The Field Work Begins!

For two days we hiked, paddled a small (unsteady) boat across lakes, and dragged it from one lake to another.  We walked in forests, across fields, around lakes, and waded through wet areas (every time my waist went under I thought of the candiru).  During the annual flood, all these areas are under a few meters of water- a regular part of life on the floodplain.  The most surreal was our walk into a “floating forest” – basically a forest growing on a water-bed of vegetation that actually floats with changing water levels.  We saw a hole in the “ground” and pushed a stick 12 ft long into it, still not hitting the bottom.  One wrong step and we could have plunged through the forest “floor” and into the lake for an unpleasant swim.
-Getting around the floodplain is not easy-

We found eight arapaima nests thanks to a local expert.  I’m measuring each nest and noting information about the habitat.  As I did this, Rafael looked for nests of caiman, a species of freshwater crocodilian.  This is the season they reproduce and when he finds one, he pulls the angry parent off the nest, fits it with an ID tag, counts the number of eggs, and returns the parent.  Unfortunately, we didn't find any on this trip.  
-Taking measurement's of an arapaima nest-

Our first day’s lunch was dubbed “dog food” - canned fish, beans, and flour all mixed into a single bowl and only three spoons to go around for the six of us.  The next day we had some fresh fish cooked over the fire.  We washed everything in the river/ lakes and ate from the same bowl we used to bail the water from the boat.  Our drinking water came from the river (which I secretly zapped with a UV sterilizer).  Having traveling a lot, I’m aware of the precautions that I need to take to not get sick (such as water and types of foods to avoid).  But in some situation those precautions are hard or, in my case, impossible to follow (especially after all the batteries of my sterilizer died!).  At every bite or sip I thought this might be it.  Thankfully, I didn’t get sick... yet. We’ll see if and how long, that lasts.
-YUM- "dog food"-

-Fresh fish the next day!-

In the evening we played soccer with the locals and bathed in the river.  The mosquitoes were relentless and especially fond of my feet (which were tenderized from being in a wet boot all day).  We slept in hammocks draped in mosquito nets that were easily outsmarted by the mosquitoes that kept finding their way in.  
-At the community-

-The sun sets over the Amazon-

After two days of fieldwork, we went back to the city of Santarém, where I needed to figure out when to go back into the field… maybe on my own or maybe with Rafael or someone else- many things still unknown.
On the beach back in Santarém with all our gear

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