Las Cuevas and pee

DAY 12 – We got a couple of extra hours of sleep last night, which felt really good. I started the day with a little bit of bird watching. We saw a Red-Lored Parrot, with a green body and red markings on its crown. After breakfast, Scott handed each of us two unexplained vials and told us to hydrate. Little did we know, we would be asked to pee in the vials for our next experiment.

In an effort to compare the arthropod diversity and nutrient availability in the canopy of the rainforest and the forest floor, we set out some pitfall traps. Basically, we are trying to see how many arthropods total we count in our canopy traps (both water and urine) and the floor traps (both water and urine) for a comparison of arthropod diversity. We can also infer nutrient availability by the difference between arthropods who go into the urine traps (which have high nutrients, including nitrogen) and the water traps. More arthropods in urine traps indicates lower nutrient availability.

A vial of urine and a vial of water attached to a tree

We had some free time before lunch and presentations before we began our afternoon activity. Scott took us to a young leaf-cutter ant colony (about 1 year old), a slightly older colony (between 3 and 6 years old), and a huge, mature colony (anywhere from 10 to 25 years old). He bravely cut into all three with a shovel and exposed the channels under the soil as well as the fungi that the ants cultivate.

I didn’t see any bees today (except for the nests of stingless bees that are scattered around the research station). I’m going to double down on my efforts to attract a male orchid bee by carrying my fragranced filter paper.

We saw seven Scarlet Macaws total today around the clearing! They are incredibly bright and have kind of a silly squawk. It’s easy to see why they are targets of poaching, given their majestic, colorful plumage.

Tomorrow is our second to last day at Las Cuevas. It’s all happening so fast!

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