Field of Science

Into each forest some rain must fall

Students in an intellectual sense know that rain forest means a forest community of high rainfall, but until they experience rain in the tropics they will not have an true understanding of what we speak. Following a mini-drought of six rainless days a system has moved in from the Caribbean, bumped into the central cordillera and the rain began to fall. It's a medium high overcast and it produces a very steady rain, about a 2.5 out of 10 on the tropical rainfall scale, but after a couple of hours out in the forest, you are quite wet, except for your head and shoulders tucked under you umbrella. This is also when students learn that a good pair of tall rubber boots are their best friends, and when a mud hole trys to steal one, you'd better help pull your friend free. Still is was a productive morning for my ducklings splashing along behind me. The Phactor managed to help them find several ant plants, plants that interact in a mutualistic manner with ants: balsawood and cercropia saplings, a piper, and a melastom. Found a place where fruit-eating fish could be fed fruit. This is an important part of doing field research: if you cannot find your research organism say in a week or two, some die-hards would give it a month, then you'd better find something else to study. The Phactor has always found his plants; they've just refused to cooperate by flowering whenever he was present, but the nice thing about the tropics is that some other interesting thing is just right over there. The low rumbling from the east would suggest that the Aztec weather gods do not think students have learned this lesson yet, and as this is being typed, the rain has gone up another notch to about a 3. Still there is little chance this will set any records for us; a field trip back in the 1990s recorded 474 mm in 8 days. That's why they call it rain forest.

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