University of Wisconsin–Madison

Day 29 – Sink or Swim

June 22nd, 2014 – Tiputini Biological Station

Today marks the terminal activity of an academic course. All students have come to dread this inevitability since the beginning of university time. Our final exam began with a special “summoning” of magical woodland creatures. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought Snow White was hired to proctor our exam, and I might just have been delusional enough to believe that. But back to reality… I did not know many of the answers on that portion of the exam. Sad. Let’s just move on to the field portion of the exam. The unforgettable ordeal…

I honestly just needed to awaken from my stupor. The levels of stress leading up to this examination were agonizing. I could not sleep for anticipation was eating away at my very soul, corroding the knowledge I had accumulated and encoded to memory over the course of this program. The written portion was more tangible as I could explain in detail the key ecological concepts with my words instead of my terrible visual identification skills. Wear your bins kids…

All in all, the exam was quite bittersweet. It is a massive amount of information to vomit on command. The sheets of paper managed to handle it all though, enough times for 10 students. But a sigh of relief escaped my face and we reached the end of this conglomeration of knowledge. We spent the past 4 weeks with our nose in notebooks, struggling to write down the facts being spewed at us, replicating the plants we saw in our field notebooks, smashing through pure and unadulterated jungle, experiencing extreme weather conditions and altitude ranges and, most memorably, hiking up and down hills all to get to this moment. The past 28 days have been hard. It was time to enjoy Ecuador.

In celebration of the conclusion of the academic part of this program, we made plans to take the canoes out for one last “lazy float” down the Tiputini River. A final observation of life in the Amazon. The W.T.F. For some of us, this trip meant completing their species list of all 10 monkeys specifically found at TBS (Joe L’Huillier and Laura Aprill) and for others it meant standing around and watching other people look at wildlife because they lack the tools of a field biologist (me…). Yeah, again I missed out on some prime ecological wonders. The quote of my time here: “No site for sore eyes.” But I wouldn’t let that stop me. I was going to have fun. And fun I did have.

And here we are, looking for stuffzzz.
And here we are, looking for stuffzzz.
One. Two. Jump!
One. Two. Jump!
Floating. Floating. Floating down the river.
Floating. Floating. Floating down the river.
Badgers are the rulers of this river!
Badgers are the rulers of this river!
Totally uncoordinated. But it’s in black and white. How can that NOT look good?
Totally uncoordinated. But it’s in black and white. How can that NOT look good?
“And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
“And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
As with all days on this trip, we must end with a sunset.
As with all days on this trip, we must end with a sunset.