My Daily Life at Cabang Panti

By Muhammad Syainullah, GPOCP Laboratory Assistant
To begin, my name is Muhammad Syainullah, but everyone calls me Syai, pronounced Sy. I work at GPOCP, one of the three research projects at Cabang Panti Research Station (CPRS), as a Laboratory Assistant. Gunung Palung National Park is surrounded by many small villages, but only a few know that CPRS lies at the foot of Mount Palung, in the heart of the National Park. So, when people ask me where I work, I usually have to explain, but the quick answer is Gunung Palung, and they understand that I do something inside the Park.  So, I will explain exactly what it is that I do every day for work at CPRS.
I have been working here for about a year and a half collecting data on wild orangutan behavior and the foods they eat. We also collect urine and fecal samples. We use all of these data to see how orangutans live in the wild and how they use different habitats within the park.

Syai in his lab coat and face mask ready to analyze some fecal and urine samples at Cabang Panti Research Station.

One of my main responsibilities is to process the urine and fecal samples in the lab that are collected by the other assistants in the field. Even though we are deep in the jungle, we have a nice lab set-up. The samples are processed in different ways depending on what we will use them for. For example, if we need to collect DNA material from the feces, we will process the samples differently than if we are interested in using the feces to see how orangutans disperse seeds throughout the forest. Aside from using fecal samples to study orangutan genetics and seed dispersal, we are also interested in looking for parasites in the feces. To do this, I use a centrifuge and microscope to see what kinds of worms are present.  Sometimes it is a smelly job, but someone has to do it! Besides processing fecal and urine samples, I also join the other field assistants to search for wild orangutans, take orangutan behavioral data, and sometimes process food items the orangutans have eaten.

Syai organizing and labeling urine and fecal samples collected from wild orangutans. Photo credit Becky Curtis.
I also take care of sample and laboratory inventory at the GPOCP office in Ketapang. I count all the samples, make sure they are properly stored, and do any shopping that may be needed to restock our camp research supplies.
Apart from my various research assignments, my life at CPRS is very interesting. There are many exciting things happening, new researchers visiting, new Park Rangers on duty, and the forest never disappoints. Maybe because we all live in the middle of the forest and are isolated from the outside world, we feel like a family. We all look out for each other and have a close bond and I am happy to call CPRS home.
Syai recording data in the lab at Cabang Panti Research Station. Photos credit M. Syainullah.