Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Field Update:Nest Climbing in Bateke

A new field update from the Batéké Plateau in Gabon where Bradley "Bo" Larson and Ivonne Kienast  have been working as temporary research site (TRS) managers for the MPI-EVA Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee's collaborative research site with the Aspinall Foundation and l'Agence Nationale Des Parcs Nationaux Du Gabon.

Ascending a tree with a chimp nest
Usually our site managers have a super tough time getting hairs and samples from chimpanzee nests, but Bo is an experienced tree climber which made getting samples from Bateke, just a little bit easier than at our other sites.

Bo writes:
Nest Climbing

As scientists we take our jobs very seriously. We believe in the scientific process, and the steps we take to ensure good results. This often requires long days, in temperamental weather, just to pick up some poop, catch a few termites, or collect a few animal hairs. It may sound odd to you, but we absolutely live for it. In fact, life is incomplete without it. When we find a fresh nest, or get a strong whiff of what is “left behind” after a chimp's fruit binge, uh, there's nothing better in the world! We jump up and down, we do happy-dances, and the rest of the day is that much better for it. That being said, there is no lie in saying that certain methodologies of sample collection can range from odd to down-rite gross to back-breaking-ly difficult. While finding a sample site overwhelms us with joy, the actual collecting of certain sample types can pose a challenge. Nests are a good example of a challenging collection site. When fresh, they they can be a gold mine for hair, urine, or fecal samples, so we do anything we can to reach them. At the Batéké National Park TRS, we use technical climbing equipment to reach the nests that chimpanzees build in the canopy at night.

Chimpanzee nests can range from a mere 5 meters (15 feet) off the ground, to as high as 25+ meters (75+ feet) in the canopy.
View of a fresh nest from above (notice field assistant on ground below)
The equipment allows us to safely achieve such heights, as well as giving us security while we search the nest and surrounding branches for samples. 
Searching a nest for samples
The view from the canopy is incredible, it's no wonder chimps love sleeping up here. 
Hanging in the canopy
After the nest is searched, and samples found, we make our way safely to the ground.  
Descending from nesting tree
It's hard work, but SO worth it!  
Ah, finished!

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