Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 5…. Crusing down the highway in my 45

I said the other day was long, but today was really, REALLY long. I woke up around 9:00 and didn’t go to bed until about 3:30 this morning. My own fault, though the yard work guys with their giant saws at 9:30 thing morning really didn’t help the situation.

This morning Ximena came over to teach Lynne how to drive manual. We also needed to run down to the school and get the mini USB cable so we could transfer the files off the video camera, so that was very convenient. Lynne did a great job driving; she only stalled the car when she tried to stop it (which is funny, because I only stall the car when I try to start it!). She did so well that she drove us around for most of the day (the whole 3 places that we had to go), and she drove around for fieldwork at night.

We hooked the video cameras up to the computers down in the lab and looked at the videos to determine quality, if we could see what we wanted to see, if we needed to do something better, etc. Turns out the infrared lights work to a degree, but would be better if we took both lights and mounted them on one camera. Lynne decided she would test this theory tonight.

I met with Ximena and Rachel Page (resident researcher here at STRI who works with frog-eating bats) about my project, and we spent two hours discussing possibly strategies and fleshing out my initial ideas. It was a really long, really harrowing meeting, and kind of overwhelming, but I came away with a lot of new ideas, some great direction, and a new member of my committee! I think it will look good to have someone from the Smithsonian on my graduate committee, and Rachel is really nice and easygoing, and has a lot of great ideas.

During the meeting I met Marta, one of Rachel’s research assistants this summer. It was suggested that I ride over to the fly cages with Marta after the meeting and show her how to work up the tungaras, and she could show me her project and the bats. The only problem was, Marta doesn’t speak English. I was very, very hesitant at first, and after such a brain-overload I was a little bit freaking out. It was also suggested to me (by Ximena and Rachel, of course), that I should ask to ride with Marta into town to Novey (like a Target, kind of) to get PVC later this week. So I was also freaking out about that, too.

Marta, however, is one of the sweetest people I’ve met here. She speaks slowly, and luckily I understand enough Spanish to follow about 80% of what she was saying. If I didn’t understand a word or a phrase, she would see it on my face, and she would try to say it in English or describe it to me. I think she was in the same boat I was, because when I spoke to her, I tried to do it mostly in Spanish, but I had to use some English, and she still understood. It’s not as hard to communicate across languages as I thought, and it gave me the confidence to keep trying my Spanish here. I am getting better and better every day!

During the evening I opted out of fieldwork (Lynne and Ximena went out to record and aspirate some flies), and I stayed at the school and worked up the toads (I found a 5th toad, so my boxes are full!) and tried to feed 2 of them. We decided that dog food is the best way to go, since that way we can control and standardize how much they are eating. I tried to feed two frogs and video record them approaching the food dish to get a control for feeding time, but neither of them approached the bowl in 60 minutes. Very frustrating, but hey, that’s science. I am going to try to do it earlier tonight; maybe just at dusk instead of waiting until 9:00-10:00 p.m. Also, I moved them around quite a bit, and pulled everyone out to get stats, so they were probably angry with me. 

When Ximena and Lynne got back, we worked up the frogs they brought, then dropped Ximena off at home, took the frogs to the frog lab to get toe clipped, and took them back out to the resort. I must add in here that I drove on this whole stint of the trip, and I didn’t stall the car once! My gear change is getting a bit shaky (I think I am overconfident), but all in all, I am driving much better!

After work we went with Sara (another research assistant in the bat lab) out to el Rey, a 24-hour grocery store at the edge of Panama City. That was…. An experience. Sara had never driven that far before, and she wasn’t necessarily a bad driver, but I have a feeling that barreling down the highway at 100 km/hr in the rainforest in the middle of the night isn’t exactly recommended. We made it to el Rey in one piece, bought waaaay too many groceries (turns our Lynne really likes chocolate and cheese, so we’re in trouble!), and flew back to Gamboa. By the way, I have to say, I love Lynne. She’s very quiet around other people, but with me, she’s totally hilarious.  Anyways, we passed out around 3:30 a.m. after stuffing our faces with random Panamanian candy, and awoke this morning to the sound of the evil lawn machines.


  1. > frog-eating bats

    If I were a god, I would make it illegal to hunt prey using their mating calls. That's just not fair.

    > I didn’t stall the car once!

    Now for heel-toe downshifts!

  2. You guys can be called the stop and start twins!

    Is gas as expensive down there?

    RP sounds great! Wonder how your summer experience will change due to her thoughts…

    Love the M story and glad to hear about you using your Spanish!*

    Take pictures of new Panama food! Want to seeeeeeeeee!

    Loved this page. Sara: Knock it off (speed-wise) thats my daughter you have there!!!