Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bundle of Joy Born in Borneo!

Multitasking Matriarch: Indah filling up on fruit while balancing a new baby
© Jess Stitt/OuTrop 2012
Here's one more article I wrote for the OuTrop blog: announcing the birth of a new baby orangutan! I was lucky enough to be able to confirm the pipsqueak's existence at the beginning of December, after another researcher (hey hey Amanda) thought she spotted a newborn with one of our longterm resident females, Indah. It's all very exciting when you gain a tally in the win column for an endangered species. Here's the link in full to the post for What's Happening Wednesday!

Mom sharing some love with her miniature marvel.
© Jess Stitt/OuTrop 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

GUEST POST: Teaming Up with Team Forestry!

Guess what?! This is a guest post, brought to you by my friend and coworker at OuTrop! How treerific. I'll leaf it to her to do the talking...
Hey everyone!  I’m Cassie, one of Jess’ colleagues here in the jungle.  Since I’m very good at updating my blog, and Jess admits that she’s not so good at updating hers, we came up with a little one-post blog swap.  You’ll be reading my ramblings today instead of hers! 
To the Tower! Cassie perched high in the sky.

So to start off with, a little bit about myself.  I’m also from the U.S., although I’m not entirely sure what state I’m from anymore. My parents live in Minnesota, I went to college in North Carolina, and then skipped up to NYC for grad school at Columbia.  I just got my M.A. in Conservation Biology this year.  My thesis was on post-fire peatswamp forest regeneration and the role of seed dispersal in that process, and all of my field work was done here at one of OuTrop’s remote sites (for more information on why this place is important, Google “Mega-Rice Project”).  I came back this year to work as a coordinator for our volunteer program, and now am transitioning into a new role as forestry scientist with a little bit of project managing mixed in.  It’s interesting being here in camp now, because there are very few Western researchers (3, to be exact) that are not primate-focused, and soon 2 of them are going home.  That leaves just me to hold down team forestry- a big job, but I’m looking forward to it. 
Okay, now to the task at hand.  Jess gave me three prompts for this post, so I will now answer them in no particular order (actually, in the order she gave them to me, but who’s keeping track?)

What is it like seeing the forest for the trees?

Really nice, actually! Since most of my work focuses on trees, I’ve been able to learn how to identify quite a few since I started here. Most people learn the trees that are most relevant to their work (i.e., the main feeding trees of their favorite primate), but since ALL the trees are relevant to my work I’ve been trying to learn them as best I can.  I think I see the forest in a different way from most other people here; I know a lot about the different zones of the forest, which species are likely found together, and how they contribute to overall forest ecology, which compliments the way others see the forest.  Plus, I get a major bonus in that I never have to wake up extremely early to go searching for my study organism and they never move, which is more than I can say for all of my primate-inclined friends at camp!

How have your experiences in Indonesia influenced you?

They’ve made me more adventurous and more inquisitive.  They’ve also gotten me interested in a part of the world that I never really thought I would ever visit, but it turns out that I really like it here and I have a feeling that I will be spending a good bit of time here as my career develops Most importantly, my experiences here have showed me that I’m studying/working in the right field, and they have given me the opportunity to do some great things.   
The downside is that my experiences here have made me a little bit grumpy about life in America.  The people here don’t have very much stuff, but they’re so happy and friendly and always willing to share. This stands in stark contrast to us in the U.S. where we feel like we always need to newest thing and still aren’t happy.  There is a major cultural difference between Indonesia and America, and I think I feel worse culture shock when I go home than when I come here! 
Blueberry Slai O’Lai. Discuss. 
For those of you who aren’t in the know, Slai O’Lai are these magical little cookies we take into the forest with us for energy on long days.  They come in three flavors: blueberry, pineapple, and strawberry. I can say with 100% certainty that blueberry is the best, and there’s no discussion needed. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
Based on the conclusions drawn here, I have been deemed a liar - on my own blog - as I contend that the strawberry Slai O'Lai cookies are far superior. Alas, at least we can agree that trees and Indonesian adventures are awesome. To check out more of Cassie's stuff, you can visit her blog (which is much more up to date):

Thanks, Cassie!

Time to Rinse Off The Mud and Get Back to Work...

It has been a while since I last posted. I have been a bit swamped in the swamp; bogged down by the field work here in Borneo, while wading through grad school applications in virtual reality. The mud has really caked onto my blogging boots, causing me to drag my feet. So apologies to you (both for the delay, and for the re-peat of puns).

A good soak in the red delicious peat water is just the thing for shaking off the mud and stress after a hard day's field work. 

To pull myself up out of the mire of these missing months and re-convene our chipper chats, here are some links to articles I have been writing over at the OuTrop blog!

This one's an intro to me, and an overview of my early forest experiences: 

A pensive flanged male orangutan.
Jess Stitt/OuTrop ©2012
And this one goes into detail about my tarsier sighting*:

Bug-Eyed Beauty of a Beast
Jess Stitt/OuTrop ©2012
I didn't write this next one, but I was there for it! A very surreal, awesome experience: 

A most startled yet lovely loris.
Bronwyn Eva/OuTrop ©2012
Another one or two more posts by me will appear over there in the coming weeks, but I definitely recommend exploring/following the OuTrop blog as it is full of awesome news and events going on at our field site, and all around Indonesia and Borneo as well.

If you are so inclined, you can also buy a calendar for the shiny new year of 2013, filled with my furry forest friends! The guy pictured above is in there, as are shots of all sorts of critters we've seen over the course of a year. Proceeds go towards supporting our conservation initiatives here in the field. Check it out here:

Plenty of pitcher plants, to quench any ant's thirst.
Jess Stitt/OuTrop ©2012
*My first, of three, tarsier sightings. So many tiny primates! I've now spied the double trifecta of primate species here (six total), getting to glimpse the orangutan, gibbon, and kelasi, plus the macaque, tarsier, and loris. Lucky me! Few can boast such a feat, so I am humbled by my forest fortune. Photos and stories in future posts, I promise. Cross my peat swamp heart and hope to dive/fall in a hole.