Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Earthwatch Team 1: Training Day

Earthwatch Team 1: Training Day

Yesterday, the 14th, the first Earthwatch team for the new expedition, “Following Darwin’s finches in the Galápagos” arrived to the Charles Darwin Research Station just in time for a scrumptious lunch of homemade pesto potato salad and sandwiches. Appropriately enough, some curious finches and mockingbirds wandered through the eating area. The team of volunteers are mostly American as well as a South African transplanted to Canada, and a British couple who immediately confused others using terms like ‘lorry’ and ‘queue’.

After some time to unpack and get the travel grime off, the volunteers settled in for some orientation lectures including a safety briefing by Diana, and an introduction to the research being done on the Darwin finches by Luis. The volunteers asked many good questions not only about the evolution and the human influences on the finches, but also questions about the ecology of the finches and the geology of the island.

Today, the 15th, we headed off to our site on the Charles Darwin Research Station which we call Academy Bay. Before it got too hot, before everyone got to grimy, and before everyone got too thirsty and hungry, we took a team photo. Notice how everyone is smiling at the moment!

The Earthwatch volunteer team before training

We taught everyone how to set up the mist nets, how they work, and how we collect data on what we catch in the mist nets. We then set up our processing station and showed them how we take measurements, blood samples, and photos. Within just a few minutes, we had caught a large and small morph of the G. fortis which we could show to the volunteers, and when side-by-side, it becomes quite apparent how different the beak sizes can be.

G. fortis munching on some seeds

Luis then gave us training in how to identify the different plants the finches like to munch on. With the wonders of digital photography, we took photos with the name of the plant on it, allowing volunteers to easily compare what they might find finches feeding on in the future with what Luis had identified previously.

Luis also identified some Tribulus, which the readers of “Beak of the Finch” by Jonathan Weiner found particularly interesting since it is well described in that book.

All in all, a very useful training session with everyone having a chance to set-up and take-down the mist nets and help with the data collection. As a reward, we went to Kioskos and treated ourselves to some whole, fresh fish. Yum!

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