Scientists blog from Borneo

15 October 2012

Hungry leeches, rummaging macaques and a praying mantis in the dining room are not a typical sight for scientists at the Natural History Museum in London. But for those on a fieldtrip to Borneo they are.

A tiger leech. Reporter Charlotte had a close encounter with one.

A tiger leech. Reporter Charlotte had a close encounter with one.

Museum scientists are studying  beetles, wasps, other invertebrates, lichen and soil in the North Borneo rainforests of Sabah. It is a biodiversity hotspot filled with huge animal and plant diversity, much of which is unique to the area.

Roving reporter Charlotte Coales from the Museum's Nature Live team is blogging and sending videos about the daily activities of one team in the Maliau Basin, in between her own encounters with a leech, caught on video, that is!

'I'll be reporting back on the scientists' research, giving people an insider's view on their ingenious sampling methods, keeping people updated on exciting wildlife sightings, and recounting the highs and lows of life in the field, ' says Charlotte.

An Olcina species - an interesting pseudophylline bush cricket disguised as lichen.

An Olcina species - an interesting pseudophylline bush cricket disguised as lichen.

The team will be finding out more about the incredible biodiversity of Borneo, which is the 3rd largest island in the world. 

They are likely to find many species that have not been documented before, especially the 'microfauna', tiny animals in the soils, forest canopy and freshwater systems.

Museum scientist Dan Carpenter says, ‘This is an extraordinary opportunity to document the diversity of tropical rainforests and tropical freshwaters.  We will almost certainly discover new species and in some cases as much as 50% of our samples will be species new to science.’

As well as helping to understand longterm biodiversity changes in Borneo on a large scale, the fieldtrip results will also complement a 10-year study of soil biodiversity in the New Forest, England, giving valuable comparisons between tropical and temperate forests.

The team are also working with the local Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project, which is examining the effects of deforestation, resource extraction, and palm oil cultivation on biodiversity.

Charlotte puts on her leech-proof socks ready for a trek into the Borneo rainforest.

Charlotte puts on her leech-proof socks ready for a trek into the Borneo rainforest.

There are 3 teams working in the Maliau Basin and in the Danum Valley and the sites they cover vary from near-pristine forest to those affected by logging.

Charlotte's blog posts have so far covered some of the techniques the scientists use to trap different animals and measure lichen, seeing pig-tailed macaques at breakfast, and welcoming a visiting praying mantis to the dining room.

Other scientists and members of the Nature Live team are blogging too, and there are free Nature Live events as well as live link-up events for schools.

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