Ready for the rainforest

“I can’t think of of anywhere else where I could have acquired such a broad skillset in such a short time.” That is how Swedish ecology graduate, Arvid Lindh, felt after a month on a TBA field course at the Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah, Southeast Asia.

Today, a new cohort of TBA field course students is setting off in Arvid’s footsteps to gain practical skills, discover new tools and learn from leading specialists about conservation and ecology in this magnificent tropical forest site.

TBA course coordinator, Dr Kevin Wallace, welcomed the 23 international graduates, half of whom come from six countries in Southeast Asia. They met in Kota Kinabalu last night, before making their way to Danum. Dwarfed by the giant Dipterocarp trees that dominate the forest around the field centre, they will spend the first two weeks learning about conservation and ecological issues in this protected Forest Reserve on the Segama River.

Alongside Dr Wallace, the core teaching team of international experts includes Professor Jennifer Sheridan, a specialist in amphibians and reptiles; Dr Chris Philipson, whose research focus is understanding the growth and survival of Dipterocarp seedlings and trees with a view to improved management of degraded forest systems; and Cambridge University’s Strickland Curator of Birds, ornithologist Dr Mike Brooke.

They will be joined by leading academics from the region: tropical snail expert Thor Seng Liew from University Malaysia Sabah, and Borneo bat expert, Isham Azhar.  During the second part of the course, participants will work in small groups to design, implement, analyse and report on a short field research project, supported by a series of lectures, interactive workshops and supervision tutorials.

The TBA’s flagship field training courses have been run at key conservation sites in Africa and Southeast Asia for 25 years. During that time, the TBA has trained more than 2000 young scientists on this unique programme which ensures a multi-cultural mix of students and the expertise of international and local teachers.

The TBA field course is widely recognised as a launchpad for passionate young scientists who want to work in conservation. TBA alumni are sought after because they learn skills which enable them to have real impact on the ground in research and project management. Just months after his experience at Danum, Arvid was offered a PhD position in tropical forest ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

“I’m certain that this position would have been out of my reach were it not for TBA,” he says.

With an eye on the future, Arvid aims to explore the economic values, ecosystem services and biodiversity that are associated with groups of native Bornean tree species. He adds: “My goal is to identify candidate species that can be used in a sustainable bio-based economy by providing both high economic and ecologic values.”

Read Arvid’s blog about his experience on the TBA international field course here.