Sunday, September 19, 2010

Surveys, Surveys, Surveys

As research projects run constantly, GVI Amazon base camp can’t be all play and no work... who am I kidding – catching frogs, butterflies, and birds is every kid’s dream. And over the past couple weeks there has been a lot of hopping, fluttering and chirping. Amphibian and butterfly surveys are for 10 and 14 consecutive days respectively every 5 weeks for a year. Bird mistnetting is totaled to 70 net hours at each of the four locations, four times a year.

Two different amphibian surveys are conducted. The first, pitfalls traps, consists of four buckets placed in the ground separated by 8m of black plastic baffle in a line, per location. The idea is that the frogs will get to the plastic and follow it until it opens over the bucket and fall in. There are 10 total locations in two different types of habitat which looks at species diversity. To avoid the biases of catching only ground-dwelling frogs, a second survey is conducted along 75m transect lines at night, recording all species seen. This is also done at various locations. There is nothing more rewarding than spotting a 3 cm frog in leaf litter in the black of night with a wimpy head torch - trust me.

The second most rewarding thing is managing to keep hold of a healthy Nessaea butterfly. I wish I was kidding, it’s embarrassing when a delicate-looking butterfly masterminds its way out of your hand. Butterfly surveys are conducted with 10 traps sites along two trails each. We bait the traps with three day old mashed bananas. We catch a variety of butterflies from tiny tiger-patterned Tigridias to large black and blue Morphos. Traps are located along the road, on the trails and in the forests to monitor the effects of disturbance on the butterflies.

Finally, bird mistnetting surveys are conducted to record information on species present on the Yachana Reserve, as well as collecting information through taking measurements. There is definitely no shortage of things to do, and you gain valuable experience conducting research and leading surveys. (No animals were harmed in the making of this blog!)

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