This past week has been mostly work after coming back from the cloud forest last Saturday. We had two essays due and a presentation about the Amazon which is where we are going tomorrow. The work load is definitely heavy, but not as much as I would do at Whitman. From the very beginning they told us that we are “students first” and that this was not just a vacation. I do love how much we are learning but sometime I wish we had some free time to explore a little more. Speaking of exploring we did go to the cloud forest last week which was incredible!
We went to the cloud forest for five days. The forest was filled with incredible diversity and was overall amazing. It really felt like you were in a jungle. We stayed at Santa Lucia which is an ecolodge that you have to hike in to. They carry your stuff up on mules! It was interesting to learn about the creation of the place and their relationships with scientific groups and the local community. It is also amazing to think that everything except for some local resources were brought up my mule or hiked up by people. All of the kitchen supplies, glass for the windows, also all the food that is there… it is pretty incredible! They lodge is also very ecofriendly, and they have cool composting toilets to save water.
During our stay we did a lot of bird watching. We saw and identified more the 60 different bird species and saw a lot of orchids as well which are a common epiphyte there. A lot of the birds were brilliantly colored and were the first wild tropical birds I’d ever seen. During our time there we learned how to do mist netting to catch birds for identification and measurements. We set out the nets and got up at 5:45 am to open them. After waiting for 15 minutes we would go check the nets for birds. Our instructors carefully took the birds out of the nets and taught us how to take measurements and release them. We also learned about insects and how to collect them in streams to use as bioindicators. We hiked down to a series of three beautiful waterfalls where we did our collection. This was a good intro to my long term group project in which we are comparing stream quality of cloud forest and amazon streams, which we did at the base of two of the waterfalls. The project is interesting, and it was a ton of fun to wade around in streams collecting insects, but I can tell the project is definitely going to be a lot of work.
Another investigation we did involved light trapping of moths and insects. One of the nights we put up a sheet outside and shined a giant light on it. Within half and hour it was coated in moths big and small, including hawk moths. At one point we were all covered in moths which may sound gross but it was honestly so cool and the moths were beautiful! The insects in the cloud forest were large in general and throughout the trip we tons of cool insects and even found a tarantula next to the lodge!
Overall, our visit to the cloud forest was amazing and I didn’t really want to go back to Quito. It was a forest like nothing I had ever seen before and I would love to go return.