Edge of the Amazon Jul-Aug 2011: Two—First days in the field

The work is going slower and harder than I thought—who’d have guessed?!  I think the following posts will just be quick and touch on bits and pieces of my time here, and maybe after I get back I can write something nicer (and I’m gradually putting together a movie!).

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This is the igape (stream) below the research station where locals hang out to splash around in the evening.  I took my first Amazonian packrafting excursion up the stream (at this point more like a swampy labyrinth) a little ways.  I had a great time until, while trying to break off a branch from a tree in flower to identify later, I angered a big wasp, which stung me on the lip first, then in several other places as I frantically paddled away.

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So I spent the next couple days sporting the duck-billed platypus look!  (back to normal  mostly now)

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Processing leaves after my first day collecting in the field.  I’m doing transects, 50m by 2m, where I collect herbarium specimens, leaves, and twigs.  I scan and weigh the leaves, then dry and weigh again to get leaf mass per area (a very important trait that tracks climate fairly well).  I get wood density from twigs by saturating, then weighing and measuring volume by water displacement, then drying and weighing again.  This was yesterday when I only managed to collect material from 4 plants due to some very hard-to-get leaves high in the canopy.  Today I collected from 21 stems, so I’d better get back to work processing samples!

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Here’s a photo from today.  We had a giant palm in the transect.  These make for somewhat tricky herbarium specimens when you’re supposed to represent at least one whole leaf in the area of a sheet of newspaper!  Here, Bega, a local who’s working with me, has the extendable pole pruners hooked over the frond to break it and bring the whole thing down.  What I have to do is make a multi-sheet specimen where I have part of the base, middle, and tip each on separate sheets.  This leaf was 10 m long.  I’m not going to scan and weigh palm leaves!