January 23, 2009

Cactus

After our rain day on Tuesday, we finished off the last two days of the main expedition by driving a circuit from Biscucuy to Trujillo, and then winded out of the Andes in the state of Lara and back to Maracaibo yesterday evening. The rain was a bit more widespread than I had hoped, and the condition of many of the rivers was less than exceptional for collecting—recent rain also can throw off our water chemistry readings. Nevertheless, we still made good progress and had a few surprises. In a small stream pool at about 2000 meters, I collected a series of a genus that had previously been thought to be restricted to Guyana, Suriname and northern Brazil; the Andes are quite a different region to find them in. I’m anxious to study these further when I get back to my lab.

After dropping out of the Andes in the north-central region in Lara and Falcon, the landscape is very arid…almost resembling New Mexico or Arizona. While hiking down to collect in a small stony stream, I took what must have looked to my collaborators like a cartoonish fall down the bank into patch of cactus and a hodgepodge of other menacing plants. Fortunately, I was able to sit in the river to sooth my pincushion right leg and arm and work at the same time…yet another benefit of studying aquatic insects.

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The north central region of Venezuela is very dry, and includes both arid scrubland and even deserts with sand dunes.

 

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The Biodiversity Institute is home to about 60 graduate students and 30 research scientists and curators. They participate in field expeditions to all seven continents and represent areas such as entomology, ornithology, paleontology, parasitology and herpetology. As the authors of this blog, they share their experiences and adventures in collections-based biological research all over the world.

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