Monday, May 30, 2011

Surface tension

The world behaves a little differently at the scale of ants. For
instance: never having to look around for a bucket! This Ectatomma
worker is bringing some delicious ant bait back to the nest to share
with her sisters.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Los tres amigos

We've been hard at work catching ants! In the jungle, this can be both
trivial and an enormous challenge: ants are absolutely everywhere, so
if you're not picky, you hardly have to do more than open your
collection tube; on the other hand, if you want several colonies of
the same species, you may find yourself spending a lot of time chasing
ants through the foliage.

Here's a fun shot of some turtle ants, <i>Cephalotes atratus</i>,
tending membracid leafhoppers. <i>Cephalotes</i>, the genus on which
my research is focused, are a bit of a mystery -- most of the time,
they don't really seem to be doing anything more than walking around
and maybe licking a leaf every now and then. Consequently, they're
something of a challenge for the behavioral ecologist! <i>C. atratus</
i> is a rare and delightful exception. These fabulously spiky ants are
not only conspicuous (almost an inch long!) and abundant, they can
often be found 'farming' other insects for their sugary secretions.
These membracids may even be mimicking their spiky black farmers!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Macchu Picchu

A brief episode of internet connectivity -- the satellites must be
behaving today!

Here are a few shots from our hike to/in Macchu Picchu -- the city at
sunrise, a view of the main courtyard bathed in fog, and a shot of
Lina gazing out across the valley from inside the ruins.

Despite being absolutely overrun by tourists, this city is one of the
most incredible things I've ever seen in my life. The Incas were
incredible -- their stonework, in hard granite on the bleeding edge of
the void, is absolutely mind-boggling. Staggering. What would this
civilization have looked like had it not been cut off in its infancy
by invaders from Europe?

We had the good fortune to get to Macchu Picchu by way of a short
2-day hike through the high mountains (a sort of unofficial Inca
Trail), and were lucky enough to be accompanied by the lovely Jai and
Kansa, as well as our incredible guide, Ruben. SAS Travel in Cusco
puts together a really fantastic trip if you're in the market. J & K,
if you're reading this, I got some great photos, and will share them
all when I have a decent connection again. Hope you're enjoying Rio!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The jungle

The beer is warm, the bugs are good, and the internet is bad.

Why leave?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The air

is much thinner at 3000 meters. Miraculously, flights happened, rides caught, customs cleared, and now Lina and I are spending a few hours acclimating to the altitude before starting a 3 day hike to Macchu Picchu EARLY tomorrow morning.
Flying into Cusco can be an adventure -- the city is built in a relatively small valley amongst some relatively steep mountains, and the pilot has to do some real maneuvring to get the plane down and lined up. On the way out, the descent was brilliant -- we weaved in and out of enormous, fluffy clouds that hovered just over the valley, making tight banking turns to quickly drop altitude. Pretty fun stuff.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mobile blogging

Apparently I can download an 'app' for my 'phone' which will allow me to easily 'blog.' It will also indicate my location, Tweet, Facebook, YouTube, and maybe also make me breakfast?

the view from the 'service road'

Location:Service Rd,Boston,United States

On the road again

Some sort of Myrmicine from near Walden Pond -- Aphaenogaster, perhaps?

Here we go again!

Summer's here, which means it's time to ditch North America in search of interesting biology. That is to say, welcome to field blogging season!

This year I'm returning to South America, where I'll once again be climbing trees, catching ants, and exploring the mysteries of their microbes. My journey takes me back to the tropical rainforests of southeastern Peru, at the Centro de Investigacion y Capacitacion de Rio los Amigos (CICRA), but it's going to take me a few days to get there! In the meantime, expect airports, mountains, and ancient Incan ruins...