New Student Story from Malaysian Borneo
Written by Rebecca Leclere, CoF International Programs
In the summer of 2016, Natural Resources major Lawrence Bradburn went looking for adventure. After receiving an email from the OSU College of Forestry regarding international opportunities, Lawrence discovered the several short-term faculty led programs offered by the college. After some consideration, Lawrence landed with the program Oil Palms and Orangutans: Forest Conservation in Malaysian Borneo, led by John Bliss.
It sounded “the most adventurous,” says Lawrence, since Borneo was a country he had never thought to explore on his own. After watching the National Geographic video depicting travel to Borneo, Lawrence was hooked.
In August of 2016, Lawrence and a group of OSU students took to the air on their way to meet in Borneo.
The program, led by Dr. John Bliss, focused primarily on the effects of palm oil plantations and the forest removal that accompanies them on native ecosystems and wildlife. There was also a social aspect of the study. Aside from the plantations’ ramifications pertaining to ecosystems, Lawrence and the other students on this program interacted with local citizens in order to determine their feelings about the destruction of the native wildlife. They also learned about some of the steps that locals had already taken to aid in prevention and restoration efforts pertaining to these essential ecosystems.
Lawrence’s journey began at the Create Center. This village-based workshop is designed to train the next generation in micro-hydro, solar, and biomass related technologies. On their visit, Lawrence and his colleagues spoke with researchers and learned about the developments they were studying in micro-hydro technology, which Lawrence describes simply as diverting the flow of a river to turn a turbine and generate power. On one of their last nights at the Center, Lawrence and his classmates got the chance to attend a barbecue hosted by some of the locals complete with karaoke.
Later, the team visited the Rainforest Discovery Center. While in the reserve, they were fairly isolated from the civilization, and so they didn’t get a chance to explore any of the major cities, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the natural wonders of Borneo. Lawrence and some of his classmates would get up early and go for nature walks around the reserve to look for native bird species. Lawrence fondly recalls going on an elevated canopy walk which gave him a lush view of biodiversity ordinarily obscured from the ground.
Last on the itinerary was the Danau Girang Field Center, where Lawrence and his classmates spent the majority of their trip. This collaborative research and training facility is nestled inside the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in the heart of Sabah. The sanctuary is home to several species of primates, the Bornean elephant, cat species, the sun bear, unique fauna, and hundreds of species of birds. Because of its surrounding diversity in plant and animal wildlife, Lawrence was given the unique opportunity to assist in graduate student research concerned with this impressive array of biodiversity.
The graduate students at the field center were conducting research on the effects of palm oil plantations on different native species, and so Lawrence and his fellow students got hands on experience interacting with several different animals including primates and monitor lizards.
Lawrence got the chance to meet with other local researchers from conservation companies and research stations when he attended the annual Borneo Rhythms of Rimba (ROR) Wildlife Festival. The mission of ROR is to bring together leading environmental experts and movements that are shaping the way the world is addressing global environmental issues. Lawrence describes the event as vibrant with booths, speakers, music, and food.
Lawrence’s time in Borneo didn’t end with the program. After Oil Palms and Orangutans was officially over, Lawrence met up his wife and they stayed on to explore more of the country for an additional twelve days.
From his experiences abroad, Lawrence says that he learned a lot about how “the other side thinks”.
“We go in thinking we have the solution, as Americans,” says Lawrence. He was pleasantly surprised to discover the innovation that had already taken place to conserve the rainforest and the alternative methods and ideas that local citizens had implemented.
More than anything else, though, Lawrence relished the opportunity to connect with other students outside of the classroom. As an e-campus student, Lawrence hadn’t experienced live lectures or hands-on group projects for some time. Going to Borneo not only allowed him to see the world, it also gave him the opportunity to work with and interact with other people in his field as they studied and collaborated on projects concerned with preserving the Malaysian rainforest.
To anyone considering studying abroad, Lawrence urges you to “be open to try new things… don’t limit yourself.”
In pushing himself to travel to another country, Lawrence experienced incredible new things including trying new foods and befriending people he never would have met otherwise. He made connections with researchers from across the globe and gained unique perspective on different forms of conservation work practiced in other countries.