When Mentorship becomes Mateship

A partnership with an Australian mentor gives rise to a biodiversity research and conservation group in Davao, and opens doors of opportunities for biologist Dr Milton Norman D. Medina.

In 2012, Milton and his group of local scientists discovered a new species of Damselfly during an expedition in eastern Mindanao. His Australian mentor, Dr Peter Taylor, supported their expedition and helped his group access an international fund, which enabled them to conduct more biodiversity research. “Peter is a known researcher, and he made an excellent report about his group to the funding agencies which provided us a grant that fuelled our activities,” he said.

Milton met Dr Peter Taylor in 2009 when he was an Australia Awards scholar at Curtin University. Peter, who was his mentor for his research projects and other subjects, encouraged him to pursue biodiversity research.

Establishing a relationship with his mentor was something that Milton was grateful for as a Filipino scholar in Australia. “I like the collegial atmosphere of learning in Australia, where students are treated with respect and dignity. It feels good when both the mentor and mentee are learning from each other, and this, for me, is something very unique in Australian education.”

His first international grant paved way to a number of scientific opportunities in the form of global and local grants and writing projects in collaboration with his mentor. “Since 2010 up to the present, we have been involved in various projects and have co-written scientific publications, including the recently published book Research as Transformative Learning for Sustainable Futures and the article Educational research paradigms: from positivism to pluralism, which are already being used and referenced by thousands of scholars and academics worldwide, including prominent universities in the US, Europe, and Asia,” he said.

Peter supported all of Milton’s succeeding research grants and projects, including a project with the National Geographic Society. In 2012, Peter went to the Philippines to support Milton’s Transformative Education Research Conference at the University of Davao.

To honour Peter’s contribution to his scientific career, Milton named a new species of tiger beetle after him – the Thopeutica petertaylori sp.n. This species of beetle can only be found in eastern Mindanao Philippines and nowhere else in the world. The tiger beetle is now being kept at the Coleoptera Research Center of the University of Mindanao.

“Our partnership goes beyond scholarship. Peter is the only person who made me realise that I can do better by helping other people,” Milton said of his mentor, his mate, and his lifelong friend.  

Milton has gone on to build his reputation as a biodiversity specialist and as a conservationist. He is the Assistant Vice President for Natural Science & Innovation at the University of Mindanao and works with both local academic and indigenous communities for the conservation of endemic plant species in Mindanao. Milton discovered a new species of Hoya, minute flowers endemic in the Philippines.

Milton Medina completed his Master of Science in Science Education at Curtin University in Perth in 2013 as a recipient of the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarships.

Since the 1950s, the Australian Government has provided study and research opportunities to Filipinos with the aim of empowering and equipping these individuals to drive change and contribute to Philippine development. Today, the Australian Government continues to provide educational opportunities to Filipino change-makers through the Australia Awards and Alumni Engagement Program.

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