Thursday, November 7, 2013

Panama's Diversity

Greetings from the Collin Lab! I am posting for the first time during my four month internship to share my recent ecological experiences. Both in and out of the lab, I have been astounded by the diversity of Panama. Flipping over a single rock in the intertidal zone reveals not only multiple species, but multiple classes and phyla. Brittle stars scurry across sponges and barnacles, hoping to hide again in the sediment, as snails pull themselves tightly against the rock. These organisms survive daily and annually fluctuating environmental conditions so drastic that my complaints for air conditioning after an hour in the field seem laughable. Our field site at Veracruz is just minutes from the Naos laboratory, but every trip there brings me new appreciation for the term “tropical biodiversity.”

This kind of diversity is paralleled in Panama’s landscape. In the past week, I had the opportunity to scuba dive a Caribbean coral reef, hike through a rainforest, scramble over rocks at STRI’s own Punta Culebra, and even explore the cultural landscape of Casco Viejo, all within about an hour’s drive.  

I was introduced to animals I didn’t even know existed, like capybaras and coati. Capybaras, or “water pigs”, spend their days in the water and come out at night to graze. It was on a night hike of the rainforest that I caught a glimpse of a family of capybaras, and I couldn’t help but think of Rodents Of Unusual Size (a disturbing creature from the book/movie The Princess Bride).

I am really enjoying the experiences that this diversity brings to my daily life. One morning I woke to the sound of distant howler monkeys, and the next to 5 am fireworks celebrating Panama’s independence from Colombia (las Fiestas Patrias). Likewise, I have a special fondness for tropical birds, and was ecstatic to catch a glimpse of a toucan on a run up Ancon hill behind the STRI dorms. Panama’s diversity is present in so many ways, and I’m looking forward to the adventures to come! 

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