Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roya, the Coffee Fungus

The Roya fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) infects coffee leaves and the resulting leaf damage & discoloration gives it the common name of "coffee rust".  Roya hit El Salvador hard this season & it's estimated that half of the country's coffee plantations have been infected.  Climate change (wetter rainy seasons, dryer dry seasons) has exacerbated Roya across Central America.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day of the Dead in Nahuizalco

     Got the chance to celebrate the Day of the Dead in beautiful Nahuizalco.  In the background you can see the Santa Ana Volcano (left), Cerro Verde (middle), and Izalco Volcano (right). The debri field from the collapse of the Santa Ana summit (in the late-Pleistocene) reached the Pacific Ocean (40Km away) to form the Acajutla Peninsula.  Here's a cool paper by Siebert et al. 2003.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Salvador worm salamander

     An amazing find; this Salvador worm salamander (Oedipina salvadorensis) is an endemic species - and was recently separated from the more widespread O. taylori. Here's a cool paper justifying the split using its distinctive ecology: Brodie et al. 2012.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hardened lava flows of "El Playon"

     The San Salvador Volcano "Quetzaltepec" produced the eruption known as "El Playon" around 1658, which destroyed the town of Nexapa (later relocated & renamed Nejapa).  The picture above is an example of primary succession - the plants that colonized these hardened lava flows have to make do without any soil!  These early pioneer species will eventually prepare a soil matrix that will give way to other successional communities that can't thrive on bare rock - but the process is slooow, the flow picture above is just 354 yr old.  Here's a cool paper on successional "facilitation": Callaway 1995.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Variegated squirrel

     There are lots of subspecies of variegated squirrels (Sciurus variegatoides) in Central America, and the color morphs vary tremendously.  This little squirrel got zapped by a power line in Zaragoza (La Libertad, El Salvador) & I managed to get a quick picture while it was recovering in the crook of a Maquilishuat (Tabebuia rosea) tree.  Here's a great paper on that describes the geographical distribution of variegated squirrels in El Salvador: Owen & Girón 2012.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Achiote plant

     The fruit of Bixa orellana (Bixaceae), growing in the streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico! This is the source of Achiote - a colorant and condiment used in many popular dishes, such as yellow rice.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Western fence lizard (or Blue belly)

I caught this male blue belly (Sceloporus occidentalis) sunning on a rotting Oak log at the entrance to the Escondido Canyon Park trail.  The role of the blue coloration along the belly has long been believed to be for communication: (1) to tell females you're parasite-free, and/or (2) to recognize & contest other males of the same species!  Here's a great paper by Olsson et al. 2013.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mirador/ Look-out at Deininger National Park

I finally got a chance to visit Walter Thilo Deininger National Park.  This is an important park (732ha), as its the only protected area in El Salvador assigned to the preservation of Tropical Dry Forest - which itself is a fascinating mosaic of two habitat types: deciduous forest (which is leafless during the dry season) & gallery forest (which retains its leaves all year round).
This video is a 360 degree panoramic of deciduous & gallery forest, juxtaposed against a massive landscape of cultivars (including plantains & sugar cane).  Also, if you look carefully, you can see the Pacific Ocean in the background!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yellow-eared bat

I caught this amazing male yellow-eared bat (Vampyressa sp.) in my in-law's backyard!  It was a pretty exciting night, this was my time mist-netting in Zaragoza (La Libertad), El Salvador.  I couldn't ID the species; there are no field-keys for El Salvador - but that's also true for many other Central American countries.  Here's a great paper by Hernández-Dávila et al. 2012.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Botta's pocket gopher

We were just starting our hike at Solstice Canyon (Malibu, California), when we stopped to look at a couple of Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) & almost stepped on the home of this fantastic Botta's (or Valley) Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae).  
Solstice is very popular, so you can hear chit-chatting as people walk by us (without noticing the gopher!).  Once in a while you can even make out the knocking from the Acorn Woodpeckers!