4 weeks: 2 weeks terrestrial & 2 weeks marine – 30 June – 27 July 2024
4 weeks: 2 weeks terrestrial & 2 weeks marine – 7 July – 3 August 2024
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The first two weeks of this four-week expedition are spent in the forests of the Wallacea region on Buton Island, followed by two weeks with the marine teams on Hoga Island.
North Buton Forest biodiversity experience
The Langkube Valley lies within the North Buton Nature Reserve (82,000 ha) and represents a vast area of unexplored, primary rainforest. The region supports an array of different habitats that remain largely unknown to science. Importantly, it is also a stronghold for the endangered Anoa, a CITES listed dwarf buffalo. After completing training in jungle survival skills (which can include a canopy access course for an additional cost) and learning about Wallacean wildlife and conservation, volunteers will assist a team of biologists documenting the valley’s rich biodiversity. Biologists will focus on mammalian, avian and herpetological assemblages together with forest structure and carbon surveys. Particular attention will be given to records of endangered Sulawesi endemics, such as the Anoa and the Maleo, both rarely sighted but critically important species for local conservation efforts. There exists a high likelihood that new species records for Buton Island will be made given that this expedition will be working in remote and previously unsurveyed forests. Survey techniques include the use of camera traps, distance and patch occupancy estimates for large mammal species, mist netting for bats, Pollard counts for butterflies, standard search transects for reptiles, spotlight surveys for amphibians, and point counts for birds. There is also the opportunity to complete a half day course which will train you into how access the tree canopy using ropes and ascenders (this is an optional course costing £190).
The field teams will spend time at two different forest camps during the expedition allowing for data collection over a greater area.
Marine part of the expedition
The Hoga Island Marine Centre is based on a car and bike free island which is in the heart of the Wakatobi Marine National Park and is one of our most heavily published research sites. The Centre hosts up to 90 students and marine biology specialists a week each summer, so you have the opportunity of learning a range of marine survey techniques. You will begin with some training, starting with the opportunity to complete a PADI Open Water dive training course if you would like to learn and aren’t already dive qualified, followed by a compulsory Indo-Pacific reef ecology course with practicals by diving or snorkelling. Once the Indo-Pacific reef ecology course has been completed you will then join the research teams and help them to collect data from the coral reefs around the island. This will include the opportunity to learn survey techniques including stereo-video surveys of reef fish, video surveys of benthic transects, 3D mapping of coral reefs, coral regeneration, behaviour studies on cleaner fish, community structure of butterflyfish, seagrass and mangrove ecology, and marine plastics.
There is a triangle of reefs that spans across Indonesia and some of its neighbouring countries known as the Coral Triangle. It is recognized for having the highest diversity of hard coral genera, the proxy commonly used to assess overall diversity of coral reefs, anywhere in the world. The Hoga Island Marine Station is located in the heart of the Wakatobi Marine National Park, which is right at the centre of the Coral Triangle. For over two decades, a series of scientists have been based at this site during the Opwall survey seasons and as a result, this is now the most published site in the Coral Triangle, with more than 200 papers having been published using data collected by the teams here. For the last 15 years a series of constant monitoring sites around Hoga and eastern Kaledupa have been monitored for macroinvertebrates, fish communities, coral cover and community structure. The 2024 season will continue this reef monitoring programme, and also be focusing on coral regeneration studies, plus some additional projects.
The Wallacea region comprises islands of the central part of the Indonesian archipelago that are separated by deep ocean trenches which prevented them from being joined to the main continental land masses during the lowered sea levels of the Ice Ages. As a result of subsequently long periods of isolation, a large number of unique species evolved. The forests of the Wallacea region are one of the least biologically studied areas in the world and one of the most likely places to discover vertebrate species new to science. Since 1995, the Opwall teams have been surveying the biodiversity of Buton Island in SE Sulawesi, so that more information is now available on the wildlife of this well studied area than anywhere else in the Wallacea region. The Opwall gathered data are being used to assess the impacts of potential carbon offset funding schemes in protecting the carbon and biodiversity of the forests and ensure that local communities have a financial benefit from this conservation programme.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
In the tropical rainforests of Indonesia is is generally warm during the day (around 25 degrees Celsius), and humid, with up to 80% humidity. At night the temperatures drop lower, but not usually lower than around 15 degrees Celsius. It rains very frequently, and very heavily at times, but for short periods.
At the marine sites during the day, the weather is normally sunny and warm (around 30 degrees Celsius), and the night temperatures drop to around 20-25 degrees Celsius. Being on the coast means there is often a pleasant breeze so it does not always feel this hot. It rains rarely, but when it does it tends to be very heavy for short periods of time.
Fitness level required
High for the forest sites. You will need to hike for long periods, over steep and muddy terrain, at times with your large rucksack. At the marine sites some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.
The Hoga Island Marine Station is an established facility that lies within the Wakatobi Marine Park of eastern Indonesia. The station was rebuilt in 2016 and supports a dive centre, lecture theatre, class room spaces, data analysis labs, as well as a large dining room and kitchen facility. Simple huts owned by members of the local fishing community surround the station and serve as guest accommodation. The island supports reliable phone signal that allows limited internet access.
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