As the van rolled through the gates and then down the long and narrow road to the station I tried to take in as much of the scenery as possible. On my right side was a roaring river boarded on each side by steep banks. On my left were horses in a field, then a thin patch of trees, then a flock of black birds with bright yellow tails flying along the road. As the van pulled up to the lodge I realized I would not be roughing it as much as I had expected. The recently renovated administrative building features an outdoor dining room and a roofed patio with rows of orchids, tree ferns and bromeliads hanging around the edges. Just as we stepped out of the van my group was greeted by a cacophonous cry followed with a flyover by three massive macaws, two red and one blue and yellow. The heat and humidity were the next to hit me. At nearly 90 degrees and close to 90% humidity by mid-day, this place will not let you forget that you are in the tropics! I am sure that everyone has their own ideas of what the Garden of Eden may look like, but my thoughts at this point were something along the lines of, “I have just landed in paradise.”
The froggers of 2013 split up at Wayqecha. Some stayed in the cloud forest, some headed down to San Pedro at mid elevation, and Indira and I went all the way down the mountain to Villa Carmen. Allesandro also joined us for one night and lead us on our first night transect in the rainforest. In four hours we caught 19 frogs! However; the most exciting finds of our night were two plethodontid salamanders. There are only three species of salamanders in all of Peru, just one lives in this area, and we found two in the same night! There are biologists who work in these forests for years without ever seeing one of these. Unfortunately, since this species is so rarely studied, Alessandro instructed me to kill, preserve and take a DNA sample of one of our specimens.
For the next two weeks we will be sampling as many frogs as possible before Allesandro returns to bring all of our swabs back to Cusco to test for chytrid fungus. Once he runs the test we will have our first look at the distribution of the disease at Villa Carmen.
While I have many more stories to share from my first few days here, I will save those for later posts.
Be sure to check out the photo galleries for a view of the area!