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Archive for February, 2008

Apparently the secret to great clothes is having someone make them especially for you.  There is a little store here (La Chiquita) that makes clothes and does alterations.  They can make pretty much anything if you give them a picture or make a sketch, or you can bring in something to have them copy it.  I brought in my black cotton skirt and asked them to copy it in a different fabric and make it a little shorter so it would be about knee-length.  Today, one week later, I picked it up and it’s perfect!  And handmade just for me for only $12.  I love it and I can’t wait to have them make something else for me.  (Also, my home-stay is this weekend and I’m staying with the women who run La Chiquita!  I’m so excited.)

Tomorrow we will be starting on our Osprey research during the morning, then going out turtle-monitoring again all night.  Because only our group is required to go, this means we leave campus tomorrow around 5pm, catch and measure turtles all night, and then get back to school in time for breakfast and classes on Friday.  There might be room for sleep in there somewhere but I haven’t found it yet.  I’ll let you all know how that goes.

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Class canceled.

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Picture:  gray whale blowhole

Today was supposed to be another DR day, but everything was canceled because the wind was so strong it was too dangerous for our small boats to get out on the water.  The whale pic is from Tuesday.  Sorry, long week, not much motivation for writing.

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Picture: sea lion on a buoy in the Bay near Puerto Magdalena

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First directed research day.

Today was our first DR day (DR = directed research).  My DR project will be osprey conservation with three other students and Gustavo, the coastal ecology professor.  Gustavo’s other project is the sea turtles, so that means we do everything together as a group of eight.  Today was a turtle day, and we went out snorkeling in front of Puerto Magdalena, a really small fishing town on the barrier island across the bay from us.  What were we looking for you ask?  Dead turtles of course!  Because consumption of the turtles is illegal, locals often dump the shell and any remains into the bay to get rid of the evidence.  So we go looking for the shells, and if we find any we measure and photograph them.  But we didn’t find any, just a lot of tires and crab pots.  We spent an hour or maybe hour-and-a-half freezing for nothing, but I guess that’s a good thing.  (I did see a puffer fish though which was really cool!)

On the way back we saw four sea lions resting on the base of a buoy, we shut the engine off and just drifted closer, and we got so close!  Once we got to maybe 10 feet away, the male started barking and gesturing that this was his buoy and his girls and we better back off.  So we did.  But it was so cool.  They all sat up when we got close, and they’d look you right in the eye and you knew they were watching you.  It was amazing.  After leaving the sea lions, we also saw a gray whale, maybe 30 feet from the boat, but it dove and we didn’t see it again so we headed back to school.

Today was also our first day teaching English classes for the town.  I’m in the group that teaches the adults, which was slightly awkward with only two students and five teachers but hopefully more will come next week.

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Picture: Me measuring a turtle!

Day one: We were supposed to leave campus Wednesday morning at 9am, right after breakfast, but had to wait about two hours for the fog to lift enough for our little fleet of pangas to leave. There are so many of us, we never go anywhere without all four fully loaded. On the way there, we saw two gray whales, a mom and a calf! We just caught a glimpse of each before they dove and we didn’t see them anymore. We arrived at Estero Banderitas and set up camp while eating lunch, then had two lectures before dinner. We were split into groups for turtle monitoring, three four-hour shifts a night, two nights. My shift was the first, 8pm to midnight. The way it works is we go out at 8, check the nets (caught one!), then kill two hours by making a fire on a nearby peninsula and telling riddles and jokes with the pangueros (boat drivers) who teased me for being afraid of spiders, then check the nets again at 10. The nets must be checked every two hours or turtles can drown if they are held under for much longer while struggling against the net. The turtle we caught was a juvenile green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and we named him Arturo. Actually, “he” may turn out to be “she” in five or ten years because the gender is not easily determined until the turtles reach maturity.

Day two: Up and ready to measure turtles at 7am. The data we collect include body size, weight, presence of epibionts (ie. leaches, barnacles etc.), and a skin sample for genetics if the turtle is a new capture. New captures will be tagged as well. All of the information we compile goes into a database that many researchers in the area contribute to. The main organization is called Grupo Tortuguero. One of the biggest problems the sea turtles face in this area (along with bycatch and climate change) is that they are still eaten on the Baja peninsula and considered a delicacy, even though possession of any turtle products has been banned since 1990. After measurements, we had breakfast and more class. The turtles we caught were released at the site where we set the nets.

Day three (today): Our total catch was seven turtles, two the first night, and five more last night. This morning after measurements and breakfast we packed up to head back to school and stopped to release the remaining five turtles on the way. All-in-all it was a successful camping trip, I only saw three scorpions, a bunch of spiders, and one HUGE centipede, and no bites or stings. The desert at night is full of biting stinging creepy-crawlies and it makes me glad I live in Maryland.

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Michelada…

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Picture: Michelada (say “mee-chay-LAH-duh”)

Last night I had my first Michelada. Michelada = beer cocktail the size of my face. Get ready, this sounds gross but it’s so good. You add salt, lime, clamato (combo of clam and tomato juices that come canned together) and a little hot sauce to a glass rimmed with chili and spices. Then pour a Pacifico beer on top, garnish with celery or lime, and enjoy. I kid you not. And really, it’s good. The recipe differs a little by region I believe.

Sunday’s here are free days, no meal times (except dinner), no classes, no anything. So not much to tell except for last night’s adventures. Today was mostly lying around reading in the hammock, and sleeping in late of course.

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First time in the Pacific!

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Picture: The dunes, my first time in the Pacific Ocean!

Yesterday we had our first field lecture. We took the pangas (boats) across the bay to the dunes on Isla Magdalena, between the Bay and the Pacific, for our coastal ecology class. After the lecture (intro to the Bahia Magdalena ecosystem) we had some free time to explore and swim if we wanted to. I didn’t swim because I’ve had my fill of cold water for a while, but maybe eight or so students did. After lunch we went into Ciudad Constitución to get our pictures taken for our student visas. We got a visitor last night who’s staying until tomorrow morning. He is kayaking the entire Mexican coastline (because he wanted to see all the beaches), and has already been going for over three months. See http://www.abrahamlevy.com (click on “ligas” at the bottom, it’s in Spanish, but you can see the map and photos without knowing any Spanish).

Only one class today… they try to let us out early on Saturdays. Almost all of us went into town (in small groups though) to explore and check out some stores. The people here are generally friendly and patient with our broken Spanish… a couple speak a little English too so that helps. The kids are awesome and most yell to say hi.

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