Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 1 - Up and Running!

Alas, the screaming “kick me I’m a puppy” birds apparently are not only sunrise screamers, but also sunset. I also realized today that I actually woke up at a quarter to six; much earlier that I had originally thought. It will get interesting tonight – Ximena says that fieldwork usually lasts until at least 1 a.m.

The morning started off very promising, with an Aguti sighting out the back window while I was brushing my teeth. Forgetting that there is a range of medium-sized rodents in Central and South America, I thought to myself, “look, a juvenile Capybara!” Ha Ha Ha, stupid American. It’s either one extreme or the other…. (this is ecologist humor; if you don’t get it, don’t feel bad!)

Lynne and I spent a good portion of the morning chatting about life and what we’re doing (here and in all respects). We walked around a little bit and took some pictures of the area. It is neat to see the Panama Canal so close up. The landscape here is beautiful; all trees and jungle sounds, I love it!

A section of the Panama Canal, right down the street

A tanager of some sorts, I forget which one. Neither Lynne nor I are bird people, but we have a book!

Ximena picked us up at 9:30 to take us into town to the main STRI building so we could register. We also got nifty ID cards with our pictures on them; they are washed out and make us look a little like black and white zombies. J We met 2 geologists and a wife (belonging to a geologist), and chatted with them about what to do and where to go. Ximena came to get us with good news; my toad permit went through, which means I can start collecting and experimenting with them on the 15th! Just enough time to start designing some protocol and actual experimental setup. This is great news if I hope to gather preliminary data to write a grant this fall.

From STRI, we rode a little farther into Panama City to visit Albrook Mall. Malls in Panama are literally shopping hubs. Lynne and I wandered around a grocery store for a good hour, trying to decide what to buy and how to feed ourselves for the next month. Some things are very expensive here, while others (like alcohol) are very, very cheap. We settled on many staples (pasta, rice, beans, chicken), some vegetables, and some random things that we “just had to buy”. Monster Munchies were a necessity, by and far.

We visited a produce stand on the way back into town, which had decent vegetables at really good prices. Lynne doesn’t cook much, so I am self-proclaimed house cook until anyone else gets here. Fine by me; I love to cook, and I would much rather cook for two than for one.

Getting back to the house we met Mike Ryan, who seems to be a head honcho around here. He’s been doing research on tungara frogs and their conspecifics for years. We saw a coati wandering through the backyard (also a playground). I took a nap. It was blissful. We went to a talk at Rachel Page’s house about the acoustic universe of the frog-eating bat, and how she and Ximena are going to start looking at spatial and acoustic organization of the frog choruses based on predator/prey interactions. Such cool stuff, I miss this so much. 20-some-odd people, young, old, novice, expert, all walks of life, sitting around a living room eating homemade cookies discussing experimental setup and rationalizing theory. I was born for this. I sat in the back and took it all in, just happy to once again be a part of a system that I understand. Bureaucracy is overrated; give me a subject I love and let me debate it with fifteen of my closest colleagues. That’s the life for me.

Our first fieldwork is tonight; Ximena is coming to pick us up in about an hour. I will write about all of that wonderfulness later, when I invade the computer lab at dawn. Oh, yes, the computer lab. So, upstairs the wireless access is intermittent at best, mostly just completely undetectable. Today Ximena gave us a key to Rachel’s lab, which is basically a small room downstairs with 2 desktops and AC. In other words; Heaven. I will be spending as many mornings as possible with a cup of coffee cruising the web. Oh, Happy Day, I get to talk to the universe again! Not that it isn’t wonderful talking to Lynne and Ximena and reading, but sometimes, I just need to be plugged in. In the words of the original Syler (Matrix, not Heroes), “Ignorance is Bliss”.


Species seen on our first field trip:
Hyla rosenbergi
Leptodactylus insularum
Leptodactylus fragilis
Leptodactylus pentadactylus

P. pustulosus
3 yellow Hylid spp. (1 w/ no pants on ventral hindquarters, 1 w/ivory lateral stripe tip to tail, 1 other variable markings)
Agalychnis callidryas
Smilisca spp.

We heard cane toads off in the distance at the resort, but we weren’t able to get close to them due to a fence. Leave it to mankind and progress to stop my herping trip! :( for a dry night (hadn't rained in 2 days), we did very well.

My very first catch was executed well for a gimp! I spotted the throat of a full grown H. rosenbergi under a ledge in the water, then proceeded to slowly slide down the ledge (can't walk it yet with my ankles), place one foot on each side of the frog, and blindly grab where I thought he was. It worked; I can up with a full grown frog the size of my hand. He was adorable! And what's more, he reminded me why I am doing this.... because I love catching frogs!


  1. I didn't know you caught them with your hands. I assumed you used a net of some sort. Hardcore

  2. Love this update! So glad you are happy! Put the computer on as soon as I came home to see if you updated! Yeah!


    J.A AGE 9

  4. J.A.> I don't know exactly which bird it is, but it is a sort of tanager bird (a type of songbird). There are over 600 different kinds of birds in Panama, and some of them look very much alike. Very hard to tell them all apart!