Nieuws - 18 november 2010

Cracking nuts and counting larvae

Who? Karin Steijven, Master’s student of Forest and Nature Policy
What? Research on the effect of the spreading of palm trees on seed production and seed predation
Where? Barro Colorado Island, Panama
Why? Final thesis on ecology

'Pollination is the most wonderful thing! 
That is why I actually wanted to do a different research project entirely. I wanted to measure the pollination of a different tree species. But unfortunately that research project was called off. In the end my supervisor and I thought up another research project. In Panama I went walking through the forest on my own like a Little Red Riding Hood. Rambling for hours through the jungle undergrowth to visit my palm trees and collect their fruit. Hanging a net in the tree can prevent the fruit from falling to the ground and being eaten by rodents. After being collected, the fruit lay out to dry in the lab for two months, and then I had to count the beetle larvae they contained.

There were no shops on the island, no cars and no roads. There is only a research station and the only people living there are researchers. It is a sort of playground for researchers, really weird. So you can wander through the jungle for hours and suddenly run into a fellow resident skipping along with a butterfly net. Sometimes you feel as if you are in the wild, but then you come across test plots made by researchers. The accommodation is really luxurious. Great meals are provided, and there is air conditioning, television, a balcony, internet.. .everything. And there was a very nice group of people there, all young researchers and all as mad as hatters. We had some great parties. The only annoying thing was to be surrounded by water and not to be allowed to swim, even though it's boiling hot.

 There are crocodiles a couple of metres long in the water. Just once, after a crazy party, we got it into our drunken heads to jump in the water - even the area managers.
It was a fantastic time in Panama. I saw spider monkeys, agoutis, an anteater and sloths - one of which was being devoured by an ocelot, a small wild cat. Only the screaming monkeys that got going outside your window at 5 in the morning were really irritating.'