Author: Katie King

Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project Biodiversity Data Management and Analysis Workshop

Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project Biodiversity Data Management and Analysis Workshop

Between January 14-19 2023, the Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project hosted a Biodiversity Data Management and Analysis Workshop at Danum Valley Field Centre. The workshop was a collaboration between SEARRP, the Tropical Ecology & Entomology (TEE) Lab of the Asian School of the Environment (ASE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU)  and was sponsored by Permian Global. The Kuamut Rainforest Conservation Project aims to establish a Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) project involving 80,000 hectares of tropical forests within the Kuamut Forest Reserve, and among its top priorities is biodiversity conservation, of which biodiversity monitoring is a key component. The goal of this workshop was to ensure that the KRCP generates well-managed, high-quality, and accurate biodiversity data from field monitoring activities and produces outputs and analyses needed for future monitoring reports. The workshop covered biodiversity monitoring activities such as camera trapping, acoustic monitoring, the Forest Integrity Assessment (FIA) tool, and dung-beetle sampling. Read more about this workshop here and watch this space for more information on this exciting project!

Completion of the second phase of the TESSA training programme

TESSA Workshop Participants presenting their findings

Together with the Tropical Biology Association, the SEARRP team has just wrapped up the second part of our TESSA (Toolkit for Ecosystem Services Sie-based Assessment) training II workshop.  The focus of this training was on data analyses and communication of key results. Our participants had to analyse their collected data, summarise this data and then present their key findings at the workshop. It was a great 3-day event with lively discussions, great feedback and engagement from all our participants.

TESSA participants working with the Tropical Biology Association on data analysis

Now that the second phase of the programme is complete, project leaders will return to their sites for a six (6) month period to complete data collection and analysis, consolidate findings, share results and seek site-level stakeholder input. During this time we will provide mentoring, monitoring and technical support to the project leaders and their teams as they conduct fieldwork at their chosen sites.

The training component of the TESSA workshops has been delivered by TBA

We are really proud of the significant progress our participants have made throughout the first phase of the TESSA Programme journey.  We look forward to seeing the final outcomes of their project next year.

Participants learning how to communicate their findings in creative and interesting ways

OECM site briefing and assessment at Larapan Island, Semporna

OECM site briefing and assessment with local community on Larapan Island, Semporna

With the support and facilitation by Green Semporna and WWF Semporna, the SEARRP team recently initiated discussions to introduce the Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) concept and project to the local community of Larapan Island, Semporna. Together, the groups explored ways that the community could assess their marine area as a potential OECM site, and SEARRP took the opportunity to formally invite the local community to join in the OECM initiative.

OECM discussions with the Larapan Community organisers and youth group

SEARRP met with Mad Rinta, the programme coordinator, Eddie, a member of the Kelab Belia Larapan, as well as youth members of the island community to discuss the potentials of OECM, the ongoing conservation activities on the island and marine waters, their waste management programme and the current plans to develop and document their community protocol. Overall, the community representatives showed great interest in the programme and together we developed a simple case study of their marine patrolling area (from the island coastline and along the continental shelf around the island) which we will assess against the OECM criteria in the future.

Beautiful Larapan Island in Semporna District

The community is involved in ongoing conservation activities on the island and the surrounding marine area

Test run with volunteer students from JCU on exciting Environmental Education project in Sabah!

Volunteer students from James Cook University had the opportunity to test the Environmental Education programme activities that we have designed for Malaysian students in Sabah.

Last week the SEARRP team joined volunteer students from James Cook University in North Queensland to test run the Environmental Education(EE) programme activities designed for the EE Kembara Rimba Taliwas project slated to begin in 2023.   The Kembara Rimba Taliwas project is an ongoing EE initiative that began in 2018 as a partnership between SEARRP, the Sabah Foundation and the S4 team from Swansea University, with the aim of creating an EE outreach programme for young Malaysian students from eight schools and three different districts on the East coast of Sabah (Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Tawau).

This trial programme was divided into two parts – class work and field based activities. The classroom activities were predominantly information sessions where students learned about the biodiversity of the area and the field work that they were going to be practising, with a heavy dose of health and safety tutorials. While the field work focussed on four primary activities: The Living River, Life in a Biocube, What’s my Job and Forest Structure.

JCU student collection water samples for the Living River field work activity

JCU students investigating their selected biocube

The first activity, Living River, invited students to identify different macroinvertebrate groups that help to predict the health of the river. This activity was conducted at the Tambun River in the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC), a pristine rainforest, where students took water samples and analysed them in groups in order to draw conclusion about the health of the water ecosystem.

The second activity, Life in a Biocube, allowed students to identify and explore the living organisms in a selected biocube along a riverbank or on the forest floor. This gave them the chance to gather in-depth information and focus on the small to large organisms living within a single biocube of a rainforest ecosystem.

The final day of  fieldwork combined the What’s my Job and Forest Structure activities. Together with the help of SEARRP Research Assistants, the JCU students ventured to the Nature Trail inside the Danum Valley Conservation Area to identify animals and determine the roles that they play in the forest ecosystem. Based on this experience, the students were asked to draw the Forest Structure that they observed using their new found knowledge and personal creativity. Prizes were given for the top 5 winners!

JCU students exploring the Nature Trail at DVFC assessing the role of animals in the surrounding forests

Drawing competition for the Forest Structure activity

At night the learning wasn’t over! SEARRP Deputy Director, Melissa Payne, and SEARRP Environmental Education and Outreach Manager, Imelda Geoffrey, led language lessons in Bahasa Melayu for the JCU students. The first 90 minute lessons focussed on basic Malaysian words, introductions and sentence construction that were taught through role play, games and songs. The second class concentrated on learning the Malaysian words for the plants and animals that the students had been researching all day. The consensus from the group was that the language lessons were an interesting, important and helpful addition to the course.

We have had an amazing time with the JCU volunteers and are so thankful for their participation on The Kembara Rimba Taliwas programme activities. They have provided us with extremely valuable feedback on how to improve the course work, delivery and activities, which will help us to make the necessary adjustments for the upcoming programme with local schools in 2023.

Language classes proved to be a massive hit with the JCU students

The SEnSOR programme’s latest research into plantation management by independent smallholders

Plantation management practices of independent oil palm smallholders in Central Kalimantan: exploring the potential and limitations of standards for Good Agricultural Practices       Photo Credit – Grace Sibarani

The SEnSOR Programme’s smallholder research team has released new findings from their study into the potential and limitations of standards for Good Agricultural Practice for independent oil palm smallholders. The team investigated how different types of smallholders managed their plantations and whether the Good Agricultural Practice requirements for RSPO certification were suitable for the smallholder situation. Read the science-for-policy brief here.

Internal Training Programme for the upcoming National Geographic supported Environmental Education (EE) Online Series

SEARRP EEO&T team with SEARRP research assistants

Last week was certainly a busy one for the SEARRP Environmental Education Outreach and Training Team! Over a three day internal training programme, the EEOT team worked together with SEARRP senior field managers and research assistants to prepare for the upcoming National Geographic supported Environmental Education (EE) Online series. The training was led by SEARRP’s Environmental Education Outreach and Training Manager, Imelda Geoffrey and assisted by Melissa Payne.

SEARRP research assistants practicing the “runaway soil experiment”

SEARRP RAs putting together EE learning materials










The EE Online Series will cover the fascinating topics of – the importance of Sabah’s rainforests; the impacts of deforestation; the role ecosystem engineers (any species that creates, significantly modifies, or destroys a habitat) focusing on the roles of animals in the forest; and the iconic flora and fauna of Sabah. The EEOT team has worked hard to create materials, videos and experiments for EE toolkits that will be made available for secondary school students and this training programme was an excellent opportunity to check the relevance of these EE materials. SEARRP expects to launch the first online series for students at the end of August 2022, so be sure to watch this space for updates on this exciting project!

SEARRP RAs conducting Environmental Education experiments

Can riparian buffers support biodiversity in tropical agriculture?

Can riparian buffers support biodiversity in tropical agriculture?

An excellent new animated video on riparian buffers and their ability to support biodiversity in tropical agriculture has been produced and is now available on YouTube.  Together, Dr Eleanor Slade (NTU, Singapore), Dr Matthew Struebig & Dr Jake Bicknell (University of Kent, UK), and Melissa Payne (SEARRP, Malaysia) collaborated with local partners in Sabah from the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) and Environment Protection Department (EPD) to create content for Science Animated that would provide information on the importance of riparian buffers to wildlife for a wide audience – not to worry, there will be a version in Bahasa Melayu soon!

The video shows how riparian buffers – areas of natural habitat alongside rivers – are important for maintaining water quality and biodiversity, but little evidence comes from tropical countries. A comprehensive new dataset from Malaysia shows the width of the buffer can strongly influence the wildlife present, with larger widths supporting more species. For more information you can find the full publication here.

TESSA Team visits Perak to conduct tree measurement training for above-ground carbon stocks!

TESSA Team with Perak Partners

This week Team TESSA (Toolkit for Ecosystem Services Site-based Assessment) travelled to Perak, Malaysia to deliver training to the TESSA Perak team based at UPSI (Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris). The training focused on measuring trees for above-ground carbon stocks, and was led by our senior field staff, Azlin and assisted by field staff, Ridly. This was an incredibly beneficial knowledge exchange for all of us. It gave our team a chance to provide guidance on establishing plots and conducting a vegetation census, while the TESSA Perak team shared insights on their research experience and local flora identification. We are definitely looking forward to future collaboration activities with the Perak TESSA team! 

TEAM TESSA doing tree measurements and setting up sampling transects

The SEnSOR Programme has published a new report exploring the evidence base for ecosystem service provision in smallholdings

New report exploring the evidence base for ecosystem service provision in smallholdings

The SEnSOR project has recently conducted a literature review to understand the evidence base behind the common assumptions that oil palm smallholdings are better for biodiversity than large commercial plantations, and that this biodiversity can provide beneficial ecosystem services that could be harnessed to improve yields sustainably with fewer chemical fertiliser and pesticide applications. The SEnSOR team explored the available literature to understand links between habitat heterogeneity, biodiversity and beneficial ecosystem service provision in smallholder oil palm production. They found that the literature has established a pattern of increased habitat heterogeneity in smallholdings compared to large scale plantations, linked to increased incidence of polyculture practices (farming multiple crops in the same area). There was also evidence of a link between this habitat heterogeneity and increased biodiversity, though the precise nature of this link was ambiguous. There was no evidence of a clear link between biodiversity and effective provision of ecosystem services for oil palm smallholders.  Research is needed to fill substantial gaps in the knowledge base on how natural ecosystem service provision can be harnessed effectively for smallholder production, in a way that benefits the environment and livelihoods. Read the full report here.

OECM Stakeholder Engagement Workshop in KL

OECM Stakeholder Workshop Participants

29th June 2022: SEARRP hosted a workshop to share a summary of our findings from the OECM (Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures) case studies. The case studies presented were based on the site assessments and case study evaluations that SEARRP has conducted with project partners over the past three years with the aim of identifying potential OECM areas around Malaysia.

Dr Glen Reynolds & Melissa Payne presenting findings from OECM case studies across Malaysia

Together with policy makers, universities, state authorities and environmental organisations, SEARRP discussed and reviewed how this innovative approach can be further refined and applied in the Malaysian context. We feel that based on the success of our initial studies, we are one step closer to exploring the potential of recognising and adopting an OECM approach for Malaysia.

Melissa Payne (SEARRP) presenting barriers to implementation of OECMs

This project is funded by the GEF-Small grants Programme.