Monday, November 26, 2012

Toucan Research

I have only briefly explained what is I have been doing over the past couple months with the toucan research. So I think it is important to understand that there are multiple on-going projects to fully cover the thesis that the PhD student is doing. The concept is that toucans that live in forested fragments will disperse more seeds creating a more bio-diverse and successful forested area in their territory. So, the study argues that farm lands will benefit from leaving small fragments of forest on the property.

So, I have helped with the seed trials- understanding how seed consumption affects the toucans digestion/dispersal.

The main amount of my time has been spent tracking the toucans- understanding where the toucans spend their time, how far they travel, etc. This is done by capturing the toucans in different areas via canopy nets and placing transmitters on their backs. Then, we can follow the birds using telemetry equipment.

Toucans roost on branches at night, but Aracaris sleep in cavities. So, I did a lot of work checking all the known cavities one night a week to make sure the respective bird was in their hole for the night, and I also spent a good amount of time trying to find the cavities of the forest Aracaris, where it was more difficult to figure out where they sleep. Pretty much it involves tracking at night, walking in the direction of the strongest signal and trying to pinpoint the one tree in the forest that has the highest signal. This is helpful because we can see where the birds sleep in relation to their 'territory' that we find them spending most of their time.

We have seed traps- to collect regurgitated seeds to see if they turn into viable plans.

And, we did error trial studies- to understand how accurate the equipment and people are at find the birds and gathering the tracking information.

In general, my days are 6am to 6pm, broken into 4 3hour shifts. One shift a day I have off for a 3 hour rest. Some days, if I'm doing cavity night, I have more time off during the day and instead work until 8 or 9pm. One night, I came across a decently large, venomous snake in the middle of the trail. And with fer-de-lances being known for their aggressiveness, I just decided to turn back, cutting my night short. But, of course, that wasn't the terrifying experience of the night, it was seeing the LARGEST cockroach I have EVER seen in my life. It was definitely half the size of my hand, long-ways, and with my luck, I had to walk RIGHT past it. The work in general involves a LOT of walking- I'm talking about days where I may walk 20km, but it is all done outdoors so I enjoy it…plus I have had the opportunity to hold toucans and aracaris!

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