UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
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In 1955 Guy Arnold, Gordon Pickles, Tom Chavasse and Colin Campbell all set out from Oxford to map and collect various specimens and samples from the Usun Apau region. Over the last 64 years the landscape has changed significantly, with deforestation and the rise of palm oil plantations vastly altering this once untouched area.
In 2019, three Oxford students and two students from the University of Nottingham in Malaysia travelled to the plateau aiming to replicate the methods of the 1955 expedition. They conducted rapid assessment camera trap surveys in the Julan Waterfall region and replicated plot sampling to assess forest composition, thus creating basic species lists. Through these simple yet repeatable methods of study we hope to facilitate further conservation interest in the area, as well as encouraging student-led research.
Working with local partners was focus of the expedition. In the past, many expeditions have entered fragile ecosystems and left without much positive impact on local communities or cooperation with resident researchers. We are working with students from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, in the hope of establishing a strong link between their University and our own. On return from the plateau we spoke for the Malaysian Nature Society and Friends of Sarawak Museum, who assisted us in our efforts. We also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and will be producing our results in 2021.
The Expedition has already published an article for the Geographical magazine, outlining life on the plateau and the challenges faced. The team intends to publish their findings from the research period in 2021, after considerable set backs due to most of the team studying full time, completing their finals exams or working full time jobs. We are working hard to ensure our work is not put to waste and are excited to share our findings.
Additionally, we're excited to learn of the work from the Sarawak Forestry Department and their recent observation of a organutan on the Usun Apau plateau. This observation is exciting not only because the orangutan is such an endangered species but also because the sighting is outside the species' current range on Borneo. We look forward to learning more of their findings and any future research carried out on the plateau!