We are investigating an unusual mutualistic relationship between a carnivorous pitcher plant and a bat. Known as Nepenthes hemsleyana the pitcher plant occurs in the peatswamp forests of Brunei. Its elongated pitchers provide space to roost for the small woolly bat Kerivoula hardwickii. The bats roost within the pitcher above the digestive fluid that is used to trap insects. Normally, pitcher plants obtain valuable nitrogen from the insects they capture. In this case, however, it is the bats that contribute nitrogen to the pitcher by defecating into the pitcher. This represents a highly unusual win-win relationship beneficial to both pitcher plant and bat. We are currently exploring the use of dead pitchers of other Nepenthes species as well as rolled leaves of ginger and banana as daytime roosts and whether roosting site preferences result in genetic differentiation between woolly bat populations. The picture on the left was taken by Ch’ien C. Lee. For more of his spectacular photography visit http://www.wildborneo.com.my
We are investigating the ecological role of amphibians as an important driver of ecosystem functioning within the SAFE Project (Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems), one of the world’s largest ecological experiments in Sabah, Malaysia. Our aim is to investigate whether the high alpha diversity of amphibians also reflects the ecological importance of amphibian assemblages. We are interested in how this ecological role shifts along a gradient of habitat disturbance and the lessons to be learned for conservation within human altered landscapes.
We are investigating the role of frog-biting midges in the lives of frogs to better understand disease dynamics in animal populations and as a model system of co-evolutionary relationships. The forests in Brunei Darussalam are ideal for such studies because one can study epidemiology and host-parasite relationships under natural conditions. Furthermore, frog-biting midges are fascinating subjects of study in sensory ecology, since they home in on the sounds produced by their hosts and have evolved novel mechanisms of hearing.
We are studying the community ecology of anuran communities within the lowland mixed dipterocarp rain forests and comparing their diversity across sites in northwestern Borneo. Relatively few studies have examined species turnover in tropical frogs despite such knowledge being important in understanding the relative roles of historical and current ecological processes in maintaining tropical frog diversity and predicting their responses to climate change.