Phil puts a dead fish in a bag.

Hard Day at Work


Andrew and I spent the morning sewing plastic netting into bags that hold dead fish. The bags are boiled or left by ant mounds so that only the bones remain. The remaining bones will be compared with those found in otter dens and spraint (scat) in order to identify what species of fish the otters eat.

Nick and Flora (a teacher from Corumba, Brazil) traveled up the Rio Negro by boat with the otter scientist, Helen Waldemarin. Although there were no live neotropical or giant otter sightings, they gathered data on numerous den, resting, and spraint sites previously discovered by Earthwatch teams. Virtually all the sites were flooded due to the current high water levels of the rainy season. Three fresh neotropical spraint samples were collected, one at a site not previously marked. Although spraint is not particularly pleasant or exciting, is a very important piece of the otter puzzle.

Lyssa and Adam ventured out with Ellen, who is responsible for year-round baseline monitoring that supports all of the researchers who work at this Conservation Research Initiative. Armed with machetes and a well-equipped jeep, together they cleared trail #1. A series of trails run east to west across the 7,700 hectares that form the infrastructure for gathering fruit samples, tracking peccaries, laying track traps, etc. These trails are accessible only by foot or on horseback. Keeping the trails clear is vital to the work of the scientists.

Melissa and Mr. Vacchina worked with the small mammals group checking traps, weighing, measuring, and testing mammals for parasites and gender. This data is important to monitoring parasites that can be transferred between the livestock and wild animals on the ranches in the Pantanal. While working they saw a toucan, a spectacular local predator that feeds on eggs and chicks of other birds.

For more information, click on the Hudson School site.