A local educator participated in global graduate studies that focused on studying primate conservation strategies on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo this summer. 

In June, Chimp Haven’s Behavior and Education Program Manager, Amy Fultz, had a once in a lifetime opportunity to study in Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, joining a group of researchers from the NGO Hutan and the Danau Girang Field Centre to investigate the rich and diverse primate community. Borneo is home to proboscis monkeys, a strange looking monkey that has an unusually large nose, which occurs only in Borneo. Of particularly great conservation concern is the orangutan, a great ape species that lives only in Borneo and the island of Sumatra. Orangutans and Bornean pygmy elephants are the subjects of model community-based conservation efforts in Sabah that Fultz participated in during the trip. 

Fultz experienced Borneo with 21 colleagues – including 3 instructors. A typical day might include planting a tree for reforestation and the formation of corridors for wildlife; tracking crocodiles and/or primates in a boat along the Kinabantagan River; working with orangutan researchers in the field and designing and working on team research projects. The group stayed in Malaysian homes in Sukau for half of the trip, giving them the opportunity to get to know the people and experience the local food and culture first hand. 

In addition to tracking wildlife, Fultz and classmates listened to presentations from conservationists from around the world about the work they do in Sabah as well as giving their own presentations based on their research projects. 

Fultz is enrolled in the Global Field Master’s Program through Miami University’s Project Dragonfly. About 120 people are admitted into the program, according to Connie Malone, Project Dragonfly senior program assistant. It is a competitive application process — it’s not just something you sign up to do, Malone said.  The program’s expedition courses help students understand how conservation strategies are successful while getting first-hand experience in another culture and environment, Malone said. 

At sites in 12 countries in Africa, Australia, Asia and the Americas, these educators engage with international colleagues and scientists to work together to bring about local and global change. Fultz encountered many different animals during her expedition, including 5 different types of primates, giant flying squirrels, colorful hornbill birds, and even a spotted leopard cub.  The time that I spent in Borneo was amazing, working with orangutan researchers in the jungle, having orangutans and monkeys wander by in the middle of our classes, and just experiencing the immense diversity of life in the forest. The trees are enormous, even in disturbed areas, and everywhere you look there is a new animal or plant. 

Fultz said the Global Field Program provides participants with different perspectives on conservation issues. ―It is easy for those of us here in the United States to sit back and tell other countries what they should do to solve the conservation crisis, but often we have no idea how complicated and complex the issues really are until we have experienced them for ourselves and met the people involved, said Fultz. 

The program is based on Earth Expeditions from Dragonfly and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Since 2004 Earth Expeditions has been engaging educators in firsthand educational and scientific research at key conservation sites around the world. Since then more than 1,100 educators and other professionals have been selected from 48 states and several international countries. More information is located at www.EarthExpeditions.org.