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Field work with Nature Live

2 Posts tagged with the dipterocarp tag

I was back out into the rainforest today with Dan and the team.  It was a particularly long, sweaty and gruelling trek to their newest sampling site.  We enlisted a local guide to help us find the quickest and easiest route there, but it still involved a lot of slipping and sliding up and down several ridges before we got there. 



Dan and our local guide discuss the best way to get to today’s sampling site.


Dan and the others are studying the invertebrates and lichens at 8 different sites within the lowland Dipterocarp rainforest here in Maliau.  At each site, Dan, Kerry and Keiron carry out 6 different sampling methods, in order to collect as many different flying, crawling and wriggling invertebrates as possible.  This should give them a really good understanding of exactly what is living here.



Dan with a Malaise Trap in the rainforest.


As well as the Pitfall traps that I showed you yesterday, the team also use Malaise traps and SLAM traps. These look a little bit like modified tents, and are used to catch aerial (flying) insects.


Dan explains how Malaise traps and SLAM traps work.



A SLAM trap hanging in the air, having been hoisted up with the aid of a tennis ball and some rope. 


The Malaise and SLAM traps stay up for three days before the team return to the site to collect them. We’ll wait and see whether today’s traps have been successful….



Look closely and you can see an insect has already flown into this Malaise trap.


Back at the Studies Centre, having survived the walk back through thick undergrowth and over several fallen trees, I was feeling pretty smug that I had yet to experience a leech bite in Borneo.  On arrival in Maliau several days ago, Tony and I had been greeted with numerous tales of engorged leeches and bloodied clothing from various members of the team. But the worst leechy story was Keiron’s (one of Dan’s volunteer Research Assistants). Having eaten an orange for lunch, some of the fruit appeared to have got trapped between his teeth.  He dug around inside his mouth and pulled it out, only to discover it wasn’t a bit of orange between his teeth, it was a leech! To this day no-one is quite sure how it got there (perhaps it was hanging around on the mouth piece of his water bottle) but it was the last thing Keiron expected to find between his molars!


So it was with a mixture of annoyance and a slight sense of respect that I discovered a VERY fat leech attached to my shoulder today. 


A well-fed leech!


Having ‘liberated’ the leech and detached it from my skin, the wound continued to bleed for some time. The anti-coagulant that leeches use to stop your blood from clotting and ensure a free-flowing meal is clearly very effective!


….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!


Forest-River.jpgThe Maliau River, running out of the Maliau Basin.