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miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2011

Dorothy, Rolex, and angiosperms

Becky Graham is now half way through her four month investigation into the effects of weather variables and intrahabitat differences on certain small mammal abundance, distribution, and movement. It is still early but already her capture records do not seem to follow the typical expected trends around new and full moon cycles. This is where the other variables Becky is testing will come in as an interesting avenue of explanation (strata, temperature, humidity, rainfall, and foliage cover). Presently she is in the middle of her third live trapping session. When she is not trapping Becky has also been making good progress with habitat surveys within her four trapping grids. So far Becky’s intern experience has allowed her to develop handling, micro chipping, and trapping skills as well as species and habitat knowledge. When not in the field she has learnt how to enter, store, and upload her data properly in preparation for analyses at the end of her field time. Becky’s project gets a mixture of new and repeat catches. So Becky now has a ‘three capture naming policy’. The newest addition to this club is ‘Dorothy’ the female Oligoryzomys.

Gemma Bach is now just a few days away from launching her project. Her research will focus on Langsdorffia hypogaea Mart, a parasitic angiosperm, and its interactions with the surrounding plant community and the factors effecting its distribution. This unusual plant parasite is only found within the semi-deciduous forest at Laguna Blanca, and the populations here are only the second record for Paraguay. Gemma will assess the impact these parasites have on their host through measuring the differences in height and diameter of trees as well as leaf length and breadth. Gemma will also attempt to explain how and why these parasitic plants are non-randomly distributed. She will be taking systematic soil samples in order to record different levels of Ph, conductivity, and salinity. Finally, Gemma will be using a light sensor to assess whether sunlight exposure is a contributing factor to their distribution.

A couple of weeks ago our botany friends Juana and Gloria visited for a day and a half. They collected a lot of plant samples and processed them into a temporary herbarium. Juana and Gloria are in the process of documenting all plant life within Laguna Blanca with the view to producing the first field guide for this reserve and the surrounding area. Juana and Gloria’s visit was particularly well timed as Gemma had only been with us for a few days, so all three botanists had the opportunity to spend some time together in the field.

Recently, a senior consultant from Rolex visited Laguna Blanca. Norm Scott and PLT scientific director Paul Smith were also in the visiting party so we thought it would be interesting for all camp members to make a presentation. I presented on the three long term projects I have here at the reserve and what impact our research will have for science and conservation efforts. It is always good practice to verbally present your research, but it is especially beneficial for interns. Many interns who visit us have done very little verbal presenting so this is an additional professional development practice which we encourage at PLT.

Finally, our draft paper on the behaviour and grouping patterns in wild Plush-crested jays is now completed and will be reviewed. Once we have made any corrects we want to make it will hopefully be submitted for publication.

Until next time I’ll say goodbye.

Best wishes,

Luke

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