July 12, 2018
Hello Everyone. Thanks for wanting to check out my blog! Fair warning, I'm not the best at keeping up with writing regularly, but I'm going to give it a go for this trip. For those of you that don't know, I am leaving the USA for Peru for the next 13 months or so to conduct my dissertation research with a Fulbright Fellowship. I study the hunting of mammals at mineral licks in collaboration with an indigenous group in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon, the Maijuna. Basically, mineral licks are sites in the rainforest where animals go to consume soil; soil that contains micronutrients key to the animal's survival. Hunters know where these sites are, and go there looking for game mammals ... presenting a conservation challenge. I'm heading to Peru to measure this effect, to make sure that people are not pushing animals extinct, and a lack of animals is not pushing the Maijuna extinct. This may seem like an exaggeration, but there are less than 400 Maijuna left in the world, making them one of Peru's most endangered indigenous groups.
I use a combination of camera traps, GPS trackers, and interviews to measure the impacts of hunting. Camera traps will be deployed at all of the 41 mineral licks identified in the Sucusari River Basin, where the Maijuna live, to capture photos of animals that visit the lick. GPS trackers and interviews will be used to see where the Maijuna are hunting, and what they kill. That's my PhD in a nutshell.
I was supposed to leave for Peru yesterday, but it didn't happen. That's not a surprise because I have a terrible history of missed flights, cancelled flights, delayed flights, etc. You might think that's an exaggeration too, but of the last 10 trips I have taken, only 3 have gone according to plan. Yes (mom) I know that lots of those were my fault. Anyway, I packed all my bags (the morning of, sorry Katie) and said a rough goodbye to Katie, only to find out that my flight had been delayed so long that I couldn't possibly make it to Peru in time. Delta kindly rebooked me and gave me my choice of seats. I then had to call Katie again and ruin her day even more by asking her to come pick me up from the train, and say goodbye to me again tomorrow instead. As it turns out, I had left my rain jacket at home anyway. Not a good thing to forget, but thank you Delta Airlines for letting your flight fall through so that I could go home and get it.
Now, today, I am in Atlanta which hopefully means I'm headed to Lima soon. I will spend two days in Lima meeting with US Embassy officials and the Fulbright Commission, then I'll fly out to Iquitos. For the first week in Iquitos, Mike (my PhD advisor) and I will be scheduling lots of meetings trying to get logistics worked out with all sorts of people to make sure someone will know and help if I'm lying in the forest dying from a snake bite or something. Unlikely, but necessary to plan for. For the second week, we are teaching a field course to 10 George Mason undergraduates on conservation and sustainability in the Amazon; a course that combines culture with environmental justice and conservation. It's a grand time. Week 3 begins the research adventure, where I'm going to drop off the map and I'm on my own!