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domingo, 22 de julio de 2012

Creativity overload, Scotland - Paraguay exchange and colouring in to save the cerrado!

Hi folks, Creativity is the theme of this weeks blog. Not only do we have an amazingly creative group but we also have a new community outreach project to tell you about. Last week we had 4 arrivals; Joe our new member of staff and 3 volunteers, Elizabeth, Maia and Leo. There are now 13 of us in the house and what an amazingly creative group! Zander has taught everyone how to crochet and we now have a house full of hats and gloves that these guys have made themselves. There is also a PLT monopoly board with species instead of properties and community chest cards with instructions such as “you get a paper published in Nature win 500,000” or “horses trampling your pitfall trap line miss a go”. And of course the currency is in Guaraní! With a group this creative it would have been foolish of us not to take full advantage of this skill base and so that is exactly what we have been doing. All of our moths and butterflies are now pinned and our colouring book for the local children is coming along in leaps and bounds thanks to Rosemary’s amazing artistic talent. Our signs around the reserve have received not only a paint job but have been decorated with pictures of local animals and the new museum displays are starting to look pretty amazing. The colouring book I mentioned is part of a community outreach project that we have recently got off the ground. The people in the nearby villages receive only a very basic level of education and there is little or no focus on creativity largely due to a lack of resources. However from experience we know that any opportunity for the children to be creative is met with a lot of enthusiasm. With this is mind we felt that producing a colouring book of the animals and plants in the reserve would be a great opportunity to teach the children about the cerrado and we hope it will help raise awareness about this important habitat from an early age. The colouring book is only a small part of this project however. We have teamed up a school in the local village with a school in Scotland and each child now has a pen friend in the other country. The children exchange postcards from their home country and the school in Scotland have also produced a colouring book so the children here have an opportunity to discover the species from another country and vice versa. This project has only just begun and we have more ideas in the pipeline that we hope will enable the children from both countries to learn about the cerrado and how important it is to protect this unique habitat. And finally this will be my last blog for a while as I am heading off on holiday next week for a 6 week stay in the oh so exotic United Kingdom (no the irony of taking a summer holiday in the UK does not escape me). While I can’t say I am looking forward to the weather I am REALLY looking forward to seeing my family and friends again after 16 months away (but maybe not as much as I am looking forward to eating mushrooms and hummus!). See you in a couple of months and don’t discover a new species for science without me! Hx

lunes, 16 de julio de 2012

The museum opens, the volunteers turn over and the armadillo finally gets stuffed!

Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it gives me great pleasure to announce the grand opening of the one, the only, Para La Tierra Natural History Museum. Yes you guessed it folks we have opened the new museum and I have to say we are all rather proud of our efforts. We actually opened on 21st June and held a little ceremony for the volunteers staying here. Following a short speech, Karina cut a ribbon and we gave a tour of the exhibits. There is still a lot to do on our displays, large map and photo wall but it is shaping up nicely and I have already given 2 tours to tourists, one of whom gave a donation in dollars! The new museum opening isn’t just a landmark day for us here at PLT it is also a reflection of just how much hard work has been put into the species inventories by volunteers and interns over the last couple of years. Who would have thought that our collection would grow so quickly and we would need a new building after only 2 years? Well done and thank you to all our visitors, past and present for making it what it is today. If you would like a virtual tour of the museum you can find a short film on our Facebook page where there are also pictures. Or if you are not friends with us (yet) it can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3UoxvVhztk Last week, in between getting the museum organised we had a massive turn over of volunteers. Sadly we have now said goodbye to Nick, Noah and Dec; 3 wonderful interns who undertook 2 fantastic projects. But we are delighted to welcome in Jess (US), Zander (US), Rosemary (UK) and Rachel (UK). You’ll notice that we have 2 from the UK and 2 from the US which now means that we have an equal number of Brits and Americans. Needless to say this has resulted in some lively conversations over the pronunciation of oregano, Iraq, tomato and vitamin! The camaraderie has been great fun and so was Independence Day weekend which would probably have gone uncelebrated had we not had the US faction with us. Jess and Rosemary have joined the primate project and are having a great time hacking through the forest, Rachel has an interest in invertebrates and has been getting involved with not only our butterfly and moth collection but has also been discovering some of the beetles that Sabrina is working with. And Zander is trying his hand at all of the projects that are running at the moment and has also taught everyone how to crochet! We have a really creative group here at the moment which coincides perfectly with the upcoming museum jobs. I have also been developing my newly found interest in taxidermy and this week I stuffed an armadillo. Well. Stuffed isn’t the right word, more mounted. I was actually given the skin and shell of this specimen for Christmas and it has been in the freezer until now as we simply didn’t have space for it in the old museum. I have been itching to get my hands on it for the last 6 months and this week the day finally came. There wasn’t enough skin left on the underside to stuff it and sew it back up again and when I started to sew it I quickly realised (by breaking 2 needles) that armadillo skin is not a pleasant material to work with. So I changed tactic and made a frame (table). The skin then went around the table so that the shell covered the surface and the legs and feet were surrounding the table legs. And then, as it was originally invented for surgery, I used superglue to hold it all together. I squashed it between 2 boxes to ensure it held its shape while it dried and the end result is not too bad. This may not been the most conventional of methods but we now have an armadillo standing up looking like a, well, an armadillo! And that’s about it for this time, see you in a fortnight. Hx

Introducing Joe

Hello All, My name is Joseph Sarvary and I am the newest addition to the PLT team. I am a 22 year old biologist that recently graduated from Tufts University. I first found out about Para La Tierra in 2010 when I came as an intern to do a population study on Clyomys laticeps and spent two and a half wonderful months at RNLB. I have amazing memories of that summer, not only of the wonderful people and beautiful vistas but also of the satisfaction of conducting real field research. I felt a true connection to the place and the people and I knew by the time I left that it wouldn’t be forever. I returned again for another two month stint before I started a semester abroad in Buenos Aires. By this time my Spanish had improved and I made a point to befriend the guardabosques living on the reserve. Jorge and Concepcion became my close friends and it has been very nice to return to see them again. While returning as an employee has been a different experience, I feel the same close connection with everyone here on the reserve. One thing that strikes me is that while all the volunteers and interns are different, the PLT house still has the same familiar close-knit chemistry that attracted me to it initially. Yesterday was full of adventure for me. Elizabeth and I spent the morning fiddling around with the new camera traps in an attempt to capture some large mammals on video and then spent the afternoon getting ourselves slightly lost in the Atlantic forest. After getting back, Jorge offered to show me to a small grapefruit grove hidden in the forest where we collected over a dozen fresh grapefruits. They were DELICIOUS. On returning, Jorge I and a few volunteers began a game of volleyball on the beach and played until the sunset. It was a really fun game that reminded me of the games I used to play the first time I visited RNLB. I am still re-acclimating to life on the reserve but I am feeling a mixture of nostalgia for my previous experiences here and excitement about what the future might offer. The first task that I have been assigned is a community outreach project that will begin early next week. I’ll be sure to let you all know how that goes as soon as I can. Until next time, Joe