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!

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