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Spring Edition
Volume 99, Number 4

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Mike Rinker on a tree climb

Michael Rinker '09

Major: biology

"What struck me while in Panama was the difficulty and unpredictability of research. Granted, we were floating 100 feet in the air at night, fighting to get comfortable holds in the midst of unceasing rains while always remembering proper protocol for capturing the slimy little (sometimes as big as your fingernail) frogs. However, rain-forest canopy research is beyond laborious. It is where humans step into God’s wild lands, the uncharted territories of the world. . . . Personally, I learned a great deal; not just about our specific research, but in regards to the overarching principles of biological field-research. . . . When we were losing hope, we still entered every situation as though it held the potential for a possible specimen. Research is messy, literally and in terms of the disorganization that stems from all possible scenarios. We had to grow up quite a bit on the trip; we were dealing with many types of data collection and it was our job to preserve the greatest accuracy. It was an incredible experience to be in the midst of such intense research. To have it be so exhilarating was a blessing we did not expect."

Cameron Rutt '08

Major: biology

"Patience and persistence are two words that ring true as I reflect upon our research in the cloud forests of Panama. Despite our continuous efforts, we had only captured two of our target species, Isthymohyla picadoi, with only one week to go. Our primary goal of this pilot study required that we test as many amphibians as possible in order to determine whether or not they were carrying the devastating fungus. And two were certainly not going to suffice. However, due to our patient, persistent searching, the final week of tree climbing and bromeliad searching brought long-awaited success (30 Isthymohyla picadoi and two tree-dwelling salamanders). As Dr. Lindquist so aptly warned us, research is anything but predictable and seldom goes off without a glitch. Therefore, the need of a flexible mind set– full of patience and persistence – was a great lesson for all of us students to learn so early on in our budding careers."

Cameron Rutt prepares for canopy research
Josh Stone ascends to the tree tops

Joshua Stone '10

Major: biology, Spanish

"Over the course of five weeks, we experienced everything from touring an orchid farm, traveling by bus or taxi, trying to remember the Spanish names of all the necessary groceries, climbing a hundred feet into the forest canopy, conversing with native Panamanians, riding through the Panama Canal locks on a tugboat, to catching hummingbirds with my bare hands. All of these things were new and exciting, and they gave me a much better understanding of the variety of life on earth. Not only did I gain an appreciation for new kinds of habitats - such as cloud forests, lowland jungle, and dry tropical savanna - but also for different ways of living. . . . By traveling through Panama and coming into contact with the Panamanians I gained a greater appreciation for the variety of culture and human life on earth." 

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bullet View photography gallery of the research expedition
bullet Read the news article about the Panama research team
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