It's Wednesday....and the plan was to go to Gamboa to join Dr. Sunshine Van Bael's class. Up at 5:30, taxi to Albrook bus terminal and on the Diablo Rojo at 6:30 pm. What is a Diablo Rojo, you ask? Well, it means Red Devil, and it's Panama's version of the $1 car (if you are from NY, you know what I mean). They are US built school buses, but have been colorfully and creatively transformed! They sometimes have names and I even saw one with my dad's name...Luis Alberto! lol
We make it to Gamboa....not really knowing what to expect from this class, but were used to busting in on classes, lectures, field work, etc. We had to wait for a little bit, but finally Sunshine arrived. She let us into the schoolhouse...and to our surprise, it actually had dorm rooms! And all the students were in there! Sunshine offered us coffee and rubber boots and introduced us to some of the participants...come to find out we already knew 2 of them, Victor and Guillaume. This was a NEO class! (and you won't understand this reference until you read the next post....) We finished our coffee and put on our boots and headed out to Pipeline road.
The goal for the day was to observe leaf cutter ants for a few hours. The students' object was to solely make observations about the behavior of the ants and to write down as many questions as they could think of. They split off into 2's (there were 8 students total) and I attached myself to Victor and.....well, I didn't get his name! But here they are (Victor is on the right):
After a couple of hours tromping around following leaf-cutter ant highways, we were good and sweaty and the mosquitoes were biting me through my clothes. We saw plenty of bugs and spiders along the way...even ran into other researchers...these 2 gentleman were with their adviser catching fish to collect data about parasites....yeah, how often do you run into guys like THIS in the rainforest?? hehehe....
So, back to the lab, and the lecture that followed. I have to admit...I was ready for a nap, but the discussion was centered around many of the questions the students came up with. We also got a tour of Sunshine's lab...she studies leaf-cutter ants, of course!
The afternoon ended and we boarded the Diablo Rojo for home...it was a great day!!