What's happening Wednesday

What happened on Wednesday: the departure of our volunteers

Having volunteered myself, I know how much of a rewarding experience it can be. Over the past seven weeks, our first group of 2013 volunteers have lived in camp and spent most days in the Sabangau forest. From kelasi (red langur monkeys) to karaoke on a night off in town, and kupu kupu (butterflies) surveying to Karate group of gibbons, our volunteers have had an awesome time, risen to the challenge of working in a flooded peat-swamp forest, seen some amazing wildlife and helped in our collection of data that ultimately lets us conserve it.
July saw the arrival of this year’s first group of volunteers who spent seven weeks with us assisting on various projects, learning essential field techniques and developing skills.  Jessica, Johanna, Cally, Kellie, Mel, Gigi, Hugo and Christian spent most of their time working on our biodiversity projects which also included Gigi’s dissertation project on habitat use by sun bears. 
Photo below: Left to right, front row: Johanna Svanel, Mel Bo, Gigi Hennessy; back row: Cally Smith, Beth Barrow (volunteer coordinator), Hugo Palejowski, Christian Howell, Jessica Svanel, Rob Durgut (volunteer coordinator), Kellie McMaster; photo credit: Matt Adam Williams
Sadly, our volunteers head back home to the UK, Australia and Sweden in the next couple of days. To find out more about how their amazing work and commitment has helped us over the past few weeks, read on.
Gigi tells us about the sun bear sign surveying she has been doing while she has been here: For the past seven weeks I have been searching for and  finding bear signs and recording them in order to understand how sun bears are using different habitats. I’ve been looking at the density of signs in different parts of the forest – disturbed areas, undisturbed areas and the edge. There is little information on sun bears so hopefully the data I’ve collected here will help with sun bear conservation.
Christian tells us about the biodiversity monitoring that the volunteers helped with: There were four key aspects of biodiversity data collection that we aided in.  The first being everyone’s ‘favourite’: plots – collecting data on trees.  This was important for giving a perspective on the quality of forest at varying locations and involved measuring specific aspects of trees.   Phenology used the same plots but looked at each tree for fruiting and flowering cycles, new leaves and cover.  This is important for knowing when animals may be feeding on these fruits and the health of trees in the area.  Reforestation involved the planting of saplings on the edge of the forest that have been grown in a nursery near camp.  We found this a rewarding task because it means helping to restore some of what has been lost through degradation and deforestation.  Finally, butterfly surveys involved 20 traps which were moved further from the edge of the forest with every week.  This enabled us to look at edge effects on butterfly species and populations, as well as breeding peaks for certain species.  But of course, there were orangutan follows involving ‘pagi pagi’ – Indonesian for early morning – a great deal of excitement and a few reality checks throughout the day as you were under this great ape’s tree.  Truly remarkable!
The volunteers were also lucky enough to participate in some primate follows and surveys with our behaviour team where they not only got to spend the entire day watching these animals in the wild, but were also able to learn more about the work OuTrop carries out on primates in Sabangau forest.
Hugo summarises what it’s like to follow gibbons, one of the primate stars of the forest: As a volunteer a significant part of our schedule, and of OuTrop’s work, is behavioural. Getting an insight into the lives of the amazing primates that spend their lives in the trees near camp is a real privilege. In our time here the volunteers have had an active role in orangutan nest surveys, gibbon triangulation, and, of course, follows. I was lucky enough to have the chance to follow gibbon Group C, a gibbon family of Coklat (pronounced Chocolate) and Captain and their young: Ceeka and Chilli. Despite previously having no knowledge of gibbons I can now safely say that these elastic little fur-balls are my favourite Sabangau resident. The ridiculous thing is a lot of the time you don’t even need to trek across the jungle to find something cool, they tend to just crop up. Our first day of jungle life was interrupted when we stumbled across an unhabituated male orangutan, an uncommon occurrence, and a huge male was sat watching camp on the morning of writing!
As if learning about all of the projects that OuTrop does wasn’t enough, the volunteers also visited the local water park on their weekend off, visited the Bornean Orangutan Survival rehabilitation centre Nyaru Menting, complete surveys in an expedition  to a remnant forest fragment from the Mega Rice Project, and spend two nights on a boat in Tanjung Puting National Park. We’re now looking ahead to the arrival of our next group of volunteers in late September.
We couldn’t do some of our work without the dedication of volunteers from different corners of the world – ordinary people like you who want to help to conserve and protect nature and extend our understanding of it. If you think you might be interested in volunteering with us, follow us on facebook or twitter to be kept up to date with opportunities, or sign up to our newsletter here.