This past week we went to a cloud forest in an area called Intag. On the way, we passed rose plantations, which we've been learning about in classes. The rose industry here is huge, but it also uses large amounts of pesticides, which not only affect the rivers and surrounding plants but also the health of the people who work there. We also stopped at the páramo, which is the high grassland ecosystem and learned about how it was formed by human use of fire. Quite interesting after learning about the history of fire in Professor Strick's class.
In the cloud forest we lived on a self-sustaining, organic farm where there were no flushing toilets (only outhouses), no hot showers (the heater was solar powered but it was always cloudy), and no electricity in the cabins. It was amazing hiking through the forest every day, learning names of plant families and getting to see and touch them (taste some of them even). The one morning we went out to find the cock-of-the-rock lek and we found it and got to hear the loud, boisterous squawks of the males and see their bright red feathers. It was kind of hard to see but still absolutely amazing. We also got to do some mist-netting and caught a strong-billed woodcreeper, a green violtear, a russet-crowned warbler and the golden-headed quetzal! It was the first time anyone had caught a quetzal in the nets at this place! It was so gorgeous (attached is the picture). I got to handle to russet-crowned warbler after it was measured.
Also, in Intag, there is a long interesting history of mining companies trying to construct open pit mines in the cloud forest because it is rich in copper. Rather than letting the companies in, the people living here have been putting up a fight and have so far successfully stopped the mining. I have also attached a copy of an article that one of the director's wrote about the mining problems there.
Now I am in Quito, living with a host family and taking classes at el Experimento de Convivencia Internacional. My Spanish is improving and I am hoping to write most of my papers, even the scientific ones, in Spanish.