09 November 2008

The day before Obama Day and I'm sick as a dog

03- 05 November 2008

Image: This is one of two Andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus) or culpeos that lived on either side of the Aduanas (immigration) building on the Bolivian side of the Chile-Bolivia border. These animals have been habituated and are always looking for a hand out. This little guy approached me and was about five meters away when I took this shot.

After spending two days acclimatizing in San Pedro (at 8000ft), it was time to go even higher. On 03 November, we left for Laguna Verde National Park in southern Bolivia. This reserve is situated on the Altiplano and is at 14,000ft.

Image: We stopped briefly for a photo opp about 30 miles from the Bolivian border. This is the sacred mountain, Lincanbur, in the background. This is one of the 19,000ft volcanoes we will be climbing during this expedition.

Well, I don’t know exactly what happened to me, but I got really sick. It may have been the poorly washed raw carrots that I ate en route to Laguna Verde National Park, or it may have been something else. Whatever it was it resulted in projectile vomiting and diarrhea at 0200hr in the morning. Admittedly, I have a bad time with food poisoning. It turns me into a winy five year old boy with a tummy ache. I’ve been beaten up by caves, I’ve competed in tortuous endurance races, but food poisoning has always been a weakness for me. This is something that I need to work on, but I’m not looking to get sick just so I can “man up” when it comes to throwing up.

Image: A small mixed flock of Andean (Phoenicopterus andinus) and Chilean (Phoenicopterus chilensis) flamingos feeding on Laguna Blanca, Bolivia. Andean and Chilean flamingos have black and dark pink tail feathers, respectively. Andean flamingos are listed as "Vulnerable" on the The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

On 04 November, we were scheduled to go to Uynie. The closest town in the Altiplano. This involves an eight hour drive across rugged dirt roads. The expedition doc decided that I was to remain at the reserve. I was glad because I felt horrible. However, because the purpose of this little outing was to obtain our tourist visas, so we could remain in country, they took my passport, and this is where it gets interesting…

Well, I slowly recovered from my bout with food poisoning. I’m not a 14,000ft elevation and the body tends to recover much more slowly from an illness when at high elevation and low oxygen. As I was getting over the food poisoning, a gnarly cough set in. Due to the high elevation, my cough was dramatically exacerbated.

Image: Employee bunk house, Laguna Verde National Park.

As it turns out, the team is delayed by a day in Uynie, and I remain at the reserve. My cough gets progressively worse. When I move around too much, I cough so much I can hardly breath. Two of our Bolivian teammates were observing me, and told me that I had altitude illness. I didn’t think that I did. After all, I live at 7000ft elevation, and compete in races at well over 10,000ft. However, I figured the Bolivians were very familiar with altitude issues and if they said I had altitude problems, then maybe they were right.

So, I called Global Rescue, and they wanted to evac me back to San Pedro. They indicated they often err on the side of caution, and given what I told them, I needed to get to a lower elevation. Only one problem…I have to cross the Bolivian border and enter Chile, but I don’t have a passport. So, I was stuck.

Image: Another view with flamingos foraging, Laguna Verde National Park, Bolivia.

Global Rescue suggested that I find someone to sleep in the same room as me to watch over me and make sure I didn’t get worse. There was a touring cyclist from Poland named Peter. He agreed to sleep in the same room as me and make sure I was okay. I slept through the night, and made it to the morning.

The next evening, the team arrived back from Uynie and the expedition doc sent me back to San Pedro – with passport in hand. I spent the next five days in San Pedro, and I stayed in bed mostly because I was trying to heal myself as quickly as possible.

Image: The view looking out the guest house, Laguna Verde National Park.

Gearing up for the 2008 NASA/ SETI High Lakes Expedition

29 October - 01 November 2008

Blogger's Note: I have been incredibly slack in getting all my blogs posted over the past two months. My apologies to my one fan, my Mom, who keeps up with my blogs. Sorry Mom!

The team loading up the bus and truck. We're getting ready for our departure to San Pedro de Atacama.

Gosh, it seems I never left here. It's been a little over two months since I was here. The first couple of days back in Chile was uneventful. As is tradition with the High Lakes project, we fly into Antofagasta. Our first day is a down day; this is a much needed day. It allows us to recover from the long flight. Day two involves going to the grocery store and purchasing comfort foods – nothing glamorous, but food is an essential part of any expedition. Then, we pack, boxed up all the food and the remaining gear and prepare ourselves for departure to San Pedro.

Image: Waiting to depart for San Pedro. Credit: Cristian Tambley.

San Pedro is our home for the cave detection work. So, I know this town well. It is always nice to return to SP.

The San Pedro stop is rather important for most of the expedition team members. Two days at 8000ft starts the acclimatization process, and prepares us for the higher elevation work that we will ultimately do. Living in Flagstaff, and training at altitude, I should be able to adapt to high elevation working and living. We shall see.

Image: Group photo at the Tropic of Capricorn.

En route to San Pedro, we made a couple of stops that I was unfamiliar with. We stopped at an old mining town along the highway. This mining town was likely a boom town during the turn of the century. They were mining nitrates in the area, and the town suffered the same boon to bust fate that most old towns in the American Southwest have suffered. Today, all that remains are numerous adobe structures and all the artifacts one may expect to find in association with an old mining town.

Image: A crypt that was broken into. Unfortunately, the remains have been heavily disturbed. In many cases, the skulls were stolen.

The cemetery leaves some tell-tail signs of this town’s demise as well. We encountered numerous headstones with the dates 1933-1935. There may have been some sort of epidemic that went through the town. Perhaps this epidemic ushered in the demise of this once bustling mining town. Along the back wall of the cemetery, there were numerous mausoleums that had been disturbed and looted by grave robbers. There were numerous burials completely exposed. Most disheartening was that many of the skulls had been removed. We saw many of the flower arrangements that were interred with these departed souls. We even saw their clothes that they were wearing. In most cases, we could actually see the bodies in various stages of mummification. I took a few pictures of this, but chose to do it tastefully. These are the remains of someone’s loved ones and should be respected; however, now mother nature is continuing her work to return these individuals to dust and dirt.

Image: We also saw this lone and rather desert-worn vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) was observed about 30 miles from San Pedro.

For more information about this expedition, you may go to the NASA/SETI High Lakes 2008 website.

13 October 2008

A New Yorker and Cave Bugs

Originally drafted 12 October 2008

Today, we pulled traps at Zuni and Abyss Cave. Yesterday, we had planned to pull traps at Zuni Cave, but given the weather conditions, we were unable to do this. So, we had to pull traps at two caves today.

Inspecting an inverted Chrysler New Yorker.

En route to these caves, we came across an old 1970s New Yorker. It was upside down and appeared to have been largely stripped. We walked around it a bit and took some photos. It was rather interesting to encounter this abandoned vehicle in the middle of the monument.

One of many Rhadine beetles found in Zuni Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/ NPS.

This work went incredibly well today. We found numerous crickets and Rhadine beetles in Zuni Cave. We also found several spiders and Psocopterans.

Once done, at Zuni we hiked across the Malpais and arrived at Abyss Cave. This cave is a much colder cave than Zuni. When we were there deploying traps a few days prior, I didn’t think we were going to encounter many arthropods here.

A mummified bat, possibly a Townsend's big-eared bat, found in Zuni Cave.

We did see extensive bat activity throughout this cave. There was a light deposition of guano almost throughout the cave. Also, numerous moth wings and beetle parts littered the cave floor. We also encountered one Townshend’s Big Eared Bat that was apparently in a torpor.

As I expected, we didn’t find many invertebrates within this cave. We encountered mostly crickets and Rhadine beetles.

We then packed up all of our gear, and gravid with an additional 20 temperature/humidity sensors and ~60 traps, we headed back across the Malpais and back to the truck.

Mummified bat pups in Abyss Cave.

We had the luxury of arriving back to camp at a reasonable hour, where we uploaded the data from our data loggers and digital cameras, organized the collected specimens and data sheets, and made preparations for tomorrow.

Popcorn speleothems in Abyss Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Staying Dry on the Malpais

Originally drafted 11 October 2008

A to-be-identified spider in Roots Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Today was an incredibly rainy day on the Monument. This created a little bit of chaos for the team. One valuable lesson that all field scientists must learn is that things do not always go as planned. Thus, one of the most important rules when working in the field is to be prepared for things to go wrong. Secondly, one must have the flexibility to work through and around the problem.

Hiking across the Malpais. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Everything started out smoothly. We broke camp and left the Bandera property by 0830hr. Our plan was to work two caves near the Big Tubes area. These were fairly remote and involved over a one mile hike across numerous lava flows to reach the caves.

First off, the weather was not cooperating with us today. It was a 40% chance of rain on the Malpais. We were discussing when is the last time you heard a forecast involving a 40% chance of rain and then it rained? Well, it rained all day. All team members had Gore-Tex and were prepared for the elements.

However, once we were about half way to the caves, one of our team members (and I won’t mention who) set down a valuable piece of equipment in the forest when we had stopped for a few minutes to remove our Gore-Tex shells – it wasn’t raining at the time, and we were all getting really hot hiking in our jackets.

When this happened, I gave this person my GPS with all the coordinates programmed into the machine, and we programmed the coordinates to the first cave into his GPS. Before we temporarily split company, we doubled-checked the coordinates to make sure they were entered correctly. Upon making this determination, we proceeded to the cave, and at out person tried to follow the GPS track back to where the gear was left.

A rainy self-portrait. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Given thunderstorms, pouring rain, uncomfortably cold temperatures and some navigational issues with the GPS, all of this took us a lot longer than we had anticipated. My around noon, our rendezvous point was about 200 feet from the cave. We went to the cave and started the work.

We were working at Roots Cave today. We visited this cave last year, where we opportunistically collected invertebrates. This time, we were systematically trapping and conducting time constrained searches within this cave in hopes of improving our understanding of this caves biodiversity. Oddly, we found numerous spiders, but not many other organisms, within this cave. We will have to wait to see what our traps yield in four days.

Moving through the back of Roots Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/ NPS.

Our drive out of this area was very interesting to say the least. The roads in this part of the monument are notoriously known for being impassible during inclement weather events. Well, we had a bad weather event today, and the roads were a mess.

I radioed into the ELMA Information Center, and MaryAnna told me the roads were going to be bad. She had been out there earlier in the day, and was very concerned as to whether we would be returning to camp that night, or if we’d be camping where our truck got stuck.

I drove out slowly and cautiously in 4X4 high. We slipped and slide for about five miles. At one point, we almost went off the road. Fortunately, I recovered and we proceeded on.

We made it back to camp in one piece.

The storm that made for a cold and wet day. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Incredibly Grand Moss Gardens

Originally Drafted 10 October 2008

A glimpse of moss from Grand Moss Gardens Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Today, we went to one of the main tourist caves on the monument – Grand Moss Gardens Cave. Our plan was to deploy traps in this cave and recon Train Tunnel Cave.

We deployed traps and opportunistically collected invertebrates within an extensive moss garden. While we were in part of this cave that often contains ice stalactites and stalagmites, we found crickets! While we don’t have the temperature data for this part of the cave yet, I would suspect it was in the mid to low 40s. So, I was rather surprised to find crickets in this area.

Collecting arthropods from Grand Moss Gardens Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Once we successfully deployed our traps at this cave, we spent about 30 minutes searching for invertebrates in the moss gardens. These moss gardens are perhaps the most extensive moss gardens on the Monument. We collected numerous spiders, Psocoptera, mites, Collembola and beetles.

Because this cave is so heavily used by tourists, We are hopeful that our traps will not be disturbed. In three days, we will know how they faired.

One of the numerous tunnels we walk over en route to Grand Moss Gardens Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Into the Abyss

Originally Drafted 09 October 2008

Preparing to enter Abyss Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Today, we surveyed Abyss Cave. This cave is located about two miles from Zuni Cave. This cave is characterized by extensive breakdown on the floor. It involved a lot of scampering over the rocks and large monolithic boulders to navigate through this rather large lava tube.

This rim fragment was found near the entrance of Abyss Cave. Note the hole near the rim. This is likely a hole for placing a leather or yucca fiber handle. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

While there was some evidence of use, this cave was not as extensively used by ancient Americans. In the front part of the cave near the main entrance, we found two areas where the floor had been cleared, and dry-laid stone walls were constructed. We also observed dry-laid stone walls on the surface near the cave.

One of the two cleared areas on the floor of Abyss Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

The team ahead of me received a great treat while deploying traps ahead of me. They entered a side passage directly below a large skylight. When they did, they disturbed a pair of great-horned owls. They were actually able to watch the owls fly over head as they moved to a less disturbed part of the cave.

Once we were done here, we went into town for a few provisions. We decided to eat dinner in town.

While we were getting water, a guy approached Kyle and I and asked if he could help us with our water. He indicated he was a “professional,” and that he did this at the jail. I told him that I appreciated his offer, but we thought we would be able to handle getting our water. He was a very interesting fella.

I saw this juvenile gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) sunning in the road on our return back to camp.

Ancient Use of Zuni Cave

Originally Drafted 08 October 2008

Preparing to set traps for invertebrates in Zuni Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/ NPS.

Possible Anasazi marker stone. It was located at the second entrance of Zuni Cave. We found one of these at the entrance of Roots Cave last year.

Today, we set traps at Zuni Cave. This cave was most impressive. While the extent of biodiversity within this cave remains to be seen, it determined this cave was used extensively by ancient Americans. This cave contained several dry-laid stone walls near each entrance/ skylight. There was a sandstone marker stone at one of the skylight entrances, and there was significant deposition of pottery, stone material (from tool making), a couple of hammer stones, and a metate. All of this suggests this cave was used extensively.

Kyle using a slave flash technique to illuminate a larger extent of the cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

The hike into this area is most impressive. You traverse vast expanses of lava flow; the basalt is loose, rocky and undulating. It is quite easy to lose your footing on this type of material.

In a packrat midden, we found pottery sherds and a corn cobb.

On our return to the truck, our traverse across the Malpais offers spectacular views of Mount Taylor. This is one of my favorite mountains in the southwest. With the exception of last year, I have competed in the Mount Taylor Quadathlon. Viewing this majestic mountain from a far stirs my desires to tackle the mountain in February. I definitely plan on doing it again!

View of Mount Taylor from trail to Zuni Cave.

Return to El Malpais National Monument

Originally Drafted 07 October 2008

The Malpais.

The purpose of my return trip to El Malpais, western New Mexico is to continue my dissertation work. This objective of this work is to inventory cave biodiversity at lava tubes in this Monument. Ultimately, I will be comparing cave biodiversity at this Monument and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, northwestern Arizona. Kyle Voyles, my esteemed colleague and dear friend of the past several years, was able to obtain a 10 day detail to assist with this work. We have worked together and made many discoveries on Grand Canyon-Parashant National Mounument. For details about this work, go to my popular press page on my website.

We met with park officials, obtained data and maps. It was really great to see Kayci and Jim. It had been a year since we last chatted. Among other things, we discussed the project’s objectives, and finished at Park Headquarters around mid-morning. Thereafter, we fueled up the vehicles, and then determine our plan of attack for the day.

Because we started a bit later than I had anticipated, we decided to start at two caves near the Zuni-Acoma Trailhead. This afforded us a much easier and closer access than some of the other caves on the monument.

View of surface from within Zuni Cave. Credit: Kyle Voyles/NPS.

Today, we learned a valuable lesson in geographic projection systems and GPS. We reviewed the cave reports before going into the field. However, there was no mention of projection system. If one does not know the projection system that is used (e.g., NAD 27, NAD 83), it can be incredibly difficult to locate a feature as small as a cave on the landscape. We were using NAD 27 (the standard projection for the National Park Service), and the coordinate data for the cave was collected in NAD 83.

Unfortunately, there was no mention of this on the cave reports. When this occurs, there is as much as a 600 foot error. So, we had to spend some time looking for the cave. Despite this spatial error, we were ultimately successful in locating our study site.

A small dark hole, one of many on the Malpais.

This resulted in us arriving at the cave late in the afternoon. Consequently, all we were able to do was lay out our sampling stations within this cave. This took us about two hours to complete. Thereafter, we went to Bandera Ice Caves to camp for the night.

The Bandera folks have been very nice to me over the years. They have permitted my team and I to camp on their property. This is quite a luxury for us because we have a secure camp where we can leave gear, and conduct our work without the worry of activities conducted by those with less than honest intentions.

Once we had set up camp, I drove back to the Ice Caves parking lot to use the wifi connection. This is the only wifi hotspot within 20 miles of here. En route, I saw four beautiful mule deer foraging on a hillside. When I stopped the car, they all froze and looked at me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. I got out of the truck, and walked to the back to get my camera. I thought to myself, I bet they are going to think I’m going for a gun. When I walked back to the front of the truck with my camera, they were long gone. I reckon I was right.

23 August 2008

Rapa Nui Cave Biodiversity Expedition Successful!

Originally Drafted 21 August 2008

This expedition was also approved as an Explorers Club Flag Expedition. From left to right, Knutt Peterson, me, Sergio Rapu (Chief Archaeologist of Rapa Nui), Pete Polsgrove, Christina Colpitts and Dan Ruby.

Last night, we went to a Te Ra’ai, a restaurant that hosts a traditional Rapa Nui celebration. We were entertained with dancing and music from both Rapa Nui, as well as elsewhere in Polynesia, and we had a traditional Rapa Nui feast. We had three types of fish, chicken and steak cooked in the ground using heated basalt stones and overlaid with banana leaves. I'm having my face painted using traditional paints -- a custom on the island. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Today was our last field day on Rapa Nui. This project resulted in several important milestones. First, we conducted the first cave biodiversity inventory on the island. We sampled one large cave, which was separated by a series of collapse pits for both invertebrates, vertebrate sign, and microbes.

Our "last" approach to one of our study sites. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Secondly, we sampled two fern/moss gardens in the vicinity of our study cave. In addition to cave deep zones, this may prove to be another important aspect of this research. While completing and ultimately expanding upon the cave biodiversity inventories will be vitally important to developing a better understanding of Rapa Nui natural history, both caves and fern/moss gardens may serve as relict ecotones. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the island was dramatically changed by an extended period of severe deforestation and habitat alteration. This resulted in most of the native and endemic plants and animals being driven to extinction. Caves are probably buffered environments here.

The team doing various things related to the invertebrate survey. The "yellow ghost" is Christina. She found this method most effective at keeping the paperwork dry. Credit: Pete Polsgrove.

Dan conducting a time-constrained search for invertebrates while on his sampling station. Credit: Pete Polsgrove.

Third, we collected numerous microbe samples from both the cave entrances and deep zone. Currently, the only microbe known from this island is Rapamicne. This is a microbe essentially pilfered from the island by a team of Canadian researchers back in the mid-1960s. Rapamicne is used today to help kidney transplant patients to better acceptance the transplanted organ. We do not know whether this work will render similar finds significant to medicine; however, this is an area that we will be investigating when the cultures from these microbes are grown and they are studied. If something significant is discovered, the findings will become the sole property of the Rapa Nui people.

Christina and I collecting invertebrates. Credit: Pete Polsgrove.

Forth, Knutt essentially mapped his first cave solo. He had about 20 minutes of help towards the end just to speed up the process. This map will contain all archaeological finds encountered, as well as plots of our invertebrate/ microbe sample locations.

Biofilms on the cave wall. These as well as numerous other bacteria samples were collected during this work. Credit: Pete Polsgrove.

Finally, we likely discovered the first cave-adapted/ limited species on the island. The millipede discovered on decomposing wood in a cave deep zone will likely be very important for this project, as well as future research here. This lends further weight to the high probability that caves were indeed buffered environments and may represent one of the only relict ecosystems on Rapa Nui.

Pete collecting pH readings near one of the microbe sample sites. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Roaches in one of our traps. Roaches are quite common in Rapa Nui caves. As one might expect, they are also quite common on the surface. Credit: Dan Ruby.

So, we are all very pleased with our discoveries and the work we have completed. We leave for the Continent tomorrow, and then everyone but Christina will arrive in the states on 23 August. Christina will remain for another week. She will be visiting friends in Santiago.

Pushing through a tight passage modified by the ancient Rapa Nui. These tight passages were "checkpoints" within the cave. A foe would have to move slowly through this area. If they were detected, someone may be waiting for them on the other end to bludgeon them to death. Fortunately, it was just Dan. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Chile and Rapa Nui have provided me with many learning and growing experiences. I will leave Rapa Nui as a seasoned expedition leader with two major expeditions under belt. My team has also taught me much. In particular, I have learned to let go of many aspects of this project and permit this group of incredibly bright individuals to help me execute a significant portion of the tasks associated with daily operations. This has always been hard for me.

While in many ways I am looking forward to returning to my Flagstaff home, I will miss Rapa Nui immensely. I am already looking forward to my return here in November.

Searching for invertebrates in a moss/ fern garden. Credit: Dan Ruby.

20 August 2008

Purple Centipedes of the Moss Garden

Our purple centipede from the moss garden. This, too, is likely a new species.

Not surprisingly, it rained again today. August is known for being one of the rainiest months for Rapa Nui. Fortunately, the morning started off fairly clear, and it was only partly cloudy. It was warm and humid. However, by midday, it clouded up, and the bottom fell out of the sky. It has now been raining since around 1230hr here – so, it’s been raining almost none stop for the past five hours. Once again, this is quite an incredible contrast from the Atacama Desert. The Rapa Nui team feels that we are almost re hydrated after being drained of moisture for four weeks straight.

Pete and Christina above the cave entrance. The storm is rolling in. Credit: Dan Ruby.

The cave work went forward, and we were quite successful today. Knutt mapped one of our caves solo. It was his first time mapping a cave by himself and he was quite pleased with the outcome.

Christina and I approaching the cave. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Christina, Dan, Pete and I conducted time constrained searches and pulled traps from this cave. During this work, we found one millipede (perhaps the same species as the ones we discovered the other day), several roaches, and several fungus gnats. This was the extent of the faunal assemblage discovered during this portion of the work. Once this was done, Dan and I had two more opportunistic collecting tasks to complete for the day – sampling the entrance of the cave for spiders, and searching and sampling a moss and fern garden within a tunnel segment of this cave. Christina and Pete had microbe duty. They essentially scoured the cave from the dark zone to the entrance and collected samples of all microbes they encountered.

Collecting invertebrates from a surface trap. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Dan and I collected a few specimens of this spider species from the entrance of Moon cave. This is a female guarding her eggs. We were cautious not to collect these individuals. Firstly, for identification, male specimens are preferred. Secondly, if we were to collect a female we would not only take her, but all of the spiderlings that would ultimately hatch would also be lost. So, the ethical and responsible thing to do is to strategically sample for males, and leave egg-bearing females alone.

Female spider guarding eggs. Credit; Dan Ruby.

Knutt cave mapping solo! Credit: Dan Ruby.

Once Dan and I were done sampling the entrance, we moved on to the moss and fern garden. It was here that we found an animal that proved to be my highlight of the day. This lavender centipede was located underneath a rock within the moss and fern garden. It is about 3cm in length.

Taking notes on critters found during our survey. Credit: Dan Ruby.

As with all the animals that I have to collect for this research, I felt really bad about having to collect it. However, my overarching hope is that through the biodiversity research is that our findings will ultimately result in a higher level of protection for the caves of Rapa Nui.

Knutt on station. Credit: Dan Ruby.

As we were leaving this cave tunnel, I saw a small side passage. I recalled Sergio had mentioned a Belgian team had ignorantly removed a rock wall and pilfered a tomb that contained significant archaeological materials. I wondered whether this side passage was the same one the Belgians had pilfered or if it was another one. So, I entered this side passage.

In addition to the biodiversity work, our team is charged with reporting any and all archaeological materials to Sergio. All of the materials we have encountered thus rare are unfortunately highly disturbed and on the surface within the caves. So, all of these materials lack archaeological context. We do not touch these materials, but we photo-document everything we encounter and then report back to Sergio.

As I have a tendency to go, I've gotten myself in a tight place. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Tomorrow will be our last day in the field. This expedition is quickly coming to a close. However, my time here on Rapa Nui is not. There are many caves here, and Sergio and I will be continuing this work in upcoming years.

Moss gardens in a Rapa Nui cave. Credit: Dan Ruby.