Why mosquitoes? Of all the amazing and beautiful rain forest animals to study, why would anyone want to work with this lowly, annoying bug that drives us crazy while sitting on porches on summer evenings? They spread disease, too. Why would anyone want to mess with that?
My side project for this trip was to study arthropod diversity in two species of heliconia plants. I worked on the project with Riley and Tom. In both species we looked in leaf rolls and in inflorescences of the plant. We unrolled the leaves and dissected the flower. It was interesting as with each opening it was exciting to see what kind of animals we would find. We ended up seeing about 10 species repeatedly, but we had some surprises too.
By Bethany Christiansen
We are all now back home, having arrived on Monday, bleary-eyed. It's been a long few days, full of travel, packing, unpacking, repacking, and airport-sitting.
We woke early to catch the boat from the CICRA field station to Laberinto, then a bus to the airport, followed by a flight back to Lima. We spent a day and a half in Lima as we pleased, and then we prepared the specimens for their flight back to the U.S.
Just prior to leaving for Peru, I was told of the exceptional cuisine that Lima had to offer. Before, I learned about cuy (pronounced “coo-ee”) – guinea pig. I imagined it as the staple dish that would be on the menu of every high-end Peruvian restaurant. It’s apparently not that meal and is, in fact, an Andean animal and is served in restaurants nearer the mountains. Instead, I’ve found that there are a lot of other amazing tastes this country has to offer.
Several days ago I came across two primate specialists in the forest. One was wearing a loudspeaker on her head that was emitting monkey calls (calls of the saddle-backed tamarin, I believe). This got me to thinking about the ways we stretch to get our data, to study animal and plant behavior, to collect specimens, and to document the comings and goings of species. It's hard work that demands a staggering array of equipment from a butterfly net to a portable mass spectrometer. It also requires smart, fit, capable, adaptable people with highly specialized training and lots of imagination.
My good fortune finally ran out. Up until Sunday evening I had experienced very little turbulence on this trip: the airplane flights were uneventful, in Lima I ate multiple things I probably shouldn’t have, they but didn’t cause any issues, I experienced maybe one mosquito bite, and I hadn’t suffered any physical injuries. Then Sunday night came, and I caught up on my suffering.
The last few days have been the most interesting. Daily walks have familiarized us to the rain forest, and we now know where to look for certain types of bugs, birds, reptiles, etc. All of us have a far better understanding of where certain insects might live within a rain forest, and we can really look for what we want. I’ve been looking for insects. A caterpillar, an ant infected with corticepts, a weevil, leafcutter ants, army ants, scarab beetles, and butterflies have all spent time at the business end of my camera.
During our second full day out at the CICRA research station in the rain forest, a few of us went out with Caroline and Dan, her colleague in her research in Amazonia Peru, to the area where they collect data. Dan walked Joe, Tom, and Caroline, and I around the plot, showing us what has happened since Caroline’s last visit.
A few days ago I hiked through the forest for the first time covered in DEET. I swatted at every insect that came near me. Finally I conceded that I did come to the rainforest with an entomologist. I was going to have to touch some bugs. About halfway through I got my vial out and started catching beetles. Every time I caught a beetle I'd ask Dr. Chaboo, "What kind is this?" it turns out that, each time, I had caught a chrysomelid, her specialty. I wondered how she could tell what kind were chrysomelids. They all looked different to me. After lunch we had our first art lesson.