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A Jungle Research Station is No Place for the Squeamish

The outside of my hut in Borneo Amelia McKinlay

Deep in the Borneo rainforest, I'm learning to expect the unexpected. 

I have been living at a scientific research station in the Borneon jungle for over a month. In my time here, I have found that living in a tropical rainforest brings some unexpected surprises.

The bucket

A few days ago at dinner, it was announced that a poo bucket would be installed in the bathrooms.

"A poo bucket?" I thought. "What on earth would that be used for?"

It turns out if you are a scientist studying dung beetles, you need a consistent and reliable supply of "dung" in order to capture and raise the beetles. Given we are in a very remote location with no livestock in sight, human waste is the only option! Those willing to make a "donation" would be furthering the scientific cause and helping someone out with their research. (Although usually happy to help those in need, it's suffice to say I have yet to make a donation.)

Orangutan alarm clock

Our research station is based deep in the jungle and, as a result, we are surrounded by extraordinary wildlife. A few weeks ago, I woke up to a male orangutan swinging in a tree above my hut, munching away on some leaves.

This was my first time seeing an orangutan in the wild and it was even more spectacular than I imagined.

Bedtime leeches

I live in a basic hut that does not have doors and is loosely covered by a tin roof. Consequently, I share my room with a whole host of creepy crawlies. From an ecological perspective, it is fascinating to be able to examine all kinds of weird and wonderful invertebrates at such close quarters. From rhinoceros beetles to tree nymph butterflies, the wildlife that resides near camp never fails to amaze me.

However, the lack of infrastructure means slightly less favourable creatures also make themselves comfortable. I recently came across a centipede curled up in my laptop case that I swiftly removed back to its natural habitat.

Additionally, there have been several cases of leeches, one of the most unpopular creatures, finding their way into our beds. The leeches are always very swiftly removed back into the jungle by a very unhappy and frustrated scientist. 

The bathroom

The toilet block is another place where biodiversity thrives. Before I shower, I check the top of the shower head for snakes. Once inside the cubicle, I share my shower with bats, moths and countless numbers of spiders that have decided the reliable water supply and cozy conditions are a good place to build a home. Although they mostly keep to themselves, I am usually in and out of there fairly quickly.

Although occasionally greeted with a nasty surprise, living in the rainforest is incredible and no two days have yet been the same. I look forward to the adventures that ensue in the coming weeks.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Amelia McKinlay

Amelia McKinlay is a master's student based in London, passionate about conservation and the environment. She has lived in five countries around the world. Previously, she blogged for Verge about volunteering at DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage in Limpopo, South Africa. Currently, she's researching tropical forest ecology in Borneo, Malaysia.

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