We are approaching the end of our third week in Gamboa, and while in some ways it feels like we have been here forever, it also feels like the plane just landed yesterday. The main excitement of the week has been being able to start running our experimental trials! We have been going to a series of ponds at about 9:30 at night and wading into the water to look for adult frogs. Really, we are just looking for females, because between their vocalizations and their numbers, the males are no problem to catch. The ladies on the other hand, are pretty elusive, which is impressive given that full of eggs, they are about double the size of the males. The first night we went into the field, we looked until just about midnight, and only found two pairs, already in amplexus (paired for mating), at the very end. Since then, it has become significantly easier to find them (partly thanks to the rainstorms), and we’ve been able to find six pairs a night in under an hour.
When the pairs are caught, we place them in the artificial ponds and cages we constructed. We then return at 6am the following morning to re-capture them and to painstakingly count each and every egg. Just to refresh, we are interested in looking at the choices that the females make about laying eggs in the water or on plant matter right above it. These decisions are usually prompted by cues from predators in the water, or the risk of eggs drying out in un-shaded areas. Still, some females are much more predisposed to make one choice over the other, even when it is counteracted by the environmental cues. Because of this, we spend a couple hours at sunrise counting every egg (there are usually 200-300 in a clutch!), making sure to note exactly which are laid in the water, and which are only exposed to air. This gets a little trickier because many of the clutches are placed along plant matter that spans from underwater up over the surface. The eggs are then brought into the lab, where we take care of them until they have hatched and developed long enough to begin our tadpole behavior trials.
On one of our recent days off, Annie, Hubert and I all hiked up to the Resort’s canopy tower. Now, Annie and I figured that since it was a resort attraction, the hiking couldn’t be that hard… Well that wasn’t true. This is mostly because the resort guests don’t actually hike this trail, they take the more expensive, probably beautiful, dare I say lazy gondola that delivers them right to the base of the tower. Instead, we took some very old and ridiculously steep stairs, walked a little bit, and then took a whole second staircase. I’m pretty sure that they forgot to put in a stair every once and a while, and the distance between the steps would go almost up to my hips. It was all worth it once we got to the top, the canal from up that high was beautiful. We didn’t see a sloth, which was pretty disappointing, but a toucan was waiting for us at the tops of the trees instead, which was amazing. Back at the bottom, Hubert climbed a palm tree, and the coconut water was much appreciated!
We also got the opportunity to spend a day in Casco Viejo, the Historic District of Panama. We spent most of the day walking along the Cinta Costera, a pathway along the shore, which led us from the old, scenic area of Casco to the modern skyscrapers of Panama City.
We stopped for ice cream, as well as tapas, and were able to get a great view of the whole city from the rooftop bar at the restaurant. We barely made a dent in the list of suggested places that Justin gave us, and I know we are all eager for an opportunity to go back and explore some more!