….you’re certain of a sweaty but memorable day! Today was my first day in the Dipterocarp Rainforest of Borneo and a real eye-opener to the research our Museum scientists are carrying out, and the conditions they have been working under.
We head off bright and early, leaving the Studies Centre for a morning of sampling and studying in the rainforest.
After a breakfast of rice, hard-boiled egg and a rather hot chilli and fish dish, we donned our gear and set off. Working in the rainforest requires a fair amount of preparation, making sure you’re wearing the correct clothes and carrying the necessary essentials.
The rainforest itself was dense and humid, with ridges to climb up and over and vines that tangled themselves around our feet. It was muddy in places, and even in my walking boots I struggled not to slip. I have a glorious bruise already from a failed attempt to remain upright!
Our first stop was at a site where Dan and the team had been three days ago. At each site they carry out a variety of sampling techniques – breaking up and sorting through rotten wood, sifting through soil that they have dug up and sieving the leaf litter. They then set up a series of different traps including Malaise traps and Pitfall traps, which are left out for three days and then collected.
While helping to collect the traps, I had my first leech encounter…I discovered a Tiger Leech looping its way across the front of my shirt. You won’t believe how elastic and rubbery they can be! Once they’re on your skin, it’s really difficult to get them off, no matter how hard you try to pull them.
(c)T. Cockerill. A Tiger Leech, identified by the bright orange stripe on it’s underside, found in the rainforests of Borneo.
After collecting the traps, we moved onto a new site and began sampling there. Pat and Holger were also with us, busily studying the lichens on the trees. The trees here are incredibly tall, stretching high up above our heads. There are hundreds of different species, with trees from the Dipterocarpaceae family dominating the forest canopy – hence the name, Dipterocarp Rainforest. Some of the trees have massive buttress roots, which can make them look like rockets about to take off!
Charlotte standing next to the massive buttress roots of a tree.
It’s hard to describe what it’s really like in the rainforest. It’s so densely packed with trees and vines that photographs rarely do it justice. But by listening to the sounds of the forest, you can hopefully begin to imagine what it’s like here.
I’ll be following Dan, Holger, Pat and rest of the team over the coming days and telling you more about the different sampling techniques and traps that they’re using and what they hope to achieve. Don’t forget, Dan has also been blogging about his experiences, including what he was doing before coming to the Maliau Basin.
For now, I’m feeling pleasantly tired and very satisfied after a successful day in the forest!