Women in Science

Gender bias?  Here in Panama, at Tranquilo Bay, not so much, but in many other parts of the world, yes.  When many people think of women in science they do not think of the same people who my daughter brings to her mind.  Why, well, we are blessed to live on a spot on this earth that brings many scientists to us.  And believe it or not, the majority of the scientists that we have met working here in Bocas del Toro, are women.

We welcome scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute out to our place to study whatever it is they are studying.  We figure it helps science, we learn something and our kids have an opportunity to meet new scientists on a regular basis.

We have naturalist guides who are on site to work with our guests who have both studied different sciences and who teach us about biology, nature and many different types of science on a daily basis.

We have group leaders who are scientists or naturalists of some form that visit us on a regular basis.

We have a family member who studied ecology and is working with TIDE so that she might become a marine biologist one day.

Why this conversation?  Well, one of the scientists we met in October 2015 is also a National Geographic Photographer.  Clare Fiesler contacted us to see about working with us on a kayak circumnavigation of Isla Bastimentos while she was studying at STRI.  She and her buddy, Becca Skinner, used two portable Orukayaks to complete this expedition.  They stayed the first night with us.  Both of them have shared some details about their adventure on Nat Geo’s blog and Instagram account.

Since then, Clare suggested that a group of students from UNC Chapel Hill spend some time documenting Bocas del Toro and she kindly gave them our name.  The result is this award-winning multimedia website created by the students under the supervision of a great group of professors and coaches.  Clare was one of the coaches.

Bocas del Toro Documentary

Several years ago, Clare worked on a  project:  “Outnumbered:  Portraits of Women Scientists.”  She explains a bit about the project in this video.  You can also get more information here:  http://college.unc.edu/2014/11/12/outnumbered/.

Most recently Clare used words to explain in An Ecologist’s Guide to Writing Obituaries about the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef as well as obituaries as a genre.  We take writing very seriously around here as part of our school curriculum so when we find people who are skilled with this craft, we learn whatever we can from them.

My children have met a number of female scientists and a number of people named Clare, but only one female scientist named Clare.  So when I tell them that Clare is in Bocas del Toro working on another research project they immediately know to ask, “Mom, are you talking about the Clare that did the kayak project?”  They do this because to them, Clare isn’t the only female scientist they know so they have learned to identify her in a different way.  I wish that more people had the same perspective on life – we can work towards whatever interests us and it doesn’t need to fit a specific mold.  We can make it into what works for us.  Clare’s camera and her words are some of the tools she uses to expand people’s horizons and help tell people’s stories.  Many of those stories touch science in one way or another.

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A furry resident of the Tranquilo Bay grounds

Three-toed Sloth at Tranquilo BayOne of the most “desired” tropical species that everyone wants to see, when they visit the tropics, is the species I am going to talk about today.   It’s easy to understand why, the sweet face, the lazy and extremely slow reputation attracts everyone’s attention.  I am talking about the Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus).

The truth is that they are not as slow as most people think, and they do more, than most of us think they do. Some studies with animals in captivity show they can sleep an average about 16 hours a day, but studies with wild animals have shown they sleep about 9 and half hours, spending most of their time moving around looking for food, eating and scratching.

Three-toed sloths are found in Central and South America. At Tranquilo Bay this species is abundant and easy to find most of the year.  On site we also have the Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), which is a nocturnal species. On an island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, is possible to find another specie of sloth the Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), an endemic specie, found in one special location on Escudo de Veraguas Island.

Sweet little ball of feathers

Birding at the Chocolate Farm

Today I am going to talk about a pretty and elusive ball of feathers, the Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant.  This bird is one of those species that you can hear many times, but see only a few.  Its size and the places where it likes to spend the most part of its time make them a little hard to see.

Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant  (Myiornis atricapillus) has a large range of distribution, found from the south of Nicaragua, through western Colombia down to the north Pacific coast of Ecuador. Often found in the canopy of the humid forest, its easy to lose this 2.5 inch bird. And like living in the canopy wasn’t enough to make it hard to find, its call is like an insect.

Birdwatching PanamaThis adorable little bird is one of the species we can easily hear, not so easily see, as I mentioned before, on to the excursion to the chocolate farm. Green Acres Chocolate Farm is located on the mainland, and is home to many species that we do not have on the islands of the archipelago.

The pictures are not the best ones, but good enough to show this tiny beauty.

Western Caribbean Slope Birding

Emerald Basilisk

Wildlife PanamaAnother species of Basilisk lizard we see during some of our excursions is the Emerald Basilisk or Basiliscus plumifrons.

It is, as the striped basilisk, a very large lizard with diurnal, semi-aquatic, semi-arboreal behavior. The Emerald Basilisk is shier than it´s cousins and it´s range of movement is always closer to the water. As with the Striped Basilisk, juveniles appear to be primarily insectivorous, starting an omnivorous diet with a considerable ingestion of plant material like seeds, stems, etc. as grow(they get to 135 mm in standard length).

Their reproductive season is somewhat shorter that the Striped Basilisk, starting in May and finishing in September. During this time, they will lay from 4 to 17 eggs per clutch. In captivity, the hatching time is 55 to 75 days.

Basilisk Panama

This Emerald Basilisk’s distribution range is different in the Caribbean and the Pacific. On the Atlantic it ranges from the humid lowlands of Eastern Honduras to Western Panama, while on the Pacific slope it will be found only in Southwestern Costa Rica and Southwestern Panama.

There are several different excursions where we have found these amazing lizards, ranging from sea level, in the lowland forest of Almirante, to 2400 feet, close to the Bocas del Toro continental divide. Every time we see one, it seems brighter and more striking than the time before. Judge for yourself.

Panama Eco Adventure – Episode 8

It’s Monday, so its time for a video.  Panama Eco Adventure Episode 8 highlights the bat cave near Bahia, Honda on Isla Bastimentos.  This cave is an amazing formation in itself and then you add several bat species, an awesome kayak (not shown in this video) and a short hike through an indigenous owned farm and it makes for a very unique excursion.  Enjoy.

Striped Basilisk Lizard

Basiliscus vittatus adult maleOne of our most common neighborhood lizards is the Basilisk lizard, also called Jesus Christ Lizard because of it´s ability to run short distances over the water.

The species of Basilisk lizard that we have in the Tranquilo Bay gardens and sidewalks is the Basiliscus vittatus, a large lizard that we usually find sunbathing while perched on a branch or laying over a rock or a sidewalk.  The males of this brown/grayish/olive coloration lizard, are unmistakable because they “wear” a single cephalic crest with a triangular outline. Juveniles and females may be distinguished from their relatives because of the dark cross bands and longitudinal light stripes.

Jesus Christ Lizard

This lizard is much more terrestrial that Congeners B. basiliscus and B. plumifrons and is strictly diurnal, at night it sleeps under leaf litter near the ground or in vegetation up to ten feet above the ground.

During the main reproductive season, from mid February through October they will lay 4-5 clutches with 2 to 18 eggs per clutch. Incubation time ranges from 50 to 70 days depending on weather and nest location conditions (full sun/shade …) Then, young basilisks (32 – 50 mm) will feed on insects and spiders.  At around six month’s old they will reach their sexual maturity and change their diet to include a considerable amount of seeds, grasses, fruits, stems, in addition to the insects and spiders.

Lizard Panama

Basilisk lizards are large lizards so they are also a valuable prey for many predators like White Hawks, Boas and juvenile vine snakes. Campbell’s Amphibians & Reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the Yucatán & Belize reports that only about 2% of hatchlings survive for two years.

Boa eating lizard Panama

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Panama Wildlife – Episode 5 – 2016

Daniel Dickinson prepared an episode of Panama Wildlife for us focusing this week on butterflies and moths.  All of these spectacular winged creatures are found on site at Tranquilo Bay.  Many of our guests enjoy combing the grounds for the multitude of species that may be found here.  Take a look.