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Panamania Just another Weblogs at Harvard Law School weblog

August 30, 2004

2004 BCI Olympics

Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 10:37 pm

Last weekend, we carried on a proud island tradition by hosting the 4th BCI Olympic Games.  This event pits BCI researchers against other STRI scientists from Tupper (the main labs in Panama City), Gamboa (the town accross the lake), and NAOS (the marine labs).  Opening Ceremonies were held at the Old Dining Hall:

We had a old-time/bluegrass musical theme, provided by Mary-Jane and Gabs.

And some Chariots of Fire, as the torch arrived, up the very, very steep hill:


The crowd was rowdy, despite the time (closer to 8 am than 9), and the Gamboans were definitely the best dressed!

“Before the Opening Ceremony”

Our Senorita of Ceremonies, Andrea, got the morning off to a great start

The only event requiring  actual athletic talent was the volleyball tournament in the morning.  After that, it degenerated pretty quickly:

Slip n' Slide:

Unfortunately, Axel, who took these photos, left before the slip n’ slide got started.  I’m still hunting around for someone with photos from the afternoon, including the slip n’ slide, floatie race, gladiator event, and the Jungle Sextathalon (its an obstacle course).  Just as a preview though–I won the bronz metal in the slip n’ slide event!!

August 29, 2004

Ocelot trapping

Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 11:09 pm

Today was a complete and utter failure from the point of view of my monkey research. On the bright side, because I couldn’t find my monkey group, I went with Raff to help him put a new collar on an ocelot. This is Encito, booking it when we finally released him. Encito is a beautiful young male now, but researchers on BCI have been studying him since he was just a kitten. You might think with all that experience, Encito would stop going into traps after the bait, but so far he doesn’t seem to have learned.

Check out this video clip

Releasing Encito

August 25, 2004

Collaring capuchins

Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 8:39 pm

To use the Automated Radio Telemetry System (ARTS) on BCI for my thesis work, I needed to get radio collars on capuchins. At the beginning of August, a whole crew of people came down to BCI to help me do this. Bob Lessnau is the head zoologist at the St. Catherine’s Island Primate Sanctuary, and has many years experience darting wild primates. He very kindly volonteered his time to come down and help me dart capuchins for my study.

He brought his student, Robyn Hoing, to help. She is a student at Armstrong Atlantic State University, and also works as a vet. tech.

Michelle Brown and Jen Boothby rounded out the darting team.

It was really important to me to have the best people working with me to make sure the collaring process was as safe as possible. We had a really hard, stressful week, but Bob, Robyn, Michelle and Jen were all fantastic!

Darting monkeys is hard,stressful, traumatic at the best of times. First off, you have to find the monkeys. Having so many people here helping made all the difference for this aspect. Michelle and Jen, especially, did a lot of hard hiking trying to track down capuchins. My PhD work is focused on the relationships between capuchin social groups, so we were trying to collar one adult male and one adult female in as many social groups as we could. At the beginning of the week, it was relatively easy to find the groups we needed. By the end, it seemed like we kept running into the same social groups we had already darted.

Once we found a group, we had to find individuals that we could collar. They had to be fully adult, so they wouldn’t outgrow the collars. We also didn’t want to dart females with young infants. Once we’d identified the monkey we wanted, we had to wait until it was in a good position: low to the ground, not near any hills or sudden drop offs, facing away from us, and not near other monkeys. It required a lot of searching to get a clean shot.

After the monkey is darted, one person kept an eye on it and directed two people holding the hammock that we used to catch the monkeys when they fell. The one to two minutes from the time a monkey was darted to when it was safely on the ground were my least favorite moments of the week.

“After the fall”

Once the monkey was safely on the ground, the first thing we did was take its temperature, heart rate and respiration rate to make sure it was OK. Then we started taking measurements.

After weighing each monkey, measuring their limbs, looking at their teeth, and drawing blood, we put on the radio collars. The collars weigh 48 grams (less than 2% of a female capuchin’s body weight), and last 480-700 days. The painted stripes on the collar will help me identify individuals in the forest. This female, Idefix, was the last capuchin we caught, and one of the prettiest capuchins. She was young and healthy, but she had healed break in one of her leg bones.

After putting on the collar, we just had to wait for the drugs to wear off. Each monkey we caught had a different reaction to the drugs. Some barely went to sleep at all, and were awake and climbing within two hours. Others took a lot longer to wake up.

Once the radio collars were on the monkeys, the ARTS could start collecting data on their movements. There are 7 towers on BCI with 6-unit directional antenna on top.

These antenna use differences in signal strength to calculate which direction a radio-collared animal is in relation to the tower. This data is used to triangulate the location of the animal. Right now, ARTS collecting data on the location of each of my monkeys once every four minutes.

The DATA!:

Darting was really tiring and stressful. We were very successful, though. We put collars on nine monkeys in six different social groups. This is a really good start for my thesis work. And even though we worked really, really hard, we still had some fun!

Bob's Angels:

August 22, 2004

Spider Monkey Movie

Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 10:36 pm

I’ve found that its pretty much useless to try to take photos of monkeys, even in ideal conditions. They never seem to capture the essence of the moment. I really like the short movies that my camera takes though.

Spider Monkey movie

Lap of Luxury

Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 10:24 pm

I am in Panama for the next year looking for capuchins.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado
Island is the Ritz-Carelton of tropical research stations. In
addition to the excellent cooks, constant electricity, fast internet
connection, and hot running water, we are also spoiled with
beautiful views.

The research station is in the Panama canal, so huge cargo
ships are the backdrop to the rainforest.


Its not an isolated field station here. There are twice daily boats
to the mainland, and it is only about an hours bus ride to
Panama City. The city is really hot and dirty though, so I prefer to
spend my days off on the island, swimming off the raft and
avoiding Gloria–the alligator who lives in the lagoon.

The forest here is really well protected by the Guardabosques–a
group of large, intimidating guys who patrol the National
Monument to keep poachers out. Because they aren’t hunted,
the animals are really tolerant of humans, and you see lots of
mammals while walking in the woods. The spider monkeys
even come visit the lab clearing about once a week. They are
actually here right now:

“Spider monkey”

The night life here is also pretty cool.


Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 12:01 pm

This blog is going to replace all the mass emails I’ve been sending about chasing monkeys around the rainforest! Better yet, it means I won’t be clogging up your inboxes with photos of more monkeys and more trees. I hope you enjoy it.

Panamania! …

It Worked!

Filed under: crofootStories — crofoot @ 11:59 am

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