A Walk in the Woods

(La Selva) A really fantastic day because it was our first real day of field work on our independent projects. We are a class of nine students, and are conducting different research projects as a class, as groups of three, and individually. The class project is an extension of studies that have been conducted at two other sites in Central and South America. We are using flight intercept traps (“FITs”- below) to assess the difference in beetle activity and species groups between day and night. These traps consist of a long sheet spread between two trees, with pans of soapy water beneath it. Beetles (and other insects) bump into the sheet and fall into the soapy water, where they drown. The water is soapy to break the water tension so that even small bugs fall into the solution rather than just float on top. Even after our first sample collection, we can see that we will be getting some interesting results.

I’ll discuss our group project more in another post, but today we went collecting for that, and wandering around in a neotropical rainforest with two entomologists is just about as awesome an experience as one can have. We found flies with their eyes on stalks like a hammerhead shark (below), beetles with larvae that look like flatworms, a really cool wasp nest, and tons more. I am of course taken by even the stuff that bores them, like the more typical beetles, katydids, and cicadas. More than the fact that I get to put a name (at least to the family level) for any random insect in the forest, it is nice to get a sense of the biology and relationships of organisms that you couldn’t even get from a field guide.

Blue Jean poison dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) are absolutely EVERYWHERE. If you were to walk just a few yards without being careful, you’d certainly crush one. Luckily, they are brightly colored are hard to miss. In fact, their abundance and conspicuousness makes them tempting as a future study system! I’m still keeping my eyes open for Dendrobates auratus, which is supposed to be found here on occasion. Other sitings today included a nice view of a pair of Rufous Mot Mots bringing food to their nest.