Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A lab rat turned loose in the rain forest

¡Un saludo de Panamá!

Last summer, I set a number of mushroom baits in the Rochester, NY area, in order to collect fungus-feeding insects. I'm also trapping some of them here, using much the same method. The only difference: In Rochester, where I often set my baits in city parks, I could set 20 baits in about 15 minutes. Today, it took two hours, for several reasons:

* It was hot.
* It was humid.
* The trail was all uphill.
* Oh, let's face it. I kept watching bugs.

And, of course, I got off to a late start, because right after breakfast I had to go through various channels to get my laptop onto the network, and after that I made a beeline for a different trail from the one where I actually set the baits. The reason I changed trails: After I climbed 200 steep steps to the trail head, I chatted briefly with another researcher at the top of the hill, and she suggested that this trail might be a bit too steep for optimum bait-setting. So, back down I went, all the way to this dock:

Swimming was clearly out of the question, which was too bad because it would have been nice to cool off right after I suddenly realized that I'd left my hat at the top of the hill. So, back I went, up the 200 steps, where the researcher I'd met before smiled and said, "Did you lose your hat? Because one of the maintenance guys just took it back down to the office for you."

Fortunately, by the time I got back down the steps, it was time for lunch.

The good news is that, after re-charging with fish and rice and hot sauce and mango-ginger juice, I went back out, found the other trail, and spent the aforementioned two hours setting my first ten mushroom baits. If the baits don't get eaten by the local mammals, I'll be able to sweep them tomorrow and set some more. If they do get eaten by the local mammals, I'll figure out something else to do with the next set. One way or the other, I'll probably also be annoying some leafcutter ants tomorrow, so there will be more photos. I figure I've gotten all the kinks out of the process of keeping track of all my field gear. So, at this point, I'm just going to let the ibuprofen kick in, and rest my knees until the next day's climb. There are clearly some bugs out there with my name on them!

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