Welcome to my second Kalu Yala journal posting. This article is to inform you about our company’s achievements and struggles during our second stint at the valley field station for researching agriculture, living systems, and outdoor recreation in the Panamanian jungle. In particular, I shall focus on the developments in the living systems division, as that is my own group.
The nearing completion of the tributary pipeline system for delivering water to our sustainable community has consumed the majority of my efforts during this past stint (from Jan 28, 2013 until Feb 7, 2013). Our design for pumping drinkable water from nearby freshwater sources is a simple yet effective engineering design that captures the potential energy of moving water near the mountaintops, in order to transport sufficient amounts nearly a mile to our base. Along the pipes, it is our challenge to integrate reduction units that gradually increase the pressure that allow the water to move uphill whenever necessary. Likewise, it has been another challenge to design a water storage tank system where the incoming water can all be gathered and selectively used when needed (i.e. an environmentally friendly faucet apparatus). At the start of this stint, we had about one-quarter mile of piping successfully laid, whereas at the end of this stint, we have now finished three-quarters of the system. Hence, having completed about half a mile of piping may be considered an achievement during this past second stint.
This picture depicts our effort in the valley to set up pipes for a water system.
The greatest challenges of this tributary pipeline project have been the struggle to keep bringing fresh supply of pipes before the end of the stint, and to have the physical strength to scale the steep mountainside to work on the system. Likewise, internal confusion and an initial lack of teamwork caused even greater troubles as well. For instance, one overly zealous director made the mistake of using sealant to permanently hold the pipes together, only to realize that there was no filter attached at the beginning of the system. The significance of this mistake became apparent when many contaminants, such as leaves, sand, and insects, flooded into this half-mile long pipeline and became nearly impossible to remove. Fortunately for us, the extent of our tools enabled us to make clean cuts of sealed pipes to remove debris. Prior to the end of this second stint, our team had been able to implement an efficient filter that has resolved the problem.
Another problem that arose from sealing the pipes too soon was that it was nearly impossible afterward to drag the whole system forward or backward from the mouth of the stream to adjust the water intake. In the end we were able to fix it, and the memory has been quite humorous in fact. The means to that end required me to be positioned in the most awkward place, hanging onto the side of the mountain for dear life to help support the system from one end, while my teammate adjusted the system from the other end. I ended up taking a good beating from the pipes squirming around on the mountainside, as I was perfectly stuck during the whole ordeal. As difficult as it was, I am certain I have developed both brawn and brain to know how to work with tributaries in the future.
This tributary pipeline project has clearly become more of an engineering project rather than purely a biological sciences study on theoretical concepts. Nevertheless, some progress has been underway for furthering our understanding of entomology. It has started to become our company’s interest to set aside unused cages to capture various insects for observation, including certain tarantula species. It is our hope to hone our skills in species identification of these specimens and to further discover other previously undocumented phenomena about these Panamanian species for publishing in scientific journals.
This picture depicts a large spider, nearly 6″, that occasionally appear near our base.
Besides the Living Systems team, other achievements have been made by the agriculture and outdoor recreation teams. In the agriculture group, an acre of land has been planted with various crops for cultivation just during this stint. Notable coconut tree saplings have popped up all throughout our research station, and the aesthetic value of protecting our environment has become evident through their beautifying efforts. In the outdoor recreation group, unique achievements have been made, such as the making of handcrafted bows and arrows, as well as completed raft blueprints, as well as collecting all the supplies for it. Yet another accomplishment that the outdoor recreation team has made includes the construction of new signs around the base. That completed project has made it easier for visitors to our base to find their way around.
This picture depicts the tall bamboo stalks (about 20 feet tall) that supply our general uses, including raft material.
This sums up the progress made during the second stint, and it shall be our hope to have completed the tributary system, rafts, and entomology projects by the end of the next third stint.