Global Big Day 2015 at Los Amigos

A collared puffbird at Los Amigos on last month's Global Big Day. Photo by Jorge Valdez.
A collared puffbird at Los Amigos on last month’s Global Big Day. Photo by Jorge Valdez.

Wow, the results are in! Los Amigos Biological Station participated in this year’s Global Big Day on May 9th in a big way. Global Big Day a day on which birders worldwide attempt to record as many species of birds as possible within a 24-hour period.

The 4-person team at Los Amigos included University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Sean Williams. “My backyard in the Peruvian Amazon held more than 500 species in an area the size of Central Park, and I could not extinguish the blazing thoughts of the species I would encounter that day,” he wrote in a blog about the experience. 

By the end of the day, birders had seen a total of 308 species at Los Amigos—the fifth highest recorded site total in the world! Peru was also the country that saw the most bird species, totalling 1177 in all, almost a hundred more than the next closest country. (By the way, the two southeastern regions where we work, Madre de Dios and Cusco, saw the most bird species within Peru!)

Found Another One! New Frog Species Discovered at Los Amigos

New Frog Species Discovered at Los AmigosScientists have described a new species of frog from ACA’s Los Amigos Biological Station (known locally as CICRA). This species, Pristimantis divnae, belongs to the family Strabomantidae and lives in the leaf-litter and understory in terra firme forest at the base of Peru’s southern Andes. The species is characterized by a contrasting pattern of yellow and black with brown patches. The discovery of this new species of Pristimantis is significant because over the last 10 years only eight species from the genus have been found in the Amazon.

New Frog Species Discovered at Los AmigosEdgar Lehr from the Senckenberg Natural History Collection in Dresden, Germany and ACA scholarship recipient Rudolf von May from Florida International University’s Department of Biological Sciences describe this new species in the latest issue of the Journal of Herpetology (Vol. 43, No. 3).

This discovery comes on the heels of finding the Noble’s pygmy frog (Noblella pygmaea), which was recently described at ACA’s Wayqecha Cloud Forest Research Center. We are all excited to see what other new species will be discovered next! (Photos by Rudolf von May.)

Camera Traps Reveal Major Recovery of Fauna at Los Amigos

Camera Traps Tapir PhotoPhotos of animals like the ones here were recorded by three camera traps, each just 250 meters from the CICRA biological station in the Los Amigos Conservation Concession in Madre de Dios, Peru.

Set up by Joe Bishop of Pennsylvania State University and the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER), the camera traps are camouflaged cameras that are activated by movement, automatically photographing passing wildlife.

These cameras are instrumental for studies of nocturnal species or other rare mammals, and are commonly used because up-close study of these animals is difficult and potentially dangerous.

They have already shown that the fauna is abundant and diverse in the vicinity of the station, including four species of cats: jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Felis concolor), ocelot (Leopardus tigrinus, photo above), and margay (Leopardus wiedii), one bush dog (Atelocynus microtis), and ungulates like the tapir (Tapirus terrestris, photo to the left), South America’s largest Camera Traps Jaguar Phototerrestrial mammal.

At a mining camp on the opposite side of the Madre de Dios River, where miners are known to hunt for meat, the abundance of animals seems to be much lower than at the station, which demonstrates the important role of protected areas for the maintenance of healthy animal populations.

“We’re checking cameras that have been extremely successful on a weekly basis. Three are hardly 250 meters from the station; in other words, we are surrounded by animals,” said Dr. Adrian Tejedor, ACCA’s Science Manager.

Melding Art and Science at Los Amigos

Melding Art and Science at Los AmigosScientists are from Mars and artists are from Venus—right? Not at Los Amigos! This year our flagship station, normally overrun by scientist types, threw open its doors to the right side of the brain via a new resident artist program. Frances Buerkens, a student at Berea College, was our first artist. She spent two months at Los Amigos taking photographs of Amazonian wildlife, people and landscapes. One of her photos, reproduced above in the article on mercury contamination, was published in New Scientist with an article on the devastating effects of mining in tropical forests.

Since then a resident illustrator, Susan Cousineau, and poet, Kelly Egan, have shared the trails with scientists at Los Amigos. One recent afternoon our sweaty researchers returned to camp to find this on the bulletin board: “Poetry reading tonight.” And so instead of hunching over laptops to enter data, that day at sunset we all gathered around a candle in the garden and were treated to the first reading of a poem about life at Los Amigos.

None of this means that we’re losing our lead in science—it means we’re spreading the magic of the Amazon to an ever larger audience. We need herpetologists to write dissertations about those frog calls in the night, but we also need artists to remind us that what we’re hearing out there is music.

(Speaking of music, check out Gordon Ulmer’s jungle sounds dance remix recorded during this researcher-turned-DJ’s stay at CICRA!)