Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

Day 2: Canopy cranes and snorkeling
by -- October 10th, 2010

View from the hotel we stayed at in Panama City.

On the second day, we started bright and early with a trip to the rainforest in Panama City. We explored the foliage and went up into the canopy on a research crane, which gave us spectacular views of the city and surrounding trees. Then, we took a plane to our home for the next ~10 days, got settled in, then went snorkeling off the dock. Pictures inside!

When I posted earlier, we were being rushed out the door to get on our bus – so, apologies for the rushed entry! Hopefully this one will be a little more informative.

We’ve had a packed day! It started with breakfast at 6:30am, followed by an immediate excursion to the nearest rainforest area of Panama City – Metropolitano! It was great. The sights were, of course, extremely interesting, but we also went up in a crane to the top of the canopy, which was about 200 feet off the ground. It was absolutely beautiful – on one side, there was the booming metropolis of Panama City, complete with ships waiting to enter the Canal, but doing a 180* gave us the rainforest treetops, which seemed to stretch to the horizon. There was a cyclone-shaped flock of migratory birds taking advantage of the thermal current, which allowed them to fly in a circle yet still ascend. It was a breathtaking mixture of society/technology and the natural world.

The ground layer was also filled with interesting creatures. There was an impressive array of foliage, and we got to see quite a few termite nests (they like to build in the crooks of trees, where the trees branch off into 2 or 3 separate sections), and we even were able to touch one. Termite nests, it turns out, are very flaky – who knew?

We stopped at a pastry shop/restaurant called Nikos and got some of the cheapest food imaginable. I’m pretty sure my slice of cake was around $1.00 (Panamanians use the American Dollar in addition to their own currency, the Balboa). Then we boarded the flight to Bocas del Toros (a province in Panama), and made it to the Smithsonian Institute!

What else is there to do, when you have your own research institute which borders the Caribbean Sea, than go snorkeling? That’s exactly what we did. We saw lots of animals, including sea cucumbers (which, when picked up and squeezed, eviscerate and flatten themselves; also, they’re quite slimy), starfish, schools of fish, and “jellyfish” – but these were the more benign moon jellies, which don’t sting. Nevertheless, it was a bit surprising to swim through the somewhat-opaque near-dock water and then, suddenly, come across a translucent jelly-type animal. Needless to say, I swam away quickly, as did several others.

The food, by the way, is great. We had a late lunch of rice and lentils with plantains (platanos) and for dinner had some Panamanian-style spaghetti with ice cream dessert. I can tell that we’re going to be taken care of this week, so parents, don’t worry. I’d argue that the food here is even better than that of the Marine Lab’s, but don’t tell anyone…

Anyway, I’m sure you’re all here for some pictures, so here you go. Since my camera is almost as old as I am, I’ll be featuring some pictures from different people. Today’s are from Kelly McKisson!

 Here’s a termite nest we came across in the rainforest.

Here’s some Panamanian rainforest foliage. Kelly and I tried to get back there, but it was pretty impassable.

The view from the canopy crane – that’s Panama City, with the Panama Canal off in the distance. We saw boats waiting to pass through the Canal, and our guide told us about a building owned by Donald Trump that was under construction. (Figures, right?)

View of the bottom from the canopy crane. This wasn’t even at the top…

Props to Kelly’s underwater camera for this one – here’s a closeup of one of our neighbors while snorkeling. There were lots of these guys, though, luckily, they didn’t travel in packs. Still, it caught us off guard when we encountered them!

A much more benign species – who doesn’t love starfish?

Here’s Alix holding “Alejandro” – yes, we’ve started naming our sea cucumbers. It turns out, if you squeeze hard enough, the innards will come out, because they’re afraid.

That’s a good representative stock of the experiences we had today. Tomorrow, we start “real” research!

1 Comment

  1. Chas
    Oct 12, 2010

    Hi there! It’s your Uncle Charles. I got the email from Karen linking me here. I thought cucumbers were for salads!?

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff