BOB 2008 - Ben Gutierrez
My name is Benjamin Gutierrez and I am starting my junior year at Harvard.
I just recently switched my major to Environmental Science and Public Policy.
I am most interested in conservation biology. Who knows, I may even end up returning
to Borneo some day. There is certainly a lot of work that needs to be done to
preserve its rainforests and coral reefs, along with their immense biodiversity.
After college, I think I will spend some time working in the nonprofit sector,
and I will probably go to graduate school for conservation biology.
This course also really turned me on to field biology, so I would like to
get some more experience doing field research as well.
I had three favorite sections of this course: snorkeling on the coral reefs off Gaya Island,
hiking up Mt. Kinabalu, and hiking through Maliau Basin.
Snorkeling at Gaya was a blast,
especially since it was my first time snorkeling. I was amazed by the abundance of
of corals, fish, and invertebrates. I even got to see a baricuda shoot by in pursuit of a school of fish.
Mt. Kinabalu also left a deep impression on me. It was like being in some past land hiking
along the path and seeing oak and chestnut trees growing alongside palms and pitcher plants. It was also
humbling, as well as calming, to be able to see across all of Borneo from the top of the mountain.
I especially remember during that final morning ascent, as I was holding on to the support rope
along the smooth granite side of the mountain, looking up to see a line of headlamps, forming a human
caterpillar (I think Will came up with this idea of a "human caterpillar"), bobbing up and down
and slowly winding its way up the mountain. It was heartening to see so many people, completely unconnected and
from different countries across the globe, all working silently towards the same simple but difficult goal - reaching
the peak to catch a glimpse of the sun rise.
Finally, Maliau truly was "The Lost World of Borneo" - as it is advertised to the select few tourists and scientists that get
to visit it every year. The only way you can really experience Maliau is to go on an extended hike through the basin, to
envelope yourself in the forest for a few days.
Although our three-day hike consisted of struggling up and down countless slippery slopes, it was completely worth the mud and the leeches
to get the opportunity to experience the interior of an untouched tropical rainforest. The diversity of plants was astounding
- not even Cam could identify all the plants that we pointed out to him, and there is no way that anyone could have the breadth
of knowledge to identify every plant species they saw as they walked through a rainforest in Borneo.
Maliau, with its gorgeous rivers and waterfalls, its multiple rainforest types, and
its squawking hornbill, was the epitome of the term "tropical rainforest," and it is all the inspiration
I need to know that I want to dedicate myself to conservation biology.
I hope you enjoyed this description of the course, and that you
enjoy the rest of the website as well.
By the way, that is not me in the
pictures of Maliau Basin (top right)
and Gaya Island (bottom left).
That is actually Kwek practicing
photo-ops for his position as
the next prime minister of Singapore.
bottom right: the view from the top
of Mt Kinabalu, pre-dawn