Friday, January 30, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 5 El Garrapatero

Today our team of volunteers headed to El Garrapatero for the first time. It is still very dry as can be seen by the lack of green at our site. Hopefully, there will be some rain soon and we will catch even more birds!

At El Garrapatero, I found some tribulus plants. They produce seeds that are very pointy and relatively hard to crack, so only larger beaked birds can crack them. You can often find the remnants of the seed casings on the ground.

Tribulus flower

Tribulus seed before getting eaten

Tribulus seed(s) after getting eaten

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 4 Around Town

Today I was with the observation crew and we did observations around town. We found an several areas off the main tourist drags where there was plenty of data to collect.

While one team was doing observations, I took some photos of the. It seems they also wanted to take photos of me!

We've been very busy getting into the swing of things with our field work, but we head to El Garrapatero tomorrow and it should be exciting!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 3 Academy Bay

The volunteers from the third team headed to the field today at our Academy Bay site. Both teams had a productive morning collecting lots of data and getting more familiar with the plants and finches that we study. The first finch of the morning brought out some of the paparazzi... Now the finch knows what it's like to be a celebrity!

The volunteers do not touch the birds, but they observe us when we remove the birds from the mist nets, which they watch with rapt attention.

The area around Academy Bay has lots of the food the finches enjoy, so we caught sight of several finches happily munching on native foods.


We also saw a finch that had just taken a bath and hadn't had time to style its feathers just yet... Or maybe it was just having a bad feather day...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 2 Training Day

Our volunteers were troopers battling jet lag and a very hot day! Luis explained to the volunteers the theory and motivation behind the work they will be doing with us for the next few days. The volunteers were very inquisitive, asking many questions throughout his talk.

Papa Pinzón led the way with demonstrating how to set-up and take-down mist nets, and also taught the volunteers the different knots they would be using for the mist nets.

The volunteers took the training in stride and started practicing knots and then were setting up mist-nets in no time!

The last part of training was finch and plant identification, so we took a short walk around the house and began identifying the various organisms that they would need to know to help us with our research.

They are now ready for the field!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 1 Welcome!

Today we gave a finch-y welcome to our third group of Earthwatch volunteers today! I had a fellowship deadline today, so I wasn't able to take as many photos around the station as I wanted to, but we did stop by the famous Charles Darwin Research Station sign!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Adios Team Laughing Pinzones!

It never gets any easier, but today we said farewell to another amazing group of Earthwatch volunteers: Team Laughing Pinzones. We loved speaking with the students in Canton, and we look forward to more opportunities to speak with future scientists! We hope they had as much fun as we did!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Earthwatch Team Laughing Pinzones: Day 9 El Garrapatero

Today was the last day of field work for our hard-working Earthwatch volunteers. I was again part of the observation crew, and (once again) we were treated to a wonderful sunrise!

As always, the volunteers worked hard, but since we were on a beach, it doesn't even seem like work...

One of the few things that are not pleasant about the beach are the presence of the Galapagos Green-eyed Horsefly! These guys are similar to horse flies and deer flies found elsewhere, and basically take a chunk of flesh to feed on the blood. They hurt when they bite you, and you can see why!

We had a pleasant surprise when the purported resident El Garrapatero lagoon Greater Flamingo paid us a visit!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Earthwatch Team Laughing Pinzones: Day 8 El Garrapatero Beach

Today was observations at the beach with half of Team Laughing Pinzones while the other half was banding further away. The teams switch tomorrow. A definite perk to getting up so early is being able to watch some beautiful sunrises over the beach and this morning was no exception.

I love my job!
The volunteers wasted no time getting into the work they had to do! When they were busy working, the finches enjoyed paying a visit to the volunteer's bags....

The volunteers were so efficient, we finished early enough that we had some time to take some pictures. Today, the animals seemed particularly cooperative with having their picture taken!

For the first time, I saw two Blue-Footed Boobies fishing together at the beach. It was a wonderful, synchronous display, and they seemed to be getting some tasty fish at the same time!

Unfortunately, we saw a cat there... That is definitely not good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Earthwatch Team Laughing Pinzones: Day 7 Academy Bay

Today, we did our work at Academy Bay in town. We caught a large ground finch in our mist nets today, so we took some close-up shots. You can see how the beak is almost larger than its head!

One of our Earthwatch volunteers is a biology teacher, and she had pre-arranged skype meetings with students of different ages. We spent half an hour talking about what we were doing here and answering any questions they had. 

Speaking to students in Canton, MA about science in the Galapagos
We didn't realize until these photos were tweeted that we were actually gigantic images on a screen! We had a lot of fun talking to the students, and we hoped they enjoyed their time speaking with us as well!

Luis talking to students in Canton about research in the Galapagos

A student from Canton asking us about research in the Galapagos
 We hope to have more opportunities to speak to students about our research, and with current technology, we can do it live!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Earthwatch Team Laughing Pinzones: Day 6 Day Off

Today, the volunteers took a well deserved day off, with most of them taking a day trip to North Seymour. The team has been having a wonderful time with lots of laughing at meals and during breaks (we're very serious when we're collecting data!), so they have named themselves Team Laughing Pinzones!

We had hoped for a day off, but it turns out the Galápagos Park Service wanted to see us at work in the field, so Luis, Diana, and I headed to El Garrapatero.
Our banding station in the field
 For those familiar with the book entitled "The Beak of the Finch," you might remember the discussion about tribulus seeds, and how certain size ground finches are able to crack open the hard, spiky exterior of the seeds. It's very dry right now, so finches are eating the tribulus seeds.

Here, Luis was watching this G. fortis (medium ground finch, large beak morph) eat the tribulus, while Diana was looking at banded birds to identify the colours.

We also had a mockingbird visit our equipment!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Eartwatch Team ??: Day 5 El Garrapatero

Today, we headed over to El Garrapatero for our field work. It is amazing how on this relatively small island, there can be so much variation in how much vegetation there is. The rainy season should hopefully arrive any moment, but until then, EG is very dry, and very brown. We had a busy day, so I didn't have time to take many pictures, but I took a few...

We were working so hard, I barely had a chance to take photos! I'll be sure to correct that soon...