Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

Clouds, Crabs and Cornflakes
by -- March 6th, 2012

Day 3 (March 5, 2012)

The calendar might say that it is the dry season in Panama but the sky says differently. After falling asleep to the sound of torrential rainfall we woke up to cloudy skies. When we ventured out we discovered that there were bursts of rainfall lasting no longer than 30 seconds each. However, we did not let the weird weather deter us as we set off on a boat to the island of Bastimentos to collect hermit crabs. (The waves in one section of the trip were so choppy that I thought I was getting bone conditioning).

Abbie and Anika tracking the GPS location and making labels

We were transported through the rainforest to the Red Frog Beach on the back of a truck. The beach was located on the Red Frog Resort both named after the very poisonous strawberry poison dart frog native to Central America.

The professor and his class (minus Anika taking the picture)

"Completely safe, just don't touch it."

We then went on a long trek along the beach turning over logs looking for any crabs we could. We were getting desperate when an hour later we had only caught four (we had containers for 200). We stopped to talk about what we should do as we were already an hour late for lunch. We decided to continue forward and boy was that a decision we didn’t come to regret. Five minutes later we found a perfect spot where we captured all 200 crabs on one rotting tree. At one point I felt like I was a factory worker a part of a production line. We had a scouter and snagger, a cup holder and stacker, and a lid sealer and stasher. We had two of these lines running for about 15 minutes of non-stop excitement. Even when we had run out of containers we were swapping out small crabs for big guys that we spotted. On a high from our treasure trove find and driven forward by the growls of our stomachs we got back to our starting point in record timing.

Back in the lab we filled an entire lab bench with our crabs and administered a small dose of water to them to keep them happy. When we got back to our apartment we came bearing many apologies as we got there 3 hours later than our lunch was scheduled. Eliza was there dutifully waiting to serve us the most wonderful meal (we say that about every meal). This time was extra special though (I’ll probably also say this about every meal) with lentil beans, sweet fried plantains, seasoned tomatoes, succulent beef, and rice. After our meal we stayed true to the saying “When in Panama…” [adapted] and took a siesta before heading back to the lab to start our crab orientation experiments.

True to what I said earlier, dinner was even more amazing and ended with sweet peaches for dessert (this blog is now turning into a food blog it would seem) and many laughs from Dr. Diaz’s stories. And before I close, just in case you were wondering what the cornflakes in the title are about (though you’ve probably already forgotten), it’s an inside joke that you’ll have to ask us about when we get back. Then again, we may just keep it to ourselves.

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