WCS All Staff Retreat

Its time for another All-Staff-Retreat!  The dreaded 3 words.  Six a.m. group yoga.  Team building exercises that involve hugging people you’d rather disembowel.  Endless sessions of navel-gazing, developing strategies that will be immediately ignored, and feedback sessions that never result in any changes.

That was what welcomed me at WCS.  Those three words.

But, WCS is not the monochrome bear that I used to work for.  Its not even the potholder.  This is a whole new alphabet.

And our All Staff Retreat was a different animal.  We needed to get away and get to know each other.  I am new here, but apparently I am not the only one.  Others have only been around for a few months.  We are growing.  So….. we went away (all 170+ of us) to one of the most historic cities in Indonesia to get to know each other.

Of course, we had some group sessions.  We had some plans for some team building.  But we also had a cool train ride across Java. We had trips to not one, but two (two!) World Heritage Sites (there are 8 World Heritage Sites in Indonesia, so… 25%!), and the chance to meet people from Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Lombok, Sumbawa, Pulau Rote and more….. the WCS Indonesia Program is as diverse as the country itself.

And…. they invited Fareea to come along too.  So nice of them.  🙂

And with no further ado, here are some of the photos.

We got up at 3:45 on a Friday morning to meet at the office at 4:30 to catch a bus to the main train station in Jakarta.  Then we had an 8 hour train trip across Java to Yogyakarta (pronounced Jog-ja-karta).  We had a nice dinner Friday night at the hotel, an inspirational talk from our country program leader (Ibu Yani) and an introduction session where all 170 of us got to say who we were.  Saturday morning had us listening to presentations about our main programs and projects and then we went to the first World Heritage Site.  Sunday we went to the second World Heritage Site, got some shopping in, and then we had a dinner with our ~40 Marine Program staff.

From Wikipedia:

Candi Prambanan or Candi Rara Jonggrang is a 9th-century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple compound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu architecture, and by the towering 47-metre-high (154 ft) central building inside a large complex of individual temples.[2] Prambanan attracts many visitors from around the world.[3][4]

Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.[1] It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple,[2][3] as well as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.[4]

And now some photos…. and videos…..




And miscellaneous photos around Yogya and the train….

And a few videos from the window of our train going back to Jakarta.  Enjoy!

De Koraaldriehoek (The Coral Triangle)

The Coral Triangle got a translation!  It is now available in Dutch!  If you need to fill out your collection, be sure to get this hot-off-the-press edition!




Dreams Come True

When I first started studying at Kyoto University, my friend introduced me to the magic that is Mister Donut (later known affectionately as Donut-san) in Japan.  The donuts aren’t very good.  The shops are a bit old and sometimes kind of grimy.  The coffee is average, at best… but, they offer free refills!  For a student without regular income, that was a major benefit.  So, I spent a fair amount of time at the local Mister Donut at Imadegawa Street.  They always played their own “radio” station with an American, deep-voiced DJ playing mostly American pop.  They had one Japanese song that got played every 30 minutes by a band called Dreams Come True.  It became the theme song for my first few trips to Kyoto and the theme for this post.  You can listen to the song here.  Its catchy.

After several years of working on my PhD, I felt that I was losing my edge and connections professionally and started looking for a job.  In 2015 and 2016 I applied for jobs in (among others) the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tunisia, and New York.  It was my first experience with getting rejected for jobs that I thought I was qualified for.  A humbling experience.  But the waiting paid off and I was fortunate this year to get a job with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Indonesia.

Fareea (the most important part of Dreams Come True for me this year and that post will follow but I don’t have the photos with me now!) and I moved to Bogor, Indonesia 2 weeks ago so I could start my new job as Senior Marine Advisor.  Many people have noticed that Bogor is not near the sea and asked how can I do marine work here.

Its easy.  We have lots of projects and programmes all over Indonesia and the head office just happens to be here.  Its nice here.  Bogor is 265 meters above sea level and therefore much cooler than lowland Jakarta and other areas of Indonesia.  Its lush, green, busy, and lovely.  I think we will be very happy here.

So…. what you’ve been waiting for.  Some photos from our first few weeks.

We are spending our first few weeks in the WCS guest house.  We are hoping to take over the lease at the end of the year, but remains to be finalized.

Short getaway to Hokkaido

The northernmost islands of Japan are on similar latitudes with Rome, Marseilles, and New Hampshire.  But they are COLD and frozen!  Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest but has only 4% of the population.  It does have snow, forests, salmon, brown bears and other amazing wildlife.  I got the chance to visit the eastern part to see the legendary Red-crowned crane (Grus japonicus) – Tancho tsuru in Japanese.  In the early 20th Century they were thought to be extinct in Japan until a group of 20 individuals were discovered in a wetland in eastern Hokkaido.  Now the global population is up to 2000 and have strong protection in Japan where their habitat is increasingly protected and local farmers have taken to feeding them in their snowy wintering grounds.  The two day trip was short but full of birds – besides the cranes there were Stellar’s sea eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus), White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), Eurasian jays, Chinese nuthatches, woodpeckers, lots of tits, and a couple of Hen harriers (Circus spilonitus)  – plus a fox and lots of Sika deer (Cervus nippon)!  And snow and cold!

I also had a fun companion and partner on the trip – and personal chauffeur.  She did a great job driving on the snowy roads!

With some short videos!

Dancing cranes!

Landing cranes!


Some of the landscapes were stunning!


Frozen Lake Akkeshi

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And my amazing chauffeur got to have some fun too.  🙂

Kyoto winter!

Last winter I chickened out and got out of Kyoto a few times with stops in the USA, Cairo, and Malaysia.  This winter, I am being brave and staying here the whole winter.  It will be my first complete winter in years and years!

All of my apartment windows are opaque, so I don’t see the weather until I open the door to check.  This morning I got a nice surprise and a fun ride to the lab. Yay for snow!

Savage Harvest and Throwim Way Leg

I applied for a job in Papua New Guinea recently.  It would be a dream to work there, but it can be an intimidating place (in parts).  New Guinea is the second biggest island in the world (after Greenland. No, Australia is not an island, its a continent) and has some of the richest marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the world.  Papua New Guinea alone has more than 800 languages!  But it is poor and corrupt and some areas have high levels of violence.

To prepare for the interview I read two books about the island.  Savage Harvest, by Carl Hoffman, is the story of the death of Micheal Rockefeller and the author’s quest to find out if he had drown (as reported) or was eaten (as many suspected).  Throwim Way Leg is the story of Tim Flannery’s (who has described more species than Darwin did!) early adventures and explorations of the mammals of New Guinea.  He documented animals in areas no other scientist had been to all while battling tough field conditions, vermin, and disease.

Both authors describe how tough the island can be.  But through all the stories of hardship there is an underlying beauty of the people and the landscapes that still attracts me.  But, in the end, I don’t think I got the job….. so, it will just remain a dream.  Good books though!



Autumn is, without a doubt, my favorite season.  I love the crisp air, the smell of the leaves as they start to decompose on the ground, and the deep sense of nostalgia that it brings every year.  During my time in Malaysia, it was Autumn that I missed deeply.  The seasons in Malaysia followed the monsoons – wet and wetter.  They grew comfortable but never sparked the feelings that I have during the Autumn.  Kyoto is stunning during this time of year.  I am grateful to get the opportunity to be here.


Hanase hiking

Monday 11 October was Sports Day in Japan and my neighbour, Yoko, organised a short hike in the mountains north of Kyoto.    We took the bus up there and hiked for a few hours.  The trail ended at a nice little forest center with BBQ pits and hammocks along the river.  The hike wasn’t particularly strenuous but very beautiful.  I was hoping to see some big wildlife but we saw lots of little wildlife!


At some points the trail got narrow and steep.

And it was a fun group!

Spider man! スパイダーマン!

This is the first post for a long time.  Sorry for the absence.  I am progressing on my studies… slowly.  I have applied for some jobs recently but not getting many nibbles, so keep casting.   During the last trip to Sabah, I got a great deal on a camera that can get some close up shots.  The great Kyoto autumn weather has allowed for a few photo sessions lately.  Here are some spiders and other critters from campus.

Hiroshima: The World’s Bomb

Andrew J Rotter.

This was the first book I have read about the atomic bomb.  What a terrible, horrible weapon.  I am hoping to visit Hiroshima some time this year.