Amazon Giant, Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

Amazon Giant, Yasuni National Park, Ecuador
There’s an old Cree Indian prophecy that goes "Only after the last tree has been cut down... Only after the last river has been poisoned… Only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." I find these words clever yet profoundly insightful, and more meaningful today than ever. Across the globe, vital ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate, a rate matched only by the speed with which the species inhabiting those systems are falling to extinction. This is particularly true in the Neotropics, where an extraordinary diversity of plants and animals are struggling with the catastrophic consequences of widespread deforestation and pollution. Many of the forests’ secrets elude ecologists, secrets whose answers will be essential if we are to protect the awesome biodiversity they contain. I study Neotropical butterfly ecology, with the hope that I may contribute to a better understanding of these wonderful creatures, and help conserve them in an uncertain future. Follow me during my work and adventures throughout Latin America here!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back from the forest...

I arrived today in Puerto Francisco de Orellana, locally known here in Ecuador as El Coca, after a long bus ride from Jatun Sacha closer to the Andes mountains. Coca is a strange place, a sort of frontier town, overwhelmingly laid in concrete and absolutely bustling with oil workers, indiginous folks, and settlers alike. To me it feels like the Wild West, of course with a heavy Amazon influence. Coca is situated right on the Rio Napo, just as Jatun Sacha. However, here the river is much wider, and it´s muddy waters eventually empty into the Amazon as one of its major tributaries.

My two week stay at Jatun Sacha was a success. I worked out some of the kinks in my protocol, and above all collected a lot of great butterflies, about 450 in total. There are some species that are very common and abundant here in the western Amazonian rainforest, so I was fortunately able to let many butterflies go with just a mark on the tip of the forewing. However, not all were so lucky; I collected a number of individuals as voucher specimens that I will identify and donate to collections both here in Ecuador and back in Gainesville. Collections are an absolutely vital part of studying tropical biodiversity, especially when it comes to insects. Without good collections, we cannot hope to tease out patterns in the abundance and distribution of species.

Tomorrow I´m off to Yarina Lodge, another hour or so down the Napo by motorized canoe. I´ll be there for about a month, and I expect to see some great things there. I wonder how the butterfly diversity there will compare with that of Jatun Sacha…

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