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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Life in the Amazon

I call them magic moments. Those extraordinary instances when time stands still and one finds oneself completely and utterly transfixed by the wonder that is nature.

As an onsite naturalist at a mangrove wetland in Barbados for 5 years I witnessed many such moments. By travelling across North America and visiting some of its more renowned national parks i was treated to tremendous natural spectacles. However never has the ratio of magic moments to hours spent in the field been quite so high as during my first week in the Amazon working for GVI.

The signs of the grandeur of this occasion became evident to me from almost the very moment of my arrival. Indeed I was awoken from a fitful sleep on my first night at base to the cries of “Boa!! Boa!!” Armed with little but my trusty head torch I cautiously descended my dormitory stairs to the sight of staff members carefully examining a recently captured 7.5 foot Red Tailed Boa. The beauty of this powerful, yet docile forest giant was overwhelming as red, orange and yellow iridescence reflecting from its scales seemed to dance in the glow of candles and torches. Not one to rest on my laurels, I found myself the very next night, traversing a forest stream at 10pm. I was struck by the stark realization that without a head torch I would be utterly helpless in such surroundings. The dense canopy prevents all but the brightest of moon/starlight from filtering through to the forest floor and as available light wanes we humans can be but mere visitors to this world. Eyes being useless, it becomes necessary to rely on other senses. Despite not being able to see my hand in front of my face, I soon realized that life was indeed abounding all around me – my every step was greeted by a chorus of grunts, chirps, whistles, thumps and tweets emanating from the throat pouches of several hundred overly amorous amphibians. This is to say nothing of the crescendo of insect calls: entomologists of the world – this is your playground!

While I have found it difficult to sift through my myriad weekly experiences and finally settle on “the best of the best”, another that certainly must be mentioned is my first butterfly transect survey. These delicate beauties can be found throughout the forest, and are regularly enticed towards our traps which are filled with the somewhat curious concoction of bananas and rotting fish.

Entering the first butterfly transect was an experience akin to stepping into another world. Enormous ferns, palms and other floral varieties seemed to swallow our search party in seconds. Dappled sunlight filtered through the dense overhead canopy as we advanced towards our first trap. To our unequivocal delight a giant Morpho had succumbed to the bait, and was awaiting inspection. For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to see one of these organisms before, allow your imagination to envisage an insect more comparable in size to a mid-sized bird than a moth, and picture the absolute bluest of blues adorning its wings. This is the Morpho in all its wondrous splendour.  
I now find myself in a position which provides me with the opportunity to bare witness to such spectacles of nature on a regular basis - deep in the heart of the amazon.

This year – LIFE is going to be good!

Ryan Chenery, GVI Amazon Field Staff