2017 Gunung Katopasa Expedition The expedition begins – Ben, Anna, and Dan in the Jakarta airport on August 6, 2017 awaiting our baggage. Our first night in Jakarta usually begins with a trip to our favorite sate stand. Anna, Luke, Rachael, Dan, Jeff, and Ben expressing “Jeef-like” enthusiasm for some delicious skewers. Our first night in Jakarta often ends with bleery-eyed beers and the requisite feeding of the abundant nyamuk (mosquitoes) at Memories Café. The boys room in the Hotel Amaris after moving our operation to Bogor. There is nothing more exciting than the week-long Jakarta-Bogor permit extravaganza at the beginning of each field year. The big team arrives at the airport in Jakarta for our flight to Palu, Sulawesi. This following the enjoyable 1 AM departure from Bogor for our 5 AM departure. Here we are at the Leony Guest House in Palu. This is really the perfect venue for staging one of our expeditions, with a large yet secluded courtyard for sorting and packing gear surrounded by air-conditioned rooms. Two thumbs up! On our one day in Palu we did some supply shopping and had a meal at the Gran Palu Mall overlooking beautiful Teluk Palu (Palu Bay). If this view looks familiar, it might be because one of the terrifying videos of the devastating Palu tsunami was filmed from almost this exact spot just one year later. On our one night in Palu we went out for delicious ikan bakar (barbecued fish) and made some new friends. We were able to fit our entire team’s gear into this small truck. We really know how to travel light.. The road from Palu to Gunung Katopasa on the Eastern Peninsula requires traversing the Tawaeli-Toboli Road and passing through Desa Kebun Kopi. The road, which is carved into the near-vertical slopes of the north-south oriented mountain range at the base of the Northern Peninsula, always seems just moments away from a massive land slide and that eery sensation is particularly acute when it’s raining. This mother Tonkean macaque (Macaca tonkeana) and her baby were hanging out alongside the Tawaeli-Toboli Road where we were stuck for a while in a traffic jam. This big male Macaca tonkeana looks relaxed here but later showed me who was boss when I inadvertently blocked his potential escape route while moving in for a photo. My theory on what this bad boy was thinking at that moment was “Hey, this guy is getting a bit too close – think I’ll show him the canines if he takes another step closer.. and if he takes two steps I’m coming for his nose and ears” At a roadside restoran we got a kick out of this small Varanus salvator and its apparent efforts to get into the chicken coop and score an easy meal. Unloading the truck the next morning after our 13-hour road trip to Desa Mire at the foot of Gunung Katopasa. More gear. Our first look at our ultimate destination. The actual summit of Gunung Katopasa (2825 m) is obscured from view but we only made it to the summit you see here (Puncak Lalimpala, 2740 m). You can just see the biogeographically important Bongka River in the foreground. We set a simple “low camp” at 400 m elevation while the high camp was still under construction. This ended up being our lowland base of operations for the first week on the mountain. Another look at low camp which was little more than a pile of gear and few simple prep tables. For some reason, poor Mark Swanson got stuck at the “lonely table” The lowland forest at the foot of Gunung Katopasa was pretty disturbed but it served us well in a pinch. Ben reloads the camelback on a pretty decent lowland frog stream. The undescribed Limnonectes fanged frog that we call sp. “G2” was abundant around low camp. The undescribed giant Limnonectes sp. “I” was common on the fast-flow streams around low camp. The largest individuals of this species reach 2 kg. Chalcorana mocquardii is typically found perched in vegetation or on rocks adjacent to small Sulawesi streams including those around low camp. This is Lipinia infralineolata, an arboreal skink that is widespread on Sulawesi but rarely encountered or collected. Sphenomorphus variegatus is a common lowland terrestrial skink on Sulawesi. It probably needs a new name since the type locality for this species is in the Philippines. They were abundant around low camp. Sphenomorphus tropidonotus is another, larger, Sphenomorphus species found in the Sulawesi lowlands. This one is semi-arboreal and often found on tree buttresses. This is Eutropis rudis, a heliothermic terrestrial scincid notable for their cool throat-color polymorphisms. This individual has yellow-green throat, but others can be blue or orange. This is Rhabdophis chrysargoides, a natricine snake of the Sulawesi lowlands. We try not to be bitten by this species because two related Rhabdophis species, R. subminiatus and R. tigrinus, are lethally venomous despite being part of a large family of snakes that are otherwise harmless. This is the Sulawesi version of the famous Paradise Flying Snake, Chrysopelea paradisi celebensis. Despite their slender habitus, these snakes have keeled ventrals that allow them to flatten out their bodies while making the belly slightly concave – in cross-section their body takes the shape of a classical airfoil. The snakes glide by orienting sections of their body perpendicular to their glide direction and then letting these individual body segments function as a series of airfoils that generate lift. Tropidolaemus subannulatus, the Temple Pitviper. Unlike Rhabdophis, we KNOW this one is venomous. I found this individual in foraging/ambush position on the edge of a forest trail. First bules up! Ben, Anna, Luke, and Dan about to set off for our 1400 m high camp. Everyone is excited to leave the ants.. Karen and Kevin Rowe changing footwear after the river crossing in preparation for the long hike to high camp. Hoofing it through the blazing hot and highly disturbed agricultural lowlands on the way to high camp. Looking back downslope toward the Bongka River. You can just glimpse the lower slopes of Gunung Lumut (Mount Moss or Mossy Mountain, 2403 m elevation) on the right side of the frame. That’s another mountain we should aim to visit at some point in the future. I have to agree with Karen’s shirt – “I think this is not the lazy time”.. Indeed, but it was definitely “the sweating time”! Kevin grabs a sip at Pos 2 (810 m elevation) Here you can catch a glimpse of the Bongka River in the distance. Our 1400 m high camp has its grand opening. Every proper field camp has its “dapur” or kitchen tent.. This is the typical view of high camp when returning from night collecting (when the generator is still running, of course). Rachael cozies up with dinner Big mossy tree near 1400 m camp This remarkable sedge swamp was present at 1470 m elevation. I’ve never seen another piece of habitat like it on any other mountain. The first night we arrived in high camp, we visited this rawa and it was teaming with Rhacophorus flying frogs in the throes of reproduction. The swamp was covered with calling frogs and their foam nests. Two days later the frogs had all but disappeared and all that remained was their foam nests. An example of the undescribed mid-sized Rhacophorus (which we have referred to as R. sp. “pointy” when collected elsewhere on Sulawesi) that was present in huge numbers at the sedge swamp (rawa). We encountered two species of Rhacophorus on this mountain. The second species – shown here – is the smaller and highly color polymorphic R. edentulus. Here is another color variant of R. edentulus – this barely scratches the surface.. There is a largely undescribed radiation of the direct-developing microhylid frog genus Oreophryne on Sulawesi. This could be Oreophryne zimmeri.. We collected a third species of Limnonectes fanged frog at 1400 m. This is L. sp. 1 (following the terminology used by Ben Evans). One of the most efficient ways to sample shrews and small skinks is using pitfall trap arrays with drift fences and large buckets Another look at one of our pitfall arrays We collected a decent series of the rare and elusive high elevation species, Sphenomorphus zimmeri – a large arboreal species that I had never seen before on Sulawesi in nearly two decades of work. The giant skink, Eutropis macrophthalma, is a real generalist. It can be found from the lowlands to nearly 2000 m elevation and is widespread across Sulawesi. The beautiful mock-viper, Psammodynastes pulverulentus. The first individual I encounter on one of these expeditions always gets a long look before I pick it up.. The spectacular Sulawesi Crimson Sunbird As if the crimson plumage was not extravagant enough, the Sulawesi Crimson Sunbird also displays beautiful patches of yellow and blue on the dorsum. Jeff Frederick swabs frogs to test for the pathogenic chytrid fungus that has been wiping out frogs globally. Anna Holmquist and Luke Bloch spent a few nights on the 2740 m puncak (pos 9) for focused collecting. Here they depart on this adventure, which required carrying heavy packs up a 50 foot stretch of near vertical slope using roots and branches as hand-holds to make their way up (and back down). Ben Karin takes a breather at Pos 6 (1674 m elevation) on our way to set our ultimately unsuccessful high-elevation sticky trap lines Mossy forest – Katopasa style (1) Mossy forest – Katopasa style (2) Mossy forest – Katopasa style (3) Mossy forest – Katopasa style (4) Me with the largest tree we saw above 2000 m. Also showing off my awesome shredded sleeveless rain jacket that I found hanging on a stick at Pos 6 (which saved me from my own rookie mistake of heading up the mountain without rain protection) Ben and Jeff relax at Pos 6 at dusk not long before we began working our way down a deeply incised canyon in an effort to reach a stream that we could hear far below but could not see. There were no streams to sample above our 1400 m high camp, so we opted for the challenging descent that began at a seep near Pos 6. From my field notes: “The trip down the slot canyon surrounded by vertical rock walls was challenging because there are waterfalls every 50 m or so that must be worked around, requiring sketchy traverses on steep banks with limited hand holds.” Pitcher plants observed as we worked our way down toward river below the 1600 m Pos 6. The challenging descent proved disastrous when Ben fell down a waterfall dislocating his shoulder. My last words to him before he fell were “be sure that you can make it because a rescue from this canyon would be brutal.” Ben’s outstanding climbing skills allowed him to make his way back up with help from me and Jeff – I don’t think we would have fared so well if I were the one with the dislocated shoulder. Here Ben rests at Pos 6 after our/his painful ascent. Feeling chipper at Pos 6 after our ascent from the slot canyon. A few days after Ben’s fall, he and I returned to Desa Mire and drove in to Ampana for a flight to Jakarta for the SAGE conference. Ben would return to America afterward and I would return to Gunung Katopasa. After my return from Jakarta, I made my way back to our camp and ultimately to the puncak at Pos 9 (2740 m elevation). Most of the team had headed down to lower elevation by this point and Rachael and I were all that remained for a night-collecting effort to the summit. Thanks to Rachael for staying up top and accompanying me on this one as I was feeling pretty sick and in need of a partner.. These cool blue flowers and ultrafast hawkmoths blasting past our heads like rockets were the most notable features of the summit. I didn’t hear a single frog above 2100 m.. We saw these pitcher plants near Pos 9. I believe they may be Nepenthes nigra. Another look at the pitcher plants Me, Tri Wahyu Laksono, Umar, and three other strong men from Desa Mire were last in camp. Looking back at camp for the last time. Everything that remained was donated to our friends from Desa Mire. Pak Umar and friend carrying huge loads of gear/supplies back down the mountain. We had a little vehicle snafu which left me, Jeff, Luke, and Rachael in Desa Mire without a ride after everyone else had headed back to Palu at 8 AM. The four of us finally departed at 10 PM and here we are arriving in Palu at about 7 AM after a 9 hour drive. Rachael looks fine but Jeff, Luke, and I were pretty beat. Back at the Leony Guest House inventorying gear so that we know what will be waiting for us when we return for Gunung Torompupu in early November. Palu Airport – heading back to Jakarta. Pak Irham looks happy to be heading home!