Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

Hello Panama!
by -- October 17th, 2012

Day 1: Departure

Departing from Wilmington, North Carolina, twelve of us students and Dr. Diaz embarked on our six hour journey to Panama City, Panama.  But it was well worth the wait: we indulged in a local restaurant –Manero’s—where we tried corvina fish, octopus and beef intestines before we returned to our lovely hotel completely equipped with shower heads larger than our faces.


Day 2: Panama City!

Grabbing a quick breakfast from our hotel. All thirteen of us packed into a sandwich van to begin our exploration.  Our first stop—Panama Canal.


Google Images of “panamacanal” serves the infrastructure no justice.  It was incredible.  The magnitude of the canal and the amount of labor and money that was invested is unimaginable, especially for the early 1900s.


We pushed our way through the crowds and out of the on-site museum to our next destination: the ruins of the old city.  Fallen, crumbled bricks surrounded an ancient church. We climbed four flights of stairs; the skyline greeted us on the right and the low tide beckoned us from afar.  It was simply breathtakingly beautiful.  We snapped a couple of photos before heading to lunch and shopping!


We quickly ate our jumbo shrimps and bargained for our souvenirs.  We had a 4 PM flight to catch to Bocas del Toro.  Had we known our flight was going to be delayed, we could have spent more time shopping.  Nevertheless, we made it!


The tropical humidity and rain handsomely welcomed us.  And our adventures began!


Day 3: Collecting Samples

The boat picked us up from our hotel at 8 AM and we were off to the forest to look for hermit crabs!  We looked and looked, poked and prodded but could not find very many hermit crabs.  We found three in two hours and we needed 200 of those critters.  At our initial rate, we were never going to make it out of the forest.  As the morning drudged on, our hope and excitement dwindled until we had walked to the edge of the beach.  We had hit a hermit crab resort.  They were everywhere: scuttling around and playing dead.  When at last we had collected 200 samples, we returned to the hotel to set up our experiment on the terrace of Room 206.  Busy day!  We were all famished and exhausted by 6PM, but somehow had the energy to explore the nightlife.


Day 4: Snorkeling

Again, the boat picked us up at 8AM but instead of transporting us to the lush green forests, we parked in the middle of the Caribbean. Ploppity-plop-plow.  All twelve of us bobbed up and down, diving in and out, breathing mechanically out of our snorkel tubes.  The coral reefs were utterly captivating; the fish weaved happily in and out, ignorant of our presence.  But our snorkeling adventure was short-lived.  We returned to the hotel to continue with our experiments until dinner time.




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