Friday, September 30, 2011

Fiesta for Feces!

Just a quick update to say that I FINALLY SNAGGED SOME MONKEY POO.  I've been trying to get fecal samples from my titi family for about a week now, and I've never been able to find those pesky little pellets amongst all the leaf litter on the forest floor.  Well, today I broke my unlucky streak when my male conveniently did his business from the limb directly above me.  And there it was!  Right on the ground in front of my boots.  Stuck that little brown nugget in a plastic vial and continued on my merry way with my monkey family.  Yay fecal analysis!

My handsome male.  Thanks for the feces!
FUN SCIENCE FACT #12: The world's termites outweigh the world's humans 10 to 1.  Not outnumber.......outweigh.  That's both disgusting and fascinating.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heat-Induced Lethargy

Yesterday, my monkeys and I were on the exact same page.  We both decided it would be a great idea to just sit...and stay seated most of the day.  Now, I'm not the betting kind, but I'd be willing to place money on the fact that yesterday was probably the hottest day of the field season thus far.  When we arrived at Yvaga Guazu around 11:30 AM, it was already blazing.  Like the 'walk 10 feet and you're already dripping with sweat' kind of hot.  I wasn't too thrilled to spend the next seven hours wandering through the forest/sauna and chasing titis.  I decided to make one quick loop around my territory and then head to a specific tree I had found them resting in on Monday.  This resting tree isn't exactly in the normal confines of GN territory, so it's not like this is a place I check often, but my gut told me to go for it.  So I did.  To my surprise and excitement, there they were!  My male (plus infant on his back), my female, and my juvenile all rested in a branch about 7-8 m up from the ground.  Praise. The. Lord.  Only 30 minutes into that scorcher of a day, and I'd already got my eyes locked in on the monkey prize.  BONUS: My monkeys found the coolest possible spot in the area.  Lots of shade, a nice constant breeze.  Those little guys are so smart.

Male resting with infant on his back.
So I propped up my backpack, laid down, and set up camp in the trail across from  what I have now aptly dubbed 'the lazy tree.'  Minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to more hours, but they sat tight.  No chance of heat exhaustion for my family!  They weren't going anywhere.  The trio rested in the same tree for about 4.5 hours, which gave me plenty of time to collect lots of data and observe lots of parental/juvenile/infant interactions.  I was able to watch my female nurse the infant about 4 or 5 times...each time initiated by the infant and each time for no more than 10 minutes.  I was also able to witness my juvenile carry the infant - a job usually reserved for dad.  But the itty bitty baby was a pretty big burden for such a young offspring, so the male took over baby duty after only a few minutes.  Mom also carried the little one yesterday.  It was after she had nursed, and she was walking along a branch headed back towards the male...most likely to get rid of her furry accessory.  All of a sudden she slipped and fell off the branch!  With the baby!!  My heart skipped a beat when I thought she'd fallen all the way to the forest floor.  Luckily she caught herself on a lower limb.  The male came immediately to her, she quickly regained her composure, and they made their way back up to their original perch....this time with dad carrying the infant.

Juvenile hanging out in 'the lazy tree'. 
Around 4:30, all three titis left their resting tree and headed back towards the main part of their territory.  A little resting here and there, a little more nursing, and a little foraging on some Lauraceae fruits, and my day with my monkey family was over.  A good day with lots of data.  Bueno.

Titi foraging in the sunset.
FUN SCIENCE FACT #11: The surface area of a human lung is equal to the size of a tennis court.  Yep.  That's a lot of surface area.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lomas y Mariposas

After five days of data collection, sickness, more sickness, and more data collection, I was so ready for the weekend.  As much as I love my titi's great to have a few days off to explore Santa Cruz.  This weekend we decided to tackle two of our top touristy destinations around the city: Las Lomas de Arenas and Biocentre Guembe.

Saturday: Las Lomas de Arena.  One of the most unusual attractions in the Santa Cruz area, Las Lomas de Arena (Hills of Sand = sand dunes) are exactly as the name describes.  It's basically just a huge nature-sized sand box out in the middle of nowhere.  There is usually a lagoon during the rainy season, but since we're currently heading towards the end of the dry season, there was ZERO water there.  True, that makes it a little less water, no water fowl...but we managed to make the most of our sand dune experience.  Running, jumping, lots of falling.  We were covered in sand by the end of the day.

Las Lomas de Arena
Fun in the sun/sand.  There was lots of both.
...mostly just falling...
...definitely falling...
...covered in sand.
But the most interesting part of our journey had to be the ride home.  We arrived at the dunes via bus and a very uncomfortable truck ride...the dunes are about 7 km from the actual park entrance, so despite the uncomfortableness of the truck ride, it was much better than walking that whole way.  When we left Las Lomas, we had no idea how or if we would get a ride back to the gate.  Luckily for us, we were able to flag down some nice English-speaking Asian tourists.  They not only took us to the gate, but drove us THE WHOLE WAY HOME.  Hallelujah.  I'll take a nice air conditioned vehicle, rocking out to 'Eye of the Tiger,' over a crowded bus any day.  Life here is an adventure.  One minute you're sliding down sand hills, and the next you're hitchhiking with some nice Asians.  Gotta love it.

Great times with great girls!

Sunday: Biocentre Guembe.  When we first stumbled across this place in our Bolivian guidebooks, all we really noticed about it was the butterfly sanctuary...also known as the Mariposario (butterfly = mariposa).  Well.  This place has waaaaaaaaay more to offer than butterflies.  The butterflies were only a tiny tiny part of this resort/biocenter/adventureland.  First of all, this place is GORGEOUS.  Like seriously.  Colorful flowers, lush beautiful.  We started off with a trip to the Mariposario (since that's the reason we were there in the first place).  Too many butterflies to count.

From there we made our way down the trail to the Aviario (Aviary).  You could hear this place from a mile away.  Lots of birds making lots of noise.  I'm usually not a big fan of putting birds in mesh enclosures (I mean really...they're birds...they need sky and lots of it), but if it's going to happen, this is the way to do it.  The enclosure was HUGE.  Macaws, toucans, peacocks, plus one crazy squirrel.

Inside the Aviario

Towards the middle of the Aviario was a spiral staircase leading to a rooftop observation deck-type balcony thing.  And the view was spectacular.  I probably could've stayed up there all day.  The small spiral stairs made for a dizzying descent...but it was SO WORTH IT.

Awesome view from the top of the Aviario

We took the trail out of the Aviario and walked back towards the main area of the park, had a nice all-American hamburger/fries/coke lunch, and then spent the rest of the afternoon touring all of the natural swimming pools.  And yes that's plural...pools.  Like probably 10+ pools.  Relaxing end to a fun weekend.  Ready for those monkeys early early Monday morning.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #10:  There are over a million described insect species, but some estimate there are actually between 15-30 million species.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


WARNING: Do not read this if nausea makes you...nauseous.

Wow.  What a difference 24 hours can makes.  Yesterday, I was out in the field, loving (almost) every second of it.  Today?  Stuck in bed sick.  Like real sick.  Getting sick at home sucks enough, but getting sick thousands of miles away from your comfy bed and your own doctors?  It's worse...much, much worse.  Now that I think about it, I wasn't feeling 100% yesterday.  I kept getting dizzy and I had a killer headache, but I honestly thought I was just dehydrated or something.

I started this blog with the intentions of writing about all the ups and downs of my life here in Bolivia.  The good times and the bad times, the highlights and the lowlights.  Well, last night/today was about as bad as it could get.  At least, I can't imagine it getting any worse.

As I fell asleep last night, I felt relatively normal.  I was getting congested and my headache was actively turning into a migraine, but that's become the norm since I got here in the peak of the burning season.  The farmers are clearing new land, and I'm reaping the consequences physically...with stuffy noses and sinus pressure from all the smoke.  I knew something was off when I woke up at 1:17 AM and my stomach was in knots.  A trip to our bathroom and a few minutes later, all of my dinner was gone.  AND I NEVER THROW UP LIKE THAT.  I think the last time I threw up, I had appendicitis.  I mean, my stomach tolerates pretty much everything.  It only goes into vomit-survival mode if something is really wrong.  Anyways, I regained my composure and made it back to bed (after, of course, I brushed my teeth and refilled my nalgene with some ice water).  It took me a little while to get comfortable, but I eventually fell back asleep...only to be woken up by my stomach AGAIN at 2:53 AM.  Side note: yes I know I'm a compulsive time-checker...I check the clock every time I wake up...can't help it.  This time I puked up all the water I drank after the previous puking.  It was an awful night.  I went back to bed around 3:13 AM (again with the time checking), tossed and turned for about 30 minutes, then finally fell asleep.  What happened at 5:10 AM?  Another trip to the bathroom and more vomiting.  By this time, there was nothing left in my stomach.  No food, no water, nothing...but clearly there was still something there that my body didn't like.  This time was the hardest time to fall back asleep.  My whole body was aching.  I was freezing.  I was shivering.  I was not in a good place.  Plus it doesn't help that I have the strangest and lumpiest mattress of all time.  I mean, I'm so grateful to have a place to lay my head at night, but it's seriously a weird mattress.

So there I was...and there I stayed (awake) until 7:15 AM when my roommate woke up.  I have the best roommate.  She set me up with some ginger ale and some cheerios, and she let our house parents (Yuvinka and Steffen) in on my current situation.  I didn't go to the field today.  There was no way I wold have made it there.  We commute to Yvaga Guazu by bus and taxi, and I knew I'd be yelling out "pare porfavor!" (stop please!) like every two minutes to throw up on the side of the road.  So I stayed home...and I hate staying home.  I hate being sick.  Especially when I have things to do!  Like follow my monkeys around all day!  So I slept lots - well, as much as I could given my mattress situation.  And I cautiously ate cheerios and sipped on my water.  I'm pretty sure a fever was involved at one point.  I was hot and cold and cold and hot all in the span of about 20 minutes.  It's currently 8:08 PM and I'm feeling a little better.  Roomie says I sound better...since evidently this morning I sounded "like death."  I'm a little hungry, but I don't trust my stomach yet.  And my entire body is still in pain (but I guess retching all night will do that to you).  And I'm still having body temperature regulation issues.  But tomorrow is another day...hopefully a better day.  And I hope I never ever ever throw up ever again.

Also, I apologize to anyone who feels this was way too much information to share on the internet.  Sorry.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #9:  Rats can swim for a half a mile (0.8 km) without rest, and can tread water for three straight days.  Such troopers, those rats.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Data Day #1 - Officially

Today was the first day of official data collection.  These past few weeks have been spent habituating our titi families and practicing the methodology, so this was the first time the data we collected would go down in the books as real data.  Today was also our first afternoon shift at Yvaga Guazu.  Three of our five workdays consist of early morning shifts (like real real we get there before the sun does), and on the other two days, we get there around 11 AM and don't leave until about 6 or 6:30 PM.  Got to cover all our behavioral bases.  Got to make sure the monkeys aren't doing crazy stuff when we're not looking.  So today was our first afternoon shift and I think we were all a little nervous.  So far, we've had some pretty sore luck finding our monkeys after 10:30 in the morning - thus the nerves - and today was no exception.  At least for me.  We arrived to our field site around noon (11 was our original goal, but we ran into slight transportation issues), and I spent the next FOUR AND A HALF HOURS searching for my elusive family.  The entries in my field notebook sum up my morning pretty well...

12:24  There's a tree full of vultures at the corner of my territory.  Twelve.  Twelve vultures.  Hope they're not feasting on the tiny carcasses of my monkey family...
1:02  Still can't find my monkeys.  I NEED SOME DATA.  Titis - where you at??
1:58  Why does it smell like bacon?
2:53  No monkeys yet.  Screw this, I'm eating lunch.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

I finally had a breakthrough around 4:30.  A neighboring titi family began to vocalize, and although my group was unresponsive at first, they eventually chimed in with a reply to the initiators of the bout.  I spotted two individuals (the same two individuals from last Wednesday) in a tree at the northwestern corner of the territory (near the same tree I found those two in last Wednesday).  I saw my male - carrying the infant, as always - but I was still unsure of his companion.  Female?  Subadult?  At this point, there was no way to tell.  As a small, grey juvenile approached the duo, I heard nearby vocalizations from two additional monkeys.  I was really starting to think that these were the two older offspring of my family...staying far away enough to kind of do their own thing, but still close enough to check in with their folks to let them know everything's okay.  These suspicions were confirmed when I noticed my male pass the little baby titi over to the other individual, where I watched the baby nurse.  That's a pretty clear indicator that the duet consisted of my male and my female, with the juvenile sticking close to mommy and daddy.  It was at this point, while my female nursed her youngling, that I witnessed my first case of 'scent marking' behavior.  There are two kinds of scent marking: anogenital rubbing and chest rubbing.  I was witnessing the latter, as my male moved his chest with pressure and friction against a tree branch by sliding his body forward.  Only a few minutes after this behavior, I was able to watch my male and female actively groom one another.  It may have taken me a while to find them, but it was fantastic seeing all these different behaviors.

Female and Male after vocalizing
Grooming session 
Cute little juvenile titi monkey
For the next half an hour or so, I watched my male play with the juvenile, I listened to a few more titi conversations, and I observed my family forage in their new favorite paraíso tree.  And that's where I left them.  I had just found my monkeys about an hour before, but it was already time to pack up and leave for the day.  I wasn't able to collect as much data as I would've liked, but the data I did collect was solid and I was confident in my work.  Goal for next time?  Find those damn monkeys sooner!

Beautiful sunset at Yvaga Guazu

FUN SCIENCE FACT #8:  To avoid predators, a mother Slow Loris (genus Nycticebus) licks the offspring with her toxin-laced saliva before sending them off to search for food.  What a good mom.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Early Mornings and Stubborn Monkeys

These past few days have been full of monkey-related confusion.  I thought that I'd been following G4 this entire time....'thought' being the operative word.  I'd studied their pictures, learned their family history, and heard stories about their individual personalities.  Well, a skype meeting with Kim (our main monkey lady) changed everything.  Evidently, the territory that I've been roaming about it, hacking trails in, and - true confessions - peeing in, isn't even G4 territory.  WHAT?  Yeah, I know.  Come to find out, it's actually GN territory.  GN and G4, although very different in their personalities and physical appearances, can be easily confused by the untrained eye (with the untrained eye being myself and GN's stalker/observer).  Both groups have five individuals...mommy, daddy, offspring #1, #2, and #3...and both groups have a new tiny baby titi.  Since neither of us newbie researchers are familiar enough with the families yet, we don't know who's been following whom, or who those whoms are, or why those whoms are where they are if they're not really supposed to be there.  I feel like I'm kind of at a standstill...since I don't even know what group it is that I'm watching.  If these stubborn monkeys would let me take better pictures, then maybe we could clear up this whole mess.  But vines, and branches, and sunrises, and timid monkeys make photographing them very difficult.  I went all day yesterday thinking it might be GN that I've been watching...and by the end of the day, I convinced myself that yes, it must be GN.  But, our trainer Vanessa is still insisting that my monkeys are G4.  I feel like right now, since I still can't really tell them all apart, I could probably convince myself that these monkeys look like any group in the park.  #primateproblems

Today was a weird day in my monkey watching world.  Nothing seemed to fit right.  Fit...yes that's the word I want.  Nothing seemed to fit.  Things actually went rather well though.  Monkeys were found and monkeys were followed and data was collected.  But things were just off.  Good news though: ALL the monkeys were vocalizing today!  I hadn't heard my group, or any other group, do any sort of "waka waka" or "boop boop" in days.  Seemed like everyone was talkative this morning (check out the video below).  The thing I love most about vocalizing titi monkeys?  YOU CAN FIND THEM.

I spotted two of my titis (G4? GN??) perched atop a branch near the northwestern corner of their territory around 7:30 this morning.  An hour and a half of unsuccessful titi searching made me thankful to hear those early AM calls from my group.  The two began to vocalize...and tail twine - my favorite...and were soon joined in song by a nearby group.  Weird thing though, the nearby call appeared to be nearby enough to be in my group's territory.  We've had some mixing and mashing of titi turf, so maybe that's what I was hearing?  One group in another's territory?  Then again, I could only see two of my five (plus an infant) monkeys...could different members of the same group be co-vocalizing from that far away?  A third individual approached the duet a few minutes later and the three then jumped a few branches to a neighboring tree where they vocalized a little longer.  Vocalizing evidently works up an appetite, because shortly thereafter, my titi trio moved on to foraging in a nearby paraíso tree.  Foraging in a paraíso tree?  Normal.  Foraging in this paraíso tree??  It was in a part of their territory I had not seen them in previously.  The territory is bound by four major trails, and while I've observed them crossing over the southern trail (lots of branches overhead), I've never seen them cross over the trail to the west.  I'VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THEM GO NEAR THAT ROAD.  Were they here because another group - the vocalizing ones - are pushing into their territory?  Do they come here often and I've just never followed them here before?  Why were these three here foraging (one of which was my male with tiny titi in tow) without the other two?  Up until now, they've always foraged together, or at least in the same vicinity.  All of these things combined made the day weird.  I lost track of the group around 9:30 and wasn't able to find them for the rest of the day....and we didn't leave until 1:00 PM.  That's a long time without monkeys.  I'm pretty sure they were camped out somewhere cool and shady.  Usually by 10:30, anywhere not in the shade is basically unbearable.  It gets really hot.

Feeding on some paraíso.
The next few days are full of plant taxonomy-ing and phenology-ing, so I probably won't see my monkey family until Monday.  I think I'll miss their cute little furry faces, but hopefully next time we meet, everything will be normal and wonderful.  And not weird.  Like today.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #7:  The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a lemur that uses its extra long and slender middle finger to pull grubs out of trees.  Look it up on google will give you nightmares.  Creepiest primate award goes to the aye-aye.  No question.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Certified Monkey Stalker

Friday, September 9: probably the perfect field day.  First of all, it was chilly outside.  I haven't needed a jacket in MONTHS...chilly temps always put me in a chipper mood.  Second of all, we spotted my titi family right after we arrived at 6:00 AM, directly off of the main trail that runs through Yvaga Guazu. Great start to a great day.

There they rested, all in close proximity, about 20m up in the canopy (unsure of the tree species).  It was at this point that I witnessed my favorite titi behavior thus far...tail twining.  Completely adorable.  It was just past sunrise and the light wasn't decent enough to document this precious behavior with my camera, but I promise you that pictures will be taken.  And then you can share in my love for tail twining.  I could see five tails total.  Two individuals were clearly smaller than the other; these were most likely the juveniles.  Each juvenile tail was twined with a larger body, while one tail hung companionless (perhaps this lone tail is my subadult? and the two twinned tails are the parents? no se).  My G4 family rested in that same tree for about 30 minutes more until a nearby 'meow' seemed to send them running.  This intrigues me.  Was it the actual cat sound that caused them to flee or was it just coincidental?  Are the stray cats at Yvaga Guazu preying on the tiny titis?  It couldn't have just been the volume of the meow...since there was pretty much an entire flock of vocalizing birds only 5m away in the same tree.  If I observe this again, then it will mean something more.  Until then I'll just let the idea float around in my head.

Snapped a pic right before this one ran away...

Even though my monkeys scattered quickly, I was able to catch a very exciting glimpse of my female through the binoculars.  We have a baby titi!!  I saw it's tiny titi tail right before the family descended from their perch. could this new bundle of joy possibly be any more exciting??  I get to name the baby!  Baby name brainstorm has already begun.  Currently taking suggestions on names for G4's newest addition...

I lost my male and my female in the whole "cat's meow" situation, but I was able to keep my ears on the three offspring.  Sometimes the foliage keeps those cryptic monkeys well hidden, but you can often hear them jumping from branch to branch.  I visually located one (probably my subadult) foraging high up in a jopo de mono tree.  The seeds of the jopo de mono are encased in a kind of spiky shell-like covering.  The subadult was able to break apart the shell into two halves while leaving the seeds hanging from the branch.  Hands free foraging!  If someone showed me a jopo de mono tree and told me to eat those seeds, I would've never thought to leave it hanging on the branch like that.  Brilliant!  The two juveniles soon joined the lone titi in the feeding tree, where what began as food sharing soon became fighting/bickering between the siblings.  Ahh, good old fashioned sibling rivalry.  Such a classic.

Jopo de mono seeds in their 'shell'

Titi reaching for jopo de mono seeds

After their quick meal, I followed the offspring to a tree located much deeper in G4 territory.  The male and female were already there, and then my reunited monkey family took a really long nap.  I mean, I don't blame them...I love post-breakfast naps.  So does my dog.  Must be a universal theme.  Anyways, my titis rested there for quite a while...probably a little over an hour.  Seems like a long time for me to just stand there in the forest with my eyes glued to this pile-o-monkeys up in a tree, right?  But in reality, time flew.  It was kind of nice to not go running/stumbling/tripping/falling through the forest in attempts to keep up with them.  Long about 8:15 AM, all but one individual abandoned the resting tree.  I looked closely through my binoculars and discovered this last monkey was my male...complete with new baby titi on his back.  Interesting titi trivia: males are responsible for about 90% of offspring care...he carries, plays with, and grooms the younglings, while mom just births and nurses.  The male I was watching moved differently than the others.  Jumping shorter distances, and even coming closer to the ground to reach nearby trees (as opposed to jumping between relatively high branches in the canopy).  This was a behavior I noticed the day before as well; I observed the male of a neighboring group, also with his baby backpack, descend all the way to ground level to run about 5m before scurrying up another tree.  Wasn't expecting to see a titi on the ground...since they're a largely arboreal species.  I guess it has to do with the infant.  Can't risk losing such precious cargo!

I lost sight (and sound) of G4 around 8:45 AM.  I was disappointed when I was unable to relocate them, but it was great to follow my monkeys for so long and it was the perfect opportunity to practice my behavioral data collection.  I still need to learn to distinguish between the individuals of my titi family...but I'm sure a few more days of observation will help me master that skill.  By the end of these three months, me and G4 will pretty much be BFFs.  

One of my titis hanging out in a tree

FUN SCIENCE FACT #6: Fish otoliths accrete layers of calcium carbonate throughout their lives, resulting in rings.  These rings can be used to determine the age of the fish, much like the rings of trees.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Machete: An Ecologist's Anger Management

Today was our second day in the field at the beautiful Yvaga Guazu.  While yesterday our monkey families were relatively easy to find and easy to follow, this morning was full of monkey watching failures.  We arrived at the site around 6:00 AM and immediately went separate directions to seek out our designated titi families in their known territories.  I thought my day was off to a great start when I spotted my clan about 10m from the trail in what I now assume to be their sleeping tree.  Nothing compares to the excitement of actually finding the right monkeys only 15 minutes into the field day the very first time you're thrown into the wilds solo.  I watched quietly through my binoculars as one by one my family members descended the resting branch and jumped to a near by tree; my male went first, with baby titi on his back, followed closely by the female and the three older offspring.  Then things took a turn for the worse...I lost my monkeys.  Tricky little things decided to disappear into the most unaccessible bowels of the G4 territory (btw that's the name of my family...G4).  The next THREE hours were spent traipsing up and down, back and forth, in and around all the possible trails in that territory.  Nothing.  My first few minutes on the job and I'd already lost the only monkeys for which I was responsible.  There was a potential breakthrough around 8:30 AM when monkey chatter began to resonate through the trees.  The calls initiated from an unknown group in a nearby territory and quickly spread to two more of which was my beloved G4.  Run, run, run, trip over the occasional vine, frantically grab binoculars, monkey sounds get louder and louder, think I'm getting so close, get hopes up...never actually get a good look at monkeys.  That's pretty much how it went down.  Those guys know their way around a forest canopy, that's for sure.

Well luckily everyone else shared in my monkey pains...turns out nobody successfully found AND followed their assigned family.  It was reassuring to find out I wasn't completely incompetent.  I'm choosing to blame these troubles on Mother Nature.  It was raining.  Now I'm no titi monkey, but if I were a titi monkey, I don't think I'd like the rain.  I think I would try and find a comfy dry spot for myself and my family and just hang out there until it once again became sunshiny...or until I got hungry.  This is problematic for us however, because now our titis are conveniently hidden from human observers.  Three hours of no monkeys is both frustrating and exhausting.  Good thing we brought machetes.

I am now 100% positive that the best cure for frustration, anger, stress, and/or boredom is the machete.  Remember those unreachable depths of G4 territory I mentioned earlier?  Yeah.  We blazed trails right through that green, twisty jungle.  It was the most oddly satisfying thing I did all day.  Those vines in my path?  Macheted.  Those twigs snagging my hair?  Macheted.  Those random sticks I felt weren't necessary?  Macheted.  I can save you lots of money on a therapist right now and tell you to just go find yourself a patch of overgrown wilderness and take a machete to it.  You'll feel 10x better.  Two hours and a few sore biceps later, we have a some lovely (and walkable) trails on which to follow our monkeys.  Bueno.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #5: The Bolivian grey titi monkey (Callicebus donacophilus) is thought to be the most monogamous of all the monkey species.  Awwww...que lindo.  PS: C. donacophilus...that's the kind of monkey we're researching.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

La Quinta Totaises

I am living the life here in Bolivia.  The people are wonderful, the food is delicious, and the house we're staying in is gorgeous.  La Quinta Totaises is absolutely beautiful...we are so blessed that Steffen and Yuvinka have opened their home to el Proyecto del Mono Titi.  And to think, I get to live here for three whole months?!  ¡Qué bien!  

Nine rooms, huge kitchen, beautiful courtyard, plus a pool.  Endless movie selections, tons of books, and three lovable dogs.  Oh and also we have wifi.  I may never leave...

The courtyard...this is probably my favorite place in the house.  When I grow up, my home will have one of these.  Hammocks included.  I also love how the plants just grow up right out of the bricks.  I am now a firm believer that every house needs a courtyard.  

The kitchen is fantastic.  And HUGE.  Love the tile, love the cabinets, love the backsplash.  Reminds me of the kitchens I see on all those episodes of House Hunters International.  It took me a while to figure out how to work the stove, and to figure out where the forks are...but now that all that's under control, I can't wait to share many meals here with my Bolivian amigas.

Continuing the tour to the "living room" (I guess that's what it would be called...whatever the Bolivian equivalent to a living room is, this is it).  Please take note of the amazing ant art on the wall.  Clear indicator that I'm in the house of an entomologist (Yuvinka).

This little one-windowed gem is my temporary home.  It's small, and it can get hot and uncomfortable at times, but I still love it and am so thankful to have such a great place to stay.

Honestly, I didn't think I would settle in so quickly.  I feel like I've been here so long, but it's only been like five days!  I know that once we start working, these three months are going to just fly by.  I couldn't be happier to be here.  This is such a fantastic opportunity for me, both as a person and as a scientist.  ¡Me gusta mucho!

FUN SCIENCE FACT #4:  The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) has a gestation period of only 12-13 days.  Sometimes is pays to be a metatherian.    

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sept. 3, 2011; 4:10 AM

Currently flying over South America.  Mix of emotions.  Half of me is crazy over-the-moon excited, while the other half just keeps repeating "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING??"  I guess that's just my pessimism kicking in.  I am 95% sure that the pessimistic 50% of my brain would take a back burner to the excited 50% of my brain if my español was up to par.  I feel like I should have some sort of wristband to indicate my incompetence....kind of like those wristbands they give to people with peanut allergies or those with adverse reactions to penicillin.  But mine would be more along the lines of "WARNING: you will most likely struggle to communicate with this person" instead of "please don't feed me nuts or give me those antibiotics!"  Yeah.  Something like that.

All day (and by all day I mean all week) I've been stressing about my visa situation.  The original plan was to get my tourist visa before I left the US.  That would have been obviously that's not how it played out.  I organized all/most of the visa application materials mid-summer, called the Bolivian consulate in Houston (to double check what I needed before I drove the 3 hrs to the consulate), and come to find out the US doesn't have any visas.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO VISAS.  I didn't even know that was an not have/run out of visas.  How is that even possible??  So the plan then shifted to 'obtain visa upon arrival in Bolivia.'  That would be all well and good if there was some sort of detailed master list of all visa application materials.  I read somewhere online that if you don't have exactly what they want from you...they send you back.  Or detain you at the port of entry. thanks.  I just want to be prepared.  I don't think that's too much to ask.  This visa is weighing on my shoulders and I just want to be IN Bolivia.  I guess I'll figure it out in 2.5ish hours.

This is a 9 hour flight.  Well, not technically, but I'll be on this plane for 9 hours. Technically it's a 7 hour flight to La Paz, brief stop in La Paz, then a 1 hour flight into Santa Cruz.  Either way it's a very long time to be in an airplane.  My feet are swelling and my knees are cramping.  And there is NO way on God's green earth that I'm getting up from my window seat, disrupting these two sleeping Asians next to me, just to use that uncomfortably small airline bathroom.

This is a 9 hour flight....I should've peed in Miami.  #regret

FUN SCIENCE FACT #3:  The highest temperature produced in a lab was 920,000,000 F (511,000,000 C) at the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor in Princeton, NJ.  I'm pretty sure that's how hot it was on my flight from Dallas to Miami.