By: Siddharth Shrikant Kulkarni, OTS PhD Student at George Washington University
I took the Tropical Biology course to learn what the title suggests. We all went through bonus training of time management and discipline. In CIRENAS, while we had about a zillion dishes to do with Fuller (Ryan) and Dang it (Anant), Jenny said “Guyyyyyyys, you have ten minutes…” and I joked “This is military training”! Six hours of sleep and rest working on field or lab work with deadlines for presentations and write-ups, it was a rigorous but worthy exercise. I am still realizing many of the impressions I have caught during the course and I’m sure that I will become aware of more after the course.
Post course, I went to La Selva Biological Station to collect spiders (the coolest organisms, of course). On a Friday, and as usual, it rained heavily while I was in the field, and I had to return for safety concerns. When it rains (or not), coffee is must, so I walked down the bridge, noticing that the rain was extraordinarily heavy and the water level had risen quite a bit, coffee colored itself.
On the bridge, I heard someone screaming “Ooooooooooooooh….poor little Iguana, Oh my gosh, I feel so bad.” That scream was almost ultrasonic, any higher frequency and the bats would have started gathering. It was a juvenile Iguana on a fallen tree branch, surrounded by water, finding a way to escape or possibly just chilling. It reminded me of a Tuatara trying to survive the Oligocene submersion, but this had nothing to do with the current situation, because I needed coffee. I too felt bad for the Iguana, but did not ‘try gathering bats’. I took some pictures and went for some coffee.
On the way back, the water level and the flow velocity had increased and I wanted to do something. Given my normal thoughts, I thought of diving in the water and getting it out, because “Iguana rescue you”. But then strangely, the clouds thundered and I heard a strict Jenny voice in my head “No, that’s a poor choice. There are crocodiles in the river.”, followed by scary Patricia voice “I am watching you”.
“I mean seriously! Even after the course is over?”, was my reaction.
Then it occurred to me that is important; these impressions of Jenny and Patricia that I carry are worthy in the career that I have chosen. They will always make me aware of the risk I want to take during fieldwork and reconsider if it is really necessary to do it. Thanks, Jenny and Patricia, my strict and scary pals.
While this thought process was going on, I took a video of the surrounding situation. The water flow was still rising and suddenly the fallen tree moved about a meter and got stuck somewhere else, which shook the Iguana badly. It reminded me of Adolfo saying “You can die here!”. I clicked my camera just as the Iguana jumped into water. It was forced across the bridge, but then grasped another fallen tree closer to the bank.
Given that I wrote six papers during last six weeks, there’s this habit now: the author would like to acknowledge the Iguana for participating in this study, the dining hall for the coffee, and the virtual Jenny-Patricia duo for the impressions they have scared me with for life.