Paul Hamilton is the leader of this expedition into the lower montane rainforest of El Oriente, Ecuador. We arrived at the Rio Bigal site on June 17th after crossing a 4000 meter pass over the Andes and did our training at Wawa Sumaco, below Volcan Sumac. We tromped in the creek behind our home for the night and recorded data on all the reptiles and amphibians we found, including a six foot long Rainbow Boa. I became entranced by the invertebrate life in these lower altitudes: leaf cutter ants, harvestman spiders, and beetles colored like delicious candy. We were warned to look closely at every branch before leaning or holding on because of thorns, snakes, and the (so far elusive) Bullet Ant who has a bite that hurts like a bullet and can cause a fever. Like we are wary of poison oak in our Bay Area habitat but sometimes get it anyway and survive, we have members of our group who have experienced this sting and live to tell the tale.
Morley Read is one of those people. A resident of Ecuador for 20+ years and originally from the UK, Morley joined our team as we traveled to Wawa. Morley makes his living as a photographer and filmmaker and uses his knowledge of Herpetology to assist Paul in expeditions at the Rio Bigal site and often other projects as well. He brings a wealth of experience to our group and leads one of the transect groups.
Brian Ravizza joined the team in Quito and brings his experience from two prior expeditions in Ecuador with RAEI. Brian is a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos and a member of the RAEI Board of Directors. I´m excited to have someone to collaborate with once I return.
Other members of our group are Matt, a college student and aspiring Herpetologist, and Bill, a Desert Tortoise researcher. And then there´s me.
How will we make the best of our alliance? Only time will tell!