Just the usual

Hey all-
Well, the time since my last post has been pretty relaxing. I’ve just been at camp, enjoying a week or so there before the new group of volunteers comes and life gets crazy again.  It’s been a pretty standard week, although at times frustrating because we haven’t been able to find the main group of habituated kelasi since returning from Mega Rice.  We have had 5 people out most mornings covering every inch of their territory, but thus far they’ve been able to elude our grasp.  Times like this make me glad I study trees and not primates- I don’t usually have to get up at 5 am to spend 6 hours searching for my study objects!  I do enjoy searching though, because you never know what you’ll see or hear in the forest while walking quietly by yourself.  We’ve found quite a few orangutans, including a big male that long called about 20 m away from Camille, as well as lots of gibbons and birds.  Sis and I also saw a sun bear the other day; they’ve been quite common in the forest right near camp because one of their favorite foods is fruiting right now.  Hopefully we can maintain this good luck with animal sightings, because the new group of volunteers will soon be in the forest and we always want them to see as much wildlife as possible!

Other than that, I’ve just been working on data analysis for the forestry projects here, which is one of my main jobs.  We have some plot data from Mega Rice and nursery data from Sabangau that need attention, especially since we’re planning to start a planting experiment while the volunteers are here. It’s not the most glamorous job but I generally enjoy data analysis and we’ve gotten some interesting results thus far.

As I mentioned, the new group of volunteers comes today, so I’m getting ready for a crazy 7 weeks.  We have 2 Australians, 2 Germans, 2 Dutch, and 1 English person coming, so camp is about to get even more diverse than it already is!  We’ll spend the next couple of days in Palangkaraya to make sure that they get all of the supplies and rest/relaxation they need before heading off to camp on Oct 2nd.  Hopefully I will be able to post again before then… here’s a silly picture of me to tide you over until the next update.  Sampai nanti!

Hanging out on the Sabangau tower with vol group 1

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Kelasi Surveys: By the Numbers

Life update! I’ve been on expedition to Mega Rice to help with the red langur survey for the past 9 days, and it was probably the most challenging thing I’ve done here thus far.  The way the surveys work is that we have four teams of two people, and each team consists of one researcher from OuTrop and one additional field assistant to help hear/spot things on the surveys.  We work for 8 days at a time, so each day three teams survey and one team gets to stay in camp for a day off.  The team with the day off is in charge of cooking for everyone, so they wake up at 4:00 am to make breakfast and lunch Everyone else wakes up at 5:00, eats breakfast, gathers all of the field equipment, water, and food for the day, and leaves for the forest between 5:30 and 6:00.  The survey transects are set up in a grid system and the forest is a bit of a walk from camp, so each team has to walk at least 1.5 kilometers through the forest before beginning surveys at 6:30 am.  Survey transects are two kilometers long, and we walk slowly to make sure that if there are red langurs (kelasi) nearby we can detect them.  After a two hour survey, each team walks to the designated lunch meeting spot, and we sit and chat/relax/sleep until the afternoon survey, which lasts from 2:30-4:30.  Finally, depending on the day, we either have a quick or long walk home- the quickest finishing point is only about 20 minutes from camp, whereas the farthest (and WORST) one is 3 kilometers away, which means an hour sprint back to camp to get out of the forest before it gets dark.  Then we shower, eat dinner, and relax for the rest of the night before waking up early to start it all again the next day.  Each team walks at least 10 kilometers a day, and most of the transects are essentially forest obstacle courses- there are a lot of hummocks (small hills on the forest floor where trees grow) and fallen trees at Mega Rice, which means that we constantly have to climb up and down along the way.  It’s extremely exhausting, and after 8 days we were more than ready to come home.  Luckily we had a great group of field assistants and most of the time not spent surveying was spent joking around, practicing Indonesian and English, and playing the guitar.  I don’t think I’ve quite accurately done the expedition justice just by explaining it, so here’s a by-the-numbers rundown of the week plus that we spent there:

  • 440 kilometers walked
  • 86 survey hours
  • 10 times we actually saw kelasi over those 86 hours
  • 192 packages of snacks consumed in the forest over 8 days
  • 35 kg of rice eaten
  • 12 hours spent in the forest/person/day
  • 18+ number of bruises that I have
  • 3 (give or take a few) massive groups of fire ants seen per day
  • 24 total hours spent listening to 90’s pop music at full volume (see this and this)

All that being said…it was an excellent expedition… now that its over!

Life Update Lagi

Back from the forest again!  Tomorrow we (all Western staff) are taking a day off for a joint going away/birthday party, so I’m in town tonight and thought I would write a bit of a catch up blog post. It’s been a really nice week in camp, although VERY quiet.  For a few days it was just Camille (kelasi intern) and I in camp, so we got to do all sorts of fun things like go swimming and make fried pineapple/fried every kind of food you can think of.

Research wise, it’s also been a really interesting week full of new things for me. I got two-day crash course in butterflying, and other than that have been helping the kelasi team with some of their stuff. We spent a couple of days searching for kelasi, which means getting up around 5 am to go to the forest at 5:30, then walking slowly and quietly for about 5 hours to see if we can track down the monkeys.  We didn’t have much luck on our searching days, but of course the one day we planned to do other work, the orangutan team found some kelasi, which meant that we got to spend a day following them.  It was my first kelasi follow- second overall primate follow- and very interesting to see what kinds of trees they like to eat and observe their behavior. Don’t worry though, I’m not switching research interests from trees to monkeys… everyone knows that trees are better!

Other than that, I’ve also been helping with some of the other ongoing research in camp.  Yesterday Adul and I trekked to kilometer 5 to check the camera traps up there, and today I helped Santi with some seedling collection for the nursery.  I’ve been using my quiet time at night to watch movies with Lis and Twenti, and recently Twenti has been trying to teach me the guitar.  Thus far that’s been met with minimal success, but… baby steps.

Oh, and I’ve stopped speaking pure English and now just throw in random Indonesian words whenever I feel like it, no matter who I’m speaking to. All in all, I would say that so far September = success!