Monday, August 1, 2011


Me standing on an observation tower at the Rainforest Discovery Center in Sepilok, Malaysia; Borneo

For the past three summers I have been fortunate to travel the world, exploring ecological issues around the globe as I pursue a Master’s Degree in Zoology from Miami University, OH.  This summer I traveled from Billings > Denver > Chicago > Hong Kong > Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia > Sandakan, Malaysia (on the island of Borneo). 
“Borneo? Where IS that?” I’ve heard this a number of times.  The easiest, although not entirely accurate, way to explain would be the following: If you were to take a boat from China to Australia, right at the equator you would run into an island, which is called Borneo.  Three countries lay claim to portions of Borneo (the third largest island in the world); Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  Our group of 21 Masters students and instructors spent all of our time on the Northern end of the island, in Malaysia.
“Why Borneo?” I seem to hear that a lot as well! Borneo is a very unique and special place.  Alfred Russell Wallace, an English Naturalist, spent time in Borneo in the mid 1800’s. His observations of monkeys and apes, along with other observations from around the world, led him to develop a theory of evolution completely independent of Charles Darwin. In fact, the two of them are given credit for developing the ideas of evolution but Darwin gets most of the “fame” because he had been working on his ideas for several decades prior.  So, “why Borneo”?
·      It offers a chance to walk in the footsteps of one very famous explorer
·      It holds the widest array of monkeys and apes in the world.
·      It is on the cusp of economic explosion with increase sales in Palm Oil (palm trees with seeds that are crushed to extract the oil, more on this in the journal).
·      Some areas are on the brink of ecologic disaster (because of the destruction brought about by the lucrative palm oil, again, more later),
·      It holds the oldest rain forest in world: and tropical, humid, equatorial rainforest are an environment I have never experienced.
·      And, my best answer to the question “Why Borneo”:           Why not?!
The rain forest of Borneo provides ideal habitat for many unique types of primates and I was thrilled at the opportunity to explore the tropical rain forest and see orangutans in the wild.  However, I was unprepared for the multitude of animals I would see in this tropical environment. It was truly spectacular, and while I try to describe the wonderment of Borneo in my daily journals, I have come to realize that my writing does this unique place no justice…I don’t know enough appropriate adjectives to fully share how special it is.
What you will read in the following posts is an exact transcription of the journal(s) I wrote while I was gone for over two weeks. Everything in italics has been added by me after returning home.  It may be filled with typos and errors but I think it is important to write exactly what I put down on paper.  Also, I am will be typing this with Rigley and Rock on my lap, Rigley holding the journal and Rock drooling on the keyboard, which could lead to other writing and typing errors.
Enjoy this small glimpse into the tropical world of Borneo through my eyes.

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