Venturing the lowland forest of Borneo through internship programme with BNF

Intern Blog

by Selly Surya

I’m a North Sumatran girl currently studying in West Java, Indonesia. In my final year in Forestry Engineering at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), I’m required to join an internship programme to gain work experience. The internship also gives me the opportunity to put things i’ve learnt at the university in the field.

Several weeks ago, I did the internship at Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) along with two of my friends. The reason why I finally decided BNF is because it has a lot of interesting projects and I wanted to experience the adventure magnificent Bornean peat-swamp forest, Sebangau.

Measuring canopy cover
Photo by Selly Surya | BNF | CIMTROP

BNF has various projects but I decided to focus more on biodiversity project with particular interest on the odonate survey. I wanted to compare species diversity between six types of habitat in the Natural Laboratory of Peat-swamp Forest (NLPSF) Sabangau. I did the survey with the assistance of Iwan (BNF odonate coordinator), Kades (BNF nursery staff) and Sadi (forest ecology staff). Before we did the survey, we were briefed by Iwan regarding the background of the odonate survey in BNF. In this project, odonates are used as bioindicator which is new to me since at the university I’m more familiar with the use of avifauna (e.g bird) and herpetofauna (e.g frog) as bioindicators.

I spent four weeks for the internship with various projects that i participated in. For instance, I joined primates, conservation, forest ecology and camera trap projects. In biodiversity project, I also got on to butterfly survey with Ari (BNF butterfly coordinator) and the guy called Unyil (field staff) despite of continous exploration on the odonate survey. This survey was conducted for 6 days; a day for installing the butterfly traps and the other for 5 consecutive days for taking the data.

In primates project, I searched orangutan twice with Jali (BNF primate staff) and Azis (BNF orangutan coordinator) but very unfortunately we didn’t find it. And, I also did gibbon triangulation with Uji (BNF primate staff) to estimate the number of gibbon groups by their song, this was when we suddenly met the orangutans. Finally, I met this charismatic wild orangutans in its wild habitat!

In conservation project I was assisted by Udin (BNF nursery coordinator), Aman and Kades (nursery staffs). We did several activities such as planting seedling in nursery and monitoring the growth of seedling in post-fire area. Besides those two activities, I also checked the dams and took hydrological data in Canal Aluy with Idrus and Bina (BNF conservation staffs).

I carried out two activities from forest ecology project. I did phenology survey with Santi (forest ecology coordinator) and Tomi (forest ecology staff). This activity aims to see the reproductive development of plants in several permanent plots. The other activity is orangutan nests resurvey. I simulated the resurvey with Santi, Sadi (forest ecolofy staff), Jali and Supian (BNF red langur’s coordinator). The last project is camera trap. In this project I did cameras checking with Adul (camera trap coordinator) and Tomi. One of the cameras was in the tree so I had to climb up the tree to check it. It was certainly not me who did the climb but luckily Adul was willing to teach me how to climb the tree. This was personally an amazing and unforgettable experience for me!

By the end of the month, I was given the opportunity to participate in a monthly meeting with BNF researchers, primate scientist, and field staff. They reported project results from the past month. They really understand everything about what they have done. I really admire the field staffs because even though they like to joke (a lot) they were always serious when taking data in the field.

I am so happy to be able to do the internship. If there’s another chance like this in the future, I will definitely go there again!