2014 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Monmouth College
Use of Low-Cost Methods to Gauge the Biodiversity of Logged vs. Unlogged Rainforests in Borneo
Mentor: James Godde, Biology
Students: Theo Bloom ’16, Amanda Hanks ’15, Kaitlyn Miller ’15, Alanna Trettin ‘16
The Monmouth group of researchers, four students and one faculty mentor, spent four weeks on the island of Borneo studying the impact of deforestation on three different areas of the island: Gunung Mulu National Park, Kayan Mentarang N.P., and Danmum Valley Conservation Area. In each research zone, we compared the biodiversity of areas largely deforested to areas where the primary forest has been left mostly untouched. This was accomplished by collecting data on four different indicator organisms: birds, dung beetles, butterflies, and ants, which enabled the team to cover the main areas of the rainforest from the forest floor to the upper levels of the canopy. Though the use of point counts for birds, linear transecting of traps for dung beetles, transect counting of butterflies, and establishing sampling points to measure the abundance and diversity of leaf litter ants, it was possible to ascertain the level of biodiversity in logged versus unlogged areas of Borneo. Results of this research will be presented at regional and national meetings and perhaps be published in a research journal.
Borneo has a vast and unique subculture of birds not found anywhere else in the world. With a species count of over 420, there was no doubt that on this research expedition birds were to be found. Limitations in time and length of stay in one specific area detracted from compiling a concessive overview of birds and their numbers within deforested vs. forested areas. From this experience methods for research were learned so that correct comprehensive research could be performed. Recommendations for future endeavors are made so that the most accurate of studies can be done. Overall observations could be made, but cannot give thorough data as to if deforestation is truly affecting the population and diversity of this taxa.
I went into this trip with the mindset of learning new things, being open to discovery, and to soak up as much of the new and exciting experiences as possible. While each day presented itself with a different set of obstacles, it was a trip that allowed for growth as a group and individually. The beautiful nature of this area, and all the different fauna to be enjoyed is currently being overlooked by the human population. It is with sadness that I report how poorly the rainforest, mountain ranges, and coral reefs are being treated. The handprint of humanity weighs heavily on the different habitats of Borneo. That discovery was eye opening and has instilled in me how each day, we humans impact our environment immensely. I am grateful for the experience of this trip. This research exposed me to how destructive we are being as a human population. Borneo, a land of beauty and wonder, is one that should be preserved and experienced by all, and we as humans need to change our impact so that this opportunity is available to everyone.
The objective for the summer research experience was to determine whether deforestation is affecting the biodiversity of Borneo. Upon arriving, the plan was to locate and examine dung beetles in both forested and deforested areas. However, no dung beetles were found and therefore, fungi became the new research goal. In each area visited, several pictures of fungi were taken and it was noted where the picture was taken. The pictures have been organized according to location and are now being examined in order to identify the types of fungi in each picture. Upon identification, comparisons including quantity, classification, and species will be made of the fungi in each area. Finally, conclusions will be made as to whether deforestation in Borneo is affecting the biodiversity.
From the city to the country side, Malaysian Borneo is a beautiful place with a variety of things to see and do for all types of people. There are many aspects to a culture that can make it unique. This can include things like food, way of living, and religious habits. My experience in Malaysian Borneo allowed me to learn about all of these aspects, while also performing research in some of the most beautiful places on earth. While traveling in Borneo, the diversity of religious choices in the cities and villages stood out the most and was the biggest eye opener. My favorite part of traveling was conversing with locals and learning about their culture. In the short time we were in Borneo, we visited two beautiful islands as well as the vastly forested Maliau Basin Conservation Area and the Kelabit Highlands. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Malaysian Borneo, and now look forward to returning someday as well as traveling to other countries.
My researched focused on collecting data on ants. Ants were collected from logged and unlogged areas in Borneo. By using observation, I could tell that there were not nearly as many ants in the logged area as in the unlogged area. In the unlogged area, I could not keep up with how many ants there were. After a few minutes, I already had about a dozen ants in tubes. Where the road was being built, I had to spend 20 minutes scavenging for any ants that were crawling around. I plan on using DNA fingerprinting to distinguish the ants from each other. This is a common method used in forensic science. DNA fingerprinting will allow me to see which ants are in the species compared to all the other ants.
The grant from ASIANetwork has inspired me in ways I never thought were possible. I learned so much about Borneo and myself. I saw how people were able to survive without Wi-Fi, cable, and cellphone service and how happy they were, surrounded by family, friends, and fabulous food. Before July 28th, I was convinced I would be a genetic counselor. After traveling to Asia, I realized there are so many different career options that I can consider. I had no idea how interesting Asia truly is. I thought it was all crowded cities and shopping. Little did I realize that the country is as diverse as its rainforests. We saw everything, from small water villages and proboscis monkeys to the palace of Brunei and crowded night markets. I feel so blessed to have had such an amazing, once-in-a-life experience, especially when I realize how many people have yet to travel to a different state. I kept a journal and wrote down all my experiences, knowing that one day I will be able to show it to my children and grandchildren and show them what I did. Because by then, who knows if the rainforests in Borneo will still be there, or if it will be safe to travel there. Luckily, I have life-long memories to remind me how fortunate I am to have gone to Borneo.
While in Borneo, I was looking at the biodiversity of butterflies in deforested areas and areas that had not been deforested. My research findings were very inconclusive. I found there to be a greater biodiversity in deforested areas compared to areas not deforested. I believe that this was because many species of butterflies were up in the canopy, and I could not see them. Dr. James Godde took an abundant amount of pictures of different species of fungi. My new research would be to look at the different species of fungi between the three countries that make up Borneo and compare them. This would be easier than butterflies since the fungi doesn’t move and is usually at your feet.
My twenty-four day trip throughout Borneo was a life-changing experience. Living in lean-tos in the forest made me feel like I was one with the jungle. While I was in Borneo I saw a vast variety of wildlife. Specifically, I was interested in the butterflies. During our long hikes up various mountainsides, I had a watchful eye out to find every different species. Hiking through Borneo on an academic mission helped me see the country through a whole different perspective. I was noticing all of the little things. Being able to hike through the forest rather than stay in the residential areas helped me to see the real Borneo. However, I did like going to the palace and meeting girls about my age to give me a real perspective of the life they live. This whole experience has opened my eyes to a place I had only dreamed of.