How To Become An Amateur Biologist 102

Hey everyone!

It is time for a new sequel on ‘how to become an amateur biologist’, edition 102! More and more I am becoming a true Gamboadian, but more importantly an amateur biologist! Little by little I start to recognize different birds’ songs, calls, colours and shapes and know how to name them. And I love it!! The same accounts for insects, butterflies and to a much lesser extent bats, all thanks to Kitty, Andy and my friends at STRI. At the animal rescue I am also learning so many fun facts about the sloths 🙂 Did you know that sloths are the only mammals whose hair grows downwards instead of to their extremities? No, me neither!

The past three weeks I have been working on multiple things. I have been gathering more information about agouti’s and bats. A few times I had the privilege to join STRI’s Bat lab on their netting expeditions, feeding training and experiments. Leonie, a bat scientist, has taught me so much about Trachops. Trachops are frog eating bats that locate the sound of the Túngara frogs, and with that the frogs itself, with echolocation. Even when the frogs have stopped croaking the bats know where to locate them because of the ripples they make in the water. So, very cool bats. Also, they also just get bonus points for being so darn cute.

Besides observing bats and agouti’s, I have been trying to study them by modelling something of their behaviour in P5js, an online JavaScript editor which allows you to program visually. I organised a small workshop where scientists got an introduction to this programme and got to try out their own ideas about their own subjects of study. Andy and I also reorganized the hardware room, so things are way easier to find now! 🙂

Next to my big project, I am also creating toys for the animals at the rescue center. Last week I, with the help of Andy and some residents at Adopta, have created a first prototype of a food enrichment toy for the spider monkeys. This toy is entirely made out of recycled plastic (besides the metal zip ties which connect the recycled pentagons)! I am very curious what the monkeys think of it, and whether the design works or not. Only time will learn. In the future I want to make other recycled plastic toys, for example cubes with bells, rocks or anything that can make sound. Monkeys love making noise, so I would love to make their life more noisy (and more irritating for us 😉). Serena, my new lab buddy, arrived last week and from the beginning she was thrown deep into the Dinalab hole. Together with Jessie, Andy, Serena and I we made a device where the strength of a butterfly can be measured!

Besides studying animals, programming and creating toys, I have had several very inspiring meetings with a few member of the Gamboa community. I met with Mulget Amaru. Yes that is right. It is the man who is running from Patagonia all the way to Alaska. Because of the pandemic his journey was being put on hold, and he stranded in Gamboa. He has told me some amazing stories about his adventures across the Americas, and he has taught me wonderful things about his home country Ethiopia. Next, Patricia and Yoel, besides being my neighbours and landlords, are two amazing artists which excel in different artistic disciplines such as piano, theatre and visual art. I have had some lovely talks with them over coffee and I hope there will be many more to come. Patricia and Yoel also brought me in contact with Grace. Grace is a writer and a poet. She writes amazing poetry based on her sharp and detailed scientific observations. I also came to know that her husband was Ray Solomonoff, one of the founding fathers of the field of Artificial Intelligence, which is so cool! Unfortunately, she was leaving in a few days since I met her, but she really has inspired me with her poetry and the amount of wisdom that she has. So, putting that in my back pocket for the future 🙂

Of course there was also lots of time to have fun in the past three weeks. I have been to a music festival, organised a potluck dinner party, went on a trip to Boquete and climbed Volcan Barú, sneaked up on the canopy tower, again had some nice sunset hangouts and ate pizza every week at the local bakery here. The next upcoming month I am going to experiment with Arduino and have lots of fun with it. Can’t wait to tell you more in ‘How to become an amateur biologist 103’!

Lieke

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

Lieke van Zijl

Hi everyone! I am Lieke and for the upcoming three months I will be a visiting researcher at Dinalab 🙂 My mission here is to fulfill my life long dream to become an (amateur) biologist, to learn more about trees and leaf cutter ants for example, and to combine this knowledge with my background in Media Technology. I hope to gain more skills in Arduino, 3D-printing and interaction design in general. For my own project, I am very much interested in how different animals and other organisms perceive their worlds, what these realities actually look like, and more importantly what we can learn from this. I just started with the project, so the concept and end product are still a mystery for me. However, I am super excited to work on it and see how and into what it develops!

Paula Te

Time lapse photo welding a toy for the tapir

After teaching the Materials of Electronics class at CIID with Andy, I visited the Digital Naturalism Laboratories for 5 days.

During my stay, we made laser cut Búho de Anteojos earrings, macrame plant holders, repaired a bridge, and welded a tapir toy!

David Defilippis

I’m a graduate candidate at Marquette University in Wisconsin USA. I study community ecology in tropical forests primarily using trees and lianas. I’m also an embedded systems engineer and have designed various scientific sensors. At Dinalab I am working on some embedded computer vision and machine learning projects to study animal behavior.

Touch Tire

Here’s code and designs for making a simple tire into a touch sensitive input that can really be smashed around!

also available in the ART&&CODE zine

The Zine

Sample Cap Touch Code here. Library is embedded in the code, so just upload and go!

https://github.com/quitmeyer/WorkshopFieldCode/tree/master/Plant%20Touch

Just connect something metal between Analog Port A0 on your Arduino to the metal insides of the tire (preferably a chain or something that gives you some distance!)

Leaf Cutter Empire – Educational Game

With the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Q Digital platform, we were commissioned to make an educational game about the life cycle of leaf-cutter ants. Explore how the colony works by chopping leaves to feed the fungus, defending the ants from parasites, and finding new mates to spread your leaf-cutter empire!

You can see it all on STRI’s Qdigital https://stri.si.edu/education-outreach/qdigital/leaf-cutter-empire

Produced by Digital Naturalism Laboratories for The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Q Bus.

Development by Brian Boucher, Bilal Cheema, Steven Solof, and Andrew Quitmeyer

Art design by Kitty Quitmeyer

Scientific advising by Dr. Hannah Marti

Music and Sound Effects by Dan Singer https://ridgedchippies.bandcamp.com/releases

Wearable Ant Farm Workshop at PIFcamp

This year the incredible PIFcamp was ant-themed! So in conjunction with our research about modular insect sensors, we got to lead a workshop on Wearable Ant farms.

Read a great breakdown of the entire workshop with pics and videos in Cherise Fong’s nice article about it in Makery:

Here’s some of the awesome videos put together by the PIFcamp excellent documentation crew including our introductory lecture!

Flatten the Curve – CoViD-19 Simulation Game

We created a CoViD-19 simulation game for Q?-Bus at STRI. The goal is to let people get a better understanding of how diseases spread, and the effectiveness and consequences of different approaches.

Created by Brian Boucher and Andy Quitmeyer for STRI Q-Bus

Version in English