Today I went to Barro Colorado Island!
It is an island in the man-made Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal and is STRI's primary site to study tropical lowland forests. It has a TON of diversity. There is a large, long-term ecological survey taking place were every tree larger than 1 cm in diameter in a 50 hectare plot was tagged and measured and is being monitored for many years. I went with my friend Mallory and her roommate Marjorie who works on the island studying tree fungus. With our pants tucked into our socks for protection against the biting bugs like chiggers, we trekked through the dense flora on trails made of cinder blocks and saw plants with spikes, spines, ants, vines, and REALLY big trunks. We also saw quite a few howler monkeys!
Definitely watch this video put out by the Smithsonian:
We arrived as the sun was rising over the canal.
This is the boat you have to take to get to BCI. There was
only one in the morning to get there and one in the afternoon
to come back, so if we missed it, we would have been stuck!
Here is the view of the labs as the boat arrives at the dock.
This plant is really cool!
Some cool fungus!
A striking picture of a tree.
Mallory and me climbing the tree!
I followed a butterfly around until it stayed still enough for a picture!
Howler monkeys. This one has a baby with it.
The view of the canal or lake from the lab campus.
It was really fun and I plan to go back because STRI gives free rides (about 45 min) to their interns every Thursday. You need to sign up about a week in advance, and buffet-style lunch is provided for about $4. It was really good, too--rice, beans, fried fish, steamed vegetables, plátanos al tencación, which are heavily fried pieces of plantain; lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and cake for dessert. Since the communication is very limited on the island, we couldn't go out on the trails without someone who worked there, which was a little disappointing because we wanted to explore. But overall it was very fun and well worth waking up at 5 am on a Sunday! I hope to see much, much more of Panama before I die, and I don't mean just on my current internship!