Monday, February 29, 2016

Quito and Mindo

Sarah and I arrived into Quito on the Friday and even though we got in quite late, we decided to grab a cerveza at the bar across the street. It was nice to catch up with Sarah and we were ready to enjoy our time in Quito. The Saturday we went to the artisnal market where we were able to find lovely alpaca blankets and scarves. I found a knock off Ecuador football (soccer) jersey as well as a Panama hat. Panama hats are handmade in Ecuador, and there is a reason they are called Panama hats. The hats were extremely popular throughout the world, so were shipped to Panama where they were then picked up by ships and distributed around the world. Panama because associated with the distribution of these hats, and that is why they are called Panama Hats. Granted, this is from Wikipedia!

Coffee + Panama Hat!

Sunday was a relaxing workation type day, getting some stuff done, taking naps, those kinds of things. On Monday, we did a tour through Mindo. We had an excellent guide - Jose - who accommodated our desire to spend practically all our time looking for critters - mostly birds. The morning started with a beautiful lookout over Mindo.

We then headed to a butterfly sanctuary where they breed and rear 19 species of butterflies. It's a well done place, with an area for caterpillars, and area where you can see all the different chrysali of the different species. They rotate the chrysalis so that the ones closest to metamorphosis are in the same area so you can see butterflies emerging and drying out their wings before they take off into the sanctuary. There is a banana feeding station, and if you put some on your finger, you can take a selfie with a butterfly. Perhaps the most amusing was a butterfly decided a little girl's nose made the perfect perch place (no pictures, sorry).

We then headed to a place where a cable car takes you across a canyon, and then we went on a nice hike to see some waterfalls.

Sarah heard a Trogan, and managed to catch a sight of the Masked Trogan before it took off.

After a delicious amuerso at a place recommended by Jose, we went to a lovely place where they have a balcony to sit on, and the surrounding area is full of hummingbird feeders. Some cheeky Bananaquits tried to capitalize on the feeders, but several species of hummingbirds were the highlight from the feeders.

There were also other feeding stations where we got to see larger birds.

Sarah and I happily spent a couple of hours there, watching the birds. With so many birds, it's hard to pick some favourites, but Sarah's favourite was the violet eared hummingbird.

We also saw a Rufous Mot Mot. I couldn't identify it, and was saying it might be a Myna (wrong continent), and the owners daughter, who must have been five or so, with binoculars that were as big as she was, came up and declared "Mot Mot! Mot Mot!"

At least someone knew there mainland Ecuadorian birds! It was a great day, and now we are ready to head into the field!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Galápagos 4.0

2016 is another year, yet it's also a different year. I started my FQRNT postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge with Dr. Claire Spottiswoode. I am incredibly excited to be working there for the next two years! My postdoctoral work takes me back to the Galápagos where I will be working on two projects.

The view from Bartolome Island

The first will be looking at how gut microbiomes can vary among finches in urban areas, near urban areas, and pristine areas. My colleague, Dr. Sarah Knutie and I, want to see how this gut microbiome variation might affect immune  response to an invasive parasitic house fly Philornis downsi. You can see our video we made to crowd fund for this research through Instrumentl. Thank you to all our generous donors who made this field research possible!

Darwin's finches munching on leftovers at a restaurant in Puerto Ayora
Dinner time at the Kioskos in Puerto Ayora

The second project is my postodoctoral research that focuses on behavioural adaptation in Darwin's finches in relation to invasive predators such as house cats and black rats. My goal will be to quantify behavioural differences in finches in relation to the presence or absence of these predators, and to hopefully see if there is a genetic basis for this behavioural adaptation.

The best kind of invasive house cat on the Galápagos Islands

Internet is always fickle in the field, so posting will be sporadic, but we will keep you posted on our work! Follow us on twitter at @PinzonTeam @photopidge @sarahknutie and like us on Facebook!