Today we experienced Scott F. Solomon in his true element: digging up leaf-cutter ant colonies. We went to three different-aged colonies to dig in to and see their tunnels and fungal gardens. With his tiny shovel and stolen spoon, Dr. Solomon pulled out two of the three colonies’ fungi. It was cool to see how complex the colonies can be and how their complexity increased with age (a single queen can keep her colony growing for 25 years!), but being that close to so many ants was a bit unpleasant.
The other main thing we did today was set up an experiment to test abundances of arthropods and nutrient availability on the forest floor versus in the canopy. This involved each of us filling two viles with our pee and two with water and then tying half to trees and burying half in the ground. Tomorrow we are going to examine the arthropods that fell into the viles.
The day after tomorrow is when we are going to have to go and retrieve our camera traps. I’m excited to see the pictures they’ve taken, but I’m not looking forward to the hiking it will involve. Although the hiking yesterday felt fine, the minimal hiking we did today was pretty painful and quite laborious because I cut my foot on a conch at Glover’s a little over a week ago. As a reminder of our time on Middle Caye, four pieces of shell came out of the cut today. I’m hoping that was the last of it (spoiler: it wasn’t) and that it won’t be as painful in the coming days.
We spent not much time in the woods today, so I did not see any Orthoptera. However, I’m hoping we’ll find lots in the viles. The highlight of today was the Scarlet Macaws we saw. Two of them flew over us and then stopped in a tree nearby. It was a hard to get a picture that did them or their colorful plumage justice, but I don’t think it’s something I will ever forget.