So You Don’t Want to Be a Naturalist Anymore

So you’ve decided to change careers. The life of a naturalist just isn’t for you. Maybe you’re tired of being constantly bug-bitten and mammal-mauled. Maybe the apocalyptic scale of climate change has you despairing for environmental work. Maybe you’d like to for once in your life make some actual money.

I’m not giving up my dream just yet. But as a naturalist who has, at times, had to support my career with jobs outside my field, I thought I’d offer this self-help guide to readjusting back into normal, civilized, adult life. Here goes.

I know it sounds crazy, but there exists a job without ants.

Rewrite Your Resume

If you have a science background, you’ve been taught to prepare your resume/CV a certain way. To just pack that baby with every study, research project, lab activity, and field gig you were remotely a part of, and describe each one with as technical of wording as possible. Extra points for being as taxonomically specific as possible. Double points for including Latin words that barely qualify as English.

Well now you’re applying for a normal job and guess what? Not only does no-one give a crap about that, they will barely understand it. Some poor recruiting manager doesn’t want to have to scan through a list of “research experiences” involving animals they’ve never heard of. Especially if the work was unpaid and, let’s be honest, it was unpaid wasn’t it?

For example, I recently applied to an ordinary job for the season. I edited down my Research section greatly, and changed things like “conducted a species assemblage of amphibians across a geographic gradient” to “Studied frogs in the jungle.” Much more palatable. “Comparison of interspecific sexual and territorial behavior of damselfies” became “Made horny bugs fight each other. For science.” And anything involving the collection of feces…yeah, I removed that entirely. That sure made the document shorter.

Man, not even spellcheck knows what a damselfly is

Change Your Appearance

Did you know there are other colors for clothing besides green, brown, grey, and other drab earth tones? Did you know that some people buy clothing with appearance in mind, not function? That there are other factors to take into account other than a fabric’s ability to resist mold, scratches, and animal blood?

Strange as it seems, you may find yourself in a job where your appearance matters. You may be expected to meet something called “professional standards” of dress, grooming, and general hygiene. You will not be allowed to wear clothes that are stained or torn, even if they function just fine. You will be expected to shave and cut your hair, despite your protests that it will all grow back anyway.

It’s rough, but think of it as an adaptation. Civil camouflage. Clothes shopping is just gathering materials. Now go out and get yourself a makeover. Get dressed. Wear perfume. Put on makeup. Cut your hair. Do your nails. Take a bath, you dirty hippy.

Stop Telling Stories, Seriously Just Shut Up Because No One Believes You

Another personal anecdote: a while back on a construction gig, a coworker noticed the scars on my hand. He asked where they came from. I told him, “monkeys.” That guy never spoke to me again.

Yes, a monkey. And I still see his face in my dreams…

It’s a naturalist thing. Fieldwork talk. Research station stories. We all do it, all trying to share and impress and one-up. We talk about the places we’ve been. The adventures we’ve had. The animals we’ve seen, studied, or fought. The tales border on the ludicrous and push the limits of believability because that’s the point.

But back here in the real world? That junk is straight out of animal planet. Fantasy that belongs on television. Best case: people will think you’re full of shit. Worse case: they will think you’re insane. Most likely: a bit of both. So learn from my mistakes, mistakes I keep making over and over wherever I go, and curb that kind of behavior.

Bottom line: what happens in the jungle stays in the jungle. Or at least let it out carefully, gradually, bit by bit over time.

Also, maybe don’t talk about snakes so much. Can’t hurt.

Mutually Assured Humiliation

I would like to talk a little about the Spanish language.

As I’ve mentioned before, I consider it an obligation to make at least some effort to learn the local language of whatever country you are in, especially if you plan to stay there awhile and do some sort of work. But that doesn’t mean just looking up words in a dictionary or running through some levels in Duolingo. It pays to pay attention to dialect, and understand the nuances and variation of any language. I know it’s hard, but it’s important.

I started studying Spanish in middle school and continued into high school, but the “classroom” Spanish we learned didn’t do much good during my travels in Central America. Part of it was that we were obnoxious teenagers who retained information the way a raincoat retains water. But part of it was that what were taught was traditional formal Spanish that eschewed any sort of slang or idioms that most people use to communicate. And another part was that our teacher, text books, and curriculum were all based on Mexican Spanish exclusively.

That would have been extremely nice to know! Not that there is anything wrong with Mexican Spanish, and it makes sense to teach that to American students, but it is severely limiting to not know that the language you are learning is not as universal as you think! Imagine learning American English and then traveling to Scotland. Or New Zealand.

I used to live in New Zealand. I’m still not sure they speak English.

One embarrassing moment comes to mind: I helped facilitate a tour of a Costa Rican coffee farm to a bunch of Mexican schoolkids. The farmer demonstrated a tool they use, a kind of cut-off machete they call a “chinga.” However, chinga, in Mexico, is the equivalent of the expletive “fuck.” The teacher was mortified. The kids were delighted. “You must use the chinga with both hands,” the farmer told them, unaware. “And push–it–down–deep, like so.”

That was a language discrepancy between two Spanish speakers! And now you can can see the issue when it comes to learning the language altogether. So I can understand the hesitation and reticence to even make the attempt.

Learning and practicing a new language inevitably involves a stage of embarrassment and humiliation. Or several stages. You will sound like an imbecile. You will literally speak like a child. And as your frustrated adult mind struggles to enunciate with limited vocabulary, you will at some point make a mistake and say something nonsensical. Or offensive. Or hilarious.

Another story: One trip, one of the girls was getting a lot of unwanted attention from local men. We tried to teach her to say, “Dejame en paz” or “leave me alone” (literally, “leave me in peace”). To the next guy, she said, “dejame un pez” or “leave me a fish” (literally, “leave me a fish”). However, the guy was so confused that he left, so I guess it worked after all.

“Yes, and leave it right now!”

Every second language learner has these stories. It is a universally understood process, painful but necessary. All we can do is empathize and laugh about it later. So in the interest of comradery and comedy, I hereby offer my Most Embarrassing Spanish Story, which I partly blame on differences between Spanish dialects and use of slang.

In Puerto Rico, I lived in a field station for a while with a bunch of forestry researchers from various backgrounds. At one dinner, not long after I’d just arrived, a cockroach ran up my leg. I jumped up and said, “I have a bicho in my pants!” using the Costa Rican term “bicho” which is the equivalent of “bug.”

Es bicho.

However, in Puerto Rico the word “bicho” is a fairly vulgar term for “penis.” It’s pretty profane, and normally just used as an expletive. Which means I had just announced to a table full of strangers that I had a dick in my pants, thrust one hand down there, and stomped off to the bathroom muttering something about having to deal with it. I didn’t learn about this until days later, when some coworkers explained the difference. I was mortified. They were delighted.

Bicho es!

The Night is Drunkest Before the Dawn

Working a fulltime field gig abroad like this is in some ways like living a double life. For work, I’m either outside in the forest all day getting sweaty, muddy, scratched, and bug-bitten. My clothes are drab, worn, splattered with god-knows-what, and selected for functionality. At home, I’m a recluse, spending my time recovering, catching up on sleep, processing data in an office, and generally trying to find a little peace of mind (ie, privacy). I rarely wear pants.

But this is Costa Rica. People here have a high standard of hygiene, dress, and etiquette. You are expected to spend time getting to know your neighbors and community. Social events are all day (or all-night) affairs. In some ways, it’s the polar opposite of what’s expected from a field researcher, a terrible, terrible irony. Which meant that I was faced with a significant challenge last night: the annual Tope Nacional.

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Everyone (and everything) in this photo has been drinking.
Once a year, our tiny town hosts a nationwide Tope, a event that combines horse parades, rodeo, county fair, block party, and drinking. Lots of drinking. It lasts several days, culminating in a 1000+ parade of prize horses around the streets, with the riders dressed as cowboys strutting their stuff and belting out traditional songs. While I can be a bit of a misanthrope–sleep deprivation and festering chigger bites or no–and generally shy away from large crowds, I resolved to make an effort to get involved on this final night, especially since I had been invited by a local friend who I’m going to call Jorge. It would be a valuable cultural experience, and I really need to get out of the house once in a while.

Jorge took me to the start of the event, where trailer after trailer pulled up and unloaded a number of horses that dwarfed the town’s normal human population. I soon learned that it was impolite to walk around without a beer in one’s hand, open container laws be damned, and after several I was thankful that Costa Rican beer is light enough to be bitter water. We picked a spot to watch the caballeros go by, whereupon Jorge started wolf-whistling at any and all women who passed by, they did their best to ignore him, and I did my best to pretend he was a stranger to me.

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Sexual harassment and machismo in Costa Rica is an extremely ugly and complicated issue that I am in no way prepared to address properly at the moment. Sorry, not all my captions are snark.
When the event started, I learned that the riders would march their horses together grouped by the province or town they represented, and stop their horses at outdoor bars for drinks along the way. The riders and the horses, that is. Yes, most cowboys would down a quick rum, while shotgunning a cold brew into their horse’s foaming mouth. The streets soon became a mess of fallen cans, and the gutters ran with a mixture of spilled drinks and horse piss.

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My god, it’s literally a Country Music song come to life.
Jorge and I ended up in a crowd, backed against a bar by a phalanx of thirsty riders and thirstier beasts. He knew the bartender, and she let us behind the bar to avoid the crush. However, in the chaos, someone grabbed my shoulder from over the bar, and I turned to see a cowboy-hatted man waving a bill in my face and gesturing to the drinks. I served him, but he was immediately replaced by someone else. So I ended up inadvertently tending outdoor bar to a bunch of cowboys and their horses. No one seemed to mind, and I got a few free cold ones.

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Cold beers, that is.
My energy didn’t last long. I met up with some coworkers and we hit up the street food and music scene. We drank some more, and I think I lasted about 5 minutes on the dance floor while the party started to spin around me. Priding myself on at least making an effort to be social like a normal human being, I clocked in around 11, far past my normal working bedtime.

And you know what? I had a good time. Living the double life of a foreign field naturalist means sacrifice and occasionally getting out of the comfort zone. One annual equine fiesta isn’t too much to ask, and I played it safe, not drinking too much or staying out too late to be ready for fieldwork again and all that nature could through at me. I drifted off to the lingering sounds of the party a few blocks away, fulfilled and content.

At least, that is until around 4am when I felt cold paws and matted fur climb over my forehead in the dark. Fearing rats–or, illogically, mongoose–I jumped up and spent several minutes with my disturbed roommates trying to find the culprit. When it started knocking over things on the shelf, I was only slightly relieved to find that it was not a rat but rather a baby possum, although God knows how it even got inside the house, let alone on my bed.

I grabbed it by the scruff and while it drooled and played dead, my thoughts were as follows: What the hell, nature? I make an effort to be human and this is what you do to me? Send vermin into my own room, for Christ’s sake?

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Good morning to you, too.

I mean, what’s the point? Why pretend? Did I enter some kind of dark pact with wild animals at some point? Is this revenge from the primeval gods? Can’t I just get one night of peace, one night to indulge the culture in which I live, that tolerates my animal-related behavior the rest of the year?

I threw the possum into a box, taped it up, and left it out in the kitchen for my housemates to find. I’ll release it later. Let it get out of its comfort zone, and maybe lose some sleep. Serves it right.

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What Happens at 3am

Forget twilight, midnight, the Witching Hour–the true magic occurs between 3 and 4 in the morning. When it’s technically morning, and yet still undeniably nighttime. It’s that threshold between dreaming and waking, between reality and sleep-deprivation-induced insanity. It’s a time when you know, fundamentally, no civilized being should be conscious, let alone active.

It is also my usual wakeup call. For in order to reach the monkeys before dawn, you see, we must rouse ourselves to action at this unholy hour every field day, roughly two of every three days. And after so much time bumbling around in the dark while my brain gradually climbs the evolutionary ladder from primitive amphibian to–at best–drugged neanderthal, I have made several discoveries. The following is absolutely true about the hour from 3am to 4am:

–Jokes are not funny (“Uh-oh guys, the car’s dead and we can’t go to the field today!”)

–Serious things are (“No, seriously, the car’s dead and we can’t go to the field today.”)

–No matter how well you may have laid out your things the night before, they will have moved in the night. No doubt due to gremlins.

–Rats, roaches, and toads are just as surprised as you are when you encounter them in the kitchen.

–90% of the people you meet on the street are drunk, and have yet to go home from the prior evening. For that matter, so are the drivers, who must be avoided at all costs.

–Every little ache, itch, and twinge in your body is undoubtedly a symptom of some much worse disease and every rational thought in your mind will tell you to go back to bed immediately.

–Stray dogs love to sleep in the middle of the road.

–Your boots still haven’t dried out from that time you fell in the river two days ago.

–That minor scrape on your arm has festered overnight into something that looks leprous. You should definitely go back to bed immediately.

–Your roommates have deliberately strewn their laundry and phone charger cords across the floor to trip you.

–The toilet never works.

–Ants are usually asleep, but can be easily woken up and will be just as grumpy as you when they are.

–The monkeys are never where they’re supposed to be.

–That grogginess isn’t due to lack of sleep, or dehydration, but is most likely Dengue or Zika or flu and you should definitely go back to bed this instant, it just makes sense, oh God why am I awake?

–Coffee is worth its weight in gold, but there is never time to make any (aka Cappuchino’s Paradox).

–If anyone was snoring last night, you are perfectly justified in murdering them, honor-killing style.

–Jokes are still not funny (“Hey, that cough sounds awful. We should stay home today!”)

–Very serious things are hilarious (“Was that a piece of lung?”)

Scorpion Tales

There’s an old fable that goes something like this:  A scorpion and a frog were trying to cross a river.  The scorpion asked the frog to carry it on his back and swim them both across.  The frog agreed, but told the scorpion that if he stung him, they would both drown.  The scorpion climbed on and the frog started swimming, but halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog.  Dying and sinking, the frog asked why the scorpion had doomed them both.  The scorpion said, “I can’t help it.  It’s in my nature.”

Wow.  What a depressing story.  It’s probably Russian.  Anyway, I thought of it today because of something I’ve noticed over the course of a week.

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Is nowhere safe from these things?

Along our 200-meter stretch of river, there are not one but two different scorpions stranded on rocks in the middle of the water.  They have been there for days, stuck out in the open, wandering from one side of the rock to the other as the sun passes overhead, trying their best to stay in the shade.

Which raises several questions.  First, how did they get there?  Scorpions can’t swim, and the river has never been low enough for them to crawl there recently.  So they must have fallen from trees.  Which leads to question number two:  where did they fall from?  Bats or birds might try to eat a scorpion and drop it, but they wouldn’t do so without leaving at least some damage.  And our scorpions are unharmed.  So they must have fallen from trees.  Which leads to the third and most concerning question:  how often are scorpions falling from trees that they happen to land on two small rocks over a short stretch of river?  And a follow up: what happens to the scorpions that don’t hit rocks?  Is there a steady stream of scorpions flowing to the river’s lower reaches?  Should we be worried?

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Weather today: heavy rain with chance of flooding, scorpions

Anyway, another different but slightly related recent experience got me to create my own scorpion fable.  Here goes.

A scorpion and a cockroach were both trapped in a bathroom sink.  The sides were too smooth for them to crawl out.  The scorpion asked the cockroach if it could climb onto its head to reach the edge.  It did so, but the cockroach was still trapped in the sink.  The cockroach asked why the scorpion had only saved itself, and the scorpion said, “Dude, you have wings.  Just fly out.”  “Oh,” said the cockroach, and it did so.

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Sting

So the other night I had a scorpion in my bed.

I was sitting up writing when I felt a tickling along my leg. I looked down and instinctively flicked it off with my laptop while tumbling out of bed, uttering a stream of what I’m proud to say was a multilingual assortment of curses.  After my roommates assembled to find out what all the disturbance was about, I tore apart my sleeping area and found the culprit between the mattress and frame, whereupon it was removed from my bed and the house without further incident.

Have you ever seen a scorpion move?  They are bloody fast when they want to be.  Scorpions have two mouthparts that stick out in front of them as claws, the equivalent of gluing garden shears onto your canines.  They are dragging a tail that looks like a ball and chain fused with a hypodermic needle full of pain.  And yet they can book it when you catch them out in the open.  And squeeze through cracks that are deceptively thin.  And even jump laterally when pushed to do so.  Luckily I was prepared for all this, and I managed to escape unstung, but committed to checking my sheets and blankets first from now on.

Where the hell had the thing come from?  How and why had it climbed up the legs of the bed and into the covers?  Was it seeking warmth?  Or food?  I’ve had plenty of experience sharing living space with scorpions and other critters—as my early entries can attest—but this house has had what seems like an inordinate amount so far.  In the first few weeks, we were plucking them off curtains, shooing them out of cupboards, and discovering them under kitchen tables, inside our bags, and in the shower.  But it’s been clear so far.  In fact, before my incident we hadn’t had another sighting in a week.

But, as a curious correlation, we have been seeing a lot more cockroaches.  While preferable to scorpions, they have increased in abundance and boldness as we, one by one, removed their predators from the building.

It’s been interesting to see our artificial living space serve as an ecosystem.  We have unintentionally modeled a classic predator/prey population curve.  It should have been obvious to us, as biologists, that this would happen.  But it’s all too easy, even for us, to think of our personal living area as separate from the fundamental laws of our study area.  It’s just one more part of the job that we bring home.

And sorry, no pictures.  I was too busy getting the thing the hell off of me without getting stung to think to grab my camera.  I mean, freaking scorpions.  Ugh.

A Change in the Winds, Maybe

I haven’t been here long enough to get a feeling for the phenology, the seasonal patterns of the ecology.  But I’ve noticed several first-time events for the region, and going through past studies and wildlife log books, I know these are special.  Even the locals have begun commenting on the changes going on, especially in regards to wildlife sightings.

For example, this year was the first time in recorded history where we had Resplendent Quetzals and Spider Monkeys seen on campus.  Those are species seen at higher or lower elevation, respectively, and have never been recorded in this valley since it was turned into a reserve.  And then today I had another sighting: Howler Monkeys.

This.
 It’s been a while.

These were a common sight in the lowlands.  And we often hear them calling from the next valley over.  But they are rarely, if ever, spotted on campus.  A friend and I caught these two hanging out in the trees, catching some rays.  Another first for the logbook.

Despite their calls, howler monkeys are more unagressive and easygoing than the capuchins, which tend to be more pee-happy and branch-throwy.
Despite their calls, howler monkeys are more unagressive and easygoing than the capuchins, which tend to be more pee-happy and branch-throwy.

And there have been more.  There was a tawny treefrog found sleeping on the sill of one of the office windows.  I had to look it up as it wasn’t on our species list.  I’ve made an unusual number of trips to the library to ID new insects lately.  Of course, there’s also the resident puma.  And it’s been a good month for snakes.

I believe this is preferable to finding either a snake or a puma in your office.
I believe this is preferable to finding either a snake or a puma in your office.

Is these just anomalies?  Is this a result of a changing climate?  Habitat loss elsewhere?  A simple observation bias?  Or is this a positive sign?  This reserve was once just cattle ranch and coffee farm.  What exists now is secondary forest, slowly recovering and restoring itself to a more natural state.  Maybe these sightings mark a return to a primary, original condition.  At least, I like to think so.  Time will tell.

Not a Day Goes By

After almost nine months in the tropics I must conclude: it is impossible to go a day without learning something new.  Now, usually I try to make an effort at this.  Much of my free time is spent wandering aimlessly around the grounds and forest armed with a camera and portentous curiosity that usually results in blurry photos and various insect bites.  But even just spending time on campus, refusing to leave the indoors, results in numerous unexpected lessons.  Here are a collection of things I have learned without even going into the field:

  1.  Tarantulas are strong enough to hold onto the inside of a boot even after you’ve shaken it upside down to remove anything that crawled there in the night.  (Follow up: having your toes ticked by a tarantula first thing in the morning is a more effective way of waking up than drinking coffee.)
  2. Whatever material they make passports out of is a great medium to culture mold.  Many different colors of mold, in fact.
  3. The little squishy nose pads on glasses are edible to giant crickets.  In fact, they find them irresistible and will return on successive nights to nibble away at them.
  4. Cockroaches do not fit up my nose.  They think they can, but they are wrong.
  5. Ants can get through the foil wrapper of chocolate bars.
  6. An angry kinkajou sounds like a weed whipper on helium calling from the trees at one in the morning.
  7. A single gecko can stink up an entire room after it crawls into the fan of a computer and dies there.
  8. Scorpions can jump.
  9. A ripe guava dropped by a clumsy squirrel onto an aluminum roof from eight meters up sounds like a gunshot if you are trying to sleep right underneath it.
  10. Giant crickets do not fit up my nose.  They think they can, but they are wrong.

Pest of Mettle

It’s gotten to the point where I could start an entomology exhibit with all the different creatures that have crawled over my face while I sleep.  Cockroaches are the usual culprit, although true to form they usually scatter for cover as soon as I turn on the light.  They’ve become so common I think I’m starting to sleep through them.  Recently there’s been a series of large crickets which land heavily on their thorny, waxy legs.  Those are harder to ignore.  The worst are house centipedes, which thankfully aren’t venomous but are very…tickly.  They keep scurrying over me with those long wispy legs and lend themselves to very disturbed night terrors.

Like regular centipedes, only with 30% more leg!
  Like regular centipedes, only with 30% more leg!

The cabins they put the naturalists in are tucked back into the woods, and are subject to all the various natural forces and patterns included therein.  Arthropods seem to diffuse osmotically over every habitat, artificial or otherwise.  I consider myself lucky in that my cabin is slightly raised, and keeps out the hordes of amphipods some interns have to sweep off their floor every morning.  But the caulking in the roof is wearing out.  Or it’s being eaten through.  Either way, things have been getting in.

But so far my roommates have treated me more or less like part of the environment.  Nothing’s treated me as food.  Or a potential threat.  And no one’s tried to set up shop en masse.  The came cannot be said for one of my coworkers, who keeps finding wasps trying to build a nest on the walls of her cabin.  Another had a resident tarantula.

Eh. It's cleaner than most roomates I've had.
Eh. It’s cleaner than most roomates I’ve had.

This is always, without fail, a major hurdle for someone moving to the tropics in a more rural setting.  I’ve already talked about learning to share living space, but I keep being reminded of it.  Mostly because we’ve just had a series of new arrivals, who have always showed up to breakfast after their first night with horror stories about legs in the night.  Some react better than others, but it’s always an observation.

It’s not the large predators that get you.  Or even the venomous snakes.  The most important negative factor to someone’s jungle experience is not generally a single, dramatic encounter, but rather hundreds upon hundreds of personal interactions with irritating or disgusting tiny critters on a daily and nightly basis.  It requires a different set of coping techniques, and a different type of courage and comfort level to deal with.  Adaptability is key.  So is a sense of humor.

It's still cleaner than most roomates I've had.
   It’s still cleaner than most roomates I’ve had.

Campus in the Clouds

Monteverde is what they call a Cloud Forest.  The name applies.  Clear sky is a rarity here.  And this time of year, rain is ever-present.  During one especially hard shower, I asked someone when the rain would let up.  Without looking up, he said, “November”.

Near the Reserve itself are a few small towns nestled on the sides of steep mountains and valleys.  And somewhere in between those is a small campus of an American University that hosts students on study-abroad trips, tour groups, and researchers.  To accommodate them, there are a few naturalists on hand, of which I am now one.

This place is pretty fancy.  The usual works for a college campus: student dorms, dining hall, library and computer lab.  There’s a climate-controlled wet lab and GIS tech building.  The place is almost completely energy self-sufficient, with a brilliant yet simple system of reclaiming sewage into methane for heating, a vegetable garden, and a little livestock for meat and milk.

But back to the environment.  This is not “the Jungle”.  It’s hard to say exactly what the distinction is, but there are fewer large vines and buttress roots.  There is less open space on the forest floor.  But the first thing that struck me when I got here is that it is somehow greener.  As if that were even possible.  The lowland was a green sea.  This is a green abyss. Every spare inch is taken up by photosynthesis.  There are algae on mosses on leaves on epiphytes on trees.   Plants on plants on plants.  Plants to the fifth power.

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The grass underfoot is a complex layer of shoots and stems fighting for space.  The underbrush is a lush tangle.  And the canopy is a continuous verdant mass where trees blend into one another.  Birds are green.  Bugs are green.  I caught a green snake that had a green tongue and opened its mouth to show green gums.

And everything is wet.  Moisture is constant.  That’s the other difference.  There isn’t that guaranteed hour or two every day of intense sunlight to dry things out.  Things get wet and muddy and stay that way.

This place should be fun.  There aren’t nearly as many herps, but I can manage.  Monkeys are rarer, but I’m fine with that.  The charismatic megafauna are generally harder to see, but that just makes them more special.  No crabs and—praise the lord—fewer ants.  There are so many birds, though.  I gotta get cracking on my IDs.

I’ll be shadowing the other naturalists for a few weeks, and then hopefully lead some of my own tours.  There’s so much to learn, and so much to talk about.

Green vine snake. In case you didn't note the color.
Green vine snake. In case you didn’t note the color.