Indonesia - School Expeditions - Operation Wallacea

Indonesia – School Expeditions

Indonesia Schools Booklet 2018 (with Bau Bau marine option)

Indonesia Schools Booklet 2018 (with Hoga marine option)

Research objectives

Sulawesi and the surrounding smaller islands were identified as a unique bio-geographic region by the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. These islands are now known as the Wallacea region of Indonesia and formed their unique fauna due to their isolation from other landmasses by the deep ocean channels that surround the islands. Sulawesi has a high percentage of endemic species with 127 known mammals, of which 62% (79 species) are endemic; 700 species of bird (36% endemic); and 74 species of herpetofauna (38% endemic). Despite such high numbers of endemic species in these forests the Wallacea region remains one of the least biologically studied areas in the world, and one of the most likely places to discover vertebrate species that are new to science. The reefs in this part of the world are the most biologically rich of any reefs and form part of the Coral Triangle – reefs with the highest richness of hard coral genera.

The biodiversity and carbon data from the forests on Buton Island studied by Opwall over the last few years are being submitted to the Indonesian authorities for funding to be received under the REDD+ scheme to ensure the long term protection of these forests which contain many of the Sulawesi endemic species. The 2018 programme will be completing the annual monitoring of the target taxa to monitor the effectiveness of the proposed conservation measures. In the Wakatobi marine park the monitoring data are being used to assess the recovery of the reefs from excessive fishing pressure whilst the South Buton data sets are being used to identify a potential new marine park.

Indonesia Teacher

Structure of the expedition

There are two types of expedition available in south east Sulawesi. One option is to visit the forests Buton for one week and then to head to either the Wakatobi Marine National Park or the reefs of South Buton for the second week. A second option is to combine the two marine sites, spending a week at each.

Forest and marine expedition

Week 1: Forest week

During the first week the teams will complete training and surveys including:

  • Jungle skills training: Students will learn to work safely in a forest research site, how to identify animal tracks and signs, estimate distances, navigate using a compass and identify some of the common bird calls. Exercises are designed to teach students how to make a shelter, find food and water, make a fire and cook in the forest. In addition the students can partake in an optional short course on learning how to ascend into the canopy. Canopy access training costs US$170 or £110 extra for this additional course.
  • Forest measurements: Students will be working in teams completing measurements of 50m x 50m quadrats to collect data on the diameter at breast height of all woody species, canopy height, quantity of vegetation at different heights from a touch pole, canopy density, evidence of disturbance (e.g. cut stumps) and sapling density.
  • Butterfly surveys: Students will be helping with pollard counts of butterflies.
  • Bird surveys: Students will be working with an experienced field naturalist completing point count surveys where all birds seen or heard are identified.
  • Herpetofauna surveys: Students will be working with an experienced herpetologist emptying pitlines, completing standard time scan searches and also spotlighting at night for frogs.
  • Megafauna surveys: Students will be walking quietly along transects to record large mammals and birds (macaques and hornbills) using distance based sampling. Signs (footprints and droppings) of other species (anoa and wild pig) will be recorded and patch occupancy analysis used to identify their abundance. In addition camera traps have been set at some of the camps and their use to estimate abundance of large mammals will also be demonstrated.
  • Bat surveys: Students will be shown how harp trapping and mist netting for bats can be used to determine bat communities. How captured bats are removed, handled, identified and morphometric measurements recorded will be demonstrated.

In addition to the above practicals the students will also complete a course in camp on Wallacea Wildlife including lectures on biodiversity and endemism in Wallacea forests, birds, amphibians and reptiles, Sulawesi mammals and conservation synthesis.

Week 2: Marine week

During their marine week students will be completing one of the following options:

  • PADI Open Water dive training course: This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and open water dives to gain an official scuba diving qualification.
  • Indo-Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course: This consists of lectures and in-water practicals either by diving (if a qualified diver) or snorkelling. The lectures cover an introduction to coral reef ecosystems, coral and algal species, mangrove and seagrass ecology, economically important invertebrates, identification of coral reef fish, reef survey techniques, threats to reefs and marine conservation. Following each lecture the students will then complete an in-water practical by diving (if already qualified) or by snorkelling.
  •  PADI Open Water referral course: For this option students need to arrive having already completed their theory and pool training components. This course takes three days to complete, after which students will join the Indo-Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course practicals.

Marine only expedition

A combination of both our marine research sites can be used for a marine only expedition. Students can spend some of their time working towards a more in depth research project in addition to dive training, partaking in a reef ecology course and assisting with a range of research projects.

Week 1: South Buton marine research centre

During this week the students will complete a PADI Open Water dive training course, or a coral reef ecology course with in-water practicals or a PADI referral course followed by the second part of the Indo-Pacific reef ecology course.

Week 2: Wakatobi marine research centre

In this week the students will be able to complete mini research investigations and will also have sessions with the reef monitoring teams as follows:

  • Stereo video surveys: Students will have the opportunity to collect stereo video data and will then work with the fish specialist back at the lab identifying and measuring fish from the video data.
  • Line intercept video surveys: Students will have the opportunity to collect line intercept video data and then back in the lab, with the coral specialist, will be helping to measure coral cover and coral community structure data from the video data.
  • Macro-invertebrate surveys: Students will be helping with an underwater belt transect to complete surveys of the macroinvertebrates.
  • Fisheries surveys: Students will be helping with catch surveys from landings of fish fences, gill nets and bubu traps.


The forest week is spent in one of the forest camps that have been installed at various points in the Lambusango to North Buton forests to incorporate different forest types and disturbance levels. The camps are set up with either hammocks or camp beds, tents and communal eating areas. Field toilets are built at each of the camps and shower systems are built into waterfalls on the rivers next to each of the camps, or inside the camp itself. The experience of living and working in these remote forest camps is one that few people forget. If you are staying in the south Buton forest camp then you will also spend your first and last night of the forest week in a local village named Labundo, where you will stay with a local family. These homestays are basic, with traditional Indonesian style bathrooms (‘mandis’).

The South Buton research centre has shared rooms with air conditioning, showers and flush toilets whilst the Wakatobi site has traditional houses on stilts with Indonesian style bathrooms (‘mandis’). Both sites have communal eating areas and lecture facilities.