Night Spotting Project is a research and conservation outreach initiative led by Priscillia Miard who has been studying nocturnal mammals for the past six years, a journey that has taken her from her native France, to the jungles of Brunei and Sabah. She is now based in Penang and has been documenting the distribution of nocturnal species in the forests of Penang and other locations in the Peninsula and on the island of Langkawi. This work will be used towards her PhD at the School of Biological Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Priscillia’s research is making an important contribution by providing important data on the distribution and density of populations of nocturnal mammals including species that are considered to be vulnerable and endangered such as the Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) and the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica). Many nocturnal species play important ecological roles as seed dispersers and assisting in pollination. This work will enhance our understanding of the challenges facing these species and help guide effective strategies to ensure their conservation and their continued role in maintaining healthy forest habitats.
In order to conduct this research, aside from assuming a nocturnal lifestyle herself, Priscillia has also armed herself with new wildlife sensing technology which includes a thermal camera and ultrasound recorders. To view these creatures more closely, she used red light torches that do not bother nocturnal mammals and allows her to study their behaviour as they move around naturally. During the Penang Hill BioBlitz 2017, Priscillia made an interesting observation when teamed up with bat researchers from USM – she found that the Sunda colugo uses ultrasound to communicate, a behaviour that has not previously been documented. This finding has been published in the academic journal Bioacoustics and featured in the online magazine Mongabay and the September 2018 issue of Penang Monthly.
Night Spotting Project is also committed to enhancing awareness and appreciation of these species among schoolchildren and the general public. She encourages people to accompany her on her night surveys to experience forest habitats at night.
Priscilla Miard and Night Spotting Project received a 2018 Habitat Foundation Research Grant to continue this important research and outreach work.