Mt. Hilong-hilong

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Fungus Among us at Camp Putik on Mt. Hilong-hilong

Camp

From the coast of Agusan Del Norte, Mt Hilong-hilong looks pretty tame.  “Hilong” means “nose” in the local dialect….I guess if you squint, the peak looks a bit like a face in silhouette with a prominent nose.  

Down at low elevation it is hot, arid, and dry near the north coast of Mindanao Island.  The skies are clear, the sun is out; definitely good conditions for trecking up this mountain.

Mountain

Up on Mt. Hilong-hilong, a different story is unfolding.  Below the forest canopy, only a little sunlight reaches the ground.  The forest floor is saturated and in just a few days’ time the comings and goings of 20 field biologists have turned our kitchen (and the rest of the camp) into a frothy soup of brick-colored mud. Eventually our guides attempted to put down a floor of saplings, but I can soon see the poles slipping under the mud….

It’s a good thing that everyone has rubber boots.  “putik” translates to “mud” in Tagalog, so Camp Putik was quickly coined and universally adopted by our field team. 

A few days later my right ear and side of my head has begun to sting and itch incessantly.  Some scaly, itchy thing is spreading around on my neck as well.  As it turns out, I have been infected with some sort of tropical fungus; it’s now responding well to fungicide and showing signs of retreating—but how gross is that?  Can you imagine having Athletes’ Foot on your ear? -Rafe

Five days later, the team departs Camp Putik (with an amazing collection of specimens, several species new to science, and fantastic new data on the startling high resident biodiversity) and heads for the blissfully hot and dry lowlands.  First order of business: wash the mold off everything, do laundry and dry out tents, get as much mud out of our gear as possible, and visit the local university clinic for an infusion of fungicide.  It turns out three more people have broken out in strange rashes and can’t stop scratching.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Setting Sail — 100 Years Later for Herpetology Research

As I pack for our trip (tomorrow) to the Philippines, something very interesting occurred to me: right now is the one century anniversary of KU herpetological expeditions to the Philippines.  KU professor Dr. Edward Taylor first arrived in Manila in April-May 1912, exactly 100 years ago.  It's very interesting to reflect on how much has changed over the past 100 years…personally, my experience is obviously quite different from Ed's.  He spent months on a schooner, on his way to Manila (through Singapore), and my trip will take 30 hrs (through Japan).  His supplies were packed in a wooden crate; mine in a cordura duffel bag.  He collected herps alone with the use of a lantern, I collect specimens in groups of hunters, equipped with halogen headlamps.  More importantly, our collaboration has advanced conceptually so far, surpassing I suspect, Taylor's wildest imagination of the future before him.

Another interesting fact: on this trip, we will target Mt. Hilong-hilong in northeast Mindanao, an historically significant site that was first surveyed by Angel Alcala and Walter Brown in the early 1960s.  Our data and observations will constitute poignant comparisons to their formative earlier work, enabling direct quantitative analysis of temporal variation across sampling efforts (most notably, with an eye for impacts of land use and climate change).  The results are sure to be astounding!  All data we gather will be turned over to Dr. Alcala for comparative purposes with his many earlier surveys in the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Anyone inherently interested: I'd recommend the California Academy of Sciences "Digitization and Rectification of the Brown and Alcala Philippine Collection" webpage. —Rafe

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Fungus Among us at Camp Putik on Mt. Hilong-hilong

CampPhilip

From the coast of Agusan Del Norte, Mt Hilong-hilong looks pretty tame. “Hilong” means “nose” in the local dialect….I guess if you squint, the peak looks a bit like a face in silhouette with a prominent nose.

Down at low elevation it is hot, arid, and dry near the north coast of Mindanao Island. The skies are clear, the sun is out; definitely good conditions for trecking up this mountain.

Up on Mt. Hilong-hilong, a different story is unfolding. Below the forest canopy, only a little sunlight reaches the ground. The forest floor is saturated and in just a few days’ time the comings and goings of 20 field biologists have turned our kitchen (and the rest of the camp) into a frothy soup of brick-colored mud. Eventually our guides attempted to put down a floor of saplings, but I can soon see the poles slipping under the mud….

It’s a good thing that everyone has rubber boots. “putik” translates to “mud” in Tagalog, so Camp Putik was quickly coined and universally adopted by our field team.

A few days later my right ear and side of my head has begun to sting and itch incessantly. Some scaly, itchy thing is spreading around on my neck as well. As it turns out, I have been infected with some sort of tropical fungus; it’s now responding well to fungicide and showing signs of retreating—but how gross is that? Can you imagine having Athletes’ Foot on your ear? —Rafe

Five days later, the team departs Camp Putik (with an amazing collection of specimens, several species new to science, and fantastic new data on the startling high resident biodiversity) and heads for the blissfully hot and dry lowlands. First order of business: wash the mold off everything, do laundry and dry out tents, get as much mud out of our gear as possible, and visit the local university clinic for an infusion of fungicide. It turns out three more people have broken out in strange rashes and can’t stop scratching.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Setting Sail — 100 Years Later for Herpetology Research

As I pack for our trip (tomorrow) to the Philippines, something very interesting occurred to me: right now is the one century anniversary of KU herpetological expeditions to the Philippines.  KU professor Dr. Edward Taylor first arrived in Manila in April-May 1912, exactly 100 years ago.  It's very interesting to reflect on how much has changed over the past 100 years…personally, my experience is obviously quite different from Ed's.  He spent months on a schooner, on his way to Manila (through Singapore), and my trip will take 30 hrs (through Japan).  His supplies were packed in a wooden crate; mine in a cordura duffel bag.  He collected herp alone with the use of a lantern, I collect specimens in groups of hunters, equipped with halogen headlamp.  More importantly, our collaboration has advanced conceptually so far, surpassing I suspect, Taylor's wildest imagination of the future before him.

Another interesting fact: on this trip, we will target Mt. Hilong-hilong in northeast Mindanao, an historically significant site that was first surveyed by Angel Alcala and Walter Brown in the early 1960.  Our data and observations will constitute poignant comparisons to their formative earlier work, enabling direct quantitative analysis of temporal variation across sampling efforts (most notably, with an eye for impacts of land use and climate change).  The results are sure to be astounding!  All data we gather will be turned over to Dr. Alcala for comparative purposes with his many earlier surveys in the late 1950, 1960, and 1970.

Anyone inherently interested: I'd recommend the California Academy of Sciences "Digitization and Rectification of the Brown and Alcala Philippine Collection" webpage. —Rafe