A school in the forest

A friend of mine in Friendster put ‘Way Canguk research station’ in her school list. I guess she’s right. My ‘school’ time in here was started back in the end of 1997, about 6 months after it was built. This is a research station built by the Wildlife Conservation Society—Indonesia Program in one of the remained lowland rainforest in Sumatra, a small part of the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Lampung.

There are no formal programs in here except all the surveys and monitoring. We put camera traps, we walk up to 12 km a day, stretching our neck with our binocular to watch the papa hornbill feed mama and her chicks, or following groups of siamang gibbon moving from tree to tree, having hefty lunch at fruiting fig tree until they got tired and ready to sleep. Yes, research station is a ‘field school’ even when there is no teacher around. Learning seems like an automatic process in here even if you are not pursuing another degree and just work as research assistant or technician. Research station is a small but dynamic world. Interactions are not exclusively occurred in wildlife.

There is no formal graduation of course. But at least to my recent counts, this research station supports 2 students/year and since 1997 Way Canguk has been successfully delivered approximately 67% Indonesian undergraduate students, 27% and 8% of both local and overseas master’s and PhD’ students to finish their dissertation projects. This was formal counts, but I believe many of my friends and staff are happily included this research station in their ‘school’ list at least in their heart. I wonder if this ‘muddy boots school’ would still be able to survive another generations of ‘field student’. Someone said, “Conservation research points the way but does not by itself make changes”. Nature provides so much to learn and science stitch everything together.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sephy on June 11, 2008 at 5:05 am

    Mambaca tulisan Mba nurul yang satu ini, mengingatkan saya akn waktu belajar saya di “Sekolah Alam Way Canguk”.

    Banyak tawa, sedih bahkan terkadang amarah yang tertuang selama di sana. Atmosfer kekeluargaan juga terasa manakala kesendirian dan rasa rindu keluarga di rumah menghampiri.

    Banyak hal juga yang mungkin tidak terucap tapi benar membekas dalam diri pribadi, mungkin juga teman-teman yang pernah datang kesana.

    Misalnya saja kekaguman saat melihat begitu banyak rangkong yang bisa di jumpai dalam satu hari pada saat musim buah dan ficus sedang banyak-banyaknya di Canguk, atau pergi ke plot paling pagi dan pulang paling sore dan sempat putus asa ketika kelompok target tiba-tiba menghilang dari plot yang juga buat saya berpikiran sebaiknya penelitian ini tdak usah diteruskan,:-P.

    Bahkan mungkin dapat dikatakan, saya hari ini tidak terlepas dari “Sekolah Alam Way Canguk”

    NB: Buat Teman-teman di Canguk…Lek War, Kang Janji, Gawix, Rachman, Tedy, Tarmin, Pak Bawuk, Mba Kat, Mba Yat, Bu Kat dan yang tidak tersebut namanya.


  2. Posted by noonathome on June 11, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Not all field sites offer ‘field school’ but I think it really depends on us on how we make the best of it. You can always learn something whereever you are. Good luck on your future ‘study’ 😉


  3. Posted by Bryony on August 7, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Nurul,
    We’ve never met, but I used to be involved with the Operation Wallacea Trust project in Buton – I worked for the World Bank and visited Buton twice. It’s really nice to hear your memories of being out in the forest back at the beginning of your career – I have similar ones from field stations in different countries!

    I’m now working on a program for the Royal Geographical Society which aims to provide bursaries for Indonesia students and recent graduates to conduct their own field research projects (on a competitive basis). It would be really great to have your advice on how we can advertise this to young people, and to help applicants put good proposals together – for example carrying out projects at field stations such as these. Details of the scheme are at http://www.rgs.org/go – the International Leadership and Capacity Building Programme.

    Hope to hear from you, and best wishes,


  4. Posted by noonathome on August 7, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Bryony,
    I heard about your visits to Buton. Too bad we didn’t have a chance to meet. Anyway, it’s very interesting to hear this research project opportunities. I certainly will think about this and will send my comments to you by email.


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