During these weeks of stressful finals, I dream of the time when they all will be complete and I will be on my way to Intag. I am really excited to explore the cloud forest and hopefully see some cool critters. It would be super cool to find some of the reptiles and/or amphibians I have been researching all semester. I am also really excited to experience the culture and learn from, not only our community partners, but from everyone I get the opportunity to meet and talk to while travelling. I am a little intimidated since I truthfully do not know much Spanish; I worked to learn some introductory language skills but am far from being able to hold any meaningful conversations and unfortunately all of my years studying French will probably not be of much help. But with the help of my fellow teammates, I will manage and will most definitely have plenty of opportunity to expand my Spanish skills. Speaking of my teammates, I am also thrilled to be able to continue working with such a great group while in country and to see our maps and education materials put to use.
This semester I have been working on developing a list of all of the species of reptiles and amphibians in the region of Intag based off of habitat and elevation data. Working on this project has been a lot harder than I was expecting at the start of the semester. I did not realized just how many species of amphibians I would have to narrow down or the fact that there are not too many reliable resources with information on current species and data on their habitat/elevation ranges and conservation status. But I have really enjoyed learning about so many new species of herps, although I am saddened by how many of them are endangered in Intag. While in Intag we will be hiking, bird watching, and setting up camera traps in the hope of spotting some of the endangered species of the area and as we do these activities I hope to be able to spot and keep track of any herps that cross our path (no worries, I have been doing my research on the few venous snakes of the area and will generally avoid catching herps unless I want to I.D. them and am positive on their safety). Also I hope that while in Intag, our community partner, Carlos Zorrilla, and other members of the community will be able to suggest further species that they know to exist in the area but may have been left of the lists.
I have tried not to develop too many expectations about the trip beyond that of being excited to see the beauty of the country and to learn from our partners. But I do expect to learn a lot about the region and its rich biodiversity and culture. Also I expect to hear firsthand stories and thoughts about the mining proposals and how it will potentially affect the area, since we are the conservation team and many of the people we will be directly working with have been in the front of the anti-mining campaigns. As far as the expectations that our community partners may hold of us, I am not sure. But I would imagine that they expect us to be willing to work and learn since all of us are taking this class out of interest/passion for the subject rather than as a requirement.
As you may be able to tell from my ramblings, I am super excited to have this opportunity to work alongside community members of Intag and DECOIN. I look forward to see what experiences and learning opportunities our month in Ecuador has in store for us!