Jump Right In!

Ah, my first few days in Indonesia, this place is like nowhere I have ever been before. I’ve travelled more than most people my age so I can say I’ve seen a good amount of the world. Coming here I had no idea what to expect, seeing as I’ve never been to Asia and I didn’t really know anyone from this part of the world growing up. I was fortunate enough to have sat next to a nice Indonesian girl on the plane who goes to school in St. Louis, so she gave me a quick rundown of what to expect and some things I should know going in. I will be honest though, although she had good intentions, she really didn’t give me a great heads up of what I was about to walk into.

- The view from the research area of our lorises

– The view from the research area of our lorises

When I got off the plane she was nice enough to call me a taxi. The gentleman she spoke to was a nice man named Pak Heru. The project here uses Heru for all their taxi needs around Jakarta and I see why. Watching other drivers, I saw he was a bit more conservative than most AND he makes good time. Talk about efficiency. I got to the hostel in Jakarta around 2am and passed out immediately. I woke up around 7 the next morning and called a taxi to take me to the bus station. Apparently, I had just missed the bus departure because he stopped somewhere behind the bus and forcefully got me out and starting running after the bus. Confused, I got the money out and grabbed my bags. Literally all in stride, someone got off the bus grabbed my luggage, threw it under the bus and herded me on. All while running with the bus down the street. With 5 hours of sleep in 30 hours I wasn’t too shocked by the experience more just happy to be on the bus where I could sit down and sleep for the 6-hour ride. Of course that wasn’t the case.

I step on the bus and end up stepping over people sitting on the stairs. This bus was packed to the gills like a can of sardines. I ended up standing up for 5 out of the 6 hours. This sounds like a horrible experience, but this was my first experience with real Indonesian people and they truly showed me the definition of hospitality. Of course they knew I was a foreigner just by my appearance, so a younger guy who spoke English came up to me and introduced himself. I wish I could remember his name but I was so tired there was no way I could remember that. Him and his buddy chatted me up with regular conversation, and then the parade of vendors started pouring on. It was like Skymall but better. People with all sorts of beverages came on, as well as snacks and baked goods. People selling watches, wallets, flashlights, you name it I saw it. At a few points people came on with ukuleles singing songs. All of a sudden someone handed me a water, and then it was on. I don’t know what I was eating but people were just handing me food. Funny thing is I didn’t know that Indonesian food is spicy and watching me eat spicy food is pretty entertaining. As soon as I bit into the first little piece of cake I saw a pepper hanging out in the package. All of a sudden my face turned bright red and I started chugging the water. All the Indonesians started laughing hysterically at me because of course they’re used to all the spices. After the most interesting bus ride of my life, I finally made it to Garut where I met the project manager Laura. We ate lunch since I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in like two days, got on an angkot, then an ojek and all of a sudden we were at the project house. I passed out immediately.

The next morning I was eager to get out and explore the village and the forest I was going to be working in. After sunrise I packed up my stuff and headed out on a walk up the hill. I made it into the farmland and kept walking for about 2 hours until I met a few farmers who stopped me to chat. Their English was very poor and I knew little if any Indonesian, but from what I was able to work out one of them wanted to come with me to be a guide because he knew I was going to get lost up there. This kind gentlemen’s name was Ahmad. We walked for about an hour up into some really dense, really steep overgrown farmland. Eventually I couldn’t keep up so I told my new friend we had to go back.

We headed back to where we met and when we got there they treated me to some coffee and some bananas. Those bananas were the best bananas I’ve ever had in my life, probably the freshest I have to assume. We hung out for a bit and then he pointed to his dirt bike and says “offroad?” and pointed up the mountain. What was I going to say, no? I got on the back and we headed up the little dirt paths going up. Eventually the bike got too big and the path too small for the both of us to continue up that way so we got off and continued on. I must’ve stopped 10 times in the hour we walked up the rest of the way. I’m not in bad shape, but Ahmad made me look like I’ve been completely immobile for the past 4 years. All I wanted to do was get to the top where there was no farmland because there’s proper forest up there, not agroforest, but I couldn’t even make it that far. I couldn’t help but think Ahmad was amused by me struggling up to the top because every time I asked him to stop he would start chuckling. When we got to the highest point we were going to we looked out over the valley. He showed me where all the cities and villages were. He pointed out Garut to the left, Cipaganti the the right, and Bayongbong in the middle. It’s nice to get an aerial perspective of where you are – it helps when you’re trying to navigate where you’re going. Anyway we walked back to the bike, which was almost as hard as the way up trying not to slip on the mud paths. He drove me straight back to the house where I proceeded to pass out immediately and sleep for a ridiculous amount of time.

- The best bananas in Sams life.

– The best bananas in Sams life.

I was really nervous before I left because I didn’t know what to expect from Indonesia. I had heard some things but you never go by what you hear because it’s all hearsay. I had a friend who had been here recently and she had a blast, so I was optimistic but nonetheless nervous. My first two days here were better than I could’ve asked for and set me up for what seems like a great volunteer term at The Little Fireface Project.

- Relaxing after a hike with some farmers on his first day

– Relaxing after a hike with some farmers on his first day

  • Sam Weiss, Volunteer

Pollinators of Cipaganti

The dry season is nearly here, and all of the Calliandra calothrysus seeds are beginning to disperse! One third of the loris diet in Cipaganti is consumed from Calliandra calothrysus—a legume species, commonly known as ‘fairy dusters’, or locally known as ‘kaliandra merah’ in Indonesian. There are two types of kaliandra here—kaliandra merah (red flowers) and kaliandra putih (white flowers). Both species are on different phenology cycles, so they are blooming flower and fruit at different times of the year. Right now, all of the kaliandra merah seed pods are beginning to pop open, shooting their seeds out at a distance with this unique evolutionary adaptation to improve seed dispersal. It almost sounds like popcorn popping around you in the forest watching the lorises at night. Lorises regularly use both species of kaliandra to travel, forage for insects, and play and socialize with other lorises, but they only feed on the floral nectars from kaliandra merah.

t1

Seed pods of the kaliandra.

This topic caught my interest in 2013, and I’ve been dying to look more into the topic. I want to know why lorises only feed from the kaliandra merah, what the energetic rewards of the nectar are for lorises, if lorises are pollinators of this species, and how an invasive species introduced circa 50 years ago can be so ecologically fitting. Calliandra is not native to Java. It’s a legume that originates from South and Central America. Farmers discovered it could benefit their farm soils and crop yields, as well as provide feed for their livestock. But how is such a new species thriving so well across Java?

In order to try and solve this question, I have been focusing much of my time on these legume species – not just observing their relationship with lorises, but all mammals, bird, bats and insects as well. I want to identify all species that interact with them to try and determine who pollinates it and which environments they thrive in to allow this ecological fit.

In addition to detailed behavioural data on loris interactions with the tree (and I’ve previously described to you the all-night ‘tree follows’ I was conducting to determine what nocturnal species feed on them), I am also conducting all-day ‘tree follows’ with our entomologist, Albie. With Albie’s help, he can identify what species of insect are feeding or foraging on the kaliandra. Meanwhile, I regularly taking nectar, fruit and seed samples from these trees to measure what energetic rewards these inflorescences have to offer. Checking the phenology of these trees every other week (measuring the stage and quantity of flower and fruit) also helps us to see when they produce food for lorises and other species.

And finally, these are the pollination control plots. In one of my earlier blogs, I talked about the pollination bags and pollination boxes that myself and Adin had built and set up around kaliandra merah. These work to control who can/can’t pollinate flowers of a given tree. The bags prevent any species from pollinating, and test for self or wind pollination; the pollination boxes have a larger netting around them to allow insects to feed on the flowers, but prohibit bat, bird or mammals from accessing them; and now, we’ve created isolated trees, to test if non-flying animals are significant pollinators.

We searched for kaliandra trees that had no connectivity to other trees, and then created an aluminium barrier around the trunk that mammals couldn’t grip to climb. We check each of these pollination plots every other week, taking data on the tree phenology – so we can measure the influence these different controls have. From this, we can deduct who is a significant pollinator, and what ecosystem type kaliandra benefits in.

t2

The aluminium barrier used to restrict pollinators accessing the kaliandra.

So how does this benefit the lorises? Lorises are very often found in agroforest areas. This puts them both at risk of fragmentation and the human-primate interface (when humans and primates live in the same area, often putting them at risk of disease and hunting for the pet trade). Since kaliandra has been proven to be beneficial for farmers (as it enhances their soils) we can then provide education in the area both about the importance of lorises remaining in the forest, and how kaliandra can benefit their farming practices. Then, not only will lorises be left to live in the wild, but they will also have plenty of kaliandra to feed on, in their preferred habitats. This is a good example of our different branches of research at LFP all overlapping to help loris conservation—education, behaviour, ecology and agroforestry.

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Greetings from the Whoop Troop in Viet Nam!

Since leaving Cipaganti, the puppets and I have settled in at the beautiful Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre in southern Viet Nam.  Run by the Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST), Dao Tien focusses on the rescue, rehabilitation, and where possible, the release of endangered primates native to south Viet Nam.

P1010584

I wake every morning at 5.15 to the wonderful whoops of golden cheeked gibbons duetting.  Much better than an alarm clock!  The gibbons at Dao Tien are all victims of illegal hunting and trade.  Most were taken from their families at an early age and kept in appalling conditions, so it takes years to nurture them back to physical and psychological health and give them a chance to return to the forest.  Some are too damaged by human contact to survive in the wild and will live out their lives at Dao Tien.  Take a look at EAST’s website www.go-east.org to see some of the gorgeous primates in our care at the moment.

So how do the puppets and I fit in?  By day we’re working with students in Thanh Binh High School as part of my Whoop Troop project, connecting with students in LFP’s Alum Nature Club and Situwangi School to learn about native animal species common to Viet Nam and Java.  The Thanh Binh Troop are creating a fantastic puppet show which they will perform in six villages around Cat Tien National Park.  Education and awareness raising are an important part of EAST’s work to help stop the illegal trade in endangered primates.  We run two daily tours of the Centre and have many Vietnamese and foreign visitors coming to see what we do and learn about primate conservation.

By night, it’s the turn of the pygmy slow lorises to emerge.  The huge increase in the illegal trade in lorises for pets, tourist props and medicine mean that we’re completely full of rescued pygmy lorises, with a new enclosure planned this year to keep up with the flood of new arrivals.  If you think Javan lorises are amazing, click here to take a look at the pygmy slow loris on the Endangered Asian Species Trust’s Facebook page! At only 400g, the tiny pygmy loris is the smallest loris species, but they still pack the venomous bite of their larger cousins.

Last week LFP’s Dan Geerah visited Dao Tien bringing the equipment to detect ultrasonic animal calls.  After some expert training from Dan, I’ve gone nocturnal to find out if the pygmy slow lorises of Viet Nam use ultrasonic calls to communicate.  We’ve recently released some pygmy lorises so it’s a great opportunity for me to find out if they use these secret calls.  Understanding more about pygmy loris communication can help with rehabilitation and release programmes and in monitoring wild loris populations.  My favourite night shift is midnight to 5 a.m., which starts with tranquil hours in the forest and ends with the slow gathering of dawn and the sounds of waking birds and insects.  When I hear the whoops of Dao Tien’s gibbons and their wild neighbours in Cat Tien National Park, I know it’s time to head home for bed.

‘Sequestered Nooks and the Serenity of Books’

“… Building my habit of learning and growing,

Asking and researching till I reach knowing.

Here I’ve been a mermaid and an elf

I’ve even learned to be more myself.

I think that I shall never see

A place that’s been more useful to me.

With encouraging kind friends with wit

Who tell me to dream big and never quit.

It’s only a room with shelves and books,

but it’s far more magical than it looks.” – Varda One

There is no other poet that I feel quit strikes the value of books and libraries in learning like Varda One’s My Library.

Over the past few years of the project’s establishment in the village, Cipaganti, we have acquired a decent collection of literature at the field station. From fiction novels to scientific articles to field guides and children’s books, reading material has been regularly left behind and donated by volunteers and staff, both past and present. Our collection had grown large enough that we decided it needed a proper ‘home’ where it could be easily accessed, and chose our volunteer room. The volunteer room is arguably the busiest room, where most of us spend our time. We use this room for team meetings, socializing, and even doing work. This room also has a front door, which is our main entrance to the house and is always open during the day. Grazing the back wall of this room is a set of stairs with a little nook carved out underneath with shelves. These shelves have been relatively barren since a recent full-house spring cleaning, and it seemed the perfect home for our collection – not just because it is a cozy nook, but because it is the first thing you see when you open the main door.

13329714_10153486576941583_1909207495_n

– LFP’s new ‘Perpustakaan Alam’ (Nature Library)

Deciding to organize the library by category, I immediately (and gladly) dove into the assortment, skimming each piece of literature, accompanied by the melodic melodies of David Bowie (as you do). I divided the contents of scientific journal articles by various research topics; field biology methods from primatology to entomology; field guides for each of the Indonesian islands; leisure novels from fiction to biographies; children’s books for various ages; and the most inspiring of all, reports and dissertation outputs from previous researchers and volunteers who worked with the project. Going through all of these was overwhelmingly exciting, but the most beautiful thing about it—the entire catalogue is made up of various languages, displaying the diversity of people we have joined the project, including Indonesian, German, English and French. It was like going through a rainbow of cultures, printed in black and white.

After only having set up the library last night, we already saw people interested in it this morning. Some of the children who regularly visit us on their way home from school came by, calling to us from the front door. As I went to say hello, one boy was staring at the library glaring back at him. I had tried to arrange the library as best as I could to display the diversity of contents and languages to attract all ages and topics, and it seemed to be effective for the children. These kids had originally been asking to draw and color, but now asked if they could read a book the was propped up, front and center in Bahasa Indonesian: Kukang: Sang Penjaga Hutan ( Slow Loris: Forest Protector). Unable to resist any reading session, I abandoned my spontaneous cleaning spree, and joined them. Enjoying this moment, I couldn’t help but reflect what a beneficial learning process this was for the both of us – them to practice their reading, and me to practice my Indonesian. After finishing this book, they requested to read one after the other.

13342437_10153486577611583_1024680726_n

– One of the children reading the Forest Protector book in Indonesian

13330398_10153486577006583_428425336_n

– Ade wanted to read the Fidgety Fish!

I have always been a regular at my local libraries, and I truly believe it is one of the most beneficial things for learning and growth. I only hope that our library will continue to grow and the news will continue to spread, that our library is open for all to use. Who knows – if days like today continue, we may need to start a Klub Buku (book club)! Because as Diane Duane once said, “Reading one book is like eating one potato chip”. It just doesn’t happen.

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Butterfly, Flutterby, Feeding Lorises in the Sky

Upon arrival in Cipaganti after a warm welcome and a warmer cup of tea, Dan (one of the volunteers) asked me if I wanted to join the team doing mist netting surveys of the local bat species. Happy to be thrown in the deep end and see what the forest has to offer in terms of fauna we made our way up to a small patch of bamboo 5 minutes from the village. The first thing that struck me was how noisy the forest is at dusk, and although the prayers from the Mosque do play their part it was the vast number of insects that lit up the area with their calls. Although we were largely surrounded by crops, which at home in the UK usually do very little for insect diversity, the impression of the biological diversity represented by the insects is impossible to be missed. The stridulation of grasshoppers and cicadas at night sometimes make small talk a burden, and during the day when you venture off of the beaten track (although this isn’t even necessary) emerald green praying mantises perch poised and ready for prey and huge birdwing butterflies soar between the foliage.

Flutterbye

Praying Mantis

I have come to LFP to investigate the insect diversity here and look into the roles that they play both for the lorises and the ecology of the agroforest here. For the next two and a half months I will be conducting lots of surveys to measure the diversity of the invertebrates as well as trying to work out the insect pests that the farmers encounter. Additionally I will be trying to better understand how insect diversity and abundance effects loris behaviour and the foraging requirement that lorises may have regarding insect prey. During nightly behavioural observations that are being done here many a loris can be seen munching on insects, but the exact insect groups that they consume in the wild is still unclear. Once this has been resolved we can begin measuring how the insect prey abundance and behaviour may effect loris behaviour and movement.

To put this in context for loris conservation, in collaboration with Katie who is looking at the effect of climate on behaviour of lorises I will be trying to measure what effect altitude has on insect populations. In other words, if the lorises are moving to higher altitudes (due to habitat disturbance and increased temperatures at lower altitudes), will they have any insects to munch on?!?

Get the kettle on and get the net out, let’s find out!

Field work

  • Albie Henry, LFP Researcher

 

One Person At A Time

Hello, all. My name is JoooBooo. I am a slow loris, and I’m currently in West Java, Indonesia educating people about slow loris conservation and helping care for captive lorises. My mission is huge, but with overwhelming love, I reach out.

IMG_8226

JoooBooo trying on the slow loris mask he made at Klub Alam (Nature Club)

Sometimes it seems overwhelming. Wildlife conservation is an exhausting job. Trust me, I just had to take a few days off to recuperate in Bandung. Watch some wildlife shows on TV, get some delicious bugs to eat. But after that time off, I came back feeling more positive than ever and ready to work again. And as discouraging as it sometimes seems, I realized once again that every little bit helps. This is partly due to a wonderful conversation I had with a hotel employee in Bandung. I was explaining my purpose in being here, and why my dedication to my cause was so strong (besides the fact that I’m a loris). And the employee, Yudi, asked me what he and others can do to help. So I told him. It was that simple. Did that solve the problem completely? No, but it’s a good start.

It seems like a lot, working every day and still seeing so many lorises at wildlife markets and in captivity. And seeing that so many of those captive lorises cannot be released, their teeth having been removed or filed down, or having suffered other injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild. But we have to focus on the positive. Those captive lorises at rescue centers are living healthier, more natural lives than they would as pets, even if they are not in the wild. It may be second best in that case, but it’s better than the alternatives. And every person you educate can make a difference.

In the past month, three lorises have been brought to Little Fireface Project. Two were released immediately, as they were wild and had wandered into the village. The message of LFP has spread far enough that the local people recognized them as being wild, and were trying to protect them by making sure they were properly released. The third loris was someone’s pet, and a friend of its owner convinced them that the loris should not be a pet. This little one, Dodol, has been taken to the Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Center to see if she can be released in the future or not.

JoooBooo on route to take Dodol to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

JoooBooo on route to take Dodol to Cikananga Wildlife Rescue Centre

So the message is this: the news that reached those people may have been slow, and it may have seemed like a lot of work at the time. But that is three lorises saved. Three lorises like me that can lead better lives. And those people will continue to educate others, and soon the message can spread far and wide. But we have to start with one person at a time.

  • JoooBooo, slow loris & Volunteer Mascot

You and What Technology?

Between myself and this evening’s tracker, Yiyi, we have easily been on 400 observational nights of loris watch. That’s over 2400 hours of following these small, shy and fantastically cryptic animals through the fragments of Cipaganti’s agroforest. Alongside experience, we also have a heavy arsenal of equipment aiding us in locating the lorises; radio telemetry, red spotlights, ultrasonic microphones… the list goes on. None of this however, seemed to be a match for what One Eye deployed this evening: evolution. Over millions of years of time, lorises have evolved to perfect and fine tune behavioural and morphological adaptations. One in particular was just one step ahead of me and Yiyi this evening; crypsis (the ability of an animal to avoid detection by predators, often used by nocturnal animals using methods of camouflage and mimicry).

IMG_7926

One Eye, moments before her disappearance

After locating the area of strong signal using our radio tracking equipment, we began scanning the area for One Eye, keeping a look out for the classic eye-shine or hint of branch movement. Ten minutes passed with both of us carefully scanning the nearby bamboo, searching the top of nearby trees and clambering underneath the frame of local vine crop known as labu- all with no luck. Delving into my arsenal of equipment, I grab the thermal imaging camera (yeah, like the ones from ‘Cops on Camera’ and ‘Road wars’. Cool, right?). Scanning all around, we located bats and even insects, but no loris. The signals rarely lie, so when it says the loris is here, it must be here. The search continued as I scanned the trees while Yiyi crawled under the labu, looking like some SAS troop wielding the thermal camera.

Twenty-two minutes passed before Yiyi whispered, ‘Dan, look’. I slowly dropped to my knees to look under the labu canopy, and there, only 1 foot away from where I had been standing, One Eye had nestled herself amongst leaves and vines, with only two hands on show. This just made me chuckle and think: the hours of experience we have and hundreds of pounds of equipment we use, still sometimes isn’t enough to contend with these evolutionary tuned, top-class hiders.

Target located.

Target located.

  • Dan Geerah, Volunteer

A New Way of Learning

Saving endangered primates with fake fur might sound mad but that’s exactly what I’ve come to Asia to try. I arrived at LFP this week with a rucksack bulging with animal puppets and received a warm welcome in the field house. It wasn’t long until some of the neighbours popped by to meet the new residents.

IMG_7550 (1)

Local children swarmed Rumah Hijau at the site of the six puppet animals!

The puppets aren’t just here for a holiday – they’re part of the Whoop Troop conservation education programme that I’ve developed for my MSc Primate Conservation research project. I’m here in Java for a week to deliver the puppets and launch the Whoop Troop project. Then I’m off to Viet Nam for two months to deliver the project there. Students in both countries will be following the course together and will link up by internet to share their knowledge and experiences in this connecting classrooms project. I’ll be finding out whether it’s an effective way of learning about primate conservation.

Here in Java, students in our Cipaganti Nature Club and Situwangi Boarding School in Cikajang have already joined the Whoop Troop. They’ll spend the next eight weeks investigating the behavioural ecology of the Javan slow loris, Javan silvery gibbon, Javan rhinoceros, leopard cat, saltwater crocodile and rhinoceros hornbill, and the threats they face in the wild. And you’ve guessed it… these are our puppet characters. As well as learning scientific techniques for studying animals, the children will write and perform a spectacular puppet show to tell other people what they’ve learned. It will be so exciting to find out what characters the children develop for the puppets!

IMG_1649

The puppets caused a lot of excitement at the boys boarding school in Cikajang!

IMG_1659 (1)

Klub Alam (Nature Club) children getting to know the puppets at our school in Cipaganti

As if all that wasn’t enough excitement, I also saw my first wild slow loris last night. Katie and Yiyi took me out on observations and kindly didn’t mention my slow and slippery progress up the mountain. They are so experienced they just stride along the trails. Yiyi located our focal loris Fernando quickly and we watched him foraging for two magical hours until thick fog set in. Reading scientific papers and watching videos hadn’t prepared me for the slow loris’ graceful stretch between branches and sinuous climbing motion. Although sadly the fog put a stop to observations, I felt really contented just sitting there in a carrot field listening to the cicadas and frogs. Javan fog is so much warmer than fog in Oxford!

Whoop Troop Logo Sticker

  • Claire Cardinal, MSc Researcher

Javan Slow Loris Surveys Beyond Garut

Yesterday, a few of the team members expanded our Javan slow loris presence surveys outside of Garut. I had previously done presence surveys for Sumatran lorises in Bukit Lawang with our colleagues at Green Hill, but this was my first time conducting a survey in Java. One of our previous volunteers (Ina Kathrin-Spey) had developed methods to conduct a survey of Javan slow loris populations, to determine their abundance and distribution across the island of Java. As the majority of Java’s forests have been cut down for farms, it was rather tricky to develop methods for such an extreme, disturbed area. Thanks to the methods she developed, we completed our surveys in the area of Garut, but yesterday we expanded our first (more lengthy) survey, outside the district.

13101195_10153422903511583_547650407_n

Equipment for our presence survey.

Beginning with interviews, we received a lot of surprised and baffled reactions to a photograph of a Javan slow loris. Many of them had never seen one, or even thought it was a pig! After the interviews, we explained a bit more about the work we do in conservation, education, behavior and outreach. Everyone seemed very keen, and asked if they could join us on our night surveys, to help us save lorises. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do this, as too many people would scare the lorises, and also because we didn’t have nearly enough red head torches for everyone.

13059427_10153422903376583_572849782_n

Wita starting off the interviews!

We hired one local farmer who knew the area as our guide, and began the trek. Within the first 300 meters we already saw two lorises and got to know all sorts of new flora species that we don’t have in Cipaganti. Due to some earlier rain and steep slopes, we were slipping and sliding all over the place. At one point, it took us 30+ minutes to scale 100 meters up a slope, relying on strong trees to hold us up, and laughing the whole way. After two and a half hours of hiking up the mountain, we were rewarded with a breath-taking view of Garut city at the top of the mountain.

13101316_10153422903161583_1884191091_n

Surveying lorises in the field.

Over 12 hours, we spread awareness of this Critically Endangered species and learned more about it’s distribution range and cultural awareness along the way. And on top of that – we had a bonding night out, exploring a new area with new exciting trees and new friends. Overall, our survey was a success and the start to an exciting new phase for LFP in our efforts to protect the Javan slow loris!

13081935_10153422902631583_665889995_n

A team coffee break!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher

Nocturnal Rhythms

Before deciding to join the Little Fireface Project, my main focus of research was on diurnal primates. This meant waking up at 4am, following monkeys until 5 or 6pm (depending on the season), hiking home, eating dinner, going to bed between 8 and 10 pm, and repeating it all the next day. This schedule felt rather natural, but didn’t leave much time for getting any alternative work done. Weekly schedules would require a full day off of observations in order to do other tasks, like entering and editing data, stocking up on food supplies, equipment repairs or processing samples. When I entered the world of nocturnal research, my circadian rhythms were literally turned upside down.

Now, my daily schedule consists of nightly observations between 5pm to 5am, going to bed around 6am, waking up between 12 and 1pm, and then having an average of 5 hours daily to get all those alternative tasks done. It keeps my days rather consistent, but it was no small feat to get to this stage. When I first started nocturnal research, I simply couldn’t sleep. I was naturally waking up at 8am when I had only gone to bed 2 hours earlier. It took about 2-3 weeks of physical exhaustion from not sleeping enough to kick into the night-life, mentally and physically. Over time, I’ve acquired my own routine that helps me stay in a consistent rhythm. Here are a few tips I find helpful in getting into, and maintaining, a healthy nocturnal work life:

  1. Keep the thermos filled with hot water at all times! I find a cup of coffee or tea accompanying me in the field helps at night. While too much caffeine might make you crash (and the majority of the team here has seen me go through a serious caffeine addiction, averaging 8 cups a day), a few cups during the later hours of the day can help, when it’s dark out and your body thinks it is time to sleep. I’ve almost entirely kicked coffee out of my routine now and I already feel my energy has more than doubled, but I won’t give up my night tea.
KatieBlogCoffee

Latte from our favorite bakery an town – an off day treat

2. Cold mandi: A cold shower in the morning works better than coffee! Why? Because a cold shower wakes up all of your muscles. It sounds crazy, but you get used to it quickly. Cold showers dilate your capillaries and get your blood circulating to your extremities, stimulates your metabolic rate, boosts blood glucose, and increases your immune system.

KatieBlogDucks

Our LFP rubber duck team, enjoying a cold mandi?

3. Bubur o’clock: this has become a bit of a house tradition. As most of us are on a nocturnal clock here, those who aren’t on the late night shift will join those who just returned from observations to our neighbor Ibu’s shop for our favorite traditional breakfast dish; bubur. Bubur is a rice porridge commonly served with either chicken, eggs or peanuts. It’s a nice team bonding time as well, and whoever just came back from observations will update the others on what their focal loris was up to that night.

KatieBlogBubur

Waiting in line for bubur!

Side note: we have also just learned that the village bubur is most commonly used as baby food. This has had no influence on our routine, and we proudly wait in line with the infants, awaiting our rice porridge goodness.

4. In-flight ear buds and eye mask(s): as many of you may have read in previous blogs, we live directly across the street from the village mosque. The first call to prayer is at 4:30am, and then again at 7am, etc, etc. When you are trying to sleep in, those free in-flight ear buds that your airline gave you will become your best friend. Also, your body’s internal clock is sensitive to light, so in-flight eye masks come in handy too when you need to sleep through the sun that is creeping into your room.

5. Off-day exercise: Our job is literally to hike a mountain every day. It’s always nice to do something leisurely for yourself on off days – from something as small as enjoying a hot chocolate on the couch to going into town for lunch—but if I want to sleep later in the day, I still need to do some form of exercise or I am just too wired with energy to sleep. Sometimes I go out to the field to practice photography, some of our volunteers will go play Frisbee on the football field, but some weeks we all need our off-day to catch up on data entry or writing up our research. On days like this, even a small house “planks and squats” workout or “DG’s wicked workout” is enough to do the job in 30 minutes, so we can power through our desk work. And once again, it also serves as team (ab) building!

6. On busier weeks where I need to do diurnal work like vegetation plots or phenology monitoring on top of my nocturnal work, I sleep at strange hours of the day, between 2 and 10 pm. It can be hard to sleep during the mid-day when everyone else is awake and buzzing with energy, and this is when Spotify and Celestial Seasonings tea step up to the plate. There are different playlists under the theme of “sleep” people have created on Spotify, and you can find a playlist that works for you. I usually down a mug of ‘sleepytime tea’ and put on a playlist of rainstorms, and I’m out like a light.

These are just a few personal tips I find helpful to stay energized during my work hours. Everyone finds their own routine that works for them, but I hope these can help ease the transition for anyone considering or preparing to embark the realms of nocturnal fieldwork!

  • Katie Reinhardt, PhD Student