The End of an Era

After over 6 years of intensive research and community development work in and around the Yachana Reserve, GVI Amazon is coming to a close. We have finished our final research project (look forward to our Road Effects paper, coming soon!) and are handing over the project to our partner, The Yachana Foundation. They will continue to maintain and monitor the reserve, using it as an hands-on science education center for students -- we're very excited to see what fabulous things this next generation of scientists find! For more detail on GVI Amazon's closure, and our accomplishments over the years, please read on...
GVI Amazon Closure Statement

Sunday, June 1, 2008

By Emily Rixon and Joanna Barwick

This week has been more action-packed than usual, with mingas, surveys galore and a highly competitive social night. We had butterfly, amphibian and Screaming Piha surveys as usual, as well as mist netting for birds twice a day. Mery Juina, an Ecuadorian ornithologist from the Quito stayed with us for a week and we all had a chance to go out and catch birds in the primary and secondary forest (the afternoon surveys being ever so slightly more popular than the 5am ones!). It was really successful – we caught 65 individual birds and 22 different species, including 5 that are new to the species list for the reserve.

There’s also been plenty of heavy lifting and exercise this week, as we had three mingas. For those who haven’t experienced one first-hand, a minga is when various people from a community join hands to work on a project that usually involves major manual labour (and a free lunch!). We’re building a grey water filtration system in camp, so the first minga involved hauling sacks of wet sand up from the stream into camp. The second, slightly more enjoyable minga, took place at the Yachana High School, where we helped the students build a path and dig trenches for a new snail farm (as you do!). Finally, we moved a huge pile of chonta wood from the road into camp, which took hours – and as always after a minga, lunch was very much appreciated that day!

On Thursday afternoon most of the EMs made the two hour long hike to one of the satellite camps on the other side of the reserve, laden with sleeping bags, jungle hammocks, bug spray by the gallon, and enough granola and tea bags to last us till lunch the next day. We set up camp and prepared for our amphibian survey of a nearby Laguna, then waited until dark before setting off. The Laguna was littered with monkey frogs, tree snakes and gigantic water spiders, and although we didn’t get to encounter any of the resident caiman, there was a puma sighting! Freddy, one of the students from the High School, even taught us how to catch fish with our bare hands. Our local bird survey, scheduled for 5.30am was rained off, giving us an extra few hours in our hammocks and an early start for the hike back.

So after all that hard work we definitely deserved to let our hair down on Saturday night! We had a tribal theme night, and with everyone split into two tribes, peoples’ competitive spirits were flaring all week, and the tribal leaders, Alex and Ems, were both determined to thrash each other. There were crazy tribal outfits, wacky dances and the Hakka…and that was before we even sat down for dinner! The teams’ training week skills were put to the test in fiendishly tricky games, including an impossible ‘trail walk’, requiring you to walk along a thin line whilst looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars (much harder than it sounds), and guessing song names just from the intros which were sung expertly/appallingly by the tribal leaders. Despite Ems’ tribe being crushed point-wise, they retained the moral victory (far more important) and, surprisingly, everyone is still friends (ish – whilst a blind eye was turned to cheating on the night, it has not been forgotten!)

It’s now time to shelter under a mosquito net somewhere with a cup of tea and some popcorn – it’s raining again and the bugs are out of control this morning!