• Abi Gwynn

First Day of Forest School

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Salamat pagi!

Today I was excited to start some proper forest training! Days start early in the forest. I usually woke at 6am to the chatter of the guys outside who seemed to wake much earlier than us girls (nothing to do with beauty sleep or anything ;) )

Today we learnt how to navigate in the forest using compass's and GPS. This is one of the most essential skills you can learn as the forest is unbelievably easy to get lost in! Everything looks very similar and you could walk in circles over and over again without realising, particularly on your first day! This especially important when following signs of animals off the obvious, well-trodden transects. So to test us, we were set a task on the GPS and battled through the dense vegetation off-transect to our destination point. We soon reached a patch of swamp...and all had differing opinions on how to cross it. Chloe was at the front, she picked her spot carefully and went for it. But obviously not carefully enough as she lost balance and fell right in! Jordan thought he could do better and picked another spot but ended up knee-deep in the black sludge. We eventually made it across and (surprisingly) passed the test!

Happy campers

Next on the agenda was learning how to do forest plots. Plots are essential for recording all of the habitat data in the forest such as tree species, tree height, canopy cover and soil data. A plot would be done nearly every day for the whole expedition, and they're hard work (especially in low pole swamp...)!

Pondering over plot equipment

They don’t call tropical rainforests one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth for nothing. Even on our first proper day in the forest, we saw some pretty awesome animals. A Draco lizard, sitting nearly invisible on a tree right next to the transect, was our first spot. Draco lizards (you may know them better as flying lizards) can launch themselves off trees and glide through the forest to escape predators. We also caught sight of a tree frog which was incredibly camouflaged.

Draco lizard

Later in the day we set out some moth traps and bat detectors to trial them out. The moth traps attract moths using bright white light which mimics the glow of the moon. Sometimes when there is a full moon, these don’t work well as the light from the moon competes with the trap. We didn’t have much success that night, perhaps due to this reason but also because it rained pretty heavily. But that’s research…a lot of trial and error!

I went through a rite of passage today…getting bitten by a fire ant. These ants are tiny and form long chains undulating through the forest floor. They’re quite fascinating to watch but if you disturb them, man they can bite! It’s a weird sensation, kind of like what I imagine it feels like to have a cigarette stubbed out on your skin. And once you find the culprit and flick it off, it still feels like your being bitten repeatedly. Luckily it only lasts about 10 minutes. You haven’t been on an expedition in Bornean rainforest if you haven’t been bitten by fire ants though!

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