Friday, 25 January 2013

Conservation Biology Field Course, Mexico, Days 11-13

A tray of insect specimens in ECOSUR's zoology museum
in Chetumal. (Photo: Wai Yi)
We headed back to the forest on Day 11 for some experiments on ant-plant relationships at the INIFAP research station, San Felipe Bacalar.

On Day 12, we visited ECOSUR in Chetumal and visited their zoology museum for an in-depth tour of a working research museum. We were also shown the important forest bee work that is carried out by ECOSUR staff--not just the ecological research, but also conservation and bee-keeping advice.

The students prepared for and sat an end-of-field-course test on Day 13. Click on "Read more" for some more details, including photos.

INIFAP is a research organization, run by the Mexican government, and we were allowed to visit their station just outside San Felipe Bacalar. There is a long track through the forest which has a number of pioneer trees growing along it--including Cecropia and Acacia, both ant-plants. Student teams came up with hypotheses about the way the ants behave in response to various stimuli and the protection they might afford to their host plants. They then spent the morning testing their hypotheses experimentally, before returning to Chetumal to analyze and present their work to the rest of the group.

The forest track at INIFAP's research station, Bacalar. We
carried out a set of experiments looking at the
relationships between Cecropia and Acacia trees
and their ants (Azteca and Pseudomyrmex,
respectively). (Photo: Wai Yi)

Is this a new species of hobbit?
(Photo: Paul Ramsay)

A Pseudomyrmex ant and its host Acacia plant.
(Photo: Wai Yi)

A Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus braccatus).
(Photo: Wai Yi)

 During the visit to ECOSUR, we were given a guided tour of the zoology museum. It is a treasure trove of biological material, and essential for cataloguing the biodiversity of the region. Without places like this, the biodiversity would be less well known and the conservation of these species and their habitats much harder to achieve (for lack of solid information).

A drawer of trogons, to compare with the live
bird photographed yesterday (see above).
(Photo: Wai Yi)

Preserved specimens in the
museum. (Photo: Wai Yi)

One of many butterfly cases. The museum has carried
out valuable work to catalogue the butterfly biodiversity
of the Yucat√°n Peninsula. (Photo: Wai Yi)

A selection of toucans. (Photo: Wai Yi)

(Photo: Reanne Kelf)

A deer in a jar. Although this looks macabre,
specimens like this are valuable for scientific
study. For example, this specimen can be
included in a genetic study, without needing
to trouble deer in the forest.
(Photo: Reanne Kelf)

Forest bees play an important role in maintaining the
diversity of trees and other plants. They can also provide
economic returns in the forest. ECOSUR are promoting
traditional bee-keeping in the region and we were given a
good look at these fascinating insects. (Photo: Wai Yi)

Bees inside their hive. The honey was
delicious too. (Photo: Wai Yi)

A snake eating a bat in one of the trees above the ECOSUR
car park. (Photo: Wai Yi)


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