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.
It’s strange how a theme will keep popping up in conversations over the course of days or weeks. This phenomenon has occurred several times on this trip, and the best example of it is the one I’ve made the title of this post: “creativity vs conformity.” Before I explain this concept in more detail, let me provide an example. Yesterday, I was standing in one of the labs here at the field station.
I used to be terrified of bees and wasps. If I was playing in the yard and I saw a wasp in the neighbor’s bushes, I would run inside. And yet, now I am considering a career in entomology. Quite a lot has changed between my childhood fears and now. A lot had to be overcome to go on this trip, hiking into thick rain forest brush and trees. I remember once screaming at the top of my lungs at what I thought was something with a stinger, which turned out to be a crane fly, a fly that many call a giant mosquito but is harmless.
Writing blog posts by flashlight isn’t ideal, but I’d better start this post if I’m going to finish by the time the power shuts off at 9:30 p.m. The past two days have been a blur. We went from Lima to the field station yesterday, a journey with 3 legs: a flight to Puerto Maldinado, a van trip to the Madre de Dios river, and a 4-hour boat trip to the field station.
Today was our first couple of hikes on the trails at CICRA. Going into this experience, I really had no idea what to expect. I had a cartoon illustration with monkeys swinging on vines and colorful beetles surrounding us, but I was not far off. We walked through a rainforest full of life: everything was alive! The birds and the monkeys could be seen jumping around on the trees, filling the jungle with their calls. It didn’t take long to train my eyes to see smaller details. Uncovering a plant to reveal miniature ecosystems. Life depending on life.
By Jeff Miller
By Kelsey Murrell