Bugs, Sweat and tears - Sylvana Alta
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Bugs, Sweat and tears

Bugs, Sweat and tears

Getting to grips with ground crew work in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador
The things we do to get to the tree tops

There’s something about the ground based fieldwork of canopy research that make it a special part of every expedition. When I say ‘special’ I mean more on the side of gritty and patience-testing rather than warm and fuzzy. It’s something about working through the scrappy, messy, frustrating tasks before even getting off the ground that forms the backbone of the work and builds the team. Everyone enjoys the #canopyselfie moment but what the camera doesn’t show is all the hard work prior to make that photo happen.

Behind the smiling photo of someone gracefully dangling from the forest canopy surrounded by beautiful epiphytes and glorious greens there has been a lot of hard graft.

The hard graft

Choosing a research area and a SUITABLE tree; not dead, free of stinging beasties and angry monkeys is a good start. Just because there are trees for miles does not mean it’s an easy task!  Getting to said tree with everything and your wits intact is slightly more difficult when there aren’t any paths. Rigging the tree , well I can’t even begin to describe the horrors this can cause! I highly recommend @throwlineblues who offers a community resource to calm those frayed nerves and not take what the throw-line does to you personally. Setting up the work site whilst trying not to lose everything that comes out a bag and each other. Loosing and re-finding things repeatedly. It’s like everything that touches the forest floor gains the ability of a chameleon!  Then understanding the task at hand (often in multiple languages), preparing for the climb and trying to be and stay on the same page emotionally and mentally as everyone else,

Perhaps it’ not necessary to have photographic proof of all this, it’s possibly even best not to! However, recognition of the efforts made is important and it never ceases to impress me how teams of strangers come together to very quickly work through difficult situations in challenging environments and not only achieve solutions but also trust and laugh. We’re all adapting to everyone and everything else and no one is expected to look pretty or dignified. Embrace the mess. This is no small feat when climbing trees in the tropics!

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t sweat in the rainforest, get bitten by mosquitos or not get frustrated by the calamity of things not gone to plan, but if I do I shall ensure they are studied by science to discover the secret…until then it’s all part of the story, don’t skip any parts out, the messy ones are usually the ones we remember best and laugh about later..