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.
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!