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tropical rainforesttttttttt land use nerd = ecology grad student!

Back in the field until August! #fieldblog

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Tanguro Summit

I just spent a lovely week in the field with colleagues from around the world, discussing the next few years of projects at Tanguro, the field site I work at in the southeastern Amazon.  I was also finishing up some final soil measurements and introducing the new postdoc working with the group to what I’ve been working on the last two years.

It’s kind of amazing to realize that in only 2012 I was arriving at Tanguro for the first time, speaking not a lick of Portuguese and not sure I was going to pull this whole thing off.  Now it’s practically a home away from home.

Bulk density measurements… That's how ecosystem ecologists roll. #claycontent #fieldblog

A post shared by Christine O'Connell (@coconnell08) on

Heading back to the field for a few weeks in Jan/Feb 2015 and for the first time ever am sad to be leaving the field so soon.  Normally I’m itching to get back to my own bed, but this time I’m just bummed to be jetting away from the forest after only a few days.

Welcome to Envelope Science: #fieldblog!

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(Looking for Christine’s professional research page?  See christinesoconnell.com or my profile at Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.)

Envelope Science started as a way for me to have a place to write down back of the envelope ideas and tidbits – what it’s like to be lucky enough to make a living as an ecologist.  Over time, it’s become primarily a way to let my family, friends and colleagues get some insight into my tropical forest field experiences, mostly via photos and quick notes from the field. Thanks for stopping by.  Live the dream, y’all.

Scene of a jaguar kill!

About a week and a half ago I saw one of the coolest things that I’ve seen since I started coming to the Amazon! I saw a site where a jaguar recently caught, killed and ate a porcupine! I’ve been meaning to post about this, but it took until the day before I leave Brazil to find the time to sit down and fiddle with wordpress.

Santarem and I were out in an area of primary forest to measure nitrous oxide fluxes, as we are wont to do (quick refresh: this is the point of my project). Our protocol involves going to a predetermined point on a trail, and then walking a certain number of paces off the trail into the forest. We use a random number generator to make sure that we’re picking the spot without bias.

So we get to the spot, and then put down the chambers that measure gas fluxes. One of them ends up being right next to this:

2014-03-24 20.14.53

Santarem turns to me and says: something around here ate a porcupine. This is the scat of the predator and, look, there are spines in it.

BOOM.

So he starts looking around the area. And not 3 meters away he finds… this!

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2014-03-24 20.17.11

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Those are the spines of a “porco espinho” (“spiny pig”), also known as a Brazilian porcupine (eng wiki link, port wiki link). Unlike a hedgehog, when a porcupine gets attacked, its quills will come off to injure the predator. Hence, the crazy amount of lost spines in the above photos.

Brazilian porcupines live in the trees, and Santarem says that it looks like this one was on that fallen tree trunk when it was attacked by a large cat of some kind (those are the predators here that could pull something like this off) – you can tell that something went down on that tree trunk because there are a bunch of spines stuck into it and because there were fingernail/claw marks dug into the bark. TOTALLY NUTS!

So who took this guy out? Santarem says that it was probably an “onça pintada,” aka a jaguar (eng, port), because the attack happened relatively high off the ground and jaguars are the largest predators in this forest. I wondered why there were only spines remaining and no carcass, and Santarem told me that jaguars can eat the whole thing – head, bones, everything. MORE NUTSO INFO. Also, it probably dragged the porcupine away before going at it.

As an aside, this lead me to ask about what the other cat predators are in this forest. We also have:

Onça preto
This is the same species as onca pintada, but different coloring.

Onça parda
This is the same as the pumas we have in the US. So not that exciting. But this was the first big animal I saw at this field site back in 2012, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Jaguatirica
Ocelots: these are badass. Never seen one in the wild, really want to.

And not cat predators, but also awesome, are the two species of peccaries that we have on site:

https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caititu

and a larger kind:

Cool animals! Best thing ever!