A Word from the Directors

Welcome to the second in our new series of quarterly newsletters!

Welcome to the first in a new series of quarterly newsletters!

As an introduction to those of you who may not be so familiar with our history, SEARRP was established by the UK’s Royal Society in 1985 to create, with our local partners, a world-leading research programme in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo – headquartered at the then newly opened Danum Valley Field Centre.

Over the past three decades, research undertaken through SEARRP – which has now expanded beyond its original Danum Valley base – has enabled a step-change in our understanding of tropical rainforests and is providing the tools to tackle some of the great challenges of our time – the loss of biodiversity, climate change and agricultural sustainability.
We’re continually looking to increase the scope, scale and impact of SEARRP and over the next few months we look forward to outlining some exciting new initiatives, partnerships and opportunities – not just for science, but also training, capacity building and outreach – so do please keep an eye out for future newsletters.
Finally, it’s our great pleasure to announce that acclaimed actor Dame Judi Dench and conservationist David Mills have become ambassadors for SEARRP. As you’ll read below, Dame Judi recently filmed a two-part documentary in Sabah that featured our work at Danum – after which she and David very kindly agreed to support our work.
Dr Glen Reynolds
Dr Agnes Agama

Judi Dench’s Wild Borneo Adventure

Written by:

Katie King, Assistant Director – SEARRP

The June 21st 2019 screening of Dame Judi Dench’s Wild Borneo Adventure – which was held in support of SEARRP – proved to be a fantastic evening, one that we were incredibly excited to have been a part of. The journey began when Dame Judi and her ‘chap’, the conservationist David Mills, made the trip to Sabah, Malaysian Borneo earlier in the year to shoot this two-part series with Atlantic Productions and ITV. During their stay, Judi and David worked with a number of SEARRP scientists and staff (Eleanor Slade, Greg Asner, Jed Brodie, Tom Fayle, Chien Lee, Unding Jami and our Director Glen Reynolds) who showed them the wonderful, and sometimes weird, flora and fauna of the rainforest and outlined the science which SEARRP is supporting to protect these incredible forests. Judi and David were the perfect students; asking insightful questions, they were clearly enthralled by the forest and all the species they saw, from the iconic orangutan, to foot-long stick insects, hornbills and – of particular fascination to Judi – the dung beetles. The rainforests of Borneo have the highest canopy in the tropics – to which Judi and David can now attest having climbed one of its tallest trees!
The SEARRP team at the premiere of Judi Dench’s Wild Borneo Adventure at the Royal Geographical Society.

In Focus

World’s tallest tropical tree discovered, climbed & measured

Several months ago, a SEARRP tree climbing expedition set out to climb what was estimated to be the tallest tree ever measured in Sabah, Malaysia. Despite advanced technology scouting out the tree in 2018 by laser scanning the forest from an airplane, exact measurements have to be taken by hand with a tape measure.

Major Mast Fruiting in Sabah

The strongest and most extensive mast fruiting for decades is currently underway in Sabah – and indeed over large parts of Borneo – involving numerous dipterocarp and other canopy species. Seeds of some dipterocarp species (Parashorea spp. and Dryobalanops spp. in particular) are already falling – with seed fall among trees in central Sabah (in and around Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon) slightly in advance of those in the east at Danum and its surroundings. Unusually in the immediate period after a masting event, the weather has been extremely dry – which appears to be impacting both seed maturation and synchronicity of seed fall (and will likely affect germination and survival).

SEARRP’s Assistant Director, Dr Mikey O’Brien, is currently in the field collecting seed – so please email him if you would like further information: mikey.j.obrien@gmail.com.
At SEARRP, it is crucially important that the findings from our research create genuine impacts; ranging from on-the-ground forest protection and habitat restoration, changes to environmental policies to the training and mentoring the next generation of environmental scientists and conservationists.

For example, the work we’ve done with our partners in Sabah has directly resulted in the protection of almost 85,000 hectares of forest that would otherwise have been logged and converted to plantations. In an ongoing project, again in collaboration with our local partners, we are working with the State Government in Sabah to identify a further 350,000 hectares of forest for protection – an area well over twice the size of Greater London.

To date, SEARRP scientists have published well over 600 journal articles – work which has been cited more than 35,000 times in the scientific literature. Some 180 students have completed MSc or PhDs through SEARRP. We directly employ one of the largest – and certainly most highly skilled and experienced – teams of research assistants in Malaysia, with many of our 80+ staff having been with us for their entire careers.

We work hard to build local capacity and over the past three decades more than 80 young Malaysians have completed masters or doctorates through SEARRP – with many of these people now holding key positions in local conservation NGOs, universities and government. This is the real and very tangible legacy of our programme – and one which we intend to build upon long into the future

Keep an eye out for future newsletters where we will be highlighting different projects, initiatives and impact.

Danum Valley Field Centre
Sabah, Malaysia