How to become an amateur biologist 101

Hey everyone!

These past few weeks at Dinalab have just flown by. I have already seen so much amazing flora and fauna, met so many cool and nice people, and learned a lot about laser cutters, 3D-printing and plastic recycling. My first week here was mainly about settling down, exploring Gamboa and meeting the community. I went on my first hikes in the jungle and I also got to be acquainted with Teri, the plastic version of cookie monster and learned about p2 and p5 plastic. 

In my second week I started exploring and reading about the framework that is the basis of my project here, namely Umwelt. This concept concerns the subjective realities/worlds of other organisms. Every organisms’ world is constructed on the basis of its sensory perceptions and how they interact with their environment. In simpler worlds, I am interested in how other animals and organisms see, or rather experience, the(ir) world(s) and what these worlds look like. I hope to get a better idea of these worlds by studying and experimenting with them, and hopefully be able to create an output where people can experience these worlds themselves.

During this week, I also started volunteering at APPC and met Valencia the taipir, Lupe the nyeke, Lucy and Lucio the spider monkeys, Marco Antonio the tortoise and dozens of cute sloths. Furthermore, we went to the Mola museum, organised a bike repair with Andy, photographed and modelled for Chelsea’s cute selfmade earrings and had some nice sunset hangouts 😊

The third week was more about creating a plan for my project for the upcoming weeks and months. Together with Andy we created a plan and I filled in some form for my programme in Leiden. Andy and I started putting together the plastic extruder, went on a cool night hike and as icing on the cake I went to Coiba and Santa Catalina with lovely people from STRI.

In the fourth week, I started experimenting and studying my first organism in questions, the Leafcutter Ant. I learned about their pheromone trails, for example how they can be manipulated (😈) and that they can (at least) reach to 70 meters (🤯). Also it was interesting to see how well-organised the trails look from above, but when you start zooming in you see how every ant doesn’t really know what its doing; what a relief, they are just like us 😜. 99% of the time the ants will bump into each other, walk one way and then from one moment to the next the other way and they will carry leaves that are way too heavy which are dropped multiple times on the way. Fun fact: they also like chiliflakes and garlic.

This week I am learning more about bats and agouti’s, stay tuned!

Lieke