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Winter Climbing At ITEC 2005-2006

Author: jmaher
Date: February 17, 2006
The 2005-2006 Winter Session at the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC) at Boca Del Drago on Isla Colon in Panama went well with several students doing meaningful research in the rainforest canopy environment.

All of the students who attended the winter session made at least one climb into the canopy to experience the rainforest from the unique perspective available high above the forest floor. Three of those students returned to the canopy in order to work on projects involving the life and conditions that exist there.

Matt Kull, a graduate student, made a number of climbs into Leuhea trees to examine the epiphytic diversity there and to compare the differences in epiphytic diversity that occur between older growth trees and secondary growth younger trees. His research took him upwards to more than a hundred feet in an old growth area in a tree that presented a serious challenge to climb. The route to the top of the canopy involved navigating through a very dense tangle of lianas that constantly threatened to entangle him like an insect caught in a spider’s web. Further research took him into a smaller, secondary-growth Leuhea that was no less challenging due to the dense understory.

The photo of Matt shown above was taken on a day off and involved a climb into a huge old growth giant near the island’s coast.

Lyndsey Hyatt, an undergraduate student, did work analyzing the levels of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) at different levels in the canopy and along the routes from the ground into the canopy. Her project involved the placement of a series of radiation sensors along the trunk of the tree at different heights. Each day, she would climb into the tree with her laptop computer, connect up to the central data collection unit and download the information before returning to the field station to study the results.

Ryan Carpenter went into the canopy of a really huge prioria tree to study the population demographics of the poison dart frogs that are numerous in the area. The frogs will climb into the canopy to deposit the newly hatched tadpoles into the water-filled cavities that can be found among the epiphytic bromeliads there. On several different days he climbed to more than a hundred feet in order to observe, capture and photograph his subjects. An unforeseen result of his project was to observe that the frogs will sometime return to the ground by simply leaping into space and gliding downward. Ryan has plans to return to the area and continue his study, taking a serious look at the gliding behavior that he has already observed.

All of the research was meaningful in that each of these students found justification to further their study. Once all of their data analysis is complete it is hoped that we can present the final results on our Coalition pages.

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