Swedish ecologist Arvid Lindh shares his experience on the TBA Field Course at Danum Valley in 2017.
I’ve always tried to grab chances when I see them. I do not exactly have the “I make my own luck”- mindset but I try to grab on to opportunities that come my way. When I spotted a poster for TBA’s month-long field course in the tropics I immediately recognized an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
It’s not easy finding high quality courses in the tropics that don’t cost a fortune. TBA isn’t for free but compared to many alternatives, it’s price is very reasonable. Furthermore, I’m saying this as a white male from Europe that has lived a very privileged life. For the people less economically fortunate than me, for whom the TBA courses are the most important for, the course actually is free!
Both from a personal and academic standpoint the course was amazing. The teachers on the course, especially the ones that stayed with us the entire course, deserve all the praise I can give. There was a huge variety in what we learned, but still room to dive deep into what you were extra interested in. Almost every day we met new researchers who were eager to teach us about their research. To see all these incredible people in the field, where they truly are in their right element, was incredible. Among all these there was a mutual respect between all people involved, both teachers and students. Everyone was doing their damnedest to make the course an enjoyable and rewarding experience as possible.
Not even half a year after the course, I found an advertisement for a PhD-position in tropical forest ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. I wasn’t even finished with my master’s degree but once again I thought this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. What I believe set my application apart was that I could in confidence declare that I had experience with all the different skills the position required, and almost all of this was because of the TBA course. I had experience measuring functional traits on trees, seedling recruitment, estimating carbon budgets, and analyzing forest structures. Additionally, I had proof that I’m able to do all of this in a tropical forest under challenging conditions. I can’t think of anywhere else where I could have acquired such a broad skill-set in such a short time. I was very lucky and got the position. I’m incredibly excited to be able to continue my academic career and in my dream field no less. In my thesis I will work on grouping native Bornean tree species into “functional suites” based on easily measured functional traits. I will then explore the economic values, ecosystem services and biodiversity that are associated with these functional suites. My goal is to identify candidate species that can be used in a sustainable bio-based economy by providing both high economic and ecologic values.
I’m certain that this position would have been out of my reach were it not for TBA. I’m incredibly grateful for everything that I learned during the course and all the memories and friends I made. I’m only getting started in my career, but I hope to one day be able to repay my dept by going full circle and teach on the course.
I encourage all young students with even the slightest kindle of a passion for conservation and the tropics, to not be afraid, or to doubt themselves. Instead grab on to the opportunity and send your application to the TBA. Our planet needs your help, the tropics especially, and the course will be a good start on your conservation journey, and a true adventure.