Things I Learned as a Field Biologist #612
Working in montane cloud forest is superior to working in every other ecotype. Ever. This is true for a number of reasons:
1) It is indescribably beautiful (see above).
2) It is gloriously cold (you can do fieldwork in jeans (jeans!) without sweating or chafing).
3) Thanks to the glorious cold, there are no mosquitos except for a fifteen minute window at dusk and dawn (during which fifteen minute window those things are completely ruthless and efficient and you will lose pints of blood, so spray up).
4) There are freezing cold mountain streams in which to bathe (while I understand that most people might find that to be a negative, if most people would just take a moment to stop being a priss about numb-making-in-seconds cold water to pad delicately through the chill air of the forest, barefoot and naked, across a deep bed of soft moss to feel the delicious shock of cold under a cataract of mountain snowmelt runoff, then most people would find that this is, indeed, one of the most awesome things in existence).
5) If you go high enough, montane cloud forest becomes ELFIN montane cloud forest. This is indisputably the most kickass kind of cloud forest not only because it’s ELFIN (which, obviously), but also because it is, in actuality, a forest in miniature… the altitude and winds prevent plants from growing too large, and so the canopy is low, making for easy monkey observation.
6) The 45-60 degree inclines will make your quads positively pop, and when that incline exhausts you to the point of literally falling backwards down the hill (which will happen every hour or so), the forest is so dense with lush growth that you won’t tumble more than a meter before the plants gently catch you in their mossy, epiphyte-encrusted embrace.
7) Finally, most importantly, repeatedly: It is really frakking beautiful…
(photos above are from the montane cloud forests covering the peak of Volcan Maderas on Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua (1 and 3); and from the montane cloud forests around the community of La Esperanza, Amazonas, Peru (2, 4 and 5). I teach a primate behavior field course at the former, and have hookups to do community conservation work with critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkeys at the latter, so get in touch and we’ll see if we can get you out there…)