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February 21, 2012 – Collecting data for research projects

February 23, 2012

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The day started off great with a nice personal wake up call at 6:30 am in order to get up and see a Patagonian sunrise. It was beautiful to say the least (although very cold in the early morning). Only one group awake at this point in time, the avian diversity research group under the command of whip man Leo, to maximize their bird watching hours. Today’s breakfast was slightly different from the usual white bread and cornflakes with the addition of Tang and cocoa puffs. After we all had more than our fair share of coffee, the herd was rounded up to discuss our plan of attack for the day. We started off as one big group to head over to a ranch on the south bank of Rio Traful, and everyone quickly dispersed into their respective research groups to continue our data collection for the new few hours.

Our group (#5) in particular has been looking at the effects of gaps (openings in a forest canopy due to disturbances such as fallen trees, rock slides, etc.) on flora diversity and composition. We hiked up through the treacherous terrain of various prickly plants to reach our destination of study in the cedar forests. We were able to identify several more gaps and ID any new plants found.
At 12:30, it was time to pack up and meet up with the whole group at our lunch destination at the top of a small ridge. We enjoyed some delicious schnitzel sandwiches and fresh fruit! After the main group departed, Scott (being the nature boy that he is) decided to start flipping rocks and discovered, to his delight, a small scorpion and a Darwinian gecko (some new species for our list!). A Pleurodema thaul, a frog usually found near water  but in this case was discovered on a ridge under a rock and partially burrowed in the ground. There is always something exciting to see when in Patagonia!
After playing many rounds of our invented game “rock or not”, it was time for our 3pm guest lecture. Dr. Felix Cruz, who travelled from Bariloche past various police checks, to tell us about his ongoing research on the natural history and environmental physiology of the Liolaemus genus (lizards) – a very interesting and relevant topic for our time here in Patagonia. He also helped us identify some species from previous days that we had taken pictures of such as: Liolaemus pictus and Liolaemus lineomaculuatus (see picture below).
As is the norm in Argentina, dinner is served at 9 pm, so to pass the time a few of us went for a short hike. Always keeping an eye out for another organism, we managed to scrounge up some road metal for Leo’s friendship bracelet, and also saw some breathtaking rainbows. Another successful day in Patagonia.

Signing off,

Team Baird: Erin, Jamie, Amrit & Scott

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