Miscellaneous Ramblings

Wowowowow it’s been busy lately, but luckily not all work- we’ve been doing a bit of playing as well.  Here are a couple of photos as proof of that!

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OuTrop foreign staff (and a lone tree) on our waterpark day out

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Mark and Luke on the big slide! A much more graceful landing than some…

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OuTrop staff post-badminton

I’ll be bouncing back and forth between the forest and town for the next 4 days, working on office stuff (and hopefully catching up with a few of you on Skype?) and then hopefully getting a solid 5-6 days of forest work in after that.  Exciting things are happening, as I’m working on updating our hydrology research and hopefully initiating a new project relating tree species distribution and small-scale elevation changes in the forest… which is also related to water. So, in short I’ve got a lot of water research to do, which is convenient because the forest is also essentially one giant puddle right now and it rains at least once a day.  YEAH WATERRRRRRRR!!!!!!  Haha okay I think I’m going a little bit crazy from 3+ days in town, so it’s off to the forest for now.  More updates next time!

Say Cheeeeese

Well another week and a half has come and gone and I’m back from the forest (have been for a couple of days actually, but who’s counting?) I’ve been doing a bit of work on our camera trapping project recently, and it occurred to me that people may not know exactly what this means.  So, it’s time for a science lesson!

This may or may not be obvious to most of you reading this blog, but a camera trap is essentially a battery-powered camera that can be placed in an environment- in our case, mounted on a tree in the forest- in order to opportunistically collect data on wildlife.  The cameras have motion detectors so that they automatically take photos when animals walk by.  Camera traps are especially useful for gathering information on species richness (the number of species) in a given area, but with the right placement and sample size (number of photos taken) they can also be used to collect data on population size/density of a given species. Photos from camera traps can even be used to identify individual animals, if each individual in a population has distinctive markings.  Camera trap sampling has a lot of pros: after the initial time investment of finding good places to put them the cameras don’t require much additional labor, they collect data 24/7, and the photos are great for public outreach.

In Sabangau we currently have 20+ cameras set out in 12 locations, with data downloaded every two weeks.  Adul is our local camera trap project coordinator, and going out with him to change the cameras is one of my favorite jobs around camp- he can be quite silly, and we usually have lots of fun just walking around the forest.  Plus, coming back to camp and checking the memory cards is a little bit like Christmas; you never know what will show up on the photos!  The best days are when we get photos of interesting behavior (macaques mating? a clouded leopard climbing down a tree? we’ve seen it!) or of animals that rarely get caught on the cameras.  The major focus of the camera trapping project is felids, and to date the data have shown that our forest has 4 of the 5 major species of Bornean cats.  This information is invaluable for the continued conservation of Sabangau.  The cameras also occasionally catch humans as well, and Adul and I have become quite good at identifying people in the photos from their legs alone (it also keeps us on our toes…. we’re all careful to stop and think about where we are in the forest if we need an, ahem… “comfort” break!)

Anyway, enough talk- let’s see some photos!  HERE is the link to OuTrop’s brand new Best Photos of 2012 video, made by yours truly.  Check it out to see some of the wildlife of Sabangau, as well as to get an idea of what the forest here looks like.  As for me, it’s back to office work on this rainy Tuesday afternoon 🙂

A Day in the Life- Palangkaraya Version

I’m on day 2.5 of a 5-day Palangkaraya binge, so I thought I’d give you all a taste of what a day in the amazingly exciting life of a researcher is like when she is not in the field (aka possibly bore the crap out of you, sorry…)  Ready?

Wake up at 5 am when the most annoying dogs in the entire world start their daily barking routine. Curse the people who keep them tied up there all day and try to go back to sleep. If you’re lucky, you can! If not, well… people in America are just getting off work so at least you can catch up with friends.  Open the computer. Wander off to the kitchen to plug in the kettle so you can heat up water for coffee. Return to computer.

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The view from my desk in Palangkaraya

Check email and Facebook to see who’s online and if anything interesting has come up overnight. Get distracted by the latest U.S. news and marvel at how silly politics is.  Lose track of time and think to yourself that the kettle MUST be done by now because it’s been almost 40 minutes, walk to the kitchen to discover that the water isn’t even close to boiling. Continue incessantly checking every 5 minutes until you finally get hot water and can make coffee.  Come back to your desk with said coffee, start answering emails or doing data entry, and lose track of time again until you decide that maybe you should eat something (and by something, you mean noodles, because what else do sensible people eat for breakfast?)  After eating, return to data entry/report writing/Skyping family and friends to procrastinate your one chore for the day: going to the market.  When you finally run out of computer-y things to do, venture begrudgingly off to the market. Although you need to buy things for life/camp, no one really ever wants to go to the market for several reason: 1) it’s hot, 2) only the most seasoned market-goers can actually find what they are looking for, and 3) you must tolerate the endless streets of Indonesian people yelling “hello mister!”, asking to take a photo with you, and telling you how much they wish their skin/hair/nose/all of the above looked like yours.***  Wander around the market until you find everything you need, at which point you are desperately craving a mandi (remember the mandi post, guys? this is one situation in which it actually feels amazing), and go home.

***I have nothing but love for Indonesian people, but after about 20 minutes the routine gets old, and more importantly I run out of clever things to respond with.

Arrive back at the house. Take the aforementioned mandi, and cool down while doing more data entry or reading some papers on your favorite research subject.  Check email, check facebook, do work, repeat until 5:00 pm.  On a good day, kick back with a beer and catch up on the latest news from the forest.  On a slow day, keep working until you realize that it’s 7 pm and you haven’t eaten dinner yet.  Go out in search of nasi campur, or better yet hit up the juice place (we don’t actually know the name of this restaurant, but it’s got delicious juice, and the owners love us).  Return home, do the Gchat/Skype thing as necessary, and go to bed at a time that feels really late, but actually is normal because not everyone in the world goes to bed at the same time the forest does.  Congratulations, you made it through a day in town!  Get ready to do it all over again tomorrow, but if you’re lucky you might end up going to the mall instead of the market.  Oh, Palangkaraya….

Lombok Life

Whoa. Okay, I’ve been back in Palangkaraya for long enough now, and have been putting off writing this blog because once I do it means vacation is really over.  Lombok is amazing, and I was able to do/see a lot of the island through the generosity of some new friends.  Much of my vacation was spent motorbiking around with my friend Dedi- in true Indonesian style, just “jalan jalan” without a schedule or even necessarily a plan for the day!  The only thing we knew for sure was that it would involve seeing some of the most beautiful places in the island and at least one stop for coffee 🙂 Here’s the rundown of what I did every day:

Day 1: This was my day to explore Senggigi.  I woke up in the morning and went to the beach, where you could see across the way to Bali.  Senggigi is a normal beach town; a little bit touristy but still a piece of “real Indonesia” (as opposed to the Gilis, which I’ll get to).  The beach was filled with locals because it was still school holidays here, and it was nice just to watch the kids play. I spent most of the day around the beach and walking along the main street.  In the evening I went to a Hindu temple, called Pura Batu Bolong, which is known for its nice sunset views.  I was befriended by some young people who were at the temple to pray, and they invited me to pray with them.  It was really interesting to see their rituals.  After that I got into conversation with another man, who invited me to eat dinner with his family at the temple.  They were very interested to hear all about America and what I am doing in Indonesia, and it was nice of them to share their food with me. In the evening I drank some local wine made of (what else?) rice with some of the guys from the hotel… yum!

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Incoming rain over Senggigi Beach

Day 2: This day we went to see two waterfalls in Central Lombok.  They are still quite unknown by Western tourists, so again it was mostly Indonesian families and teenagers just out to enjoy the day there. The walk to the first waterfall was quick, only 10 minutes, but then the second one was a bit further away and the walk more challenging.  But, the views were worth it!  It was also New Years Eve, and we went down the the party on the beach in the evening… after which I fell asleep at approximately 12:30 am. But hey, at least I was awake to see 2013 arrive!

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Waterfall #2, with a new friend who is studying to be an English teacher

Day 3: Kuta Lombok! Kuta is a huge beach/party town in Bali, and it has a much more chill counterpart in South Lombok.  It was a rainy day on the road and we left a bit late (enjoying New Years morning), plus added a stop for coffee and to visit Dedi’s friends, so we didn’t get to Kuta until about 3:30.  The town itself was quite nice, with more tourists than in Senggigi, and the beaches were amazing!  Some of the most picturesque I’ve ever seen.

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Tanjung A’an beach, Kuta Lombok

Day 4: Another rainy day in Senggigi, another day spent jalan-jalaning.  We biked up the northern coast from Senggigi, where there are several amazing spots to stop and overlook the ocean, Gili islands in the distance, and mountains of Lombok. The end goal of all this driving was Pusuk Monkey Forest, which is basically some forest on a hill that is full of macaques.  I’ve seen my fair share of macaques, so it wasn’t as magical for me to see as for other people, but they’re still pretty funny little animals. The rest of the day was spent just hanging around the hotel and relaxing.

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Looking out over northern Lombok, with Gili Trawangan in the background

Day 5: Just a boring day in Senggigi!  We wanted to go to the Gili islands this day, but it was too rainy, so we hung around the hotel and then walked around the beach later on.

Day 6: Today we went to the Gili islands- Gili Trawangan, to be specific.  The Gilis are a group of three islands in NE Lombok, between the main island and Bali, so they are one of the more touristy spots around.  It was weird to see SO MANY white people- and I’m going to rant for a minute here. Gili T was beautiful, and I can see why people want to spend time there, but they’re fooling themselves if they think that’s the real Indonesia.  I kind of felt like I was walking around Florida or somewhere else, because everything was pretty developed, and there were more Western food places than nasi warungs!  At one point we walked for 20 minutes or so and only saw a handful of Indonesian people.  That being said, the Gilis are worth a trip, and next time I’m definitely going to go snorkelling and see the other two islands.

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Friends on Gili T

Day 7: Today was one of the most interesting days of my trip- somehow I got roped into teaching an English lesson for a group of people who want to learn to be guides at the waterfalls.  So, back to central Lombok we went…  I was nervous, but turns out they just wanted me to give a pep talk to get these students excited about learning English.  It was kind of tricky to figure out what to say, but luckily everyone was supportive and interested in what I had to say. Lots of the students had questions but were too nervous to ask, I think, which is kind of ironic considering how nervous I was to be talking to a group of native Indonesian speakers!  After the talk we took a walk through some of the rice terraces in the area.

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Me “teaching”… awkward.

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Rice terrace walk

Day 8: The last day in Lombok!  There was nothing else to do but jalan-jalan again, and we drove back to Kuta to take in the sunset.  On the way home we stopped at a nondescript warung in Mataram, where I had one of the best meals of my stay, and then again at the hotel one of my friends cooked special nasi goreng as a going away meal.  My flight was very early the next morning and I had to leave for the airport at 4:15 am- not a very nice end to the trip, but I guess I had to return to the “real world” some time!

All in all, Lombok was a fantastic place to go on vacation, and it was so nice to make local friends.  There’s really no other way to experience a place.  I’m really lucky to be able to speak the language, because it makes travelling so much easier.  But, I would definitely recommend a trip here to anyone; there’s still so much of the island that I didn’t see and I’m sure it’s squally amazing.  Hopefully there’s a next time….

Now I’m off to camp today for a few days- not sure how long, but it’s time to get my forest legs back.  Fingers crossed that it’s not too painful!  Sampai nanti, all.

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Sunset over Gili T