Sunday started off with an absolutely wonderful surprise! We got to sleep in until 7:30am instead of 5:30am. Everyone seemed so much happier and well-rested with just 2 extra hours of sleep. Also, we got to eat breakfast before going into the field, and it was a hot breakfast that didn’t just consist of bread and butter. We were served the traditional Peruvian Sunday breakfast of chicken or beef tamales. Tamales are a meat and spice combination wrapped in a banana leaf and baked until they are steaming. Most of the Peruvians add onion, aji sauce or avocado to their tamale to give it a little extra flare. Ric, of course, tried everything on his.
The rest of the day was spent talking about how to prepare for the guano harvest. The guano workers are starting to arrive by the car load, and a plan needed to be put in place. We decided to break up into teams for the rest of our time here. Ric is paired with Hector, a pinneped and penguin keeper at Moody Gardens in Texas, and I am paired with a Peruvian student named Daniel. Daniel is an amazing person who speaks English very well and who loves learning everything he can about anything. We work very well together, and we have a similar way of thinking, so we should make a great team in the field!
Ric and Hector have a special task for the rest of their time here at the reserve: Since they have the best cameras, they were chosen to take pictures of the beaches that have more than 3,000 animals on them, and then see if they can find an easy way to conduct an accurate census on a computer. The hypothesis behind this method is that they could just take a picture of these beaches and then not have to worry about losing their place, or counting the same animal twice if it is moving around, etc. So Ric and Hector have an interesting few days ahead of them. If this plan works, it will really help the Punta San Juan Project out in the long run.
Alle and Daniel, on the other hand, are Guano Team 1. Which means they are the first pair to observe the guano workers once they get started. It will be our job to watch the workers and make sure the penguins, sea lions, fur seals and other birds in the area are not being disturbed by the harvesting. We will be monitoring the animals’ behaviors and making sure that they remain happy and safe.
This is Ric now: The harvest is coming close to beginning. After breakfast on Monday, the Team discussed the process for the next couple of days and how we are going to accomplish the tasks at hand. The main goal is to monitor the impact of the workers on the reserve. This is important data to collect as this reserve is a model for other protected areas and their future.
Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 will be a day of establishing the perimeter and gathering more base-line data. Two-member teams were selected to perform different tasks; monitoring the north beaches, monitoring the south beaches and then monitoring the guaneros and the animals at the harvest sites. As Alle mentioned, Hector and I have the most interesting task.
This is Alle now:. Monday was a lot of fun here on the reserve. The guano teams had a special mission to complete today since the harvest had not started yet and there were no workers to observe, so we did our own version of Extreme Makeover, Punta San Juan Edition! There is a net that goes around the back of the house here on the reserve that is used for privacy and for catching stray feathers that go flying around in the wind. Well, this net was getting old and needed to be replaced. So, we tore down the old net and put up a new one. This sounds easy enough, however, it ended up being a good five-hour task!
We had to move tons of cinder blocks, wood and rocks out of the way so we could access the net, then we had to cut down the old net, and then we had to re-hang the new net and place hundreds of zip ties and rope around multiple points to ensure that it didn’t blow away. This task was made extra challenging because a Peruvian desert sand storm came through and sand was blowing in our eyes, ears, mouths, etc. So we had to stop for a little while and hope that our work didn’t literally blow away. We got to finish our task later, and we ended up cleaning the entire outside of the house and making it as neat as possible. The researchers here at Punta San Juan were extremely grateful and said we went above and beyond what they needed from us. We all felt good giving back to the research site here by helping them with the general maintenance of the property.
Well, we are having issues with the internet connection here, so hopefully we can update more in a day or so when we have a better connection. Also, our next update should include some of the guano harvest progress! Hope everyone is doing well at the WAVE Foundation and the Newport Aquarium! We miss you all!