The Kalu Yala Blog

Summer 2013 Biology Projects

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June 15, 2013

by Hillary Fitz
Posted In: Adventures in the Tropics

Field note taking

I have officially been living in the jungle for four weeks and I am proud to call it home. As I grow closer with the biology team, I am continuously inspired by their passion and interest in the world around them. Our shared sense of curiosity of the natural world enabled us to develop focused projects and goals. As a team, we strive to better understand not only our surroundings, but also the impact our activity is having on all other organisms that also call the Tres Brazos watershed home.

The two main branches of projects are species cataloging and water quality testing. Specifically, we will be surveying trees, amphibians, insects, and reptiles in the area surrounding base camp. Although this task is a vast undertaking, it will prove to be important for a number of reasons. First, knowledge about these species will allow us to better understand the valley and to try and embrace the immense diversity of organisms that live and thrive here. Second, when we begin to solidify species lists there can be subsequent comparative studies into species behavior, interactions, and  anthropogenic effects that will be of interest to future biology interns and important for the progression of this sustainable community.

The water quality projects are designed to test both swimming and drinking water in the valley. We will be carrying out tests for E. coli and colliform contamination at seven specified testing stations including sites on the Iguana river, the Pacora river, and the tributary we pull water from. Since the study is still in it’s preliminary stages, the primary semester goal is to collect continuous data for later analysis which includes temperature and precipitation measurements every six hours. In the future, this data will be an important indicator that will aid in the development of water filtration systems. Overall, I feel this study is beneficial to the future inhabitants of the Kalu Yala community as well as the local Panamanians living in San Miguel.

These project goals have developed and become more concise over the past few weeks. Thus far, the team has spent a great deal of time exploring the property and surrounding area. Our Biology Director, Aaron Prairie, has strongly encouraged the team to develop our observational awareness through avid Grinnell-style field note-taking and poignant discussions about our observations. I can honestly say that this team motivates me to constantly question everything, challenging me to develop my ideas and pursue more knowledge. Our exploration has provided me with a heightened awareness and appreciation for the complex web of biological interactions taking place in this environment. Overall, I am greatly looking forward to the progress our team will make over the semester. The group dynamic and shared passion that drives us to pursue these projects is extremely motivating. I am proud to be a member of this team at Kalu Yala.

Bio team on an expedition

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