Monday, July 22, 2013

The End of Our Journey

Today is the final day of our trip, by the end of the day we will be back in Oklahoma. We've done a decent amount of stuff since the last update. We've collected and dried leaves for a decomposition study. I weighed the leaves and the snail shells that were to accompany the leaves so that rate of decomposition  can be compared to litter with and without snail shells. We got all of those put out Sunday afternoon, thus ending the research portions of the trip for Dr. Zimmermann and myself.

Not everything we've done since the last post has been purely science we've had some fun as well. Saturday we pretty much spent the day out and about. We stopped in the morning at a Puerto Rican bakery where we enjoyed breakfast before we headed back up to the tourist oriented portion of El Yunque. There we enjoyed a hike up to the highest observation tower on the mountain and a hike through the cloud forest. From there we headed down to the beach and made our way to a beach referred to as the hidden beach where it's almost completely free of your everyday beach goers.

Here's a short recap of things I've done/learned throughout the short time I've been down here:

  • mark/recapture of snails
  • become very proficient with calipers
  • data entry
  • litter decomposition work
  • experienced the rainforest both during the day and at night
  • learned to navigate the big grid at night using a compass and map
  • experienced many of the streams and waterfalls the rainforest has to offer
  • swam in both the rainforest and the ocean
  • tried many delicious foods
  • visited Old San Juan
  • kayaked a biobay
  • visited the cloud forest
  • spent time at the beach
  • visited the mangroves
All in all I've enjoyed the trip and would recommend it to anyone willing to deal with a little bit of hard work in the rainforest because it's not an experience that will be forgotten anytime soon. I've gained loads of field experience while down here while also enjoying a decent amount of fun as well.
 The view from the highest observation tower on El Yunque
 Hidden Beach

Friday, July 19, 2013


Not a whole lot has changed since the last post. Not much has been done in the way of work. The plant work has started but I'm not in that group. They got five plots done on Wednesday and had to stop due to plans for Wednesday night and yesterday it rained and stormed all day so it was unsafe for them to go out. I'm just waiting on people to finish their portions of data entry so I can finish up mine. In the way of work that's about all I've got.

However, Wednesday night was quite the experience. We took a trip out to a BioBay where we got to experience water that glows, well not really. What happens is there is a dinoflagellate in the water that is bioluminescent when disturbed, so as you paddle your kayak or move your hand in the water throughout this particular bay the water around you glows from the dinoflagellates. To get to the bay we paddled a short distance through a boatyard and then through the mangroves until finally reaching the bay itself. after arriving there we had a short meeting explaining what goes on and we were free to paddle around the bay until dark when we had to rejoin our tour group for another meeting about why the water glows and what sets it apart from other parts of the world. It's definitely an experience worth paying for if you ever have the opportunity.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our Last Day of Night Work

Tuesday marked the last night of going out and collecting data. We finished our fourth and final collection on the big grid. It had previously been scheduled for Monday but due to storms and the ensuing rain it was deemed too dangerous for us to work. As usual we split into three groups with two groups doing 13 plots and one doing 14, depending on which group finished their original 10 first. the quickest group always ends up with the 14th. Finishing our night work is bittersweet. Yeah it's awesome knowing that the most labor intensive work is done and we no longer have to hike through the rainforest at night, but it also means the trip is now over halfway complete. So here's a little recap of what we've done/ learned to do so far
  • gained mark/recapture experience
  • navigate through the rainforest at night with a compass and map
  • data entry for both CTE and Big Grid data
  • plenty of exercise from hiking in the rainforest
  • collected leaves for a decomposition study
  • experienced Old San Juan
  • visited waterfalls
  • explored swimming holes throughout the rainforest
  • experienced plenty of Puerto Rican cuisine
I'm sure I've left out plenty of stuff from that list and I will post as I come up with more. As for stuff still to come. We have some plant work left, more decomposition work, and some fun for ourselves (visiting a bioluminescent bay, hammers, and possibly a day at the beach)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

7/14/13 An Off Day

Not a whole lot to report today. Today was a day off because we need 48 hours between collections on the big grid, meaning easy day for us resulting in some of us playing tourist and exploring a separate part of El Yunque Rainforest. We spent a portion of the day visiting some of the waterfalls in the park and later on headed down to the beach where we ate, walked along the beach and just enjoyed the atmosphere.
 La Coca Falls
 Me in front of La Mina falls
A view from the beach

A view from the tower

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Thursday night we finished up our night work on the CTE plots and finished the ten plots left on the big grid that we didn't get the chance to do the night before. Because our protocol requires 48 hours between marking on the big grid it resulted in us having a day off on Friday.

On our off day we spent time in Old San Juan, touring some local places and exploring an old fort before eating in a Puerto Rican restaurant. The rest of the night we've just hung around the station. But on an exciting note we got the opportunity to see a Puerto Rican Screech Owl tonight. Sadly, no pictures but a cool experience nonetheless

It's hard to believe we've been in Puerto Rico for a week so far. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to gain field experience outside of Oklahoma. It has been well worth it so far.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


We didn't do a whole lot on Tuesday because of tropical storm Chantal so there isn't a whole lot to report from that day. We just sat around the station and took the night off.

Wednesday was a longer day. We had to make an unexpected trip to the airport to drop off an unhappy member of the crew. So we made the best of that day and spent part of that day in Old San Juan where we ended up feeding some overly friendly pigeons, ate coconut ice cream, and explored the city. After leaving the city we stopped and explored a beach shortly and headed back to the station where we relaxed shortly and prepared for the night of work we had ahead of us.

The original plan for Wednesday was to do the whole big grid and not have a night off until Saturday but due to some unforeseen circumstances, another group working in the rainforest picked up the markers for the other 10 plots we were going to split, so we ended up only doing part of it, which might be a plus since our group ended up running behind anyway because we had a member get ill and had to take them back to the station.
 Me with some overly friendly pigeons
 One of RSU's finest, Dr. Zimmermann, with a pigeon
One of our favorite swimming spots so far

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The last two nights have been polar opposites. On Sunday night we went out to do the big grid and found ourselves working in the rain throughout  most of the night. On the big grid we generally do the same thing as on the CTE plots except there are two types of snail we mark and measure on these points, we also work within a 3 meter radius from each point instead of staying inside a marked area.

Monday night was a lot easier, we went and finished the parts of the big grid along with doing the CTE plots again, except this time there was no rain until after we had returned to the station. My groups night went smoothly and we returned to the station before any of the other groups, even though we had more plots to survey.

During the day a lot of hanging out around the station and exploring the rainforest happens, resulting in a lot of spontaneous swimming because of all the perfect swimming holes and opportunities to explore small waterfalls and even more rainforest off the beaten track.  This free time also gave us the chance to explore some viewing towers that allowed us to see above the canopy.