The call it the rainy season for a reason…


In case you’ve never been to the tropics, there are essentially two season here per year. In Panama, this works out as “the dry season” which lasts from about December to April, and “the rainy season” which lasts from May/June to November.  These are rough borders of course and it fluctuates from year to year. Back in 2012, I published a paper which looked at variation in rainfall in Gamboa over the past 40 years or so.  On average, it rains 2.1 meters per year (a little under 7 feet), and the vast majority of it (77%) falls between May and November.

Last year by all accounts, was a horribly dry year due to very strong El Niño conditions. It was great for biologists interested in the effects of drought on trees or other organisms, but everyone that was down here trying to study frogs was in trouble.  Frogs are generally cued by rainfall to come out and breed, so whether you are studying eggs or adults, it didn’t matter: there were just hardly any animals out at all.

So what is this year like so far?  RAINY!  It has essentially been raining every single day.  Every afternoon, sometimes in the morning, even occasionally in the evening. Rain, rain, rain.  This has been great for research, because it means that every night the frogs are extremely active. Yay rain!

For those of you that have never made it to the tropics, it might be difficult to envision what 7 feet of rain in a year looks like. Below are some examples of what happens during a good, but not unusually large, rainstorm.


Off to Panama!


From left to right: Annie Innes-Gold, Phoebe Reuben, Hubert Szczygiel and Justin Touchon prepare to board United 1021 to Panama City, Panama.

It’s June 1st, 2016 and here we go!  Two months of research in Panama await the four of us.  Hopefully it will be productive, instructional, fun, and amazing.

Getting here has been challenge, both in the short- and long-term.  It has taken months of permit applications and research proposals to get to where we can actually go to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to do our work.  Then the whole start of the trip was almost derailed when I left my passport at home!  Luckily I realized that before we were out of Poughkeepsie and we ended up making it to the Newark airport with plenty of time for our flight.  Off we go!!