Why does RAP train local scientists?
Conservation in Irian Jaya is constrained by a lack of knowledge of the flora, fauna, and ecological processes. Irian Jaya is still among the least studied and least understood areas in the Asia-Pacific region. A severe lack of biological data has led to insufficient information upon which to make informed policy decisions about development and conservation plans.
Irian Jaya is in need of scientists who are sufficiently trained to make well-informed conservation recommendations and decisions. To fill the gap in solid scientific information that is rapidly collected and disseminated to be used immediately in conservation planning, training of local scientists in rapid biodiversity assessments is essential.
What field methods will be taught?
The training course and RAP expedition will cover survey methods for six taxonomic groups: vegetation, mammals, birds, insects, herpetofauna, and freshwater fish. The biologists will learns general information about doing research in the field, ask good research questions, becoming an expert, and keeping correct and detailed field notes. Within taxonomic divisions, participants will learn and put into practice the following methods:
Birds: Birds are often difficult to see in tropical forests due to tree height and vegetation density. Participants, then, will learn to identify birds by their calls. They'll walk along transects (lines) and record evidence of birds and will also use mist nets to catch birds. Finally, they'll learn what data to collect and record.
>> Learn more about the Bird Team
Freshwater fish: Participants will learn methods such as snorkeling for visual identification, using seine nets and hand nets, and photographing specimens.
>> Learn more about the Fish Team
Herpetofauna: Frogs, like birds, are often difficult to see. Herpetologists depend on their ears, identifying frog species by their calls. Participants will learn to recognize frog calls and suitable habitat for herps, and they'll also survey in plots as a representative sample of the forest.
>> Learn more about the Herpetofauna Team
Mammals: The mammalogists will put up mist nets (tall nets that are difficult to see) in order to catch bats at night and will place live traps in quadrats (similar to plots) in order to catch small mammals at night. Participants will learn how to set up the nets and traps, and what data to collect.
>> Learn more about the Mammal Team
Insects: The insect group will focus on butterflies and so will learn to use hand nets, to recognize suitable butterfly habitats, and to collect butterflies.
>> Learn more about the Insect Team
Vegetation: Because recording every plant in the forest would be too time-consuming to be feasible, participants will record plant diversity data in plots and along transects.
>> Learn more about the Plant Team
What will be done with the data collected?
One of RAP's main purposes is to provide scientific information to community members and decision-makers, who can use the information in planning and decision-making. The information gathered – including conservation concerns and recommendations – by the participants and expert biologists will be shared with local communities, presented in a press conference so that a wider local audience can benefit, and documented in preliminary and final reports. These reports will be disseminated to local communities, to in-country agencies, and to other interested parties so they can make sound conservation
What is life like on the expedition?
Participants will be spending the first two weeks at a small research camp, living in tents or in small semi-permanent wooden structures. For the last two weeks, participants will be living in primitive conditions, camping in the forest near streams. They will carry standard first-aid equipment and will have radios and satellite phones while in the field. Be sure to check out the Mamberamo Journals from the field to learn more about life on the expedition.