UBD TFE Field Course held at KBFSC

Article by Dennis Ting Teck Wah

Eight final year students and three teaching assistants took part in the field course segment of the Tropical Field Ecology (TFE) module led by Dr. Rahayu Sukmaria Hj Sukri on 29th February 2016. The field course, which was held at the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFSC) at Temburong, saw the students carrying out self-planned field investigations over the course of 4 days and 3 nights (ending on 3rd March 2016). Following the course structure, the final year students had already allocated time before the field course to plan out and devise the nature of their projects which include factors such as project scale/scope, aims, methodology, and feasibility among other considerations. The aim of this field course is to instil participants with not only the experience of working in the tropical rainforests, but also the ability to plan out investigations while being critical about its limitations, problems and associated solutions.
The course attendees were divided into two groups of four, and spent two days executing their investigation plans. The two research questions the groups wanted to investigate were:

  1. If the diet of tropical tree-ants was solely dependent on the sap of their host trees or if it had other supplementary sources of food; and
  2. If the slope of an inclined plane had any effect on both the overall Diameter at Breast Height (D.B.H.) and the presence of buttress roots on tropical trees.

To achieve their goals, the groups set about the rainforests surrounding KBFSC, setting up pitfall traps at strategically selected areas around tree-ants nests and selecting sampling plots based on different slope levels. Once all relevant data were collected, the groups then spent an additional day carrying out preliminary analyses on their respective datasets. These preliminary results were then shared among all involved via group presentations, along with a questions and answers session where limitations and solutions to said limitations were discussed. As part of the assessment, the participants are expected to produce a write-up each, detailing their investigation in a journal article format. This format was chosen in order to help prepare the undergraduate participants for their future endeavours in research. Of course the entirety of the participants’ stay was not solely dedicated to work: participants did manage to enjoy an extended canopy walk session and a quick dip at the shallower parts of the Belalong River.

Please contact the course convenor, Dr. Rahayu Sukmaria Hj Sukri for further details.