Approaching Serrania de Perija
After a quick two-day stint around the small village of Tukuko at the foot of the Perija mountains, we returned this afternoon to Maracaibo. With less than 8 hours to go before I have to catch my taxi to the airport at 4am, all that remains is to repack my luggage, thank my collaborators, and try to catch a bit of sleep. As I recharge my mp3 player for the trip home, I realized that I have neglected to mention Venezuelan music. Those of you who have worked with me know that I have a penchant for listening to “Llanera”, which is the music typical in the Llanos (plains). Anyway, here is a good youtube clip showing some folks playing this kind of music. There are three main instruments: A harp (yes, a harp), a cuatro (small guitar), and maracas. Sometimes a bass is added as well, as in this clip. Spend 4 minutes and watch it. You will never see a harp the same way again:
Over the last few days, we finished our work in Amazonas and cross the Orinoco back to the Llanos region, staying in San Fernando de Apure. Kelly and Luis split from our group yesterday and headed back to Maracay; Luis has to fly back to New Mexico today, so he can teach tomorrow. The rest of us drove straight west and today we started our winding accent into the main Venezuelan Andes. Tonight we stopped for the day in Biscucuy, which is at about (a relatively low) 500 meters elevation. Over the next couple of days, we will cover some of the higher elevations, up to 3000 meters. The highest peaks near the town of Merida reach just over 5000 meters.
This morning Jesus and I drove into Caracas to have breakfast with the director of IVIC (National Institute for Scientific Research). Coincidentally (and to our benefit), the director also happens to be an entomologist. We talked about our survey project objectives and what kind of linkages could be established with ongoing and future research being done by folks at IVIC. For example: how can we make the data we are collecting compatible and accessible with existing and future databases and shared resources. Currently, there is no single system in use in Venezuela (or for that matter in the US or anywhere else) for storing or serving basic natural history (=specimen) data, although some efforts are making headway (e.g., the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, or GBIF). The more specimen data we can get together from different sources and museums, the more it can tell us about myriad patterns and processes both in terms of the past (historical biogeography), present (establishing conservation priorities), and future (predictive modeling). This afternoon, we are having an expedition meeting back at the museum in Maracay to make sure we have everything and make some last minute preparations before heading out tomorrow for the main part of the expedition.