Hello from Panama!

For the past several days I have been exploring the tropical rainforests of Panama as part of an Arizona State University study abroad course. My summer teaching position this year is to help out with a tropical biology field course, which involves a small number of students traveling to Panama, exploring the tropics, and conducting their own research project. For this post, I will provide a quick overview of what we have done and seen so far, and in the next few weeks I will dive more into some of the special aspects of the tropics.

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Pipeline road – a classic gateway into the tropical rainforests of Panama

Currently, we are here during the rainy or wet season in Panama, which means there is a heavy downpour once a day – typically in the afternoon. Despite the rain (which is great to see coming from my arid fieldwork), we have been having a great time and have seen so much!

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The ASU study abroad Tropical Biology course crew

We have mostly been hiking in tropical rainforests along the Panama Canal. Specifically, we have been hiking down a famous road called Pipeline road. Here are a few things we have seen so far:

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A mantled howler monkey – the grey spots around its upper chest or throat are bot fly sores.

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A cocoa woodcreeper climbing up a tree

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A three-toed sloth slowly moving across the canopy.

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A social flycatcher – one of the common arial flycatchers in the town of Gamoba (where I am living currently)

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A grey-headed chachalaca – a bird with an awesome name!

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I had to include a hummingbird picture (or two!) so here is a molting violet-crowned woodnymph

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This is a rufous-tailed hummingbird – a common species in central Panama

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This is a really neat looking orb-weaver, and our class came up with several hypotheses to explain its web pattern (e.g. prey attraction or predator avoidance).

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A white-whiskered puffbird hiding among the branches

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A black-throated trogon – these birds do this really interesting rump display to potential predators as a pursuit-deterent signal (meaning the predator has been spotted so it should give up the chase)

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A black and green poison dart frog.

We also hiked a cloud forest, which is a high elevation rainforest, and saw several different plants and animals from what we found along Pipeline road. Cloud forests are some of my favorite places, so I will definitely have a blog post specifically on them later! Here are some pictures of what we saw there.

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In the cloud forests, there are many many epiphytes – plants and mosses growing on the side of trees.

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A view of the cloud forest understory

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A really interestingly shaped fungus

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The backside of a green honeycreeper – this bird is really gorgeous and unfortunately this photo does not do him justice

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A hepatic tanager – which can also be found in Arizona – overlooking the forest

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A fairly well hidden bay-headed tanager – look for his rufous head.

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A plain ant vireo singing her heart out

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A really neat shaped flower that we found

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A view of the forest and mountain peak we hiked.

So far, I have already seen a ton of amazing things, and I have only been here a week. I still have a little more than two left to go, and I am every excited to continue to explore this amazing place. It feels great to be back!

 

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