Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Marine Biology Student Learns About Frogs by Garrett Hardesty

The little Oophaga pumilio poison frogs
 In Bocas in the last three weeks, I’ve gotten to know many of the other researchers. Living so
close to one another, we cross paths often, whether in the labs, on the docks, or at the kitchen. It’s great to hear everyone’s individual story and research work, and it’s amazing how much I’ve learned just through daily conversations with the other residents. Above all else, meeting the many researchers at the institute has been significant in exposing me to the variety of work done here.
Last Sunday, after a full week of taxing experiments in the lab, there was enough of a break in our work to allow a day off. I’ve learned to take advantage of our break days through different Bocas activities, and I hoped to do something interesting on my Sunday off. Fortunately enough, many of the researchers at the institute gladly accept eager observers of their work, so I spoke with a group of poison dart frog researchers about joining them in the field that day. They happily agreed and I happily went with them.

We took a boat to the mainland, across choppy, jostling water. I just so happened to be sitting at the front of the boat, the only seat that didn’t have a cushion, and needless to say, I was uncomfortable. Regardless of the discomfort, I arrived intact to the field site that they called “the swamp;” it was just that. We hiked from the boat to the site through knee-deep mud. When we arrived, each of the four researchers took to their specific work for the day. Simone’s work concerned the mating of the frogs, with a particular focus on the color interactions involved (i.e. red with blue, red with red, or blue with blue). I occasionally peeked in at her observations as she patiently watched pairs of frogs interact, hoping that the two would mate. Mysea’s work concerned the acoustics of the frog calls, and I followed her around as she simultaneously followed around the frogs with a microphone. Yusan and Houston focused their time on capturing frogs and marking their location within a grid they had created. Scanning within the perimeter of a specific plot, they recorded each frog’s coordinates on the plot and marked them if they had yet to be marked. Their work took a majority of the day, but I had no idea, as the time flew by. It was great fun to watch their daily research work and they were happy to have a little extra company around.
        It’s opportunities like these, opened to me at the institute, that have made the trip that much more memorable. Being able to tag along and learn from others has been a wonderful and unexpected benefit of visiting STRI, and the opportunity to do so is available for any and all that have the interest and the will to ask.