Great to be alive during week 5!

From: Osinski, Brianna
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2014 6:38 PM
To: White, Peter S
Subject: Great to be alive during week 5!

Hello Dr. White!

I’m glad you’re enjoying the weekly updates. They are a joy to write and I look forward to your responses in turn; adventures are always more fun when you can share them with friends! And, if any of your future students seem like aspiring STRI interns, please don’t hesitate to give them my contact information. I will happily tell them all the ins-and-outs of their potential experience.

So, this week in review:

I was taken to the handicraft markets for the first time. There were so many colors, people, trinkets, and sounds that I honestly found them more intimidating than collecting alone in the forest at night. Thankfully I have some market savvy friends and they played the role of haggler for me and guided me through the maze of stalls no worse for wear!

I also got to spend three days in Boquete with my lab mates. The lowlands of Panama are nice, but man oh man are the highlands gorgeous!!! We drove there in our 20-year old field truck and it was quite vocal the whole way, protesting needing to drive for more than a few miles and traverse the mountains on top of it. But, after sliding down a few hills, we made it there in one piece and were rewarded with the breathtaking view of the whole valley laid out below us (I’ll show you pictures!).

One our first day there we did a 12 line zip-line through the jungle canopy. We got to fly through the trees and over waterfalls while the most vibrant rainbow I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing arched overhead. Nature couldn’t have gotten more picturesque had it tried.

Nature continued to impress me as post-zip line we stumbled upon a huge green house in town. There were hibiscus the size of saucers colored like sunbursts and trumpet flowers galore! I’m sure you saw similar things during your time in the Chiriquí, but please tell me that you literally took time to stop and smell the roses. If the answer is no, sir, you need to get yourself back to Panama because they were the most heavenly scented roses I’ve ever smelled. Every color had a slightly different scent, but they were all sweet and not cloyingly so. We must have spent at least half an hour strolling amongst the flowers and probably would have stayed there longer if a sudden down pour hadn’t chased us back to our bungalow for a night of board and card games.

The next day we departed Boquete to check out Guadalupe, the home of delicious fresh strawberries and cream AND the Quetzal trail. Our group split up, some went to the orchid farm and others to the trail. I was dead set on spying a quetzal, so I chose the latter. Unfortunately, we were there during the rainy season which is not a common time to see quetzals and we only had enough time to hike the lower portion of the trail and the quetzals are generally only seen at the higher elevations way up in the treetops. Fortunately, none of that mattered because we saw a quetzal!!! My friend Emma saw it at the trail head and thought it was a wooden statue simply marking that this was the quetzal trail, but, no, it was an actual bird and she was resplendent in a coat of jewel colored feathers. We watched her until she flew off and spent the rest of our hike in an amazed daze. We saw some wild orchids, too, so I think that my group honestly got the best of both worlds. I have now officially seen ever animal on my Panama must-see list so anything from this point on is just a lucky bonus!

This trip also had a potential research angle as we were hoping to swab the Boquete Tungara population for chytrid. Sadly, the local tungara population was essentially non-existent. We spent a few hours each night searching for them, but only heard a total of 3 frogs and could not actually locate any of them. Mike (my boss) thinks it may be that the elevation was too high for their tastes, which is a possible factor, but I’m also inclined to suspect that pollution played a part in it, too. So many places that would have been perfect for Tungaras were clogged with Styrofoam cups, candy wrappers, and other such trash. We have a similar situation in Gamboa right now. I saw some jerks, to use a light term, dumping construction debris into the woods near Pipeline. I really wasn’t sure what I could do in that situation, but I memorized their license plate number and e-mailed it to the lady who is the liaison between the interns and STRI. She passed it on to the local park ranger and gave him the pictures I took later. Who knows if anything will come of it, but I knew that it definitely wouldn’t change if I didn’t try. Just further fuel for my desire to be a conservationist and trying to counteract at least a little of that kind of stuff; I’m taking that baton and running with it, Dr. White.

The rest of the week has been work as usual. It’s been a bit of a struggle the last few nights because our Boquete mini-vacation allowed our bodies to go back to being diurnal for a few days and now we’re all trying to switch back over, but we’ve done it once, we can do it again. It was heartening knowing that when I come home it won’t be difficult to go back to my morning person ways.

-Brianna 🙂