indeed grateful to him for sparing his valuable time with us.
For BEEZ, happiness is being part of something in possibility that we never thought would be this much effective. For me, the true delectation is being able to contribute to something of value in that something in reality.
Kudos to the beautiful creativists of BEEZ (including myself; ha haa!?) for initiating this creative forum concept; ‘Nature Talk’! I hope the series of talks would be continued in the upcoming months as well.
As the sun went down, the green panthers dispersed with renewed enthusiasm only to meet again with another ‘Nature Talk’ by BEEZ, to rediscover the fearless and enthusiastic version of themselves.
Capture Credits : Lahiru Rajapaksha of NR Creative Studio