International field course hosted in Indonesia and led by UW professor ends after 30 years

Science | UW Notebook

September 29, 2022

Randall Kyes, founding director of the UW Center for Global Field Study, led an annual field course in conservation biology and global health in Indonesia that spanned three decades.Randall Kyes

It was 1990 and Randall Kyes’ first trip to Tinjil Island was coming to an end. Kyes, then a postdoctoral fellow, had spent more than two months on the small Indonesian island monitoring a recently launched breeding program for long-tailed macaque monkeys.

But then a colleague from Indonesia asked a question – a Kyes said he had changed his life. Local veterinary students were eager to learn more about primate behavior and conservation, he said. Would Kyes be willing to come back next year and host a field course?

“It took my career and steered it in a very different direction,” said Kyes, a research professor of psychology at the University of Washington, senior fellow at the UW Primate Center, or WaNPRC, and founding director of the UW Center. for Global Field. Study. “It didn’t take me a second to say, ‘No problem.'”

This response turned a short trip into an annual field course in conservation biology and global health that spanned three decades. Kyes and his Indonesian colleague led the 30e and final iteration in summer 2022.

The course was originally launched for Indonesian students in 1991. In 1995, things were going so well that Kyes added American students by creating the Indonesia International Field Studies Program at UW. The month-long study abroad program, organized in collaboration with the Primate Research Center, or PSSP, of IPB University in Indonesia, provided teaching and research opportunities in the field for students from UW, Indonesia and other participating countries.

“The cultural exchange and connection that developed from this was more than we could have ever imagined,” said Kyes, who is also a faculty member at the Southeast Asia Center of the University. ‘UW Jackson School of International Studies. “It was almost the highlight of the whole program, more so than doing the field research.”

The PSSP, with the support of WaNPRC, implemented the breeding program in the natural habitat of free-ranging long-tailed macaques on Tinjil Island. The field course was then designed to provide education, training, and research opportunities for students interested in conservation biology, animal behavior, primatology, environmental science, and global health.

Before heading to Indonesia, UW students took a spring course that prepared them for the basics of the Indonesian language and allowed them to develop a proposal for their independent research project. Once on the island, the students conducted field research while attending lectures and participating in field training exercises.

A total of 372 students have participated in the course over the years – 266 from Indonesia and 106 from other countries. Of the 91 students from US institutions, 77 were from UW.

“You had this perfect environment to get students to have a real field study experience,” Kyes said. “We don’t have any really dangerous animals on the island. It is a stable and fully wooded environment. It’s remote. It took about an hour by boat to get there. All resources and food had to be dispatched every few days.

“That’s what was so special and intriguing about Tinjil Island – it was a natural and wild environment that gave the students a good idea of ​​what it would be like to do field research in as a career. Almost everyone loved it. Other students have told me, “I’m really glad I did this because I guess field research isn’t for me. It’s perfect. We wanted to give them a chance before they get too involved. Tinjil provided this opportunity.

The final field course ended with a celebratory seminar, attended by alumni from as far back as the inaugural course in 1991. Kyes gave an hour-long presentation that highlighted the evolution from the program. In the early years, he says, there wasn’t even electricity on the island.

Randall Kyes gives a presentation at the celebratory seminar following the last field course.Randall Kyes

“Former students have shared these amazing stories about their experiences,” Kyes said. “Many of these American and Indonesian students are still in contact. I know American students who have returned over the years to visit friends they have made. You don’t expect these connections to last that long.

“What kept me coming back to the program was the motivation of the students and their dedication to wanting to help with conservation in the country and related public health issues. Helping to promote local students and scientists has always been a common thread in my work.

While Kyes’ time on Tinjil Island is coming to an end, his international focus is not over. Kyes maintains a strong partnership with PSSP and has established other collaborative programs in Indonesia and several other countries including Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, China, Mexico, India and Laos. Although there is no formal study abroad program at these sites, UW students have joined Kyes for unique experiences.

And even though the Tinjil Island program ends, two of Kyes’ first students will continue the field course on mainland Java, one of Indonesia’s Sunda Islands.

One of the organizers is Dr. Entang Iskandar, former student from Indonesia and current senior researcher at PSSP, IBP University. He attended the first field course in 1991 and has collaborated with Kyes on each of the subsequent courses. Matthew Novak, who was among the first students to study abroad in 1995 and is now an associate professor of psychology at Central Oregon Community College, will bring students. Kyes won’t be leading the class, but he still plans to teach.

“It’s exactly what you want to see,” Kyes said. “You want to train people who can then take over and continue in the future. It’s so rare to see that. It’s so rare that you spend 30 years nurturing a program like this and can watch it grow. If we want to succeed in helping the environment and biodiversity, we need a new generation to lead the way. It’s a shining example of that. »

For more information, contact Kyes at [email protected].

Tag(s): Center for Global Field Study • College of Arts and Sciences • Department of Psychology • International Field Studies Program • Jackson School of International Studies • Randy Kyes • Southeast Asia Center

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