Thursday, July 30, 2009

day 3

So we're finally in the swing of things. As I write this we're at breakfast and there's a huge thunderstorm going on.

Yesterday was pretty exciting. In the morning we through a gliding gecko off the top of a 20m observation tower and watched it land in the trees. It was pretty sweet. We tried to film it, with limited success. A little while later, when leaving the observation tower, we found a fairly rare species of anole and managed to catch and film it. It was very exciting. If you have a chance, google image search Anolis frenatus, it's very pretty. :) We also saw a couple of snakes and a really pretty striped bird that I'm still trying to identify.

In the afternoon we had much less success with the anoles but still saw a bunch of swallows and some parrots. Also, we're right on the canal here in Gamboa (the former site of operations for canal maitenance) so we get to see all the big ships passing by. We got caught in a huge rainstorm, which is part of why we didn't find that many lizards in the afternoon. It was very short but very intense. I was soaked in about 30 seconds flat. Thankfully the cameras were fine. Thank you, Ziploc. The joys of field work.

Other than the lizards, life is good here. I am extremely bugbitten and may have to resort to DEET. (Thus far I've been relying on the natural stuff which doesn't seem to be working.) But we're all happy and well here. Hope you guys are too.

- found a rare anole, tossed a gecko off a tower, saw snakes: herpetological happiness
- rain is fun. and wet.
- bugbites are less fun. and more itchy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

:) Much better

So the second day here was much better. Kristen lent me a pair of socks and Kat lent me a pair of pants so I was relatively clean and feeling more human. Even better, I got my bag back!!!! The hotel next door let me have AA drop the bag off with them and then I picked it up. I'm much happier. (and will soon be much cleaner!)

That having been said I should probably explain what exactly it is I do in Panama. I and my partner (recently Kris) walk out into the forest and whenever we find a lizard we do four things: 1) film it for 10 minutes, 2) walk toward it and record how close it let us get and how far it ran away from us, 3) get data on where it was sitting and what it was doing when we found it and 4) try to catch it to bring it back for Anthony to measure, get diet and take pictures of. (I know -- hanging preposition. I don't care.)

This morning Kris and I went for a killer hike. We walked up to the observation tower to measure the distance that the gecko had glided the day before. We then tried a path neither of us had taken before. This resulted in very little lizard spotting and a lot of blindly following a path of orange flagging tape up and down several VERY steep hills. We got to presumably near the end before turning back because we had no idea where we were. To get to this path we had to climb a staircase which rivals that of most ancient temples (think the Mayan -- or Aztec?-- stairs they threw their human sacrifices down), except that this staircase probably had more moss. Those of you who know me well would be proud of how well I did on these steep slopes but it was a lot of fun.

The afternoon was more productive -- got the bag! and caught a couple of lizards and filmed more. We also saw a toucan and several other birds.

Now it's time for dinner. I hope tomorrow will bring more nature accounts now that the bag saga is over.

Also, the ATM now works!

- I am much happier and now in the posession of cash and a bag.
- Saw a bunch of lizards and a toucan
- Scrambled up and down some very steep slopes

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The joys of international travel

Ok, this has officially been my most frustrating international travel experience ever so far.

To recap:
I left LAX yesterday and got to Miami, so far so good. There was a thunderstorm in Miami which prevented the baggage handlers from unloading the bags from LA and reloading them to Panama. This delayed the flight 2 hours. I was on the same plane from LA to Miami as Miami to Panama and I actually saw them unload my bag. They never reloaded it. I assume they thought it was supposed to stay in Miami. That or someone took it at the Panama airport (my paranoid theory since there was a duffel left unclaimed that looked similar to mine). I leave the airport in Panama discouraged and tired. I got in a cab to Gamboa but stupidly forgot to print out a map. Once we arrived in Gamboa we spent a half hour looking for "house 119x" on a nameless street. You can guess how successful that was. We finally find the huse and, although I'm pissed about the bag and upset about keeping Anthony (the postdoc I was meeting), tomorrow is a new day.

I spent the morning until 10am (when the baggage guy said I should call) out in teh field with Shane and Kristen, two of the other field assistants. We went to this observation tower in the middle of the forest and from it you can see Lake Gaitun and the canal. We also released a gliding gecko from the top of the tower and watched it glide down the tower to a lower level. Pretty sweet.

I returned and tried to make a phone call only to find we have no phone in this house. Went down to the police station with anthony and was finally able to find a phone. We were told to call back later. We had to go to Panama City (40 minutes away) anyway to get me an ID from the Smithsonian (which runs the area we're in). The lady there helped us try to find the bag but the people were largely unhelpful. Finally we went to the airport and spoke to someone in person. My bag did not arrive on the afternoon flight as expected. They don't know where it is but it is presumably in Miami. They'll call when they find it. OH WAIT. We don't have a phone. This is a huge problem in addition because the airline won't deliver a bag without a phone number. So despite the fact that we gave them a map to the house with no street address, they won't deliver it. Guess we'll have to try to find a phone again to call tomorrow and check on the bag status. Very frustrating.

All of this cab driving all over the place is getting kind of pricey in addition. We tried 7 ATMs and none of them worked. Just our luck I guess.

Anyway, rant over. I hope all of you are doing well (or better than I am). Despite my ranting it is quite gorgeous and I'm having a good time. Kristen is a saint and has lent me a t-shirt and has promised to lend me her shampoo, etc. I was able to get a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant so I should be feeling more human soon.

- plane delayed, bag still lost and we lack the phone necessary to determine if the bag has arrived and to get us teh bag once it arrives
- I'm running out of cash and every ATM in Panama seems to be broken
- the jungle is gorgeous and I've seen some cool lizards (and many mosquitoes)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Before heading out to Panama, my family went on a brief trip to Hawaii. (They do not spend as much time as I do in the tropics.) I apologize about the tardiness of this post and in keeping with my promise, I will keep this brief. I just thought I should give you a glimpse of my herpetological zeal and perhaps a warning of posts to come:

My family spent the week around the fourth of July in Hawaii. My mother is always cold so she decided she wanted to go to Hawaii for the one week that all four of us could get away. (Clearly my mother has more important things to be doing than attempting to catch up on 6 seasons of NCIS in a single month. [Not me. Thank you, USA marathons.]) It was a lot of fun -- board games, reading, etc. However, much of my joy came from finding lizards and snorkeling with sea turtles. I can guarantee you I was the only guest of the resort over age 10 who was catching lizards on the lawn chairs by the pool. Also, while snorkeling, I followed a sea turtle (at an appropriate distance of course) counting the sections of its shell so I could make a proper taxonomic identification when back on land. (Probably a green sea turtle.) I also stopped to photograph most of the geckos I saw, including the one in the header of the blog.

My family generally humors me when I get off on such tangents. For this I am eternally grateful. My mother (and the honeymooning couple in the hot tub) got a long explanation of the naming conventions in lizard taxonomy in my trying to tell her the differences between the green lizard and the brown one. And my poor brother waited for me for 10 minutes when I insisted on stopping our basketball game when he spotted an anole (the type of lizard I wrote my thesis on). (I should mention that "basketball game" is only accurate in that we were playing a game that involved a basketball. I am so bad that we started playing that I win if I could score 3 times before scored 10. For me to score, all I had to do was hit the backboard, net, rim or any region directly below the sides of the basket. Oh and he couldn't use his left hand. I lost. Every time.)

I did find out something very useful on this trip. When I mentioned before that my brother "spotted" the anole, I didn't mention that he screamed bloody murder. It turns out that my 200+ lb, 6' 2" brother is afraid of lizards. We had a bird fly into the house and several geckos (~ 2 inches from the tip of their nose from to the base of their tail; this is called a "snout-vent length" or SVL) make appearances, all of which scared my brother to no end. He later confessed to me that he is afraid of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects, worms and all mammals smaller than a house cat. Peter, you might want to stop reading my blog now.

- I went to Hawaii.
- I chased geckos, anoles and turtles. Usually in our room or next to the pool.
- My brother is afraid of everything I've decided to devote my life to, but is MUCH better than me at basketball.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009



As my roommates can tell you, I have a tendency to write overly detailed email accounts of my foreign travel to study lizards. I also inevitably leave 3 or 4 people off the email list initially. In an attempt to not clog people's inboxes and not leave people guessing as to what they may have missed (yes, my minute-by-minute accounts are that important), I decided to start this blog. Thank you, roommates (and mostly Gil), for the idea. I promise I will try to keep the posts brief. (And if I fail, I will always include a summary [for Brad... and Emma, Caroline, Lisa, Jenn, Tracy, Megan, Meghan and Anna].)

I probably will not write anything for another couple weeks when I'll be off to Panama for a 3 week herping trip. (For those of you who are not familiar with the terminology, "herping" means to look for reptiles and amphibians and has nothing to do with STDs.)

*Has no idea how to properly sign off a blog post* -Hannah

- Hi
- I will try to do short updates on my travels.
- "Herping" has nothing to do with STDs
- I don't know how to blog.