Hello from San Monorom! Cambodia’s SFS students have arrived in this chilly town surrounded by waterfalls and jungles for their directed research (DR) trip. The students are now taking all the knowledge they have accumulated over this rigorous and intensive semester and applying it in the field as they conduct research for 10 days.

What I love about DR, is that the students’ research projects are requested by local communities and NGOs to help inform their conservation and community building efforts. Because of this, DR is a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to conduct research that will immediately benefit local communities, forests and animals; and is a way to give back to Cambodia.

Prior to Directed Research, the students ranked their top research project choices from the following list: In Keo Seima, students research non-timber product forest use patterns of local communities, insect biodiversity in the sanctuary, the use of dogs in hunting, the environmental history of local communities, and document Bunong folktales to support ecotourism. At the Elephant Valley Project in San Monorom, students study elephant welfare.




Each day, the students rise early and head out in rugged 4×4 vehicles to their remote stations accompanied by a team of translators, professors, and experts in the field. As for me, I am spending my days with the students studying insects. Every day we find ourselves outdoors, crawling about in the dirt scavenging for beetles, plucking prickly spiders out of their webs, or chasing insects with a butterfly net through vines. We are led by a visiting entomologist from Belgium, who is a leading expert in the field of entomology in South East Asia. Each day when we set out to the field, we are acutely aware of how little research has been done on insects in Cambodia. There is so little, in fact, that in the past five days in the field alone, we have already identified three new species of insects. Needless to say, there is a certain thrill and rush that comes from finding a creature that will — for the first time ever — soon be on a page of an entomology book thanks to our tiny yet enthusiastic research team.

Last night at dinner one of the students, Lian Gable, led RAP (Reflection, Announcements, and Physicality, a part of each day at SFS). For her reflection, she called upon the group to reflect upon and celebrate how incredible the opportunity to do directed research in Cambodia is. The students smiled and sipped their curry as they marveled at the once-in-a-lifetime experience they were living. It really feels like we are making a small yet significant difference with our research, and we are thrilled to be outdoors and in the field every day.




Today is currently Sunday, so the students are having a day off from research. Some students are enjoying some pumpkin bread and cappuccinos at a local cafe, while others are hiking and exploring nearby waterfalls. Tomorrow, we’ll be back at it in the field — and we can’t wait.


Photo courtesy of Rattanak Dyna

Photo courtesy of Rattanak Dyna

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