Monday, October 8, 2007

Dear Panama, I think I love you. Love, Colleen

Day 1: after dinner
That night we again went out to a local beach to collect more of the crabs for the crab wheel experiments...and this time we were more successful. We were able to collect enough of the second species of crab, Gecarcinus, in order to fill the crab wheels. After the collecting, we went back to the lab where we measured and sexed the 2 crab species (Ocypode or ghost crabs, and the Gecarcinus) and put them into the wheels. It was awesome to see our tortilla contraptions actually working and we all enjoyed watching the wheels turn for the first time. But the excitement of the wheels working turned to excitement for the celebration of Cc's and Sam's birthdays. While some of group decided to head to bed (which was completely understandable due to the fact that we had been up since 4:15) some of us decided to head out into town to celebrate a 22nd and 21st birthday.
Day 2:
Happy birthday Sam! Snorkeling in the mangroves, on a coral reef, and in the thalassia beds (turtle grass) and looking for more crabs, was the agenda for Sunday morning. The first order of business: find hermit crabs to put in the crab wheels. This proved to be harder than we first anticipated. Even though the beach was gorgeous and we found lots of other species of crabs, none of the hermit crabs we needed to get were found.
After leaving the beach, we set out for the coral reef to do some snorkeling. On the way there, though, we were lucky enough to spot a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins. Our boat driver took us right up along side the pod and we got to watch them for about 5 minutes before the dove and took off. It was absolutely incredible.
At the coral reef everyone enjoyed the crystal clear water. The highlight of the excursion for most of us was hanging out with 2 Caribbean reef squid. The were brightly colored and put on quite a color display for us. They were also very curious which made photographing them a real treat. =) Many sea stars, tube worms, and many species of reef fish were also present.
The next location we went to was a mangrove forest with sea grass beds. It was incredible to see the amount of juvenile fish living among the prop roots of the mangroves. I particularly enjoyed looking at the small brightly colored shrimp found found next to corkscrew anenome.
After lunch, we attempted to find more crabs but got rained out because of a thunderstorm. But no worries, the storm quickly passed and our next adventure proceeded to unfold. We took a car into town where we hopped onto a water taxi which took us to the coolest beach I have ever been to. The immediate thought that popped into my head (and everyones) after spotting the island where we were to be landing shortly was oh my gosh we are in the movie Jurassic Park." Most of the islands jutted straight out of the water and went up hundreds of feet. It was also completely covered in thick vegetation and palm trees. I half expected a dinosaur to come thundering out of the forest onto the beach. But the island turned out to be the perfect place to find the hermit crabs....and tons of fire ants. We also stumbled across a brightly colored poisonous frog and various other species of crabs. A very cool way to end an awesome day. Panama, I really think I love you. =) =)

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