June 8, 2011

The Power of Perspective

Writing blog posts by flashlight isn’t ideal, but I’d better start this post if I’m going to finish by the time the power shuts off at 9:30 p.m. The past two days have been a blur. We went from Lima to the field station yesterday, a journey with 3 legs: a flight to Puerto Maldinado, a van trip to the Madre de Dios river, and a 4-hour boat trip to the field station.

We went on our first walk this morning. The rain forest is a messy place, cluttered beyond belief. “It’s life upon life upon life,” said Dr. Chaboo as we headed out. Branches reached across the path, leaves obscuring the way, and ant lines zigzagged across the trail. The jungle is messy but beautiful.

Dr. Chaboo gave us a lesson on unraveling heliconia leaves – long, rubbery leaves that often contain pools of water at the base. We sighted at least four species of beetle on one plant – heliconia specialists.

The jungle is a haven of mini-environments like this. Critters evolve to make use of them, and biodiversity explodes. A sentence only makes sense if the reader understands the words used. So too should the jungle be perceived – it makes sense only when seen as an amalgamation of myriad mini-jungles, each with its own variety of species.

After our first walk Goddard gave a demonstration on printmaking. We plan on ransacking the jungle for items to make prints. More on this later.

Bethany also gave a drawing lesson today, telling us to “draw what you’re seeing, and not what you think you’re seeing.” This informed my photography today, to be certain. I am always re-surprised at how much perspective can color the information extracted from a situation. But without the power of perspective, where would we be?

The art and science truly came together today, with the scientists drawing and the artists assisting in the collection of insects. Tomorrow we start collecting beetles for Dr. Chaboo’s research project.


Jungle Printmaking

I can't wait to see Peruvian jungle collagraphs!

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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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