The beauty of fieldwork

Roberto Carrera-Martínez

Senior, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

Me, rain-soaked in the field!
Me, rain-soaked in the field!
Butterfly mimicking a snake with eyespots on the undersides of its wings.
Butterfly mimicking a snake with eyespots on the undersides of its wings.

Broken boots, muddy socks, being stuck in mud, falling down, botflies, rain of apocalyptic proportions and being completely soaked are just a small part of my everyday life now. There are also many more things than just those. Every day I wake up and prepare to do field work and every day is different. And every day the jungle astonishes me with the beauty and diversity of the wildlife.

A helmeted iguana that jumped on me when I moved one of my Ocoteas…
A helmeted iguana that jumped on me when I moved one of my Ocoteas…

I am working with Kellie Kuhn on a mutualistic symbiotic relationship between a timid ant, Myrmelachista flavocotea, and two species of plants, Ocotea atirrensis and O. dendrodaphne. These stingless ants live inside the stems of the Ocotea and come outside to defend their host from herbivores. Most of my work is on the field and I get to know the jungle well. I am never alone in the field!

 

This semiplumbeous hawk was sitting outside the dorms!
This semiplumbeous hawk was sitting outside the dorms!

Howler monkeys are my most common company, always announcing the rain to the whole forest. There are also a LOT of bugs! Butterflies and moths are very common. A lot of birds, frogs and lizards too, like hummingbirds, the blue jeans frog, and the helmeted iguana. But the wildlife does not stay in the forest, and sometimes you don’t need to go too far to see some amazing animals. Our morning walk to the dining room or just walking around the lab can be an adventure by itself!   Like the peccaries eating on the station, the semiplumbeous hawk outside of our dorms, and a common Mexican tree frog on the new labs doors.

Sometimes, the sky itself is astonishing. It remands me how small we are in comparison to the jungle, how much we still have to learn and how important it is to do so.

This common Mexican tree frog was on the new lab doors.
This common Mexican tree frog was on the new lab door!

It is also great to be in a diverse group of people like this, surrounded by scientists from all over the globe – people who share the same passion and love for wildlife and their jobs. And the soccer games in the World Cup were incredible with everyone cheering for Costa Rica. I never thought that I would get so excited about soccer!

And the beauty of nature…sunset over the flooded Rio Puerto Viejo (Photo credit to Mareike Duffing Romero)
And the beauty of nature…sunset over the flooded Rio Puerto Viejo (Photo credit to Mareike Duffing Romero)

 

It is true that it is not easy to work at a tropical rainforest in the rainy season and in the wettest July in La Selva history! It is true that it can also be frustrating sometimes. But after the broken boots, the mud, and the rain, there are always a lot of others things that make every day of my stay here worth it and one of the must transcendental and fantastic experiences of my life. Pura vida!

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