Hello my Friends... it’s been awhile since my last post. Been busy with various things but I just got back from 5-week Field Expedition with Professor Wayne Maddison to collect Jumping Spiders (Salticidae) in Mulu and Lambir National Park, as well as a few other sites in Sarawak. Sometime in Jan 2012
, nature photographer Chien Lee informed me of Professor Wayne Maddison from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Department of Zoology and Botany, coming down to Borneo to do a survey on the species diversity of Jumping Spiders (Salticidae), and asked if I would be interested to work as a field assistant. I jumped on the chance to get my hands ‘dirty’ in some real field-work learning experience.
The trip has been a successful and productive one, amounting to expanding the previous species list for the family Salticidae from under 100 to around 170. Many are described species that are new to Borneo while others are quite likely new species and even genera. A chronicled account of the expedition can be found in Wayne Maddison’s blog post: -
To avoid being repetitive, I won’t be posting much about the Salticids we have found during this trip, and other things that Wayne may have covered by in his blog; though I must say that this expedition has given me an enthralling introduction to this amazing group of spiders. This post will be a condensed account of my experience on this extraordinary journey and feature towards the end, some of the other non-Salticid critters that we encountered along the way. Mulu National Park
Before this trip, I was one of many locals who have never been to this World Heritage Site. I can now say for sure that being there and seeing it in the flesh is a world of difference from the pictures in books and online brochures.
Since we were there for field-work, we had little opportunity for typical tourist activities. Instead we had the priviledge of experiencing Mulu off the beaten path. A Day in a Life
This is the Research Station were we set up shop and used as our base of operations.
Early in the morning we’d suit-up and hike to a designated sample site; each of us sampled from a different microhabitat (ground, trunk and foliage) for 40 minutes and then rotate assignments for consecutive 50 meter blocks.
We would do a morning session, have a lunch break and an afternoon session before heading back to base to process, preserve and label the specimens. The Tropical Rainforest
Here are examples of the lowland Alluvial forests we spent a lot of time collecting in. Many had massive trees which towered many meters above us with branches and leaves blocked out the sun and shrouded its understory to the forest floor in a shadowy gloom.
Some sites were scattered with limestone monoliths that resembled overgrown ancient cities. Everywhere, the forest floor was covered in layers upon layers dead leaves, tangled roots and brooding fungi; crawling with all manners of many-legged invertebrates.
In disparate light gaps, ferns, and various scrub vegetation jostle for space and purchase. This continuance of vast jungle is only occasionally broken by channels of shallow slow-flowing streams.
However, it is from the Canopy Walk that the majesty of the Tropical Rainforest is truly put in perspective; an immense complex of branches, vines, lianas and foliage; twisting amongst each other in a timeless race for sunlight.
Together, they weave an intricate multi-dimensional space for all manners of plant and animal life to occupy.Camp 1 Excursion
Many of the sites we collected at were within 2 to 3 kilometres from our base. To sample in areas of higher elevation we made a 4-day excursion to Camp 1; roughly 6 kilometres and a good 3-hour hike from Park HQ. The journey took us by Paku Waterfall and across a few stone-bed streams.
Camp 1 had basic amenities and no electricity; hence the clandestine nature of our night routine. The one bit of luxury that Camp 1 did have was a nice cold fast-flowing stream to bathe in after a long day of collecting.
Throughout our forays for Jumping Spiders in Mulu, we often come across other fascinating denizens of the rainforests. Here’s a Common Rat Snake (Elaphe flavolineata) we spotted in the early morning near Park HQ. This fellow gave me a ‘kiss’ on the forehead, but other than that, he wasn’t so bad.
Another snake was one I knew too well; a welcome sight nonetheless. This one made perch on the branches of a tree near a boardwalk and was reported to have resided there for weeks. Other herps that I managed to snap sporadically: a baby Agamid and a Trunk-dwelling Frog. The outhouse toilet at Camp 1 on one occasion came with a questionably desirable bathroom companion: a large Scutigeramorpha munching on a good-sized Sparassid.
Often mistaken for tarantulas, Sparassids are apparently the most common spider in these parts, frequently parking themselves on the wooden hand-rails of the park trails at night.
As for scorpions
; gaps in many a wooden structure, typically played host to the ever abundant Liocheles australasiae. Last but not least, I found one arboreal dwelling of Heterometrus longimanus.
Though I had hoped to find the undescribed species of Buthid that Chien Lee had photographed, it has eluded me. No doubt I will return to try again someday. During our time at Mulu, I feel most fortunate to have made friends with so many awesome people; Syria the ‘golden guide,’ mighty Andyson; our porter to Camp 1, Bian, Jeremy and other members of the park staff that spared no expense in making our stay a pleasant and memorable one.
All in all, it has Mulu has been a truly unforgettable experience. I would like to thank Professor Wayne Maddison, Edyta Piacek for giving me the opportunity to “cut my teeth” on some genuine field-work experience and to Chien Lee for his recommendation and encouraging support. You guys rocked my world! Cheers and best regards
To be continued... Lambir Hills National Park