jungle adventures


the 7 week biodiversity of borneo field course saw us travelling via plane, coach, 4 wheel drive, boat, and feet (hiking). beautiful weather accompanied us most of the way, but we all know where rainforests got their name. (:


we would set out all prepared, leech socks, repellent, poncho, field notebook, camera in tow. oh, and not forgetting our beloved fieldmates (: even the jungle was afraid of us.


there would be so many things to look at, for birders and terrestrial people alike. binoculars, naked eye, microscope all yielded a wonder of organisms that held our fascination. lecturers from all over the world humoured our views and gave us insight into a world smaller and yet bigger than we understood. so many things were beyond our imagination.


occasionally we would get bored. tired. frustrated. annoyed. bloody. muddy. sweaty (most of the time). and itchy (a lot).


but something would catch our attention again, and off we would go, on the hunt for more discoveries and more (good) questions. concepts were built. terms were registered. montane, alpine, lowland, mixed dipterocarp, heath forest. moraceae, clustiaceae, rubiaceae. soil acidity, tannins, soil layers. species diversity and the argument for it. we were challenged, and we conquered.


and then it would be time for lunch. food was really good, and we had regular meals, few snacks, long hours of sleep, hard hours of work. we played real hard and worked even harder. did blood and sweat go into our work? it sure did. the leeches and the humidity made sure it did. (:


but no fear! wash it all off with a cool dip into the ocean, a marine component to fit the terrestrial side. corals, sea cucumbers, sea stars, seaweeds and algae bedazzled our eyes. even while i was half-blind in a world that i had to use a tube to breathe in, i wanted more of it. we snorkelled and swam for days in a row, doing our projects on butterfly fishes, land hermit crabs and more.


the sunsets were beautiful, and so many rainbows performed in our trip. there was always time for a photo-taking session. after a short while we had a sun-kissed glow to our skin, and even sun-burnt skin didn’t hurt too much.

Mindy's Lambir 1

hard at work again, we focussed on all the areas that interested us, created interesting and good questions that brought us to bigger concepts like aggression, territoriality and other aspects of behavioural biology. community interactions. ecological niches. species characteristics. we were scientists happy without labcoats, happier in the field.

Mindy's blog photo

sometimes terminology and technical stuff came in. we lapped it up. taking a blood sample from a spiderhunter (bird) and hold it properly, besides bird trapping methods, were all exciting parts of the field course for us.


having to identify plants down to their family at least, with the focus on identifying some plant species correctly, were also an essential part of the course. also learning that we would not be able to ever identify every plant in the forest was also important to note. using handlenses, and looking for and identifying reliable synapmorphies were also part of our training that we had to then apply to our focal taxon.


mine was termites, and hunting termite mounds with a hammer, trowel and tray in hand (this equipment list is not exhaustive) was what i did in every location. sometimes i’d find termites, and sometimes i’d find a dead nest. other times, i’d find ants that had inhabited it instead.

mindylerainbow mindyleeatmoss

and sometimes the hungry people would eat things other than the food given to us. :D


and some things would warn you not to eat them. this earthworm squirted yellow musk at me when i touched it – but i wanted a picture anyways. it’s so cool!


sometimes our lecturers had fun too (:


more travelling to different places


and we prepared for our final arduous part of the course, a 4 day hike in maliau basin. (:


you can see the many tier waterfall at the back! absolutely beautiful. notice our bags strewn all over the foreground, we were that tired. the river to your right is also brown, not coz of sediments, but of the tannins (secondary chemicals) from the trees in this forest.


caves were also included in our schedule, and it was amazing walking into a whole new world of darkness, and animals. we were on holey ground!


the course ended too soon. 18 students had come together, from various countries, combined with 2 TAs, and 1 main lecturer, we all realised that the next time all of us were together again would almost be zero to none chance.

still though. we made the best of it. (:


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