Our days have developed into a pattern of servicing the traps in the mornings: picking up all the arthropods collected by the traps, returning to the lab and processing the specimens (cleaning, sorting, labeling), then each person going off in a different direction to use specialist techniques to collect their favorite group. I spend the afternoons surveying palms, heliconias and bamboos for their particular fauna of chrysomelid beetles.
Today is a big day: reviewing the available established plant plots in the area, relocating their markers (boundaries of edges and internal sub-quadrats), selecting a plot we will follow in the next few years, and setting up several kinds of traps to capture insects. One of the reasons arthropods are so diverse is because they divide any habitat into 1000s of microhabitats, with many insects specializing on particular aspects – flower feeders, seed drillers, stem and leaf miners, soil arthropods, root feeders, parasites, parasitoids, predators….an insect specialist must h
post by Malena Vilchez, of the Peru research team
At night, armed with head lamps and UV torches (and a lot of bug spray), you can actually see tons of spiders and other nocturnal arthropods doing what they live for, i.e., eating, preying, mating, etc. without much search effort. During the daytime, you have to look harder for the various microhabitats; of course, it is easy see the orb weaver spiders as well as some other weavers and a few cursorial spiders but this is only a small portion of the total spider fauna.
For my third visit to Peru, I am developing a system of long-term sampling plots distributed along an elevational transect from the lowland Amazon to the Andes, up to ~3500 m. I can select plots already established by botanists who have been working here for about 30 years. It is an uncommon ideal to have most of the plants known in a tropical habitat before I start looking for the herbivores of those plants.
We are finally in Peru for my third expedition. I visited alone previously to explore the diversity of chrysomelid leaf beetles and their host plants. During the first trip in 2007, I discovered how wonderful a field station can be, as opposed to expeditions involving daily travel from one campsite to another, hauling food, water, supplies, and, for me, tubs of live baby insects that I am trying to rear to adults before I run out of their food plant from the last site. (Baby insect systematics is so primitive that without the adult, I have no hope of identifying the species.)
From KUCR.... STUDENT TRAVEL FELLOWHIPS AVAILABLE TO ATTEND "GENES IN ECOLOGY, ECOLOGY IN GENES" SYMPOSIUM The Ecological Genomics Institute (www.ecogen.k-state.edu
There is leaving for an expedition, and then there is leaving for a nine-month expedition. Where to begin packing is a question I am always asking myself. The airlines have not made it any easier. While we used to be able to check-in two enormous 70-pound bags, we are now only allowed two 50-pound bags. This means I will be leaving my car at home this year. I would say that I get a little too meticulous about packing. Everything has to be placed out on the floor organized by size, and then by color.