Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 11 ….. Toad pen construction and fumbling in the dark

I spent all day building the toad pen. Lynne and I went over there first thing after Miguel (our new roommate) left with Ximena, and spent 2 ½ hours setting things up. We put up the gazebo first, which is a plastic tarp shade tent with mesh sewed to the sides. This is where we moved the toads after all the experiments were set up, so that there would be a minimal amount of stress for them between experiments.

The gazebo was fairly easy, as we found a piece of paper with a diagram of what it was supposed to look like. After that, we set to work putting together the toad pen. That proved a bit more difficult. I didn’t label the pieces before I took it apart, so Lynne and I spent a great deal of time looking and pieces, switching them around, and scratching our heads. We finally got a shape that resembled the old walls, so we decided to stick with that.

After laying out all of the pieces, we started to thread the mesh walls into place. On a whole, the walls went on pretty easily. However, I made one of the wall’s seams too short, and it wouldn’t fit on the pipe. So, back to the school we went to make yet again another panel. I sewed this last panel in about 45 minutes, and headed back over to CG alone to finish the pen. By this time, Ximena and Miguel had gotten back from town, and she brought me some shelving for the gazebo and my favorite tool of all time; zip ties! I set the shelves up, set the toad pen, attached everything with zip ties and voila! Toad pen complete!

We hung out at the school for most of the day, working on toad pen stuff, Lynne was working on beetle stuff. She caught some more tadpoles and larvae to feed, and separated them all into cups. She is testing to see if the beetles bite the calling tungara frogs, posing yet another cost for them while they call and swat the flies away.

Around 8 o’clock, we went back up to the school and I met with Ximena about auditory stimuli for the toad pen experiments. She had 70-some-odd files that we started to go through, and we found a couple that would work, but a lot of them didn’t (too noisy, other frogs calling, not enough tungaras, etc.) We edited sound files until about 11, then she went to help Martha and I tried to set up the speakers and do an equipment check. Turns out that the Ipod shuffles that she bought aren’t going to work… the controls for them are on the headphones instead of on the actual Ipod. That means we would have to unplug the speakers and plug the headphones in every time we wanted to change tracks. Fortunately, I brought my Ipod, so I ran home to get it. By the time I got everything situated and working and headed over to CG, it was almost midnight. I got the speakers set up and tested the sound, and finally got to test a toad. Then the problems of the experiment arose. It was much, much too dark to see anything. I couldn’t see the pulley for the bucket, I couldn’t see the frog to follow it with the camera (even with the night vision setting on the camera). The first guy jumped right to the side with the speaker playing the chorus, however he sat in the corner for about 10 minutes after the initial move. The second guy jumped to the same corner (even though the sound was coming from the other speaker for the second file), and he escaped under the pen. I caught him, but it obviously wasn’t going to be worth doing experiments again until Andres came with the other infrared lights. Luckily, that will happen on Tuesday night, so I can work on fortifying the pen and building the novelty arena until then. Sigh. More setup, less trials for me. But hey, that’s science!


  1. Perhaps a small excess of netting attached to the bottom of the pen walls could be laid on the inside and covered with debris to prevent toads from escaping. Like a skirt or something.

  2. I don't think the average person realizes that scientists testing is probably more about money, time, patience and "attempts" then smooth "successes". Great piece, neat stuff to learn.