Friday, August 12, 2011

Bocas del Toro...and other adventures

Hey everybody!! Long time no where did I leave off....oh yes, last Monday night, August 1st. Well, it turns out there were no more seats available for the bus ride to Bocas that night, so we had to wait until the next morning to catch the 7am bus. It was fine by me, because I had been dealing with some minor health issues for a couple of days (no worries, I'm fine now). The worst of them was the darned bug bites that I got during our day of fun and cleaning on the beach. These bites were EVERYWHERE...neck, back, arms, shoulders, ankles, legs, thighs....ughhhhhhh! And it was worse at night...I was waking up scratching and could not sleep. But Menticol helped with the worst of it....blessed cooling relief! And I'm not going to gross you out by posting pictures of the awful bug bites....but I have some!

But, back to our trip. We made it onto the the bus by 7am..but with Panama time, it didn't actually leave until 7:30. I settled in for the long, 9 hour ride that was in store for me. I actually didn't mind it so much, being used to a 4 hour ride from Baltimore to New York when I was in college...but the bug bites and my stomach issues made the trip a bit more uncomfortable than I would have liked. But, with 3 rest stops included in the travel, time passed quickly.And soon enough, we arrived....

The only way to get to Bocas del Toro is by water taxi, and what a beautiful ride it was. I have found that I absolutely love being on a boat. There is nothing like having the sun in your face and the cool breeze whipping through your hair.

A short taxi ride later, we arrived at the research station. We collected our keys and walked over a swamp to get to our dorm.  By this time, all I wanted was a shower and a bed, so that's exactly what I did. Our dorm could sleep six, but we were the only 2 in it. No AC, but a ceiling fan and 4 floor fans made up for it! 

After a restful...well, somewhat restful....night (I was still itchy), we woke up to have breakfast with the class that was here. And at breakfast, Emma showed us a friend she had caught.....

So, let me try and explain this class: it's called "Training in Tropical Taxonomy" (TTT) and it is a series of courses designed to train students and biologists in taxonomy of tropical marine organisms. (I got that from the Smithsonian website, can you tell? lol) These courses happen every summer since 2005. Visit this website if you want to know more: But this years topic is: Taxonomy and Biology of Decapod crustaceans. The profesores were Darryl Felder from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Fernando Mantelatto from the Universidade de Sao Paulo.

The courses are organized by Dr. Rachel Collin (she is who I am working with here), and she is also the director of the Bocas research station. This course includes undergrad, master's and PhD students from the US, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, and Brazil. We were able to join their class for a day. We got to go on another boat ride (yay!) to a mangrove forest to collect roots. The idea was for the students to collect the roots, bring them back to the lab, and collect all the decapods that were living in and on the root. (decapods are crustaceans and include crabs, prawns, shrimp...)
On the walk over the swamp to the dock, we saw a little friend in the water: a cayman!
We headed out to the mangroves and watched them wade through the water to make their cuttings and then we went back to the lab and they began the hunt for decapods! It was really interesting walking up and down the balcony peering over shoulders and taking pictures. I'll tell you something...every single person we have met down here has been super nice and welcoming and willing to talk to us about the research they are doing, taking the time to explain things and show us everything

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