Tag Archives: Day 7

Day 7: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! IT’S A PUMA!!!!!

Today we collected our camera traps and we all examined the results later that night. We got some cool photos like a super up close picture of what looked like a puma, skunk, and a tapir! We all had refreshing drinks and a nice desert as a last taste of Belize before all heading down for the night. Man Belize, you got good food. 

We went on an ant hike where Scott told the class all about leaf cutter ants. He showed the class two nests, one young and one mature. The solider ants from the mature ants were so big compared to the workers! Such a cool sighting of Scott in his natural habitat, you know digging up leaf cutter ants. 

Epiphytes were every along both trails as perusal, since epiphytes are so diverse.  It is just a great feeling walking out with the class on the monkey tail trail and just looking around to see epiphytes. Clearly not excited about the 13 ticks I found on me yesterday, but I am alive. 

Last full day here at Las Cuevas Research Station and it is a sad day. One thing I will miss is definitely the food. Food here at Belize is so so good! Thank you Las Cuevas staff for just providing such an amazing experience. Good night and off to the ATM cave in the morning!


Picture: What looks to be a puma


Picture: Tapir!!

Day 7: I’m burnin’ up

5/20/19: We concluded our Cecropia and Aztec Ant project today and found that it might be true that uncolonized Cecropia trees have tougher leaves to prevent herbivory, but with our data, there might be many other possible explanations.

Today was our last day at Las Cuevas. We went to retrieve our camera traps; it was quite a long hike to pick up all seven cameras, and guess what we found? A TAPIR!!! We caught one on the camera that was furthest down the monkey tail trail. Honestly, I never thought I could be that excited for a photo, but trust me, I screamed a little when it came up. We also caught this mysterious photo of an animal that appeared to be cat-like. It was too close to the camera, so it is very overexposed and washed out. We hypothesize it is a Puma based on its outline, but we are not 100% sure. But, for the sake of tropical field biology, it will be a puma in my book.

The man, the myth, the legend: the Tapir caught on our camera trap!

On another note, I ran into quite a problem today at Las Cuevas. During a break today, Brendan and I used an “icy- hot” type ointment to help our sore muscles. For the first two hours of the break, it went great. But after that, let’s just say, things went a little less great. We went to gear up to investigate the leaf cutter ant mounds around Las Cuevas (super cool by the way!). So, as we were standing in the sun excavating a mound, our skin began to burn as if we were cooking in the sun. We began to remove our socks and ran up to the station to take a shower to remove the remaining ointment from our skin. In the end, we are doing much better, but note to self: do not wear icy-hot in direct sunlight.

Today was a slow day for arachnids. We were hiking swiftly this morning and did not often stop to check out anything on the path, so I saw a few wolf spiders scattered in the leaf litter and a what seemed to be a monster tick walking on a leaf. It had to be least 0.3 to 0.5 cm. It had white speckles on its back. To put it simply, we avoided it as much as possible. Tomorrow we make our way to the reef.  First stop ATM cave!

Wish me luck!


The Best Day Ever

Today was actually one of the most exciting days at Las Cuevas. It started out by us waking up early and leaving around 5:30 to hike the Bird Tower Trail. The trail was very steep and the leaf litter was slippery, which made for an interesting hike with me falling off balance every couple steps and some people actually falling and sliding down. Once we got the bird tower 6 of us climbed up at a time, and while it was a bit scary climbing up the rickety ladder, the views from the top were indescribable. The sun was still rising, and I could see over all the trees of the canopy and the mist covering the tops. We definitely worked up an appetite after the hike though.

After breakfast, we went out to collect all the camera traps that we had set out the first day, but Scott told us we had to wait to check them until the sunset. While on the hike, we found a really cool beetle called the golden tortoise beetle, and another brown anole which Veronica picked off the trunk of a tree that was covered in lichen. I tried to hold it, but it bit her hand and jumped away back towards the tree.

Later, we left with Scott and the other group of students from Mississippi to do leafcutter ant nest excavations. We started with a one-year-old nest and found the queen, which was way bigger than I imagined it to be and I got to hold it in my hand. Once we moved to the monster ant nest we had trouble finding the fungus chamber, but we did find the dump chamber where the ants put their waste.


Finally, after dinner, we all gathered around Scott’s computer to look at the long-awaited camera trap photos. In the very first camera trap photo, we saw a tapir and its butt, then the very next picture was a jaguar!! We ended up having two amazing pictures of jaguars, and it literally made my day and I will probably be thinking about it for months. Also, the pictures of Adrienne were pretty great too.



Day 7: Ant-man

One of the mysteries in insect biology is the mating of leaf-cutter ants. Although we know a lot about their nuptial flights (mating gatherings) we do not know where they actually gather and mate. Scott tells us that queens and males fly high in the sky during nuptial flights, flying above the forest canopy. No one has recorded their mating behavior, still.

A soldier leaf-cutter ant locking down its jaw on my field notebook…

Today we set out to do an ant excavation with the large crew from the Mississippi University. We dug out an 1-year old leaf-cutter ant’s nest and found the queen, which was about 8-12 times bigger than the worker ants. We also excavated a 20+ ft long nest, which was likely over 25 years old, and located the dump chamber. It was a first experience for us, even for Scott, who for the first time noticed the higher temperature of the dump chamber, likely due to its decomposing cycle.


In the evening, we went through the photographs that we captured via camera traps. They were some of the best things that has happened to us so far because of the surprising nature of the reveal. From dark, incomprehensible images to bright jaguar images, the experimental results made us scream aloud. Some of the most exciting results we collected were timestamped photographs on peccaries, jaguars, a puma, curracels, an agouti, and a tapir. We were able to conclude from this experiment that there is higher biodiveristy found off trail in the Las Cuevas Research Station area than on trail.

You Wouldn’t Belize It If We Told You

Day 7: May 21st 2018, Las Cuevas

So I am just going to preface that this was a pretty amazing day for all of us, especially me as the mammals expert.  We woke up around 4:30 am, went on an early hike on the bird trail which was incredibly hilly, ate breakfast, then went out to collect our camera traps from the first experiment.  We saw some interesting stuff including a Golden Tortoise Beetle which looked like it had a clear shell over it (resembling a tortoise shell).  It actually stayed on Professor Solomon until we finished our hike. After that we had lunch, and then we set iff with the other group staying at Las Cuevas to find some leaf cutter ant nests.

First we dug into a small, one year old nest until we reached a tunnel that lead to their fungus garden.  You see, leaf cutter ants are agriculturists who cut and collect leafs to feed to a fungi that they cultivate to eat.  We actually dug so far in that we found the queen and go to hold her.  Next we dug into a 15-20ft across nest that was between 15 and 20 years old. Yes, it actually was that large.  We actually dug until we found their dump chamber that was full of old fungi, dead ants, and ants working the dump.  The dirt was even warm from the decomposition.  

However, after dinner, we look at our camera traps…. I’ll just start but saying that we say more than any other group in bio 319 history has ever seen.   We saw Baird’s Tapir with its long upper lip, fat butt, and stubby tail.  We saw 2 jaguars!!!! They were even confirmed to be different individuals based on their patterning. We saw a total of 8 collard Peccaries: 7 on trail, 2 off trail.  They essentially look like wild pigs with more triangular heads.  I noted that 2 imaged peccaries appeared to be in a juvenile, adult transition with browner fur around the head and a black strip down the back. We captured 3 images of what we believe etc to be pumas, one of which was so close to the lens that it was complexity whited out making it impossible to see anything but the outline.  We also saw Alfaro’s rice rat roaming around the off trail forest floor.  It had a distinctly triangular head with a downward sloping nose ridge making it quite easy to identify.  

We also saw an elusive 9 Banded Armadillo which I honestly was not expecting to see.  They don’t necessarily have to have 9 bands but they are distinctly banded.  Finally, we saw a coatimundi, a mammal in the raccoon family. Its about the size of a medium sized dog with a skinny and small head. The one we saw had orangish-brown fur and it was standing atop a fallen tree trunk.  

All I can saw is that seeing a single Baird’s Tapir or large cat was the goal, and we were all completely blown away.  However, apparently something is fruiting which apparently attracts some mammals which would also attract the big cats making our timing the most ideal time to set our camera traps.  To say the least, we all went to bed in awe, and even we were in disbelief and jealous of ourselves despite the fact hat we were living it.   What a wonderful last day in the Chiquibul.  Also we miss you Adrienne!