I went to Los Tuxtlas with two goals in mind. First, I wanted to learn how to be a field biologist, and as a result, I participated in the class, and helped out with all the tasks from setup, through data capture, to analysis, for each experiment that they ran. Second, I wanted to see how the digital pens and software we were working on would hold up in the rainforest. We lent pens and laptops to each student, and fortunately, they all came back in good shape (the hardware; the students also!).
What we did...
We flew from SFO to Houston to Veracruz, Mexico, and then drove to the Los Tuxtlas Rainforest. The field station is located right in the middle of the forest.
This is the entrance to the Los Tuxtlas field station. It took several hours for us to drive there from the city of Veracruz.
On the first day, after we got settled down, Professor Dirzo took us into the forest, under the canopy (and the darkening late afternoon sky).
Over the course of the nine days, we learned the names of many plants, and how they interacted with the surrounding environment and animal (mostly insect) population.
Below, we see a photo from our second day, when we captured data from line transects to determine the distribution of dominance of plants in the rainforest.
To measure herbivory, we counted the number of graph paper cells that were still exposed:
We hiked varied terrain to get to each field site.
One night, two researchers and I went out to look for Atta cephalotes, the Leaf Cutter Ant.
We stayed out pretty late, and the ants were so interesting that three of the students decided to study them, and track their behavior over a 24-hour period.
We saw many kinds of bugs, but not of the sort I usually find in my Java code...
Some, like the above, may make you very itchy if you touch them.
Carica papaya was one of the first plants we learned about, and it was the last to see us off.
Eventually, we got back to "civilization."