Friday, February 25, 2011

Last day on Barro Colorado island

This is last day on the island and I wish I could stay longer. I have one more broadcast at 12:30 to Hazal Elementary. Our boat leaves at 3:40 and we will go back to panama city. Tomorrow we are going to see ships go through the panama canal locks.

One of my mom's favorite sayings is that education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. All of the people here who have helped me learned so much really have the gift of lighting a fire in a kid. Those people are Jackie and Greg Willis, Katrina, Nancy, anna and Harry and I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank them for this awesome experience.

More from panama tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The panama canal

The island that we are on is actually the top of a mountain that was flooded when lake gatun was created for the panama canal. The canal was built between 1904 and 1914 and it is 45 miles long. The canal lets ships pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Before that, ships would have to travel an extra 8,000 miles and go around the bottom of South America. The canal has three locks and it takes about 15 hours to go thru the whole canal. From the Institute, we can see ships going towards the canal or away from the canal. I'm leaving right now to hike to the eastern edge of the island where you can see ships close up.

The rainforest is alive

One of the most awesome thingsbhere is that if you stay quiet and standstill for a couple of minutes, you begin to see all kinds of mammals, birds, insects and monkeys. I have gone on one or two long hikes thru the rainforest every day and have seen five different kinds of birds: toucans, parrots, fly catchers, guanos, and squirrel coo-coos. I've seen howler monkeys, capachin monkeys and yesterday I saw a spider monkey and her baby. There're lots of agouti around. An agouti is a rodent that is maybe 10 pounds. It's head looks like a like a squirrel except it has a longer snout and tiny ears. Really funny looking. They don't bother you if you don't bother them.


There are 72 species of bats on this island and they eat Mosquitos. The most awesome thing about bats is that they have built in sonar just like a submarine. The bats emit a sound thru their nose that is directed at a specific object like a tree. The sound bounces back to their ears which tells them where they are in relation to the object. This navigation system is how bats can detect bugs. But they also have an excellent nose and can smell mice, birds and reptiles. But bats also have a lot of enemies like owls, snakes, hawks, and eagles so it's a good thing they can fly so fast.

Vinny the Vine Snake

I've learned a lot about snakes around here. The only one that is deadly is called a ferdelance. Other snakes have venom, but not enough to hurt a human. Even though the mouth of a snake is very small, it has ligaments at the back of it's jaws and on the side that let the snake open it's mouth very wide and swallow small reptiles. We caught a small vine snake on Sunday and I have held him in all of the broadcasts to schools. I've named him Vinny. He is rare because he has a prehensile tail that let's him wrap around branches and vines so that his head can reach little lizards.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The mammals I have see so far are the tamandua which is an anteater that feeds on ants and termites.  The head, legs, and tail are grey, but the body is black which makes it look like it is wearing a vest.  I have also seen several agouti which is a large rodent maybe around 15 pounds with a big round belly, short ears and no tail.  And I saw a brocket deer for just a second before it got scared and ran away.  I haven't seen any big cats  like the ocelot and margay because they go out only at night.

TV broadcast day

Tuesday morning, some high school teachers and students from panama came to the island to be in a rainforest broadcast to some schools in new jersey. The students talked about the history of the island and all of the different animal and plant species here. I got to spend some time at lunch with Miquel who is in 9th grade. We are going to connect up again on psp2 when I get home. These teachers and students were so nice and very friendly. The Panamanian people treat you like you are family or old friends. I have a lot of photos that I will post later today.