Brad, Patrick and I spent the past week at Palo Verde research station, where we looked at plants we wouldn’t have imagined seeing in the dry forest: cacti!
The research topic was sparked when we noticed that some cacti were in “weird” places: in the middle of the forest, on limestone outcrops, and even near the wetlands. We wanted to find out what types of environments made it more possible for cacti to exist and flourish. We decided that we would visit sites throughout Palo Verde and see if there were any factors in common at the different environments that cacti inhabited.
We created a 1 km by 2 km grid in which we randomly selected 50 plots that we visited.
At each plot, we surveyed for cacti nearby and, if there were any, took a canopy photo (check out the one below!) and a soil sample.
Later, in the lab, we analyzed the samples for acidity and moisture.
The project was both more eye-opening and more challenging than we’d expected. Little did we know that our field site encompassed very steep cliffs that were an adventure to climb, or that we’d have to learn to improvise with some of our equipment acting up when running analyses. But we also saw a part of Palo Verde that we never would’ve encountered otherwise: we saw spectacular views, incredible creatures, and amazing flora (and the cacti were cool too!). All in all, a wonderful lesson in field research.
Now – on to writing a paper with our results!