Pursuing a Master’s in Biology & Research Plans at GPNP

By Endro Setiawan

I am currently in my second semester of graduate school at the Universitas Nasional (UNAS) in Jakarta, Indonesia. I began taking courses last fall in order to receive my Master’s degree in Biology. During my first semester I took 7 courses and finished final exams with a GPA of 3.95!

So far I have met 15 different lecturers at UNAS, each of whom are experts in their fields. This is one of the things that makes me so excited to study here, and feel excited and interested when I hear them speak about problems related to biodiversity in Indonesia. Outside of class, I have also participated in special trainings, seminars, workshops and even a book launch. I have also been given opportunities off campus, such as being an interpreter at an event in Kepulauan Seribu (the Thousand Islands), off the coast of Java.

Endro (right) looks at a tree in Gunung Palung National Park during a recent phenology assessment as part of our orangutan population survey.

My interest in plants and botany first began thanks to Dr. Cam Webb, a former researcher at GPNP. I conducted research with him not only within Kalimantan, but we also travelled to several locations outside Kalimantan such as Maluku, Papua and Flores. Participating in Cam’s research made me learn more about plants, which also opened a door for me to learn about all types of biodiversity. Through my knowledge of plants, I also get to learn about other forest biodiversity such as primates, birds, and even reptiles and amphibians. Plants provide food and shelter for animals, so by studying plants, I automatically learn about their relationships with other animals. In addition, plants are the easiest bioindicator to study forests. By looking at plants you can see if the forest has ever been destroyed or if it is still original primary forest. The type of ecosystem in a forest can also be seen from the types of plants which grow there.

Because of this, I decided to take a course in Conservation Biology, and so far this has been my favorite class at UNAS. Conservation Biology is a very wide, multidisciplinary science and many of my courses are related to one another. Everything I learn is about how to save species and their habitats, as well as sustainable economic development. After I earn my degree, I will implement what I have learned, and apply these concepts to my work in Gunung Palung National Park.

Left to right: UNAS Professor of Biology Dr. Sri Suci Utami Atmoko, GPOCP Executive Director Dr. Cheryl Knott, Endro Setiawan, One Forest Project Director Dr. Andrew Marshall, UNAS Professor of Biology Dr. Dedy Darnaedi. This photo, taken last summer, marked the day Endro officially entered the Master’s Program.

I have found myself particularly interested in Invasive Alien Species (IAS), which are an issue in Gunung Palung National Park. Of the several types of IAS, Bellucia pentamera is one of the biggest problems. The goal of my intended research project is to study Bellucia pentamera and its relationship with orangutans and other vertebrates in GPNP. I also want to compare the composition of orangutan foods in areas dominated by this invasive plant with foods growing in native forests. This will be very important for the management of the Park in the future.

Endro in GPNP. He will soon return to conduct research comparing fruits which grow in native forests and those which grow in areas dominated by the invasive Bellucia fruit.

Getting this scholarship to study at UNAS from GPOCP, Andrew Marshall (Director of the One Forest Project) and Cam Webb is such a special opportunity and important gift to me. I am so grateful. I will use this opportunity as well as I can to learn specifically about Conservation Biology and help bring this knowledge back to Gunung Palung in the future. 

Endro planting endemic trees at the UNAS Arboretum alongside other Indonesian scientists, including Dr. Endang Sukara, Dr. Mien Rifai, Dr. Imran Tobing, Dr. Tatang Mitra Setia, Dr. Dedy Darnaedi and Dr. Jatna Supriatna.