March Summary

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The word of the month for March was exhausting! I spent 26 days traveling through several islands in the central Philippines. I have created a little digital map to summarize the trip. We went from Manila to Cebu Island, then traveled to southern Negros Island, northern Negros Island, Bohol Island, Lapinig Island, and finally back to Luzon.

Morning Coffee

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I can’t lie, long field expeditions have a tendency to wreak havoc on your body. Not only are you in a constant state of exhaustion, but also you often have to deal the occasional absence of showers, laundry facilities, and yes, mirrors. There is little point to this entry other than Jason having too good of a hair day to keep it secret. So without further delay, please let me introduce you to my friend and field companion Jason Fernandez.
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Legend of the Hot Springs Resort

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One of the first sites I had on my schedule while in the Philippines was an island called Marinduque. It is actually just south of mainland Luzon Island (not that this description is helping for the 99% of you that don’t study in the Philippines). All you have to realize is that it is one of the closer islands to Manila. So as you guessed, it only took about 12 hours to reach our destination. Unlike our Aurora bus trip though, the Marinduque voyage was broken up nicely into four, three-hour segments—Bus, Boat, Bus, Jeepney...and water buffalo.

The wrap-up begins

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The coffee is good here in the museum, but I think it would take about 8 of these to fill my normal office mug.

Cactus

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After our rain day on Tuesday, we finished off the last two days of the main expedition by driving a circuit from Biscucuy to Trujillo, and then winded out of the Andes in the state of Lara and back to Maracaibo yesterday evening. The rain was a bit more widespread than I had hoped, and the condition of many of the rivers was less than exceptional for collecting—recent rain also can throw off our water chemistry readings. Nevertheless, we still made good progress and had a few surprises.

A rainy inauguration

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We awoke this morning to heavy rain. Not a passing shower, but a uniform grey sky with flooded streets. Aside from a 20-minute squall while we were in the llanos, this is the first time it has rained on our expedition. By 11 am with no end of the rain it sight, we decided to write the day off and relax. I’m not opposed to working in the rain, but the bigger problem is that all of the streams and rivers have been converted into a slurry of mud, water, and debris. While having my coffee at the local corner store, I sat and watched the ongoing coverage of the inauguration.

New Animals and Ant Heads

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We arrived in Puerto Ayacucho yesterday, the capital of the state of Amazonas. We will be staying here for a few days while we scope out streams in the area. This area has been particularly productive on past expeditions as there are a lot of  rock slides --  rivers that flow over large expanses of exposed granite, and do not have any substrate. These create very unusual habitats that foster very unusual insects.

Crossing the Orinoco

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[ibimage==671==270-scale-rounded==none==self==ibimage_img-left]We decided to leave the Llanos station a day early (today) as we were able to get the data we needed in the two days we have been here. We headed south where we reached one of the world’s great rivers, the Orinoco, at about 11 this morning. The Orinoco splits Venezuela almost in two equal northern and southern portions.

Los Llanos

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The main part of the expedition is now underway. This first leg of the trip takes us south across the Llanos, which are vast, mostly flat, open savannahs which cover a third of Venezuela. The region is dominated by huge cattle ranches. During the wet season (April-November), everything is largely flooded. Now, more than a month into the dry season, it bakes until crispy dry. Grass and brush fires zip around everywhere.

Of logistics and muddy rivers

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The last few days have been full of logistical gymnastics in preparing for the main expedition that will start on 8 January. After celebrating New Years in Maracaibo, Jesus, Mauricio and I spent 10 hours on the second of January driving to Caracas to pick up another collaborator, Kelly Miller, at the airport the next morning. Kelly is curator of arthropods at the University of New Mexico and a specialist in several water beetle groups.

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