It is hard to do fieldwork and maintain a blog, especially after a busy day like today. We got up early, went to a café and had horrendous coffee, did some shopping for a few supplies, and then went to the field. A local ambulance driver showed us to a site about 10 km from town. There, we found pretty good 2nd growth forest, and had some good collecting as well. We put up four Malaise traps, crushed various ants to attract parasitoid phorids, chopped open rotten logs to find ant nests, and even saw a fantastic raiding party of Pachycondyla commutata, a ponerine ant that raids in groups and comes back with a huge termite in each worker’s mouth.
These things are what people expect of fieldwork, I imagine. Let’s add a few more details of reality. This is hard work. You are on your feet all day, walking back and forth, carrying water, alcohol, traps, collecting gear, and various other baits and gear. It is extremely hot and humid here, and sweat drips off my face constantly, all day. It takes a couple of days for your body to adapt to such a different temperature and humidity regime, after which you don’t need to regularly drink liters of water, or sweat so prodigiously.
There are mosquitoes and other biting flies here, but they aren’t such an annoyance during the daytime. That role is played by the tiny stingless bees that constantly swarmed around your head, in your ears, in your eyes, and even crawling into your mouth trying to find moisture. It takes a couple of days to learn to ignore them, too.
A day of this type of work lasts until about 3 PM, after which you are usually exhausted, but happy after finding so many cool, new things. But there is work to do: sorting the day’s catch, labeling, and cleaning the samples. This goes on until dinner time (fortunately, we hired a cook, so we don’t have to do our own food preparation), about 6:30 PM, and continues into the night until either the work is done, or you are too burned out to do anymore. Of course, this is the time when you often find something rare or exciting, like we did tonight (but I’ll talk about that tomorrow). Tonight, on our second field day, we stopped working at about 9:30 PM. Cleaning up takes about another half hour.
Therefore, at 10 o’clock, I finally have time to think about writing the blog. Since we are getting up 6 AM tomorrow to see a new, more distant site from our base, blogging takes the place of sleep. I think I need to bring someone along to do the blogging for me. Any takers?