Thursday, July 16, 2015

Borneo Field Course 2015 – Rainforest without the rain!

This years Biosciences Field Course to our Sustainable Places Observatory at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (1st – 17th July) took place against the backdrop of an El Niño event which saw very little rain, high temperatures and an unusually dry forest floor.

The nineteen second year Biology undergraduate students that accompanied Professor Mike Bruford and Sustainable Places affiliate Dr Pablo Orozco-ter Wengel to Borneo experienced the forest at its driest since the field course was established in 2008 and the dry period is predicted to last for another 2 – 3 months.

Indeed we only got significant rain on two days, when this is normally an almost daily event.

The dry conditions did not make the animals any less confiding than usual, however, with the group seeing numerous orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs, crocodiles, monitor lizards, hornbills, crested serpent eagles, buffy fishing owls, Malay civets and, with the help of Cardiff University Professional Training Year students, some rather secretive nocturnal primates – notably the western tarsier and slow loris.

During the field course, students chose projects from a diverse subjects including forest frog habitat preferences, the determinants of hornbill group size, patterns of wood colonising fungi, butterfly daily activity cycles and beach-dwelling long-tailed macaques!

Alongside the usual mix of projects and training, there was a camera crew in attendance to film a crocodile being fitted with a satellite-tracking device, a visit from the Chief veterinarian of Sabah Wildlife Department (who is also studying for a PhD part-time at Cardiff) and numerous activities following the resident PhD, MRes and undergraduate professional training year students – all of whom we would like to thank for letting us into their daily routines.