After arriving back from camping, we settled back into a slightly different routine. The last part of the semester is focused on directed research, but we keep taking classes alongside it. Our first week back after camping was even more than slightly unusual due to the fact that two of our professors and one of our pangueros was in LA, presenting at a conference. As a result, we had a number of classes for Principles of Resource Management, including a very interesting class that focused on marine mammal captivity. The more we talk about this issue, the more conflicted I feel. On the one hand, I think it is incredibly valuable to have animals in order to conduct research. On the other hand, the current means of captivity are terrible. The tanks are much too small for the animals they hold, and they greatly disrupt the patterns these animals have been following for thousands of years. Thinking about this has taken up a lot of our semester, particularly after watching “The Cove”.
After class in the morning, we had time off for the first time since we’ve been here. I was working frantically on my directed research – comparing the 81 whales we photographed this season to over 300 other whales that have been photographed in the past ten years. While this was exhausting, and in some ways tedious, it was also interesting, and I ended up enjoying it. The week gradually progressed until the weekend, when two of the others and I had Sunday dinner. While we were more than the usual amount of frantic trying to prepare dinner, we also had an awesome time. It’s been so long since I’ve really been able to cook, and it’s a real treat. I am looking forward to heading back home and cooking again!
This week has been very busy. We had a letter to the editor due, a climate change presentation (which was very tense and frustrating due to a significant language barrier), and on Saturday, a presentation and ten page paper due on an environmental issue. We’ve also all been continuing to work on DR. It was very challenging trying to figure out how to budget our time to successfully manage all of our work. Nonetheless, we all managed. Our presentations went very well, and it’s a tremendous relief to be done with classwork. We have our finals for class this week.
In between the chaos last week, we did some really interesting things, including visiting the Center for Beneficial Insects in Constitucion. As part of the government’s attempt to reduce the dependence on pesticides, they have funded a project that breeds insects. These insects (particularly lacewings and parasitic wasps) are used to control other pests on crops. The center breeds them and then sells them to farmers within the region. There is a remarkable amount of agriculture in the area, and a number of organic farmers rely on these insects in order to avoid using pesticides. Visiting the center was very interesting, because, coming from the USA, you expect a certain level of quality in the actual building, particularly knowing that it’s funded by the government. In spite of being here for almost three months, my expectations still lead me astray. The building was still very rustic – the manager said the operation had been there since the 1970s, and it was clear that the building had been there as long. While so many buildings get face-lifts in the US, here, there simply isn’t the money, even for things funded by the government.
The rest of the week was devoted to DR. Due to bad weather, we didn’t end up going out as planned on Thursday, but did head out on Friday to monitor the sea lion colony one last time. It was really sad to think about the fact that it was probably our last panga ride, our last try to see dolphins and whales, and our last time seeing the sea lions. None of this occupied us for too long, however, because we were hiking, and then frantically counting the sea lions. We were hoping to get there when the tide was lower, but as we got there, it was clear that it was quite high, and getting higher. In order to be able to leave that side of Isla Mag, we counted hurriedly and set off to hike back across the island.
On Saturday, we all gave our presentations for our ECO class. My friend and I chose to study the Pebble Limited Partnership mine in Alaska, and found some very depressing things. While the mine hasn’t yet been built, the company is starting the NEPA process this summer, and is very committed to making the project work in spite of the blatant social, economic, and geologic issues surrounding the mine. Our presentation and paper turned out very well, and it was a huge relief to finally finish our class work.
This week, we head into the final stretch for DR – Results and Discussion are due today. We are also taking finals at the end of the week, and present on our DR next week. It’s going to be a busy week and a half, but I am excited to tackle all of it and go home!