Adventures in Panama

by Rebeka Mayhew

Today marks five weeks for me on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island in Panama and surveying the bird communities in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument. I am one of Daisy Dent’s PhD students and I am currently in Panama to examine how bird species and their functional composition changes in regenerating forests. Barro Colorado Island (BCI) is located in the artificial Lake Gatun in the middle of the Panama Canal.

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Brazilian research visas: a “how to?” get through the paperwork minefield and get into the field

I’m one of those lucky people that get to work overseas for fieldwork. And not just anywhere, I get to work in the Brazilian Amazon. I hope.

I say “I hope” because the long (and I mean long) process of actually being allowed to work in the Brazilian Amazon is still ongoing, and I leave in less than two months. I wanted to write this blog because behind the scenes of any field research and conservation – the “oooo I wish I was working in XYZ like you” type – there is often a bewildering maze of bureaucracy to get there. I’m going to focus on my experiences of research visas and permits for working in Brazil, but some of the general advice will be applicable no matter the fieldwork location. Continue reading

Stories of the forest: I

I am two weeks into a five-week stay at  Lopé National Park, Gabon. This is the first field trip of my PhD and I am here to meet the SEGC team and observe and learn about methodology that has been used over the last 30 years to collect the tree phenology data I will be analysing over the next few months. Firstly, Lopé is beautiful. It feels like a real privilege to be here, even for just a few weeks. The study station is a 12km drive from the nearest village in the middle of a truly un-hunted patch of forest and savanna. We regularly look up from breakfast to see or hear buffalo, elephant, duiker, colobus, parrots, mandrills (the list goes on…) just going about their business in front of us.

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A short history on the luck, failings and success of field work

This blog entry has been triggered by encountering the article: “let’s re-write the scientific paper1 flagged up by Anna Doeser on twitter.

It discusses how modern scientific papers are too formal and that we should: “… report our research more nearly as it happened; let us overcome our fear of revealing our humanity, our good luck, even our failings, and acknowledge the contributions from our intuition and imagination as well as the hard graft in the field and at the bench.” Continue reading

A scientist’s view of the European Parliament: How politicians approach data

The role of politicians is to formulate, debate, and enact policy. For this process to work effectively, they need high-quality, unbiased data. The way politicians choose and use data therefore has a profound influence on the world we live in. Likewise, the way scientists package their data will affect how policymakers view those data. This post discussing science-based policy comes from my time at the European Parliament as part of the British Ecological Society’s Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme.

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A short history of protected areas and thoughts on the North-South divide

Modern notions of conservation and development surfaced somewhere in the late 1800s (of course indigenous concepts of sustainability and the value of nature go back millennia). At this time there was (and largely still is) an economic divide between countries which had enjoyed/endured an industrial revolution and those that hadn’t, broadly falling across the North-South divide.

A pre-industrial society looks something like this:

Pre-industrial Society

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