By Ishma Fatiha, Field Laboratory Assistant
My name is Ishma Fatiha. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to return to the Cabang Panti Research Station as a Laboratory Assistant for the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project. Previously, I came here for 6 months for my senior thesis research in 2018. The experience I got at that time was very lasting and extraordinary. There are so many things that I learned and great people that I met here. I always knew in my heart, if given the chance, I would come back to Cabang Panti.
Three years later, the opportunity really came! In March 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was so excited to return back to Cabang Panti. I was careful to follow all the necessary health protocols on my way to the field.
Even after being gone 3 years, this place still feels so familiar – the trails, the trees, the river and my co-workers who are like family. Of course, there are a lot of changes here and there, such as the camp buildings being renovated and different members of the project team coming and going. But with all the changes, this place still feels the same as it was in 2018.
I have now been back in the forest for 2 months. As a Laboratory Assistant I have learned to process samples of feces and urine, and manage the data that is collected. I have also gone to the field to follow wild orangutans.
During my first time here as a student researcher, I conducted a project on parasitology. Since I am trained on these lab methods, I have re-started the collection and on-site analysis of intestinal parasites found in orangutan fecal samples. This helps us to better understand and monitor orangutan health.
There are still so many things for me to see and learn. But I hope that someday my small contribution will be useful for the research and conservation of wild orangutans.