July 6, 2010

Collecting Has A New Urgency

We are finally in Peru for my third expedition. I visited alone previously to explore the diversity of chrysomelid leaf beetles and their host plants. During the first trip in 2007, I discovered how wonderful a field station can be, as opposed to expeditions involving daily travel from one campsite to another, hauling food, water, supplies, and, for me, tubs of live baby insects that I am trying to rear to adults before I run out of their food plant from the last site. (Baby insect systematics is so primitive that without the adult, I have no hope of identifying the species.)

But field stations are so luxurious – running water, bed with roof, meals even!  This would be ideal for introducing students to fieldwork – I would not have to worry so much about feeding a team three meals a day.  It is a dream to stay in one Neotropical location, and get to know the insect fauna, their host plants and all the life stages. Bill Duellman’s “Cusco Amazonico” offers such a view of the herpetology fauna of a site near my field sites, but such comprehensive works are rare in the insect world, and may not be achievable given insect species numbers.  Amazonian Peru seemed perfect for long-term research and education.

In my 2008 visit, I learned of a massive road construction project, three parallel Trans-oceanic highways that will link Brazil to Pacific ports.  Already, Andean people were migrating to the Amazon basin, in anticipation of the future economic boom.  The scale of the construction is going to have significant impacts on southeast Amazonia, and probably at an escalated pace in comparison to the 1972 construction of the Trans-Amazonian highway across Brazilian Amazonia. Additionally, six dams are planned to generate hydroelectricity for the booming Brazillian market. My research on insects in this part of the world has a new urgency: I am facing the prospect of documenting species for the first time, and perhaps for the last time. - Caroline Chaboo




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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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