PhD awarded to OuTrop’s Red Langur Project Director


In our latest blog, OuTrop’s Red Langur Project Director, Dave Ehlers Smith, shares his exciting news.

It’s been a long time since I posted a blog update; with this post comes some long-awaited good news. After more than 5 years, I’ve finally been awarded my PhD by Published Research in ecology and conservation, researching Sabangau’s endemic red langur monkeys.

Red langur monkey. Photo by Carolyn Thompson/OuTrop

I first arrived in the swamps of Sabangau in January 2008 as Field Coordinator for Dr Susan Cheyne’s Southern Bornean Gibbon Behavioural Research Project. Like many others, the place captivated me and the following year I organised funding to begin my own PhD research on the sympatric red langurs (or “kelasi” as they are locally known). This research began in September 2009, and I’m very proud to say that it is still continuing to this day.

Over the years, we’ve investigated all the important ecological parameters that are so vital for making conservation management recommendations. We carried out population density assessments in the selectively-logged and regenerating Sabangau Forest, and also the adjacent, fragmented and degraded former “Mega-Rice Project” forests; and took a close look at home-range use and activity budget; diet and feeding ecology; population health and parasite-load analysis, and social behaviours and reproductive strategies. As this was a PhD by Published Research, I’m delighted to say that many of the research results are already out there!

Young red langur monkey in the Sabangau Forest. Photo by Supian/OuTrop

None of this research would have been possible without the help of so many people; I wish to thank a few of the main players here! Firstly, Dr Susan Cheyne, my co-supervisor, who gave me the opportunity to come to Sabangau in the first instance and supported my plan for establishing my own research, and Professor Vincent Nijman, my supervisor at Oxford Brookes University; Dr Helen Morrogh-Bernard and Simon Husson, the founders of OuTrop for allowing me to join the family and all their support and advice; Dr Mark Harrison for lending me his wealth of experience in both fieldwork and academia; the OuTrop staff and family for keeping me fed, healthy(ish!) and happy during my 3 years in the field; my research assistants Yvie Ehlers Smith (and wife!) and Abdul Azis, and most of all Supian, my research coordinator, all-round-rock and great friend.

The original kelasi crew. Left to right: Dave, Azis, Supian and Yvie.

I’m ecstatic to say that I now have gainful employment, in the form of a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where I intend to develop student and researcher links between OuTrop and this fine South African institution. Keep watching for more exciting research developments on the Sabangau Red Langur Research Project in the future!

Supian continuing the red langur research in the Sabangau Forest. Photo by Chris Owen/OuTrop