Yesterday was pretty quiet. We spent most of the day down at the school claiming our desk spaces and going through boxes of inventory, trying to decide what was what, what we needed, what we didn’t need, and how to label things. It was fun once we got going, but realistically, Lynne and I haven’t got a clue how half of this stuff works. Ximena also showed us the frog lab in building 183 (across the playground from us), and the acoustic chamber that they use to test and record the tungara frogs. It’s pretty cool; a big white room lined with foam, with speakers, cameras and wires headed every which way. You can close the door to the room, turn out the lights, and watch what’s going on via infrared/night vision camera on a big TV on a desk. The tungara frog is tiny (maybe 2 in?), so the chamber isn’t big enough to use for my toads; which means we’ll have to build something else.
After hours of sorting through equipment (which in reality, isn’t that bad; it was kind of like Christmas. Opening new packages of expensive equipment, figuring out what everything is, putting sets together. Lots of fun! I even got a present’ 4 Pesola scales for measuring my toads! I <3 Pesola scales) we all sat down under the house and had a meeting about whose picking up what projects and moving in what direction. Lynne is going to be working on video recording the tungara frogs with the frog-biting midges for a project Ximena is doing. I am going to be doing some preliminary background stuff for the Cane toads;
Cane toads are known predators of tungara frogs in Gamboa (they have been identified as prey items by more than one researcher; remains have been found in the stomachs of the cane toads, and 2x the cane toads have been observed preying on the tungaras). Ximena has been training the 4 cane toads back at the lab to eat dog food by playing an hour recording of tungara frog call while presenting them with their food items. She has been successful 50% of the time (2 will eat, 2 will not eat). We can draw a couple of assumptions from this; either the toads respond to a novel food source using auditory cues of an inherently known food source (the lab toads are wild caught from South Florida, so they have no prior experience with tungara frogs), or the can be conditioned or taught to respond to auditory or visual cues that mean food (like Pavlovian conditioning). While in Gamboa, I am going to see if this assumption holds true for the native species, who have prior experience with the tungara frog, and are often seen in the same areas.
Unfortunately for me, there haven’t really been a lot of cane toads sighted in Gamboa lately, and with no rain since we arrived, it will be hard to find any right now. The good news is, BCI (Barro Colorado Island) is right across the river, and there are tons of cane toads there. It would be hard to try and catch them, bring them back, put them through tests, and take them back in one day, so I need to set up a colony of toads down at the school. So today we are going into town to buy supplies for 10 toad tanks (i.e. plastic Tupperware with lids with holes in them). At this juncture I definitely have to say ‘Thank You Kyle’; if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s set up plastic box habitats! We’ll work on these for the next couple of days, and then meet with Rachel when she gets back on Monday to talk about the learning theory involved for the toads.
We are also going to try and catch one toad from the area and test out his jumping range in the fly cage; we need to see just how big of an apparatus we’ll need to build to test the toad’s auditory preferences. We’re thinking something 20 ft x 10 ft at the minimum; it’s going to be interesting for sure!
It didn’t rain yesterday, so Lynne and I went to the pool with Ximena, her son, and her mother. The pool is at the Gamboa Resort; STRI people tend to sneak in and swim as much as possible. I can see why, the pool was beautiful. I sometimes forget that we’re working in paradise. Looking at the rooms from the poolside, each room has a king size bed and a balcony overlooking the river, with a hammock. I definitely want to take a mini vacation and stay in one of those rooms at some point, maybe next field season. J
We didn’t go herping last night because of the lack of rain, so Lynne and I hung around the house and made dinner and read. We started a species list on Thursday, but then realized that we’re here for a month, and we’ll need more than just one list. We ended up making 4 lists (birds, mammals, frogs, other herps), and tacking them to the wall. That way, we have household lists, and when Miguel, Quinn and Priyanka come, they can add the things that they see too.
OK, time to eat breakfast and get ready. I am going to write every morning (or every morning that I can) about what happened the day before. I think that’s the best way to do this, so keep checking back for more updates about my toading adventures in Panama!