Christchurch, New Zealand

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Adventures Afield
Fieldnotes
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We finished our field clothing ‘try-on’ this afternoon and have been told to report tomorrow (Weds) at 7:00 am. for our flight to the Ice. Of course, we’ve also been told that the weather is currently bad there, so we may not fly. Already, the ‘hurry up and wait’ that is so typical of Antarctic field work has started!

A Cold Journey From the Fieldstation

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By Train, Plane, and Camel
Fieldnotes
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My alarm clock sounded at 5 am. It was still dark, rainy and cold. After two days of extreme cold, we were not looking forward to the day ahead, especially to the 4-hour boat travel back to Laberinto as the start of a two-day journey back home. The station cooks kindly prepared breakfast for us, and then we formed a fire line to load gear onto the boat. Fortunately, we were leaving with less than we brought here as we stored two action-packs of field gear at the station for our next visit.

Rainforest Observations

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Flora and Fauna
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Coming from South Korea and this being my first South American trip, I expected to see many scary animals such as alligators and snakes. I did see several snakes and I will never forget the shape of the green viper which surprised and jumped away from me as I jumped the other way. I also to expected to experience the type of “jungle” where we would use machetes to hack our way through, like Kungfu boys. But in a primary rainforest, it is actually quite dark, with very impressive massive trees that form a canopy, where you might expect to see dinosaurs.

Bat Visitors Offer Insect Opportunity

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Adventures Afield
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We occasionally noticed a bat flying around our lab space but didn’t pay too much attention to it. On our last night however, when it was unseasonably cold, several bats decided to use our lab as shelter. Often when the door opened one would fly in and around and then perch underneath one of our lab benches; five in fact were roosting together there at one point. I didn’t think too much of it until I recalled that bats have some pretty bizarre fly parasites that wander about through their fur. Suddenly this became an opportunity to make a novel entomological find.

Hymenoptera Impressions, part II

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Flora and Fauna
Fieldnotes
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Other obvious hymenopterans at our field site include the eusocial wasps of the family Vespidae. Sure, in the temperate regions we have our hornet nests and paper-wasp nests, but these types of wasps really become conspicuous in the tropics. There are just so many more elaborate mud and paper domiciles hanging about trees, bushes, and buildings built by a number of interesting genera that are sadly missing from higher latitudes. In fact on one cool day, when few insects were flying about, I took the opportunity to collect these nests and their occupants.

Greeted by Evening Chill

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Adventures Afield
Fieldnotes
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While Diana and Malena headed out on another night walk, Dan, Choru and I set up the mercury vapor light trap again in front of my cabin. As we tied the white sheets, and turned on the light, the wind was picking up speed. We had been warned that a “friaje”, a cold polar wind coming up from Patagonia, was heading our way. Despite the wind, the number of insects coming to our sheet was low, the diversity was still good, with some unusual specimens we had not sampled before.

Looking for Damage

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Fieldwork How To
Fieldnotes
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Monkeys vs. Birds

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Flora and Fauna
Fieldnotes
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A very nice colony of oropendola birds was nesting outside our lab. We became accustomed to their comings and goings and admired their long, basket-like nests and gargling calls. They always seemed to come and go together and did so with much fanfare. One afternoon however, while the birds were away, three capuchin monkeys raided their nests, and we were lucky to see it. The capuchins systematically went to each one, inserted their heads and torsos into the long nests, pulled out the oropendola eggs, and ate them right there in front of us. It was quite shocking.

Keeping Up With the Traps

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Fieldwork How To
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Our days have developed into a pattern of servicing the traps in the mornings: picking up all the arthropods collected by the traps, returning to the lab and processing the specimens (cleaning, sorting, labeling), then each person going off in a different direction to use specialist techniques to collect their favorite group.  I spend the afternoons surveying palms, heliconias and bamboos for their particular fauna of chrysomelid beetles.

Hymenoptera Impressions

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Adventures Afield
Fieldnotes

One of the first things one realizes (anyone, really, but particularly an entomologist) as you walk around the field station is the sheer number of ants, not only individuals, but all the different kinds. There might be three species walking around on the windowsill. On the trunk of a tree half-a-dozen kinds are immediately apparent, and who knows how many are up higher. Most are minute, but quite a few are enormous, approaching half the size of your pinky finger. Then there are the army ants; these deserve your utmost respect.

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