Pacaya Samiria, la selva de los espejos. Operation Wallacea biodiversity monitoring 2015.

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“La tierra del espejos” means ‘the land of mirrors’ in Spanish. Now you can see why. Sunset on the Amazon.

This summer, I spent a month in the jungles of the Amazon, in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peru, as a research assistant for one of the Operation Wallacea’s projects. The main aim of the expedition was long-term data collection for biodiversity monitoring and wild-life conservation of the region. A variety of surveys was conducted on the site every day; among those there were pink and grey river dolphins studies, amphibians’ diversity and primates’ behaviour monitoring, wading birds surveys, large mammals camera traps, caimans surveys and many more. Climate change is influencing life of many terrestrial animals during the rain season (water level is increasing every year). Thus, data collected helps to analyse ecosystem changes and identify main species for protection as well as make recommendations for sustainable hunting in the area.

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One of the very rare frogs of the region, Hypsiboas geographicus. The previous sample was only found 3 years ago!

When making the decision to participate in the expedition, I was worried about a simple question, whether I would like it or no. My specialisation is Biochemistry and Field Ecology sounded boring for me, but I always suspected that it should be very different from what is written the books once you get to the field. So I decided to experience it myself. However, spending a month in the very heart of jungles can be challenging in many ways: there were no possibilities to leave the site without emergency, no contacts with outside world, etc. Thinking of these features of my experience, I can now say with no doubts that living so remote is essential for learning to listen to the Nature around and absorb all the information from the tropical rainforest.

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One of the most colourful insects we saw during that month. Nobody actually knows its name. Look at its giant sting! Is it a fake one? We decided not to check.

This month in the Amazon has definitely shaped me as a scientist. I learned to notice tiny details in the environment around, such as to hear and see many things better and faster and be able to observe many changes simultaneously. For instance, after coming back to Europe I unconsciously follow every bird to estimate its species, behaviour and trajectory of flight. I believe, that being ‘attentive’  is a highly transferable skill, from which I can benefit in different ways.

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One of our first caimans, a baby one, and I. This is the smallest of the 3 caiman species in Pacaya Samiria, a dwarf caiman.

In terms of cultural experience, my expedition to Peru also presented me a very unique op
portunity. Speaking Spanish, I was able to have conversations with natives of Pacaya Samiria, indigenous Cocama people, who were our guides in the jungles. This was my first meeting with truly remote people and it was extremely interesting to observe their life being so dependant from the Nature. With no academic knowledge of Natural Sciences they are able to construct their living in a very harmonic way with all the Life around.

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A fish bitten by pirañas. Not very surprising to see, taking into account that we were catching up to 70 pirañas per hour.

I am very grateful for all the people and organisations, who gave me a chance to discover all these new feelings and areas of my interest in ecological investigations. I was truly surprised to feel how comfortable it was for me to stay in such an environment, to only live with feelings of the ‘present’ for such a long time. I am now searching for the projects to combine Molecular Biology and its applications with the fieldwork in such a wild and diverse nature as the one Peru has.

 

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