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Field work with Nature Live

34 Posts tagged with the nature_live tag

Now that Tom has returned safely from his botanical trip to Costa Rica, I'll be heading off to the Bahamas with scientists from the Museum and the University of Southampton. Our destination is the remote island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas and most of our time will be spent on a boat.



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We’ll be using a Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV), called REX, to survey the fauna that live in this little explored part of the Caribbean. The really exciting bit is that in some cases this will be the first time that scientists have dropped a camera into these waters.


Aside from the observatory work, the team are also looking for a particular worm that likes to live on whale bones. Osedax worms have been found in every ocean in which scientists have looked for them, including the Antarctic, but will they also be found in the tropical waters of the Caribbean?


As part of the Museum’s Nature Live programme, I’m lucky enough be joining the trip and I’ll be sending back daily reports in the form of blog posts, pictures and videos. Get in touch with the field trip by using the comments section at the end of each blog.


For a chance to experience the trip come to the Museum's Attenborough Studio at 14:30 on 8, 9 and 10 March to see us in a live-video-link to the Bahamas.




Ivvet Modinou


I am writing this blog while chomping on a delicious, freshly-fried pork scratching! Amazing.


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(Click images to see them full size)


Today we did a live-video-link to the Museum's Attenborough Studio (our last two will be at 12.30 and 14.30 on Saturday 18 Feb) from the middle of a river near our hut – Rio Terbi. Perched on top of a rock we spoke to an audience in London about our trip and answered their questions about our time here.


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One young member of the audience asked about the weight of an acorn we held to camera – we actually don't have any scales so we can't tell for certain, but we estimate it as being about 4 to 5 times bigger than your average UK acorn. Sorry we can't be more accurate!


The river is the lifeblood of the forest and our hut - we get our water supply directly from it and use it to cook, wash and drink.


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Today we waked for about an hour to a site downstream and by the river.


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Holger showed me how he collects aquatic lichens...



And Alex, Daniel and Neil set up beside the river and went about collecting a huge amount of different plants.


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I have been promoted from simply being a weight to hold down specimens to pressing plants and collecting samples for DNA. I also came in useful for a particularly high orchid. We have poles that we normally use to cut specimens that are out of arms reach but we thought this was quicker and more fun. It's nice to know that I am helping out!


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Species of the day goes to Jo and it is a carnivorous liverwort! It's in the genus Colura and lives on leaves.


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It’s lobes form water sacs, which could be an adaptation to retain moisture, and people have found tiny microscopic creatures called nematodes in these water sacs. It has been suggested that the liverwort dissolves theses tiny creatures and eats them! As Jo says, when you live on only a leaf, every little helps. She also says that up close they look like tiny teapots which made Holger laugh – 'so British', he exclaimed!


I can't get close enough to see if I agree with the teapot analogy - have a search for Colura and tell me what you think!


Until tomorrow


So today I have had the chance to spend a bit of time at the hut - I made a video to hopefully give you an idea of what it’s like! (Also I meant the water is clean enough to drink, not eat! Sorry it must be the altitude, which is 2,500 metres - you can see on Google Maps the exact location of where we are.)



For breakfast the ubiquitous rice and beans made a welcome appearance - last night was really cold (definitely in the lower single figures!) so some hot food and drink was more than welcome. By mid-day it had warmed up considerably and the sun was hot.


(I should make it clear that I am in no way complaining about rice and beans - I love them! Last night they were joined by a hot, steaming pot of chicken soup and dinner was great.)


The scientists went out collecting today (the first chance to have a proper explore since they arrived) and they found some great stuff! However, Neil has already suffered some really nasty sandfly bites.



(Click the images to see them full-sized)

N.B. I've enhanced the colour of this photo a little so that you can see the bites more clearly.


Species of the day goes to Holger (although he found it yesterday). It’s on this stone, which he found in a nearby stream 30 cm below the water level. He had to chisel the lump off with both hands underwater and he described it as the single most difficult specimen he has ever collected.




It’s a representative of the genus Hydropunctaria and this is the first time it has ever been recorded in tropical America - it is found widespread in more temperate areas and in cold mountain streams in SE Asia and South Africa.


It is one of the best indicators of a stable stream bed and only lives in constantly cold water. Therefore it is an important species to know about when considering climate change. Now that Holger has found this specimen future generations will know that it was living here in 2012.




Now it may look like a dark patch on a dirty rock (Alex’s words not mine!) but Holger gave the following quote:


‘Perfect circular shape, a beautiful olive green hue and a texture of half solid jelly which is just amazing.’


Wow, I’m going to have a cold shower ... which is good news as we don’t have any hot water! I’m going to blog more about lichens next week.


With one new discovery under our belts, I hope the photos from my previous posts give you an indication of just how rich the plant life is here. Alex tells me that there are more than twice as many species of plant in this park alone than in the whole of the UK.




He has written a really nice piece on his own blog about the forest here - do have a read.


Finally, if you want to experience a live video-link direct from our hut to London tomorrow (and also on the 16 and 18 Feb) please come to the Nature Live event in the Museum's Attenborough Studio to say hello! They'll be held at 12:30 and 14:30 and (barring any technical issues) we're going to be joining the event to answer questions from the Studio and to show you a few specimens.


Jo (Nature Live host) and Erica McAlister from the Department of Entomology will be in the Studio to talk about field work, why it’s so important, what it’s like and how you do it, etc., so please do pop down to South Kensington.


Also, I wanted to let you know that, unfortunately, due to my limited internet connection I can't see your comments until they are e-mailed to me, so my apologies if you have had any questions which remain unanswered – I’ll do my best to respond in the next few days.


20120131-Costa-Rica-Valley-of-Silence-copyright-Natural-History-Museum.jpgIn February 2012 a team of 4 Natural History Museum botanists will be travelling to a remote area of tropical forest known as 'El Valle de Silencio' (The Valley of Silence) in Costa Rica. The team will be camping and collecting flowering plants, ferns, mosses, lichens and algae.


As part of the Museum’s Nature Live programme, I’m lucky enough be joining the trip and I’ll be sending back daily reports from Costa Rica in the form of blog posts, pictures and video.  If you'd like to get in touch with the field trip you can use the comments sections at the end of each blog.


For a chance to experience the trip come to the Attenborough Studio in the Museum on 11, 16 and 18 February for 12:30 or 14:30 to see a live video link to Costa Rica.

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