Kevin McLean

One of the many safety precautions I take in my work is to never climb alone. Sometimes that just means bringing someone else into the forest to hang out on the ground while I battle the ropes, branches, string, ants, and any number of other hazards above. Whenever possible, however, I like to bring people...

Sometimes things are hardest right before you reach the finish line. Then you remember that it’s not actually the finish line, it’s just the halfway point. This is an account of my last climb in Malaysian Borneo, but I’ve got many more to come in the Ecuadorean Amazon. There are times when it feels like...

Just as the sun sets a whiskered nose pokes out of a hole 15 stories above the forest floor. As the light dims a furry head, body, and massive tail follow. Crawling on a branch it isn’t unstable, just a bit awkward and perhaps overburdened, like when you have to delicately shuffle your way over...

I’ve been in Danum Valley, a protected forest in Malaysian Borneo, for just over two months. In addition to setting up camera traps in the canopy, I’ve also been setting a ground-level network of cameras, which have to be rotated every few weeks. Because of this, my field schedule involves a great deal of waiting,...

On the drive into Danum Valley Field Center in Sabah, Malaysia, I caught a glimpse of one of the most iconic species in the Bornean rainforest – the Bornean Pygmy Elephant. They had been walking on the road, but just as our van came around the bend they retreated by the forest. As we passed...

Mention that you are heading to Penang and you are inevitably met with the same question: “Penang? Like the curry?” You are forced to face the collective ignorance of your community when you realize that you, your friends, your family, and the guy who talked you into taking a middle seat on a transcontinental flight...

From a freezing hotel ballroom in Kota Kinabalu, an exciting announcement was made about the sweltering tropical forests in the Heart of Borneo, in an area on the interior of Southeast Asia that straddles the borders of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Using laser-scanning technology known as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), Greg Asner of Stanford University and the...

Oh yeah, I forgot about that… The beginning of any field study includes at least a few remedial lessons. For weeks before I start climbing, I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic that I have forgotten all my knots. I look over old gear lists trying to figure out what...

Five years ago I met an anteater that changed my life. As a first-year grad student, I was in the midst of my academic identity crisis trying to figure out what exactly I was going to study. I joined a team of researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to survey wildlife in...

There is more to come in the way of introductions, but here is a quick first look at my project, Looking Up: A Canopy Wildlife Expedition. Throughout the year, I’ll be conducting wildlife surveys in forest canopies of Malaysia and Ecuador. As a scientist, I’m excited to expand my work to new research sites. Camera trapping...

The National Geographic Society and the U.S. Department of State today announced the five awardees selected for the third class of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. The Fellowship provides a unique platform for U.S. Fulbright awardees to build awareness of transnational challenges, comparing and contrasting cross-border issues. Fellows will share their stories on National...