Tropical Field Biology – Panama: Days 14 to 16
Likely the penultimate Panama Field Biology 2014 blog post, with updates from Days 14 to 16. Sunday morning (Day 14) was spent in part to recover from the physical strains of BCI as well as Saturday night’s Gamboa social happenings (read: Coffeehouse and/or Gamboa Resort). However our main focus for both Sunday and Monday (Day 15) was to push the individual research projects to the point of (or at least nearing) completion.
Gathering more field data in the morning, afternoon, and even late into the night (amphibians and reptiles) was high priority. By now the project themes are well solidified, reconfirmed with instructors, and advanced to a stage where everybody has observations and some hard numbers to subsequently interpret and incorporate into the project report. The idea is to have all field work virtually done by Tuesday night because Wednesday is reserved for further field trips off-site. And Thursday will be used to finally visit the Miraflores Locks (closed on Tuesday, unexpectedly, due to a special event) and interim project presentations.
A small group took the opportunity on Sunday afternoon and evening to head out north on the Corredor Norte towards the Colón area, and specifically Santa Rita Arriba where a STRI research scientist has a property adjacent to an excellent rainforest habitat and trail. This environment provided a sharp faunistic contrast with Gamboa, in spite of less than 20 miles air distance. The high species turnover (beta diversity) while transitioning from one end of the Canal to the other is well known. But reading and experiencing this turnover directly are two different things. We noted the changes immediately. The pleasant Santa Rita Arriba evening ended with an authentic chicken and fries dinner in Sabanitas and some extended play of Cumbia music on the radio while returning to Gamboa.
Tuesday (Day 16) was Casco Viejo day – we drove to the Old Town area of Panama City to walk through the streets and marvel at the dynamics of century-old versus contemporary Panamanian architecture, history, obvious social disparities, recent business developments, art, religion, exuberant plant growth, humidity, and much more – all packed into an area of just a few square blocks designated as a World Heritage Site in 1997. After nearly three hours in this intensely charismatic environment some of us nevertheless found their way back into a local establishment of a distinctly modern type, sampling flavors and watching the soccer world cup. In other words, a balanced day.
For Tuesday night we headed out deep on Pipeline Road to visit the forest once more. A STRI pick-up truck was on hand and provided some adventurous moments on our way towards km 8.8 – Río Mendoza.