Finaly six weeks in the jungle!!

Final Blog post So once again here I am at my final blog post before heading back to England, I am very excited to be heading home. However at the same time am still sad about leaving.

Our final 6 weeks in the jungle have been very busy, the plan for this period was to collect as much low water data as possible. I have a month of high water data as well as several months of transition data however only have a few weeks in the low water. We joined an Earthwatch expedition which left Nalta on the 25th August, we were staying aboard the Nutria (a small boat with only two beds in the cabin) which was alongside the Ayapua. For the first two weeks we were at the Mouth of the Samiria River at PV1, the first guard station as you enter the reserve. This is very close to the villages; Boilvar and San Martin. This gave me a good opportunity to survey transects which have quite a high level of disturbance and use due to their close proximity to these villages. We set up and surveyed three different transects and surprisingly found some very interesting frogs including Rhinella margaritifera, Hamptophryne boliviana and one Leptodactylus lineatus. We also found a very large tadpole on the transect closest to the village of Bolivar, this tadpole was in a flooded section of the transect. It was likely to be a large treefrog so we collect it to observe its growth, see the photos below of this development. It developed very rapidly and soon metamorphed into a very small silver Hylidae (photos below) from the guide books I was able to identify this as a Hypsiboas geographicus. This enabled me to add another species which we did not observe on the transect.

We left the Earthwatch group on the 4th September and took the Nutria up to PV2, by this point we had a very small team, Me, Sophie our guide Roma as well as Juan who was driving the Nutria. This was a seven hour drive and so Sophie and I helped a little with the driving so the men could have some lunch. (Well technically I asked if I could have a go driving and so they all left us to it, only sticking their heads up from the deck below to make sure we were not about to crash!). Once we arrived at the site we repeated the transects we had previously undertaken, this only took a few days. Then on the 7th September Roberto arrived at PV2 to help us translate, the next day we travelled up river to PV3. I visited PV3 back in 2009 however have not been back since yet have always wanted to. We arrived at PV3 on the 8th and the water level was very low! In 2009 when I first visited the water level was at a record high and the water was right up at the bottom of the guard station. This time however the water was several meters below this point and the channel was only a small stream! This made for a very interesting frog survey due to the caiman soup…..

So in the first afternoon we cut and measured two transects one a little up river behind a small settlement, they had a sand pit and were taking part in the turtle project (collecting and head starting the baby turtles before releasing them into the river). The second transect was located down river just past the PV station this was much higher and had denser vegetation however we encountered a nest of sweat bees which lodged themselves in Sophies hair needless to say she was not impressed they sting and sound like you have bees inside your head! Not a nice experience, I had to help pick them out her hair and they instantly went into mine! After this experience we walked that particular section of transect very quickly so as to avoid them. The final transect we cut was behind the guard station. We picked the location to be similar to the transects located at PV2 so I could make a nice comparison between the sites.

We spent 9 days at PV3 completing day and night repeats of the different transects, many of the amphibians we found were very common species. These were in quite a high abundance however we found very few rare or interesting species, we found one Hypsiboas faciatus which I have only seen once previously so was an interesting observation. The lack of species was somewhat disappointing as in 2009 I found some very interesting species, however this may be due to the change in water level as they have a larger area in which to disperse due to the lack of flooding this year. Although we did find many leptodactylid species, which are a common leaf litter frog, many had small orange lumps around their back legs and lower back. This may be caused by a disease however without taking samples this would be very hard to prove. Although the frogs were a slight let down we did find many other interesting species we saw hoatsins which I have also not seen since 2009. The caimans were also very interesting!! On the first night we went out we saw many caimans along the river bank, at least one every 10m. Then we went into the channel….. This was amazing… We counted over 100 caimans and we only travelled around 2/3km!! They were literally everywhere, admittedly many were juveniles however we did see some 2 / 3m adults. It was a great thing to see, if a little scary!

On the 16th September we moved back down to PV2, this was a slightly quicker journey on the way back as we were going down river with the current. Our time at PV2 was quiet but enjoyable, we found many interesting species including one which I have not yet recorded in the reserve. The rain was very heavy on many days even causing us to cancel a few transects. It’s usually not the rain that is dangerous but the wind, this can cause tree falls which would not be fun if they were to happen close by!! This heavy rainfall did cause many temporary pools which caused some interesting species to appear and start breeding within them. We also visited the lake where the water level had dropped quite significantly and most of the ground was out the water and covered in grass. There were many different bird species in the lake such as egrets and horned screamers, one of the loudest birds I have ever seen and also rather strange looking. During this time Sophie and I were quite busy cooking, and surveying with some time in between to relax and type up data. We were very pleased after a few weeks when an Earthwatch group arrived, although only a small group of four people they were very lovely and welcoming even letting us join them for some cold beers which was very much appreciated! We spend the final days with them, assisting with surveys and taking them out to do floating meadow frog surveys.

We arrived back in Iquitos on the 5th and all went for a nice meal at the Pizza restaurant followed by some beers at a local bar. The plan before returning home is to visit the manatee sanctuary and the zoo, before flying to Lima where we will spend one night before flying back to the UK!

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Costa Rica and Panama….

Costa Rica and Panama Adventure

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of travelling mixed with some very nice relaxation. Several months back I saw an advert for an amphibian symposium which had a list of speakers who I very much wanted to meet. This meant I decided to have a break from jungle life in order to visit Costa Rica. I visited Costa Rica back in 2007 and have always wanted to return.

Sophie and I flew from Iquitos direct to Panama City, it was amazing how quickly you can fly direct, when we are so used to internal flights. The flight to Panama City is the only international flight from Iquitos, however was one of the nicest flights I have been on, they even gave us free wine! We had a couple of days in Panama City and visited the Panama Canal, as well as going for a few walks around the city. It was very strange to suddenly be in such a large city so soon after the jungle! We went from giant trees to giant skyscrapers. Panama City was very interesting, it is very westernized and reminded us of large American cities mainly because there were so few local people and so many foreigners! Although it was interesting we were happy to leave the city as neither of us are city people both preferring the peace and quiet of more rural places. So from here we had an overnight bus to San Jose the capital of Costa Rica, which involved a very strange border crossing that we had to walk across as our bus had driven a few hundred meters down the road with our bags! From San Jose we had a shuttle bus which took us to Siquirres where we attended the week long Amphibian Symposium.

This location was chosen due to its close proximity to the Costa Rican Amphibian Research center (, created and owned by Brian Kubicki and his family. This was a great opportunity to go back to the center which I had previously visited in 2007. Brian brought this land in 2002 so that it could be conserved specifically for amphibians. His continued research now spans all over Costa Rica. His reserve is home to a diverse range of amphibian species. We visited his reserve both during the day and at night, during the day visit he showed us the vivariums he had on site in which he was working with several interesting species including some salamanders and poison dart frogs. He also showed us the area where he was cultivating many interesting plant species. After this we went for a walk around the reserve and saw a few amphibian species. On the night visit we took a night walk around the reserve, we saw many different species including the red eyed tree frog, the lemur frog and many other interesting hylidae species, I have included several pictures below.

During our time at the symposium we attended many interesting talks and lectures about work being undertaken in Central and South America. We also undertook several day trips into the surrounding area, we went on an aerial tram ride which was very cool. It took you up into the canopy and very slowly took you through, it was amazing to be that high up and see all the bromeliads and animals that live in the canopy. Another trip involved traveling down to Puerto Viejo located on the Caribbean coast, this place is very well know as a surf destination and had many a surf bum wondering around ;)… So while here we visited a botanical garden which was beautiful, they were cultivating bromeliads and had hundreds of small strawberry dart frogs. This is a very interesting species, with many different colour morphs which can be seen in the photos below.  Many of these were taken in Panama in Boca del Toro, these islands are very unique each one has a different colour morph, although they are all the same species.

After this we both decided that we wanted some relaxation time and what better place to go than a Caribbean island. So we headed to Bocas del Toro just off the coast of Panama and we stayed on two picturesque islands. Firstly we stayed on Isla Colon for five days where we rented a couple of bikes and explored the islands beaches. On one day we cycled from Bocas del Toro to Boca del Drago and walked up to Starfish beach, where we spent the day snorkeling. It was amazing to see so many starfish in once place and we also got to see some really cool fish around the mangrove forests. I have always wanted to swim in mangroves and see coral reefs and this day I got to make that a reality. Coral reefs are a real love of mine and I think if I was not working in rainforest studying frogs I would be working with coral reefs!

Then we moved to Isla Bastimentos for a further five days, this island was more remote and off the tourist trail. We went to the famous Red Frog Beach and took many photos of the strawberry dart frogs discussed above. We took a trip to one of the tiny off shore beach islands and went snorkeling, the coral reefs and the fish were amazing. We took a Go Pro with us and both of us had a go filming and photographing the fish and coral reefs. We also found an amazing Café called Up on the Hill which served the best brownies and proper coffee (grown on the hill!). It was also surrounded in different colour morphs of pumilio and we spent a whole day walking around taking photos of the different morphs.

We are now back in Iquitos and I am currently doing some work trying to catch up with everything but failing due to the very slow internet access (if I get this blog updated it will be a miracle in itself!). We are leaving to go back into the jungle on Sunday 25th August and will be back around the 5th October. I am looking forward to returning to the reserve and collecting some interested data in the low water. The current plan is to return with an Earthwatch group and spend two weeks at the mouth of the reserve, followed by one week at PV3 (which I have not visited since I first came to Pacaya-Samiria in 2009). Finally we plan to spend our final two weeks at PV2 to collect some data which will be compared with the high water data I have from earlier this year.

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Eight weeks in the jungle…..

First post from the jungle I hope you all enjoy…

So I arrived in Peru on the 30th June with the DICE group and my other half Sophie who will be joining me for this trip, it is her first time in South America and she will be helping me as my research assistant, so we will see how she copes with all the frogs!

So we are finally back in Iquitos after eight weeks out in the jungle, we were hoping to head back to Iquitos with the DICE group at the start of July however, it was not possible due to the lack of boats going back into the reserve. We only have until tomorrow in Iquitos then we are flying to Panama for a amphibian conference in Costa Rica!

We arrived in the jungle back on the 5th June with only the DICE group, it was a very small group to start with. There were four of them, Imogen and Paul working on amphibian projects as well as Kirsten (Caimans) and Ellie (Primates).  The first two weeks we worked in this small group and surveys were all running very smoothly with lots of data being collected. After two weeks the Operation Wallacea group joined us, it was very strange going from such a small group to such a large one however, it was very enjoyable to see all the new students and catch up with people I have not seen since last year. With this group came two dissertation students working with amphibians bringing our little research group up to six.

Concerning the frog project we had been undertaking very similar surveys to last year with terrestrial transects both day and night and night time floating meadow surveys. We have also been doing occasional excursions during the day to visit the lake and channel, to observe and photograph the changes in water level. Over the past 8 weeks we have found well over 30 amphibian species, around 700 individual frogs and a few salamanders. We even found a Salamander species not yet recorded in the reserve Bolitoglossa peruviana, this is a very interesting species. It’s much smaller than the other species we find with a very small tail in comparison to its body size hence why we know it is a different species and not a juvenile of the other species. We had a very exciting species last week it was our final survey on transect 5 which is downriver from the site. We found a Phyllomedusa species, this are often called monkey frogs and are very interesting species! This was probably one of the best (and most diverse) transect we had this year with 10 individual and 8 different species in just one evening.

Furthermore, this year I have also had a great opportunity to start some new surveys. Due to the extreme flooding which occurs here (the water levels can change by over 8 meters a year) the forests can be flooded for many months. This means many species may be displaced from their usual terrestrial habitats and therefore I am undertaking surveys into the canopy to see if there are any new and exciting species to be found. This we are doing with the use of ropes and climbing techniques to climb up and search bromeliads in the canopy. We have so far searched over 30 trees and nearly 100 bromeliads however have not had much luck with the frogs less than ten have actually been caught with a few more escaping before we could identify them. However we do have one species of Pristimantis which as yet we have not been able to identify so fingers crossed this is something not yet recorded here. We have also been trying some methods to search lower bromeliads only a few meters off the ground by use of a small ladder which was made by our guide Romel.

We have seen several interesting snakes this year, (sorry mother for all the photos!) we probably see two or three a week many of which are dangerous however we steer well clear of them and they keep away from us. We have seen several fur de lances, coral snakes and even a rainbow boa and an anaconda which was 3 meters long! We see many lizards and have even seen a few caiman on transects as well, it is unusual to see them on terrestrial transects however we see them in small water bodies within the forest and smaller channels. Transects have been very interesting for wildlife spotting, we have seen most primate species as well as ant eaters, and rats! We even saw a white sloth, which was down on the ground and moved up quickly into the trees, well quickly for a sloth!

So this year, the Clavero has been home for the past 8 weeks, we also have the Patacia and the Rio Amazonas here, housing the many operation Wallacea volunteers and students. As well as the people there are many animals living on the boats, numbers spiders have been removed from rooms! The Osteocephalus taurinus living on the Patacia is still there! We have also discovered a small gecko living on the Clavero (photos below!).

So as this is Sophie’s first time out here we have been getting involved with a few other surveys and trying to spot many different species. As well as the many we have seen during amphibian survey work, we have also been out in canoes dolphin watching, macaw surveys and fishing. This was Sophies first time fishing and she did it in the Amazon, kinda cool I feel, she almost caught a fish! It was on the line and as she pulled it out the water it dropped off the hook, (I caught two)! We also joined the bird mist netting which was good fun and we caught some very cute little birds more photos below. Sophie has been thoroughly enjoying the frog surveys and I would almost go as far as saying she loves them as much as I do… She is getting very involved and can identify many of the frog species which is very impressive due to the huge numbers of species!

So the next part of our adventure is about to begin, we are leaving for Panama City tomorrow/today (depending on time different / when I upload this!). We have a day or two in Panama then we will be getting a coach to Costa Rica where we will be attending a conference at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre. After this we will have two weeks to travel before heading back to Peru! I will upload another blog post when I return to Iquitos before heading back into the jungle.

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Two weeks till my jungle adventure starts again!!!!……

I cannot believe how quickly the last 6 months have gone! I will be heading back to Peru in just two weeks and I cannot wait to get back into my data collection. I have had a very eventful few months back home which I have thoroughly enjoyed, however am seriously getting itchy feet and am very happy to be heading back to the jungle! In the time that I have been at home I have had every intention of updating my blog however this may have fallen by the wayside with all the other work I have been doing. Once I am back in Peru I will continue updating each time I am back in Iquitos and will keep the photos flowing.

My first few months back home flew by in a blur of catching up with family, friends and enjoying some home comforts while getting used to the cold of the UK. Initially when I came back I started working on data summaries, pulling together species lists and basic analysis. This has helped me to gain a good understanding of what I can do with all this information and has enabled me to draft a plan of the different chapters for my final thesis!

I have spent much of my time back in the UK meeting with my supervisor, the DICE undergraduate students and even some potential collaborators. I attended a conference at the Natural History Museum where I gave a poster presentation, and was able to catch up with some good friends who I worked with in Peru. One aim throughout all of my research is to keep people up to date with my research, I think that unless you share your findings then what is the point in being a researcher! I have recently published a small piece in the Amphibian Specialist Groups; Froglog 106. This highlights the importance of my work in terms of conservation, click the link below to read this article.

In order to promote my work I have spent a fair few hours on twitter, I have truly embraced tweeting! I think it’s a great opportunity to share your work, as well as keep up to date with news and events going on in the world. Through my account I have met people who I would love to work with in the future, I have found out about papers and current research which I may not have otherwise seen, I even won £100 of book vouchers for tweeting a photo of my research! I love using media to promote your work and sometimes it really works! I expect many people have seen this little froggy doing its thing: This has to be one of the cutest frogs I have ever seen…. I decided to put up my own video, not quite so popular but then it doesn’t make that amazing noise, my video of a salamander attempting to walk over the hairs on my arm… I use twitter as a way of promoting my research by uploading many photos and videos. Check out my profile to find out more… @katyfrogg

This year I am heading out to Peru at the end of May however last year I traveled out to Peru very early on and missed the start of the English summer, something which to be honest is always hit and miss… Well this year I have been lucky, due to leaving a little later I have been able to do what I love best in this country and work with Great Crested Newts. I love this species; they seriously look like little underwater dragons especially the males with their amazing crests! My supervisor has been researching British newts for many years at two sites one on campus and the second on a farm a few fields away. I have been involved in these surveys for about 5 years now and have my own license to catch great crested newts which are a European protected species. As well as amphibian surveys I occasionally help my supervisor with reptile surveys, he completes adder surveys at a few sites and had very recently started radio tracking them! I have added some photos of my favorite British critters to this post, can’t have a post without pictures!!

As well as continued work on my research I have been keeping very busy, I am a member of the university mountaineering club, and we often go on trips away for rock climbing and walking. This is something I have been doing while back in the UK and have also included some pictures below. This love of climbing encouraged me to try something new which I hope to incorporate into my research… Tree climbing, back in 2011 when I started my PhD I completed a tree climbing course, this qualified me to climb in the UK and I gained a good understanding of all the techniques and equipment required to climb safety. I completely fell in love with this, it is amazing to be 20meters up a huge beech or oak tree, yet you still feel completely safe supported by the branches which have been there for many years.

Tree climbing is something I hope to incorporate into my research. Judging by the data I have so far collected in Peru I have a feeling that I am missing many species which are higher up into the canopy of the forest! The only way to find and research these species is to go up into their world. This is something which has had relatively little research attention; the canopy of rainforest is one of the last undiscovered places where very few humans have ever ventured. This is where I hope to go!! My scholarship has enabled me to do many things over the past year and a half, and tree climbing is one more project which may be possible! I have been gradually buying myself bits of climbing equipment and have been practising my skills (more photos below). With the hope of using these interesting techniques to collect some new and exciting data, during this survey period.

So back to my upcoming trip, I will be flying out on the 29th May and should be in Iquitos by the 30th. The first expedition I will be joining will be the with the DICE undergraduates two of whom are going to be doing amphibian projects. This should be a very enjoyable trip with a very small group, after two weeks we will be joined by the operation Wallace groups who we will stay with until July. I will be attending a amphibian symposium in Costa Rica and August then will be heading back to the jungle… But more on all that later, for now I need to finish my preparation so wish me luck and my next post should be from Peru!!

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Final month in the jungle this year :)

I really cannot believe that my six months are nearly up! It has gone so very quickly and I have done so much. I have a great data set which should give me some really interesting results and I have literally thousands of photos!

So over the past month I have been with an Earthwatch group as well as spending ten days with just my guide getting some final data. We spent two weeks at the mouth of the Samiria just inside the Pacaya-Samiria reserve. This gave me some interesting data which can be compared with data collected further into the reserve. During this two week period it was my birthday! I had a brilliant jungle birthday starting out with eating water melon in the morning and getting a birthday present from Emma, I did a morning frog transect and relaxed for the afternoon then in the evening we went across to the local village and brought some beers and sugar cane rum and had a great night dancing (I have included a selection of photos from my birthday!). The surveys at this site were very interesting showing a real difference in species composition, I even managed to do a night time survey in the village and found two species not yet recorded this year! One of which is often encountered in disturbed areas and around villages (exactly where I found it).

After the Earthwatch group left I continued down to PV2 with Roberto as my guide. We stayed on the Patacia cooking for ourselves and doing morning and night time transects. On one day I decided I wanted to go to the channel to see how it had changed! The difference was incredible bear in mind since I first arrived back in April the water level has dropped by about 8meters! The channel is now very shallow with steep banks and the lake is now a meadow with a channel running through it! It was beautiful I have included a few photos below. During these ten days we found two amphibian species which I have not yet seen this year which was very interesting and we also managed to catch an individual which we have heard calling from within tree holes for the previous 6 months but have not yet caught one! Not only did we see some great frogs we saw many different species every transect resulted in monkeys; squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys, howlers, monk saki monkeys, night monkeys and even the occasional Tayra (related to a weasel and not often encountered in the forest). The trips we took in the boat mean we saw a whole range of wading birds as well as 4 different species of kingfisher, many vultures (I even got to see a king vulture) feeding on fish on the river banks.. One of the best bits where the baby turtles on the last day the guard from PV2 showed me the baby turtles! As part of an initiative they collect the turtle eggs and hatch them out on artificial beaches outside the guard station. They then keep them for three or four days and release them back into the river. Unlike marine turtles these do not return to the beaches they were born on (due to the ever shifting nature of the river) so this does not adversely affect their natural behaviour.

We left on the 29th and had a long boat journey in the peki peki boat down the San Martin. We spent the night here and I made friends with lots of the local children, we spent the night in one of the guide’s houses and they cooked us dinner and we enjoyed a few beers. We were up again at 4am the next morning and had a 9 hour boat ride back to Nalta then two hours taxi to Iquitos. Needless to say I was very happy to finally return back to the Casa Morey Hotel!!

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RV Adventure

This is only a quick post so I can put up some of my photos from my Canada adventure me and a few friends rented an RV and have had a great time driving around British Columbia. We visited Whistler, Jasper, Banff and Vancouver Island. I have seen whales and bears and have loved every minute its been a nice break from my work and I am now ready to head back into the jungle tomorrow to continue with my research!

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Jungle Life two…

For those who are really interested in what I do here is a second day (couldnt decide which to upload so decided to do both) …..

7:00am – Time to get up as today we will be heading to land! In the flooded forest you forget what it is like to walk on solid ground, spending your life in canoes and walking around on boats. The last few days we have been rained off and we were unable to visit the land. However today we were hoping it would be dry (little did we know)….

7:30am – After a quick breakfast and checking the sky for rain the guides decided it was going to be a clear day. So we left the Patacia and started the two hour journey to the only spot locally, which is high enough to do a terrestrial transect… We get to the lake (which is about 40 minutes from our base) when the rain started! This was no shower this was a full blown Amazon downpour…. We did not give up as we wanted to get to land so continued on. About half way there I realised the boat was getting very full of water, so decided I needed to start bailing the water out. I therefore spent the rest of the next hour bailing, so that we didn’t sink.

9.30am – We finally arrive at land, and somehow managed not to sink but the rain was not giving up.  We started the transect in the rain using my very useful waterproof notepad. After a while the rain started to ease and the frogs started to come out, we had a very successful transect and found many  frogs species, along with a few reptiles. This particular area of land was the only place where we found poisonous frogs, as they do not like the flooded forest. We did a nice long walk into the forest, which turned out to be around 3km and then we stopped for a break, where we ate a few snacks which we had brought with us. By this point the rain had stopped, and the forest was starting to warm up. I found a little Gecko whilst we were sitting waiting, it had no tail as he would have shed this in response to a predator attack. We then did the long trek back to the boat and start returning to the Patacia.

5pm – After a very long day we finally return to the Patacia very tired and hungry. We then spent a few hours relaxing, showering and typing up the day’s data.

7pm – Dinner time yay! The guides have been playing cards whilst we using our laptops and organising our photos. We are all very hungry after our long day, when Denise brings the food in we all get very large portions. This just happens to be one of my favourite meals, pasta with green sauce (the sauce is amazing I have no idea what is in it!).

8pm – Even after such a long day we still couldn’t have a night off, as there was much data to collect. So we headed out to do some floating vegetation surveys in the channel. This we did from the large boat, which we were able to drive into the vegetation and search for frogs for 15 minutes around the boat. This is always good fun as you get covered in insects whilst trying to catch frogs that were a mere two meters from the boat, this often involved a long pole or paddle and someone balancing trying to lean far enough to catch it (no one has fallen in yet and we all have lifejacket on!). We have a successful night and even catch a giraffe morph triangulum frog.. one of my favourites.

10.30pm – We decided to call it a night and headed back to the boats to go to bed. After quickly sorting the equipment and a short diary entry I fell asleep very quickly.

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Jungle Life

For those who are intrested in what I do on a daily basis here is one day in April……..

7.30am – I wake up 5 minutes before my alarm goes off (something I have started to do every day!) in my little cabin on the Patacia (which is a floating research vessel).  So I get up and have a quick shower in river water before putting on my jungle clothes. I then head down for breakfast which consisted of rice with tuna, onion and tomato, a good start to the day. Produced by our cook (Denise) who had already been up an hour previous to produce this yummy meal. I join Izzy, Ellie and Emma and we all eat our breakfast; some mornings the cook and guides join us too. We chat about our plans for the day and afterwards I organise the equipment we need ready for the day ahead.

8.00am – We all met down by the canoe along with our guides Miguel and Juan. I then explained to the guides that we wanted to go to the lake and search the floating vegetation for frogs, tadpoles or frog spawn. It takes a lot of miming to explain what we meant by frog spawn but we get there in the end and head off to the lake with a couple of canoes and a very large net!

8.30am – Upon arriving at the lake I directed Miguel to the area I wanted to search and we all got into the canoes; Emma, Miguel and myself in one and Ellie, Izzy and Juan in the other. The methods used involved recording the time taken to search the vegetation, along with its location. To search the vegetation we rowed the canoe into the vegetation this caused it to part on either side and we were close enough to hand search for frogs. This proved to be a very successful morning and we started finding frogs almost straight away including lots of dendropsophus triangulums (these are often referred to as clown frogs due to their colouration). I collected and kept some of these individuals to use in a colour change experiment, which I conducted in the afternoon.

11:30 – After three hours in the hot sun, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the boats which were down the river. Once we had returned we all had showers to cool down, and then relaxed before lunch. We were making the most of the free time and resting up after our busy morning in the jungle.

1pm – Lunchtime arrives and by this point I am very hungry, I really enjoy our lunch of fish and rice (courtesy of the local guards who live in the guard station where we are located. The fish we have is very meaty and yummy (see the photo below of Miguel bringing it over to us) they caught this with just a spear out in the flooded forest.

1.30pm – After lunch I spent the afternoon typing up data which I had already gathered, as well as conducting experiments. I photographed all the frogs to begin with then separate them into different pots. A selection of these pots I left in the natural light and others I covered with a very dark cloth to simulate night. I then photographed them ever half an hour, and after a couple of hours I swapped them over. The reason behind me doing this is to see how much their individual colours varied during the course of the day and the night. As you can see from the photos below the colours produced varied greatly.

6.00pm – I spent the early part of the evening relaxing and photographing the amazing sunset, which we were lucky enough to experience ever night.

7pm – By now it is dinner time and as usual I am very hungry at this point, luckily Denise knows how large my appetite is and is always commenting on how I always finish everything on my plate so gives me a very large portion J.. Each night we always sit and have dinner with Denise, Miguel, Juan and the guards from the guard station. This is always good fun, with the Spanish people at one end of the table English people at the other… Often mixing the two and having full table chats resulting in a lot of laughter at our Spanglish!

8pm – The time has come to go out for the night surveys, we are doing two transects which are closest to the guard station. We all get into our canoes and canoe across into the forest. We had a very successful night and found quite a few interesting species; including a few baby caimans swimming around in the water. We also discovered a water snake and a skink, the first one was swimming in the water and the latter on a branch above the water. Both transects took about an hour and a half to complete and comprised of very slow canoeing through the forest; with torches used to search for frogs. We saw a range of species at various heights in the forests, and some took an amount of precarious balancing on behalf of the guides; who would stand up in the canoes to try and catch frogs a few meters above the water level.

11pm – We finished both transects and went back to the boat, I spent a few minutes sorting out the equipment that we had used then headed up to bed. The jungle is so peaceful at night and the stars are amazing! I got into bed, wrote my diary and turned off the light completely exhausted and in need of the sleep which will get me ready for another day tomorrow!


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World Herpetological Conference – Canada!

So I am thoroughly enjoying Canada the weather is amazing (although the beer is very expensive!) the conference has been a whirlwind of meeting people, attending talks and socialising in the evenings. I arrived in Canada early afternoon on the 7th August, that evening I went for dinner with my supervisor and some of the other PhD students it was great to catch up with them all and update them on my research and travels. The next day was the official first day of the conference however the presentations did not start until the 9th so we spent the day exploring Vancouver and went to the conference registration. We visited Stanley Park which is stunning and enjoyed the amazing views Vancouver has to offer. The 9th was the first day of presentations so we had an early start with the welcome talks at 9am these were very interesting and introduced many important people as well as a very good first presentation by Tyrone Hayes he is an amazing speaker if you are interested this is very similar to the talk he gave us, and is well worth a watch:

After this talk I went and put up my poster ready for the poster presentations each evening. I still had a couple of hours before the afternoon presentations so I went for a walk down on the beach and took some photos of the amazing view. I spent the afternoon in presentations which were very interesting including one on the Tepuis in Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil there are some very interesting endemic frogs found on these mountains! That evening was the first of several social events involving a BBQ, volleyball, crazy golf and beer!

Over the next four days I attended many different presentations on a whole range of topics from tropical poison frogs to getting your work published in top herpetological journals. These were all very interesting and have given me lots of tips, pointers and ideas for my own research. As well as attending these I attended my poster presentation session where I stood with my poster for two hours and talked to a wide range of people who were interested in my research.

I have put together a selection of photos from this week. I have also included a selection of photos from my trip to the Aquarium and some photos of the friendly racoons that live on the University campus they are very cute and we saw them most evenings. This individual climbed up the tree away from me while I was taking photos of him then he looked at me, changed his mind and climbed back down to sniff me then ran off again! We also saw skunks however I did not get a photo of them didn’t want to get too close just encase!!

I am now relaxing in my hostel in Vancouver doing some work and updating my blog. My friends arrive tomorrow and I am going to have two weeks with them travelling around Canada in a RV! I am very excited about this and will post an update about my travels.

I just wanted to point out that none of this would be possible without my funding for which I am incredibly grateful!! Thanks to all who have donated to the Alumni Postgraduate Research Scholarship  🙂

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Hello all! I am back in Iquitos fresh out the jungle and thought I would update the blog before Canada!  I have only been back out there for a couple of weeks however have some interesting data and some even more interesting species. The water level is continuing to drop in the reserve it has probably dropped by about 6 or 7 meters since I arrived in March, this means all my transects which were originally flooded forest are now completely out the water and drying out more and more every day. If you take a look in the photos I have included one taken within the forest which shows a distinctive line where the water level would have been with green above and black below. This will eventually fade as new plants grow in the lower levels however it is really interesting to see. Once again I decided to upload a selection of photos and talk about them.

When I went back out into the jungle after leaving the DICE students (it was very sad saying goodbye to them I made some really good friends) I spent two days with a group of Greentracks tourist who were staying on the Ayapua. This was really interesting as I met some great people who had a real interest in reptiles and amphibians (they even had a boa constrictor which needed releasing). The first night back at PV2 I was out frogging again as soon as I arrived back, we found some interesting frogs and two juvenile Fur De Lances which is the small snake on a leaf. This is one of the most venomous snakes out here however I stood well back to take the photo making full use of the zoom on my camera. The photo with fish in the boat was a few nights later. We were on our way to the channel when our boat got bombarded with fish! When this water level drops down all the fish move out of the lakes and forest and into the rivers. This results in a lot of fish! You often see them jumping out of the water and as our boat crossed the river into the channel all these fish were jumping out the water and landing in our boat! This is a great spot to see dolphins fishing the come right out the water to dive down after the first, this is the only time you might see a pink dolphin jumping right out of the water. Gray dolphins fish differently the chase the fish up to the surface and catch them here they do not have the flexibility that the pink dolphins have.

The three very green photos show our final trip into the lake. As the water level dropped down the lake became cut off from the main river and channel, we ended up carrying our canoes over the land to get there. It was great fun but a lot of hard work so we only did it once (actually twice we did it once at night too) the first of these photos (which just looks like vegetation) actually has a capybara in it! Look very closely in the middle there is a little bit of brown fur that is a capybara. We saw it when we first entered the lake it was poking its head out the water with a piece of water lettuce on its head. I did not get my camera out quick enough then in moved into the more dense vegetation. There is also a photo of me sitting in the canoe, we got rained on then started looking for frogs, we only found a couple. But it was a great experience as all the birds had moved into the lake to take advantage of the trapped fish in the very shallow water. There is another photo of me here looking very nervous as right after this photo was taken there was a lot of splashing next to me which I hoped was a fish and not a caiman / giant anaconda!

Next we have a couple of frog photos, the first is a defence posture which many frogs display when caught. I always try to get some more natural photos when we release each frog, sometimes if we catch two together I will photograph them next to each other like I have in these photos. There is also a picture of a cane toad which is the large frog in my hand, the photo before this is me setting bottle traps! This is something we do in the UK to catch newts and I thought I would try it out in the Amazon to see if I was able to catch any tadpoles. We caught a couple of fish but that was it, I will try this again at some point but the floating vegetation is starting to rot down now and so there is  much less to survey.

The photos following show a range of different species which I have seen in the last month. The small tarantula photo is the first spider photo I have taken, I really don’t like spiders however this one was very cute. Next we have a couple of pictures of Bolivar village which is right on the edge of the Pacaya-Samiria reserve and where many of our guides live. We spent a couple of hours here looking around, buying souvenirs and playing football with them.

I have now been in Iquitos for 7 days and the last few photos show some of the things I have been doing. We went to a manatee sanctuary which was amazing we got to feed the manatees. This place takes in juvenile manatees that have lost their mothers to hunting, feeds them up for a couple of years and then releases them into the Pacaya-Samiria. All of the monkey photos were taken at Monkey Island which is home to eight different species of monkey, these have been kept as pets or have also lost their mothers from illegal hunting and have been taken in by the organization who run monkey island. Finally there is a small frog picture which we found at monkey island on the beach while heading back to the boat. There were hundreds of them all hopping around on the beach very tini, not sure which species they are yet….

Hope you enjoy the photos!

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