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.

Estamos Touristas en Rapa Nui Hoy

Originally Drafted 19 August 2008

The Moai of Tongarika.

The team has been working incredibly hard the past four and a half weeks. With all of our traps deployed yesterday, and our incredibly find of millipedes, we had a down day today. So, a day off was both well earned and well deserved.

A cave near Akahanga.

We decided we would be tourists and see some of the sites. We had yet to venture to the northern coast of the island, and it was nothing short of spectacular. The only issue we had to contend with was the rain. However, after spending a month in the driest desert in the world, another South Pacific storm was welcomed. Most everyone, save for Dan, had Gore-tex shells. In addition, it was around 65° F today, so despite the rain, it was still rather comfortable. Back to the rain, the rain on the island continues to come down in buckets. The last time I saw rain of this magnitude was when I worked in Belize.

The ruins of Akahanga.

For more information about that expedition, you may read a paper we had published back in 2005. Wynne, J.J. and W. Pleytez (2005), Sensitive Ecological Areas and Species Inventory of Actun Chapat, Vaca Plateau, Belize. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 67: 148-157. While this paper doesn’t describe the weather conditions per se, it was a great expedition nonetheless. My apologies for the digression…back to Rapa Nui.

One of the toppled Moai of Akahanga.

Our first stop was Akahanga. During the years of political unrest and warfare on the island, all of the Moai were toppled. The site of Akahanga has been left just as the people of Rapa Nui left it. While we have encountered all of the impressive Moai atop the Ahu, this is a reminder of what their villages looked like when the Moai were brought down.

Me standing before one of the many unfinished Moai at the quarry of Rano Raraku. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Our first major stop was a basalt quarry named Rano Raraku. We spent a couple of hours at this location. This site is located on what appears to be a large basalt dome – perhaps even the basalt plug of an old volcano. While I have observed many Moai perched impressively upon the Ahu (ceremonial platforms), when I saw the quarry Rano Raraku, I was astounded. This quarry is quite humbling. This represents a work undone. There were plans for most of these Moai to take prominent seats atop the sacred Ahu, yet these Moai never made it. The society of the Rapa Nui Moai carvers largely collapsed, and these sacred stones now festoon a verdant green hill side. While I’m providing many pictures of this site, its vastness and impressiveness cannot be captured with photos. One must go there to truly appreciate it.

Christina at Rano Raraku.

Our next stop was Tongarika. This was a Ahu Moai site characterized by 15 Moai looking silently over the ruins of a village below them. This is the largest assemblage of Moai on Easter Island. This site is most impressive.

A breath-taking shot near Anakena on the island's north coast.

Our final stop was Anakena. This was also the location of a village, but it has an added attraction; it is the only place on Rapa Nui with a white sand beach. This beach is about 150 meters wide and is situated within a small cove. At the edge of the beach are seven Moai facing a thicket of palm trees with the ruins of the village slightly beyond.

It continues to rain here on Rapa Nui, and it will likely continue through our stay here. I will continue to sleep with my ocean side door open (as I have since my arrival), and allow the roar of the ocean and the falling rain to put me to sleep. Life is incredibly rich on Rapa Nui.

Me and unfinished Moai at Rano Raraku.

Cave-Limited Millipedes Discovered on Rapa Nui!

Originally Drafted 18 August 2008

This cave-limited millipede was collected and discovered from a cave near the Rapa Nui coast. While this specimen has not been identified yet, because it is a cave-limited/ troglobitic animal, it most likely represents a new species or perhaps a new genus.

Last night was incredible. As we all prepared for bed, a storm moved in and a torrential downpour ensued. It was an amazing amount of rain. As the rain was coming down, I wondered what would happen to our access road containing the caves, and whether our caves would be sumped out (i.e., water-filled), and we would not be able to enter them tomorrow. With this type of work, essentially you have to accept the hand you are dealt by Mother Nature, so although this concerned me, I wasn’t overly worried about it. What would be tomorrow, would simply be.

Another incredibly sunrise on Rapa Nui. This is the view from my hotel window.

I woke up early and watched the sun rise. I’ve done this every morning since my arrival, and I plan to do this until I leave. The sun rises are gorgeous, and are incomparable to any other sunrises I’ve witnessed.

Today, we remained soaking wet for the most of the day. As we were driving to our study area, we watched a big storm roll in. Once we assembled our gear and began to hike to the caves, it came down in sideways sheets of rain.

Collecting arthropods from the entrance of one of our study caves. Credit: Dan Ruby.

The plan for the day was to have Christina, Knutt and Pete continue to deploy traps and conduct time-constrained searched at each station, while Dan and I would go to the cave containing a large pool near Ahu Te Pahu. According to Sergio, this cave contained a year round fresh water source, and was thus very important to the prehistoric peoples of Rapa Nui. When I learned there was a year round subterranean water source, I realized this would be an excellent place to look for stygobites (aquatic cave-adapted organisms).

Watching the storm roll in, before we hike across the hills to our next cave. Yes, we were soaked by the rain. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Before Dan and I could go to this cave, we needed to check some of the pitfall traps placed on the surface near the cave we sampled yesterday. I didn’t have the actual trap type that I would have preferred for surface sampling, but I decided to deploy traps here anyway. As I expected, one of our pitfall traps was loaded with ants (and contained one cockroach) – the other two traps, near the cave’s dripline, were empty. I collected several ants, and I attempted to capture the cockroach, but it escaped.

Fabric found out of context sitting on a rock near a cave entrance. Fabric made from bull-rush is often used to wrap burials that are placed in Rapa Nui caves. We do not know if this fabric was used for this or not, but is seems appropriate to suggest that it may have been used for this purpose.

Once we were done here, we moved on to the Ana Kai Ua (Cave of Turning Water). As we were hiking from Moon cave to Ana Kai Ua, it started raining again, and by the time we reached the cave and went it, the bottom fell out of the sky. Although we were in a cave, and one may think there would be less water underground, this was not the case. Cave of Turning Water contained formations with dripping water throughout. This cave contained drip pools, dripping water, a large stream and pool and water vapor throughout.

This is a very fuzzy image of me searching for aquatic organisms in a large pool that consumes the vast majority of one of our study sites. The 100% humidity can cleary seen here. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Because we didn’t know exactly where the “turning water” was actually located, Dan and I began exploring this cave. I had brought my scoop net with me, and I was really hoping I’d get the opportunity to use it.

Broken obsidian projectile point found deep within a Rapa Nui Cave. Credit: Dan Ruby.

As we were exploring the upper passage of this cave, we received a big surprise. I approached what appeared to be a jumbled mass of wood on one of the upper ledges of this cave. Upon closer inspection, I found millipedes! These do not look exactly like

the new genus of millipedes that we found in Grand Canyon,

but they did appear to be cave-limited millipedes. This discovery was a huge boost for the project!

As I have learned the history of the island, the fact the island flora was reduced and dramatically changed by human use, human famine, and the introduction of the rat (Rattus rattus), I began to wonder…what if there were no invertebrates in these caves? What would this mean? Would this feed into the ecosystem collapse paradigm that so many ecology textbooks (as well as Jared Diamond) refer to on Rapa Nui. I am also wondered if perhaps a depauperate cave-fauna could be linked to the degree of anthropogenic environmental change this island experienced. These were many of the questions racing through my head.

While I cannot rule out these latter questions, I am feeling more and more confident that this millipede is a cave-adapted specimen. I will fully investigate these specimens tomorrow, and determine if they have eyes. I will get these specimens to my friend and colleague Bill Shear (a leading cave millipede expert) as soon as possible.

Obsidian tool found within the dark zone of our of our study sites. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Once we were finally able to quell our excitement regarding this new find, we began to search for the passage with the “turning water.” We found another side passage, which we believed was the right passage. So, Dan and I began to mosey down this passage. The deeper we went into the passage, the wetter it became. We continued further down passage and then found the water. We continued on for about 50 meters further; by this time, both Dan and I were soaking wet.

We both began searching for aquatic organisms or evidence of aquatic organisms. After searching for about 30 minutes and finding nothing, we decided to return to the surface. Upon reaching the surface, we found there to be a slight break in the weather, so we made a break to another cave that contained the rest of the team.

Upon our arrival, we learned they had deployed all the traps and microclimate sensors. This meant our day was nearing completion. We decided to have lunch in the entrance of the cave, and then we’d head back to the hotel.

Knutt mentioned that us eating in the entrance of the cave was quite similar to what the ancient Rapa Nui must have done. We continued to eat our chicken, rice and sautéed vegetables, as we contemplated what he had said. However, they had to hide behind fortified protective walls to eat their meals, while we had the luxury of eating in the openness of the cave entrance.

Picture is taken from the road leading to the internet cafe.

18 August 2008

Cave Ecology and Conducting a Television Interview in Spanish

Originally drafted 17 August 2008

Dan, Pete and I at the entrance of one of our study sites. Credit: Christina Colpitts.

Life and the work continues to go well here on Rapa Nui. Today, we worked only half day. The team had several logistics issues to iron out (launching temperature sensors, prepping traps for deployment, organizing sampling gear, etc.). Also, I gave a couple of my canned presentations on cave ecology to the team, as well as to Sergio and Terry.

A fern and moss garden in the entrance of our of our study caves. I have observed, but yet to study these ecosystems in El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. These ecotones are quite common in the caves of Rapa Nui. It is quite possible that this is one of the only native plant communities remaining on the island.

Through giving these presentations, we formulated many great ideas regarding how to combine archaeology and ecology into a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding cave ecosystems. Sergio and I are now in the process of developing a proposal so my team and I may return to continue working on the island. If funded, we will work for Sergio and the Rapa Nui community. I would like the opportunity to train several of the locals how to inventory, map and conduct cave research safely.

Knutt, Christina and I gearing up to enter the cave. Credit: Dan Ruby.

If such a project were to get funded, this would be incredible for me. While I’ve lived and traveled to many interesting places thus far, this island is my most favorite place I have visited to date. I’ve lived in Belgium for a year, traveled to northern Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, and throughout western Europe, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico and Canada. With all of these experiences, I can say little compares to Rapa Nui. I’ve never been on an oceanic island. We are ~ 3,000 miles west of the Continent (i.e., Chile) and ~2,400 miles from Tahiti. We are truly isolated here, and it feels great. Time seems to stand still here.

Note the rectangular stone with holes bored into it. This stone is located near the entrance of a cave. Sergio indicates these are foundation stones to the homes of the ancient Rapa Nui. We have observed them within the entrances of several caves we have evaluated for this work. Warfare ensued during the end of the ancient Rapa Nui's reign. Consequently, the people moved into and fortified the caves for protection. These stones were apparently moved from their home plots and used to fortify caves.

Dirty Dan. As you can see, our study sites are muddy and full of water. Credit: Christina Colpitts.

There is an incredibly impressive history of cave use by the people of Rapa Nui. Between 150 – 200 years ago, after the island had been largely deforested, the island underwent a period of extreme poverty. Warfare ensued and there was even a brief period of cannibalism. The people of Rapa Nui built fortifications within caves, and they actually lived within caves for years. They built the entrances to their cave homes in such a way that one entering would have to clumsily climb through a narrow passage over rocks and boulders. This was a good protective strategy. If someone uninvited tried to enter the cave, the people on the receiving end of this unwanted visitor.

Knutt and I preparing to go into the field, but first we had to check out the Moai. Credit: Dan Ruby.

We were able to depart for the field around 1300hr. Sergio went into the field with us. My plan was to send the rest of the team into the cave to begin the work, while I met with Sergio. I wanted him to see the caves we were sampling and to determine whether these caves were okay to sample. He also took this opportunity to show me where some of the larger caves in the area where we are working. The team began the ecology work, and Sergio, Carolina, and I went to look at both our study sites, as well as other caves.

While we were en route to the field, Sergio mentioned that a Madrid film crew would be arriving at the caves, and asked if I’d be willing to do an interview. He indicated he told them about the cave ecology research, and that they were most interested in discussing it with me. So, I decided I’d do the interview. However, I didn’t realize this until the film crew arrived that I would be giving the entire interview in Spanish! Well, I’ve been living in a Spanish speaking country the past four and a half weeks and using Spanish quite a bit, so I accepted being thrown into the deep end while on camera. They asked me many questions regarding both our work on Rapa Nui, as well as our work in the Atacama Desert. The interview was about 20 minutes, and I was able to answer all but one question without any problems. For the final question, I had to ask the interviewer to rephrase the question. Once he did, I was able to figure out what he was asking and then I could answer the question.

Once the interview was over, I promptly said my goodbyes to the film crew, and left to meet up with the rest of the team. I had grown weary of being interviewed, and being asked to walk up and down the length of one cave numerous times to get enough video of a “real” cave scientist for the piece they were doing.

I was ready to return to the mission – conducting science. So, when I arrived back at the cave, I learned the team had deployed all by one trap array. So, I went through and checked what the team had done, we then deployed three more traps within the cave and three on the surface, and we were done.

I also had the distinct and unique opportunity to pick guava fruit after the work was done. As Dan and I were walking back to the truck, he asked me…”where else on the planet can you conduct cave research, then walk out of the cave and begin picking guava?” I promptly responded, “I don’t know. Who cool is this.” Rapa Nui is truly an incredible place!

Knutt and I working. Credit: Dan Ruby.

16 August 2008

USGS-Southwest Biological Science Center/ Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Rapa Nui Cave Biodiversity Inventory Project

Originally drafted 16 August 2008

Moai. The Moai always face towards a village. These Moai are facing towards our study site. There are numerous house foundations, and fences above ground, while there is an abundance of evidence of ancient Rapa Nui use in the caves below.

The past few days were filled with travel. We drove from San Pedro to Antofagasta on 13 August, flew from Antofagasta to Santiago on 14 August, spent the night in Santiago and then flew out to Rapa Nui on 15 August.

For clarification, the place known as “Easter Island” is actually Rapa Nui. This is the name given to this beautiful place by Polynesians who settled this island. So, all of my blogs for the next week will be using the appropriate name for this place – Rapa Nui.

One of the many carvings on the back of the Moai.

So, it was great to get into the field and begin to explore some of the caves of Rapa Nui. This is a truly magical place. Moai are everywhere. These impressive basalt statues are a testament to a highly advanced ancient Polynesian society. This small island 7 by 14 miles wide at its widest points is perhaps one of the most remote places on the planet. Rapa Nui is truly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it really feels like it.

One of the breath-taking views en route to our study area.

If I were ever to choose to “drop out” of society, this is where I would go. The atmosphere is laid back, and, for most, all there is to do is enjoy life and watch the waves break along the coast.

The climate is mild year round, the growing season almost continuous. We saw guava, avocado and bananas growing in the middle of winter. There are flowers in bloom and it’s simply amazing. For the past two days, we’ve had a storm pass over the island – so, we’re receiving quite a bit of rain.

Christina examining roots growing across the floor in one of our study caves.

We have the distinct honor of staying at Hotel Tupa, which is owned and operated by Dr. Sergio Rapu, the island’s chief archaeologist. Sergio is a Fellow of the Explorers Club. Because of my affiliation with the Club, I was fortunate enough to be placed in contact with Dr. John Loret also with the Club. John is the authority on Rapa Nui marine biology.

Sergio has been kind enough to begin to share his vast knowledge of ancient Polynesian culture as it relates to Rapa Nui and the surrounding islands. This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Now for the caves…because Rapa Nui is an oceanic island, it was formed by volcanic activity. So, the caves that exist here are lava tubes. Yesterday, as we were making plans to get the expedition under way, we were given tips by some of the locals regarding how to find caves.

Banana trees growing in the entrance of one of our study caves.

The island is largely covered by grassland due to the near complete deforestation by the people of Rapa Nui nearly 200 years ago. Some seeds of tree species were removed long ago, and attempts have been made to reintroduce some of the native plants. Unfortunately, this reintroduction campaign has been unsuccessful. Today, the flora of the island is largely introduced, and the forests that exist are sparse. So, we were told to look for caves by looking for stands of bamboo and other trees/ shrubs against the rolling green hills. These plants tend to grow within cave entrances, and are often not eaten by grazing cattle and horses.

With this knowledge, we set out to a cave rich area on the northern extent of the island. Our efforts were successful! We explored several caves, and settled upon three (our target for the expedition) to study.

Searching for invertebrates on root masses. Credit: Christina Colpitts.

These caves are in sharp contrast to our study caves in the Atacama Desert. We went from the driest desert on the planet to a semi-tropical paradise. So, we will be studying wet caves! Most of our study sites contain standing pools of water, and water is percolating through the ceiling. Interestingly, while evaluating several caves today, I saw only one arthropod. I was searching for bugs on a piece of wood and found one Collembola. While I have made only one confirmation of arthropods using Rapa Nui caves, this does not mean there is no fauna with these caves. It just means we have observed to find them. I observed evidence of several other arthropods within these caves. I saw numerous spider webs, and I’ve seen numerous spider molts within the entrance of one cave. I also saw a number of isopod (rollie pollies) carcasses within the entrance of one cave. In addition, I found live isopods within a collapse pit of one of the tubes. This was good news for us! This means, arthropods are active year round – so, our efforts here should be fruitful.

Regarding microbes, several of the pools contained what appear to be bacterial biofilms. I’ve also observed Actinomycetes on the floors, walls and ceilings of all these caves, as well as what may be gold and silver colored bacteria on the walls.

Additionally, and of high interest to Armando (Azua), my good friend and our Chilean microbiologist/ investigator on this project, we’ve found what may be the same type of Eukaryotic algae that we’ve identified from a cave along the northern Chilean coast. If this proves to be the case, this could be quite interesting.

Dinner is at 2000hr, and I want to get this blog posted before we eat. Also – the food has been great here. As you might expect, we’re eating a lot of fish

Horses grazing on grass and guava. According to Sergio, guava shrubs are viewed as a nuisance plant. The horses eat a lot of it and disperse it throughout the island.