Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Tigres that work at TBS.

Posted by Bejat

Only a few days left in Ecuador. Shawn and I leave TBS on Monday, the 15th, and it is a painful thought, yet we are happy to go home and see our friends and family in time for the holidays. This field season has been full of challenges. We have learned more about ourselves, each other and the forest as the direct result of isolation, determination and passionate learning. Without a TV, radio, phone or car alarm blaring at all hours of the day, our minds have been at peace allowing us to dream, think and develop ideas that are unique and without barriers.

This year has been arduous at times, yet we have persevered, and thanks to all of Shawn's fine field assistants, this year has been a success. Kenny (as seen climbing in the photo to the left) and Colin (as in the photo to the right with a giant walking stick) left TBS in the beginning of December. They took with them a life changing experience that will shape their future. While Shawn and I were in Quito, they worked like a well oiled machine, running the project as a team. They finished their work in the plot and mapped several trails with GPS coordinates every 50 meters. Kenny and Colin are goal oriented and driven and plan to continue their education upon return to the States.

Shawn has been working on his species lists for his permits. He has two forms to compile, one for Ecuador and the other for the States. Unfortunately, they do not use the same form and he has somewhere around 2,ooo samples (this includes all the insects). These are all in separate containers, full of ETOH for preservation. Some specimens, like the tarantulas, have been pinned and dried by Kenny (as seen in the photo to the right). It should be interesting going through customs. Needless to say we are leaving as much as we possibly can here in storage.
We have been incredibly fortunate over the years and have met marvelous people, like Dr. Kelly Swing and Jaime Guerra. Kelly is pictured to the left and he is a professor at Boston University and USFQ, the director or TBS and board member of TADPOLE. Next to him is Jaime Guerra, the previous manager of TBS for 7 years, who now works with Kelly teaching his Ecology class that travels around Ecuador to the Galapogos, Cloud Forest and TBS. Jaime's specialty is bats. He has allowed me to assist this year with netting for bats at the clay licks along the Rio Tiputini.

Such an enormous project, yielding data untold, is providing us with more information to protect this fragile environment. Most certainly there are new species to describe and scientific papers to write, which will further the efforts of TADPOLE. I have taken somewhere around 35,000 photos, those which I have saved. I plan to have exhibitions, enter contests and place them on photo stock websites. Returning to the States Shawn will begin to unfold the truth and reveal the secrets of these magnificent mini-ecosystems of Aechmea zebrina bromeliads, that Shawn has coined "wetlands in the sky".

"Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life,
its strength;
and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.
- Joseph Conrad

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Mapadores at the Catolica Station.

Posted by Bejat

Over the past month we have been at the Catolica Station. Shawn climbed his absolute final trees for the year, one of which was next to Repsol YPF, directly behind and above the security entrance (photo to left). It was a hush-hush operation, so we went incognito into the forest and used our walkie talkies, minimizing movement and talk. Strangly enough, this tree yeilded the highest number of frogs, however they were species that prefer areas of high disturbance like Ranitomeya duellmani and Scinax ruber.

It was difficult leaving Omaka (photo to right). She gre
eted me this time by rolling over and allowing me to pet her belly. She stepped on my foot this visit and I recommend not letting a Tapir step on your foot that weighs as much as a small truck. She is stout.

There was a camera crew visiting the station filming a membracid movie called Mini Monsters, due to debut next year. Animal Planet will be featuring the flick. The crew consisted o
f about 15 people and they were recording the songs and behavior of Membracids, which are more commonly known as tree-hoppers. Minuscule creatures that have the most brilliant colors and forms. We were only at Catolica for about a month and Shawn climbed 4 trees, mapped trails, documented bromeliad growth. We went out herping every possible night, yeilding new species to the ever growing hertofauna list for Yasuni National Park.

Alvaro identified all our trees, except for a few, in just one evening. He is brilliant. I also took DNA samples of the trees Shawn climbed for further genetic work.
At some point in the future comparison genetic work will be done on the various species within this canopy environment to determine their relationship to one another.

Shawn submitted his DIGG proposal after over a month of painstakingly writing. He also took a flight over the Via Auca, provided by PetroEcuador, looking for Achmea zebrina bromeliads. He did find a few patches in a few last remaining chunks of primary forest (photo to right). He believes he found approximately 15 trees. Most of the area consited of cleared forest as seen in the photo to the left. The plane flew low and they opened the door so he could look directly down. The flight lasted about an hour and he said he is now hooked. He wants to fly an ultra-light plane. Until that time comes, I think he will be purchasing a remote control helicopter with a camera mounted to the base so that we may find the trees containing Achmea zebrina.

Shawn and
I left for Quito at the end of the month for Shawn's presentation at the Universidad de San Fransisco de Quito. He had about 100 students for his presentation and everyone was impressed. His slide presentation is fantastic, describing his work and the history of Yasuni in relation to oil and colonization.

As we say goodbye to all our friends at Catolica, this field season rapidly approaches the end, like our good friend Rosa (seen in the photo to left with Bejat), who owns the Wao tienda in Timpoca on the Rio TIputini. Walking away is always hard and looking back can be even harder, but knowing you will be returning makes it bearable. So you say your goodbyes, give the kisses and hugs, and wave until your arm feels as if it may fall

Monday, November 10, 2008

Posted by Bejat

Photographic documentation of our previous month at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS):
Click photo for larger image

Sunset from Tower I

Shawn after final tree climb at TBS

Shawn working 40 meters high Parkea multijuga tree

Shawn ascending Parkea multijuga

Alfredo, Shawn, Kenny and Bejat

Vampyrodes caraccioli

Vampyrodes caraccioli

Vampyrodes caraccioli

Unidentified bat

Saccopterys bileneata with juvenile on Ficus tree

Fungus eating beetle

Dwarf Caiman, Paleosuchus palpebrosus, awaiting prey in small stream

Pristimantis paululus on Heliconia

Glasswing butterfly pollinating

Small bloom of Wandering jude

Cochranella midas in amplexus

Imantodes cenchoa

Saccopterys leptura with juvenile nursing in canopy

Sunset over the canopy

Black Caimen, Melanosuchus niger, in Lagoon

Piping guan, Pipile cumanensis cumanensis, on forest floor

Spider monkey, Ateles belzebuth belzebuth, hanging from Cecropia

Cryptic moth

Three second spider, Phoneutria keyserlingi, eating prey

Juvenile Howler monkey, Alouatta seniculus seniculus, watching me

Bigonaceae blooming along Lagoon

Curious Hoatzin, Opisthocomus hoazin, on Lagoon

Tree buttress

Ants tending aphids

Photo taken in order to complete painting


Oreobates quixensis hiding in fungus

Pristimantis aureolineatus on Aechmea zebrina bloom

Hoatzins, Opisthocomus hoazin, along Lagoon

Endemic tiny Golden-mantled tamarin, Saguinus tripartitus, marking a young tree

Irridescent Horned beetle

Hyla bifurca

Hyla lanciformus in Mauratia swamp

Tarantula protecting protecting lair

Fading light of day from Tower II at TBS

Sunset from Tower II at TBS

Tiny Orchidacea bloom

Leptodactylus ventral photograph for specimen identification

Palm towering over the canopy in the last moments of light

Passifloriaceae (Passion flower)

Passifloriaceae (Passion flower)

Passifloriaceae (Passion flower)

Passifloriaceae (Passion flower)

Katydid resting in Heliconia swamp

Fungus emerging from cricket

Glasswing butterfly resting at night

Long-billed Woodcreeper, Nasica longirostris

Long-billed Woodcreeper, Nasica longirostris

Single bloom

Hoatzins, Opisthocomus hoazin, along Lagoon

Great Potoo, Nyctibius grandis, resting on Spiney palm during day on Lagoon

Great Potoo, Nyctibius grandis, resting on Spiney palm during day on Lagoon

Vibrant beetle on Agaric fungus

Salvins curasow aware of my presence

Passifloraceae (Passion flower)

Capuchin monkey, Cebus albifins aequatorialis, in sub-canopy

Capuchin monkey, Cebus albifins aequatorialis, alarm calling in sub-canopy

Mantid on tree bloom

Costaceae blooms

Interior of Costaceae bloom

The king of Katidids

Female Wolley monkey, Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii, with infant

Scorpion under ultra-violet light


Antherium overlooking canopy

Rio Tiputini