Blog for 2009-06-08

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A pregnant draco.
Today was our first real day of class! Waking up at 7 turned out not to be such a big deal -- especially for all the Americans on jet lag! -- so we were all awake ready to learn by the time our first lecture started at 8. Professor Cam Webb gave us a broad introduction to what we would be doing… and some helpful advice, like what to do if you get bitten by a pit viper! (Contrary to popular belief, DON’T suck the poison out or tourniquet it – just wrap it in cloth and get to a hospital ☺).

Then we had a lecture from Sylvester Tan, who works for the Center for Tropical Forest Science. He told us about some of the research projects that CTFS has going on here in Lambir Hills National Park. We learned all about the partnered research they do with the Japanese, about their 52ha research plot, and about the 80m high crane we will be visiting soon!

Then we had a lecture from the Kamal, who runs visitations to Lambir Hills National Park. He gave us a pretty comprehensive history of the park: statistics on the biodiversity that exists here, its history, and a bunch of other interesting fats.

Next we were off into the forest that we'd been learning about all morning! We divided into three groups, one led by Cam, one led by TF’s Ross and Bekti, and one led by Sylvester. I was in the group led by Sylvester, which was very cool, because he’s so experienced. He explained to us all the different of studies going on, even taking us to a few sights where tree heights were being measured and soil composition was being determined. He could also identify pretty much any leaf, tree, insect – it was ridiculously impressive. And he had a ton of adventure stories, including some nearly-fatal interactions with pythons.

On the hike, we came across a ton of interesting critters, my favorite being the draco that Nuwan picked up and even got to fly! I've never seen anything like it!

When our forest exploration was over, we went swimming in Lantak waterfall! That was pretty amazing. While we were in the water, we could not stop thinking -- sometimes saying out loud -- "Wow, we're swimming in a waterfall in Southeast Asia!" Plus, it was beyond refreshing after a hot day hiking.

After a quick rest, we met to discuss what makes a good scientific question. Then came dinner, followed by a lecture from Cam about the biodiversity of Borneo: Past, Present, and Future.

The first official day of class set an exciting tone for the next 6 weeks!