Hello from Jen: the newest member of the OuTrop Team

Hello from me, Jen Hacking, the new member of the OuTrop team. I’ve been on the ground for two weeks now, and while I’m still learning the extent of my responsibilities and how they fall in a list of priorities, I’ve been able to get an overview of this fascinating organisation and introduction to the team members, both Indonesian and international.

I’m a forester by training, which I feel will help balance out all the wildlife people here. But, while I’ll be peripherally involved in all projects, my responsibilities are project operations and development, including staff capacity building. Although it’s early days, as I learn more and settle in, I’m using just three words to help me maintain focus: “run things smoothly”.

My background: Canadian, born in Ontario, but I’ve lived in New Brunswick for the last several years. I’m a generalist by nature and experience, and have worked in forest operations, as a college instructor, research assistant…well, I could go on. From October 2012 to March 2014 I volunteered in South Sulawesi, advising on the planning of a research and education forest for Universitas Hasanuddin, and 6 months before that contract finished was looking for a way to come back to Indonesia.

This is my first time in Kalimantan, and it’s a completely different landscape from Sulawesi; different ecosystem, different local culture and some adaptation is obviously necessary. But it’s still Indonesia, so I’ve got a head start with language and international cultural differences.

First impressions of OuTrop can be overwhelming to a new arrival – the variety and depth of research projects and enthusiasm and dedication of the whole team immediately jump out. The complex nature of managing diverse staff with such cross-cultural character to service the broad range of research activities, will no doubt keep me very busy and I’m excited about the challenge.

In addition to my primary responsibilities, I’m really keen on helping with the reforestation efforts, community engagement and environmental education activities for local residents, particularly children. Downtime, I may offer to help Lis, the head cook, with his gardening projects at our base camp. Or watch the kayak races from the riverside in the local village, Kereng. Or browse the Palangka Raya market for traditional material. Well, I won’t be bored, that's for sure!

Highlights from the first few weeks: the unique ride into base camp, observing wild gibbons and trekking in the Sabangau Forest