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