June 9, 2011




We are quickly settling into a routine at the CICRA field station: wake up at 6 a.m., have a hearty breakfast, and then go on a walk from about 8 a.m. to noon. Have a big lunch and then either go on another walk or have class. Have a big dinner, attempt to send correspondence over the painfully slow internet connection, and socialize until bed at 10:00. It’s all biology all the time here, and conversation starters come easy: “So, what are you studying?”

Today’s afternoon activity was a short class. The biology students have begun hammering out their research ideas, and the creative kids began brainstorming thematic concepts that could potentially tie the whole project/trip together.

One of the concepts that we’ve been throwing around is the idea of the microcosm. On our first day, Dr. Chaboo opened up a heliconia leaf, explaining its contents and showing us the many species that reside within just one plant. The forest is composed of countless mini-habitats, creating the unusual breadth of biodiversity in the rain forest.

My photography has certainly been shaped by this – I spend much of my time on walks with my camera pointed, point blank, at some log, flower, hole or pool of water. It’s fascinating how quickly these microhabitats change. The photographer is guaranteed no amount of time with any subject – the light changes or the insect moves. It seems that flexibility and a quick camera draw is key to shooting photos of moving things in the jungle. For slow things, a tripod and a tolerance of bug bites.

The highlights of our forest walks today included a pair of monkeys and a larger-than-life tree. The monkeys looked at us inquisitively, crouching on branches, tails draped down. The tree was enormous – hard to tell just how tall it was, but much taller than anything I’ve seen in Kansas. “What can you say?” asked Dr. Goddard as he scanned it from the buttress roots to the towering top.

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About Fieldnotes

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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