Float like a butterfly

So since my last post I have made progress towards my personal goals, passing my ID and Emergency First Response tests and completing my first two assignments. On the down side, cockroaches ate through the mouth piece of my camel water pack (a 3 litre bag that I use to carry drinking water when out for the day in the jungle), making it unusable and contributing to me getting slight sunstroke one day last week. Also the weather has been unseasonably wet. The rainy season should only start in November but we have had storms everyday since October 1st. This massive amount of water washed the MLCs boat right away one night. Could this be due to the very strong El Nino earlier this year and a sign of climate change?

It has also been rather quiet here at the MLC, there are only 3 staff members, one intern (myself) two passentirers (Peruvian Interns) and 5 volunteers. This being said the week has been filled with butterflies! Which is good because butterfly trapping is my favourite piece of research going on at the moment. For one week I went out almost everyday on butterfly surveys and had the time to take photos of them.

Butterflies are being looked at because they are a good indicator group. An indicator group is one which has a certain set of requirements to live and if these change the species reacts positively or negatively. In most cases its a negative response resulting in a decline in that species. Butterflies are also very good bio-indicators which means they show changes in the environment, because they have a very thin surface layer which can be affected by the slightest change. As well as this they are essential pollinators within the forest ecosystem. Without these species there would be a decline in the number of flowering plants in the rainforest.

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Butterfly trapping works on a weekly cycle, one week on, one week off – so that there isn’t a massive impact on the species that visit the traps. Traps are set up at the beginning of the week in two survey areas, Aguanos and the MLC. Each survey area has several sites where the traps are set, and each site has 3 traps at differing heights; high canopy, mid canopy and low. This allows for data over a distinct gradient in the forest, giving a larger sample size as well as collecting data at a variety of points within the forest structure. The sites also have different bait types, either fermented fish or banana, allowing for a range of butterflies to be surveyed.

The last two weeks have seen a myriad of different people coming and going; Kat the Volunteer Coordinator is leaving and her replacement arrived; the volunteers I arrived with left last week, and although I was sad to see them go, we have had a new hit of excited volunteers who are keen to learn; interns who had been in Cusco for three weeks also arrived back in camp. As the saying goes “out with the old in with the new.”

This week I have been working towards new objectives, one of which is conduct a survey. This objective is to help me learn more about the different pieces of research as well as helping me learn how to carry out each survey and give briefings. The research I’ve picked is of course butterfly trapping. I have had to plan how I will conduct the survey as well as read around the subject area and plan in advance what I want to say. When I do my conduct a survey I will have a staff member assessing how I do, making sure I include everything needed. If I do well I will be signed off on the work and from then on can lead the survey on my own. Here’s hoping that by my next post i will have led some surveys solo!

 

 

First steps of a rather large adventure

So I have finally made it to Cusco without  disasters of any kind (which I am very grateful for). My flight from Gatwick to Lima was long and tiring as so many journeys are, especially when you are made to watch all the latest films in a record time, I achieved 4, which I count as very good in a 12 hour flight. Who can complain when you get free food  throughout your journey and can sit and watch endless amounts of films and pig out on free snacks? My second flight however was not so comfortable, I literally thought the plane was going to fall apart, luckily it was all good, with major brownie points going to the captain who manage to avoid the massive hills and looming city, that I assumed we would hit. After a rather rickety landing, I was finally at my destination of Cusco… which has been home for the last two days.

Meeting other volunteers and the familiar faces of staff members reassured me that this was what I have wanted to do for my placement, I would say since forever but actually its been more like just over a year when I last visited. I have always liked revisiting place mainly due to the fact that I know my way around and have some kind of a clue on how things going to play out, unlike the volunteers who I have met who aren’t so aware. After two days of getting to know everyone and acclimatizing to the area all the new volunteers seem to be getting their heads around the next stage of the trip, which is to go down into the cloud forest. Our decent will take two days then we finally arrive at the MLC basecamp for the next 6 months, well for me at least. Other volunteers stay for either a month or just 2 short weeks having a whistle-stop tour of jungle life. I have found leaving the UK and coming back out very daunting, as an intern I have a lot more responsibility, as well as having the concern of ruining my last experience I had when I was here as a volunteer. However, being in Cusco and finding my bearings already has settled me. Also I feel I have been useful in terms of me answering other people questions of whats going to happen when and how. It has made me appreciate how much I know about Cusco as well as facts about life at the MLC.

Tomorrow we start our journey down into the cloud forests, stopping off at a few villages that specialise in different local delicacies, such as bread. Weird I know, however this bread is very delicious and its incredible to think that one whole village just makes bread, of all types. They vary between having animal fat or vegetable fat in, so veggies have to watch out! The bread however is very dense almost cake like, but tastes so good. Other villages specialise in guinea-pig – and not the selling of guinea-pigs either, more the eating side. But before you thing OMG cruel, these guinea-pigs are generally raised to be eaten, and therefore have a different look and shape to our cute little pets we have at home. After visiting these towns we will spend the rest of the day driving through cloud forest and down to the Madre de Dios river, where we will end up at the MLC which is in the buffer zone of the Manu national park.

While out in the jungle I am also raising money for my mum charity FCRS, in order to help provide solar lights to a school out in Conakry. I have done other blogs about this matter, but I’m hopefully going to be helping people understand a little more about how important both the rainforest is and the increasing necessity of solar lights are to children in Conakry, alongside the importance of school and education. The charity will provide a sustainable future to these kids, as well as my role which is to bring the research and knowledge of the rainforest to people around the world through the use of my blog. I am aiming to be writing a blog most weeks on what I have been up to and the amount of money I have raised. And hopefuly some cool footage off my camera trap, so what this space, lots of creature out there to capture on camera, and to show to you guys.