June 23, 2011

Gravity

We are all now back home, having arrived on Monday, bleary-eyed. It's been a long few days, full of travel, packing, unpacking, repacking, and airport-sitting.

We woke early to catch the boat from the CICRA field station to Laberinto, then a bus to the airport, followed by a flight back to Lima. We spent a day and a half in Lima as we pleased, and then we prepared the specimens for their flight back to the U.S.

 

Preparing specimens for travel

 

We were at the bad end of United Airlines' computer glitch, suffering a delay and spending an extra night in Lima. Coupled with another night of flight cancellations, the group was ready to be out of the Lima airport, as we'd spent about 20 hours in it in 2 days. But we had better luck on the third night, and the group trickled into Kansas on Monday.

 

 

 

On the second night, United attempted to console us with sandwiches and soda. Not much of a consolation, but we ate them anyway.

But back to the days in the rain forest. As the trip went on, I became more and more interested in capturing (via photos) the life of the rain forest. Themes started to arise, and I explored them.

Light and darkness came to the fore. The sun hits the earth most directly at the equator, and though we were very near the equator, I never needed sunscreen. The canopy gorges itself on sunlight. So little makes it to the forest floor that I nearly always struggled with sufficient lighting. There are many theories as to why there are so many species in the tropics, and Dr. Chaboo mentioned that the sheer amount of energy obtained through sunlight may fuel the rain forest's staggering diversity. When browsing my photos (available via photo galleries on the Peru 2011 main page), keep an eye out for intense darkness next to bright swatches of light.

I also found myself trying to capture the world of the insects, trying to capture the bugs' eye view. They often perch on leaves, their heads over the side, peering into the void. It is fascinating how they navigate a world in which they are dwarves (or we giants, depending on perspective). The world of insects seems at all times an extremely dangerous world to live in, full of predators and other hazards. One day, it rained like we'd never seen it. As water poured down leaves, tree trunks, and palm fronds, it seemed that all the insects must surely drown. But they all came out the next day, alive, sucking the blood out of my ankles and photogenically perching on leaves.

As I sit in my air-conditioned apartment, sipping a soda, it seems impossible that the rain forest still pulses with life. But it surely does; it is one of those places that has such a vivacity to it that the visitor cannot help but wonder what's going on at this or that previously visited spot. It is swollen with activity. It exerts itself over the mind long after the visitor has left. Leaving it feels a bit like missing out on a party with all of your good friends, or forgetting to attend some important cultural event. The intensity of life in the rain forest lends it gravity.

Here are links to many of the photos I took:

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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