Tuesday, November 16, 2010

North by Northwest: The Ecuador Version

To be back at base camp as staff is something I was really excited about. Nervous too. I had just spend the past 10 weeks learning the trails, projects, and lending a helping hand. I knew I was capable, but when it comes to leading 5 other people through the rainforest who have never been it before- you can’t help but feel pressure. Because, the truth is I didn’t know where we were going either.
Ok, well that’s not entirely true. Compass in my left hand and GPS in my right, I knew we were going 400meters further north. But, I had no idea how well we were going to get there. And again, not because I wasn’t capable, but because I had never done this route and the terrain could contain anything from massive tree fall making it difficult to pass, to steep ravines requiring careful footing.
GVI has several different research projects that the volunteers help collect data for including mammals, birds, butterflies, and amphibians/reptiles. I was presented with the amazing opportunity of writing the project proposal for the butterfly project- meaning I would be fine tuning the research and details of how to conduct the project and collect data on road impacts on the reserve’s butterfly species. The project was too be conducted along 4, 400meter transects running north of the road, evenly spread out. Each transect would contain 5 trap sites- 0m, 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m from the road. Each site would contain a ground butterfly trap and an aerial butterfly trap. But, in order to do the research, we first had to get the traps up.
The compass was pointing us in a Northward direction. The GPS was telling me how far we still had left to go until reaching the computer plotted points. 10 traps, 5 rolls of string, 2 rocks, and one machete- that is how real science starts. The slight change in the project to look at road disturbance specifically on the butterflies meant we wouldn’t be using pre-cut and used trails. So we macheted (minimally) our way to each point to put up the traps. The thrill of finding the location to place the traps was only replaced by successfully throwing rocks over 20meters high branches and hoisting up the aerial traps without snags.
I would end up leading a lot of surveys in the jungle- but for such a unique start to go well- left me really excited for the next.

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