Monthly Archives: November 2015

2016 Bioacoustics Team

Imagine a world where scientists have access to every sound of every species on the planet at the click of a button. Imagine what that data could be used for in the field of biology and conservation. Tremendous results could be derived from the sounds of animals, ranging from the anthropogenic impact on vast ecosystems to determining the biomass of a given creature.

This is one of the ultimate goals in the field of bioacoustics and it all starts with the digital collection of quality audio. It is the 2015-2016 Forman Rainforest Project’s Bioacoustics Team that will attempt to achieve this collection for the betterment of the rainforest and the world. Since 1992, the team has been recording sounds of various species in the Costa Rican rainforest for the database at the Macaulay Library of Cornell University. Our goal this year is to continue submitting recordings to the library, but with improved recording equipment. We will be using Cornell’s sound analysis software called Raven to compare and analyze the recordings in the field, which will allow us to look over the quality and continuity of the recordings. We will continue to build better collection and microphone techniques for the optimum sound when recording.

Aidan Keilty, Patrick, and Zachary LaRocca-Stravalle ’17 will do their best to advise the Bioacoustics Team this year. While bioacoustics may seem unnecessary now, it plays a major part in the surveillance of the ecosystem’s health and makes it easier to take population inventories without displacing animals. The 2015-2016 Bioacoustics team will work to contribute to the vast repository of recordings to obtain such a goal and make the world a better place for all animals.

 

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2016 Spider Silk Team

Greetings! We are the 2016 Spider Silk Team! Our names are Will Dietrich ’16 and Davis Ebbert ’16, and we are very excited about our project. Currently, we are researching everything available about spider silk and hope to discover more on our own.

The newest update regarding spider silk involves a company named The North Face. This company is well known in the sport adventure industry and creates winter jackets from which any ametur or professional can benefit. This new product has been named the “Moon Parka.” North Face, as well as many other companies, have given in to the global craze over spider silk. This is because it is one of nature’s stretchiest and strongest materials known to mankind. Spiber Technologies has been working with North Face extensively and has helped them create this new product. By isolating the gene responsible for the production of fibroin and introducing it to a bioengineered bacteria, the new product is an artifical silk that can be collected and spun. Spiber Tech mentioned in a statement that they developed this product with the thought in mind that most sports apparel out in the world creates harmful greenhouse gases and creating a product that is renewable is very important to society.

The difference between spider silk and biotech artificial silk is enormous. The strength of natural silk from the nephila clavipes spider cannot be replicated in any lab and is immensely stronger than artificial biotech. Spider silk from nephila clavies is [200%] stronger than synthetic silk and hold the record as the strongest natural fiber known to man. In short, natural silk is more impressive than biotech. What that really means is that the silk that our team extracts in the field will be better than any artificial spider silk project out there to date. Biotech silk involves the introduction of bioengineered material to the natural silk to try and create the toughest fiber known to man. That being said, the fiber our team extracts still holds the record for the strongest natural silk known worldwide. This has been tested by Tufts University and all silk has been found both credible and valuable.

We work with nephila clavipes spider, which holds the record as the strongest natural fiber known to man. We have developed a patented method for extracting spider silk and then test is elasticity. Last year’s Spider Silk Team set a new strength record when testing spider silk strength and elasticity. This year, we hope to beat that record and rebuild our spider farm down in Costa Rica.

Our plan is to take our team of trained field biologists down to the Costa Rican Rainforest and extract more natural fiber than we could even imagine. Last year, the Spider Silk Team extracted nearly 35,000 feet of fiber, and this year we are determined to take silking to the next level. We will practice silking spiders in the classroom prior to arriving in Costa Rica; that way we will be more than ready to take this year’s production to new heights. We will be stress testing all silk produced, and importing all data into a Glacier Computer (military grade laptop). This information will give us an idea as to the tensile strength of the silk and how the silk has matched up to previous spider silk extractions.

We will be keeping you updated with our progress in the coming months and we are excited to share what learn and discover.

2016 Mammals Team

We were very excited when we discovered that the Rainforest Team is adding mammal research to our project this year. We knew that our School had not done mammal research in a while and we were thrilled to get it started again. After in-depth research, we found out that no one has ever tracked the mammals we are looking for in Costa Rica. Caroline Herdje ’16 and Maureen Harris ’16 wanted to be a part of the Mammals Team because we love animals and wanted to learn more about them, especially the ones in Costa Rica, where we will be going in early March. There are so many mammals in the rainforest and we want to find out more about them and their habitats. While in Costa Rica, the Mammals Team will also be doing a population inventory. This is seeing what there is in a specific area.

We hope to track the Baird’s tapir, common grey four-eyed opossum, watson tree rat, vesper rat, dusky rice rats, coatimundi, and the vested anteater. Every tracking method varies on the species of the animal. There are a variety of ways to track animals on the ground. One of the methods we will use is an infrared laser camera. These cameras use laser technology that capture detailed images and can send the data from miles away. The cameras are mounted on branches deep in forest. We will check their data twice a day for two weeks. Another method we will be using is the tracking pad. After the animal is caught, we would attach a device to its collar, and will be able to see the animal’s movements. We are trying to figure out a way for the collar to fall off naturally because it would be hard to catch the same animal again. Another method we will be using is telemetry, which is an automated communication process in which it tells the measurement of data from far away sources by wire, radio, or special equipment for monitoring. Furthermore, we also use traps as a method of tracking. These traps help us catch animals close to their natural habitat. The traps are also very useful for taking measurements and making scientific observations. Furthermore, using an accelerometer will be beneficial when we are in Costa Rica. An accelerometer is an instrument for measuring acceleration using the vibration of a machine, building, or other structure. Additionally, we plan to use collars and home range usage for tracking the accelerometer. The last method we will use for on-ground trapping is a mist nest for bats. The net is set up in such a way that when the bats move to try and escape from the net, the net moves in a different way and entangles the bat.

Eighty percent of all species live in Central America. We hope to find out as much information as we can regarding the mammals in the rainforest and are hopeful that our equipment and ways to trap them will work. We are setting up six different cameras to take pictures during the day and night so we don’t miss anything. Doing our research will help us identify what type of species live in a certain animal and how much movement they do each day and where they go. Below are the pictures of the animals we want to catch.

Baird’s tapir

Bairds tapir

Common grey four-eyed opossum

Four-eyed opossum

Watson tree rat

tree rat

Vesper rat

vesper rat

Dusky rice rat

rice rat

The vested anteater

anteater

Coatimundi

coatimundi

2016 Reptile and Amphibian Team

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Blue-sided tree frog – Agalychnis annae

Chytrid fungus, specifically Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is the one of the worst diseases in history. Chytrid fungus is a deadly skin disease that caused the population in many countries, such as Australia, South America, North America, Central America, New Zealand, Europe, and Africa, to decline. While many Amphibians are killed by chytrid fungus, some have been known to be resistant to chytrid fungus such as the American bullfrog. The goal of the Reptile and Amphibian team is to understand why the disease, chytrid fungus, is wiping out the population. Max Gamblin and Allison Herdje are proud members of the 2016 Reptile and Amphibian team. Allison wanted to join this team because when she was younger, she had a frog, and wants to know why a lot of them are dying so she can save them. Max wanted to join the team because ever since he was little he always liked reptiles and he hopes he can learn more about them and how he can save them from chytrid fungus. Sometimes it is hard to know if an animal has this horrible disease, so Max and Allison will be conducting laboratory testing to see if the animal has it. A chytrid fungus infection is spread through the transmission of a fungus called zoospore. Chytrid fungus is very important because it is capable of infecting most of the 6,000 species of amphibians of the world. The way an amphibian dies from chytrid fungus is when its skin is infected by the fungus, it’s skin hardens. This does not allow the amphibians to drink because they drink through their skin along with important salts into their bodies. This change in electrolyte levels in the animal causes the animal’s heart to stop and cause it to die. Please check back and help us save amphibians and reptiles!

 

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Green Iguana

GlidingTreefrog Agalychnis spurrelli

Gliding tree frog – Agalychnis spurrelli

Video

2016 Rainforest Team

Introducing the 2016 Rainforest Team!