It is never silent in a tropical jungle. Mornings are full of the chitter and chatter of birds seeking food and howler monkey’s can be heard off in the distance. Mid-days are often the most silent as the sun beams down in full fierceness, driving all living things to seek refuge in the shade. By late afternoon it cools down again and the swallows swoop and dive gracefully in the air for bugs. The birds once again begin chattering making way for the sound of crickets as night falls upon the creatures of the jungle.
I felt a little dizzy as I tried following a group of hummingbirds through my binoculars. I often spend my mornings observing the variety of birds and trying to identify them with the only book I brought, The Birds of Panama. Even thinking about the biodiversity of Panama makes my head spin. With every step I take is a new discovery. I saw a troop of monkey’s climbing their way through the canopy of trees, a huge spider that was too close for comfort, crustose lichens that cover every tree trunk, frogs as small as a pearl, and a variety of colorful birds.
When you combine consistent warm weather and biodiversity you get flora and fauna that is in a constant battle for survival. Everyone was warned about the evils of the jungle, from spider bites, poisonous frogs, toxic plants, venomous snakes and the like. Everyday was like show and tell, “hey, look at this gnarly spider bite on my hip” or “could someone please get this tick off of me!?” Despite these hardships everyone was very positive and eager to work, laugh, and play.
It is obvious that all of the interns have a love and passion for nature. Every day people excitedly come to me with big grins on their faces, wanting to share their discoveries of certain plants or animals. “I have to show you this amazing tree next week,” said Agricultural Intern, Andrea Davis. I’m often asked about the name of a certain bird or plant and as much as I would love to know, they are all new to me. To aid in these discoveries, Biology Director, Max Cooper, and I are starting a biology library and I will also be creating laminated pamphlets highlighting common flora and fauna of the valley. This will enable future interns to feed their curiosity and aid them in their own projects.
As I head off into the jungle once again, I look forward to exploring the land and the creatures that make this valley their home. In particular I will begin to learn about the dangerous creatures that interns must watch out for, attempt to identify the plethora of birds, and make a bird viewing hut with Courtney Frazee (Biology Intern), Alex Goff (Agriculture Intern), and anyone else who wants to join!