After a couple of more adventures in which Mauro (a) beat a young wasp nest out of his shoe and (b) gave his dog, named Whiskey, some valium for the ride over,* we headed west to Zoh Laguna, Campeche.
Whiskey was quite calm and happy for the ride, as would be anyone who had just had valium injected into his thigh.
We crossed a couple of military checkpoints on the lookout for drugs and illegal immigrants (!) coming from Belize. Otherwise had an uneventful ride filled with plenty of stories and increasingly rainforest-like landscapes. One of those stories was how Whiskey got his name. Mauro and his Quebequois biologist wife Sophie originally had a lady dog named Tequila, so when a male dog came around to court her they naturally had to name him Whiskey. No word on how Tequila got her name.
We arrived at Mauro's other house, a "field station" he acquired from a couple of foreign scientists who stopped coming regularly enough to maintain it properly. It now hosts not only his own projects but a venerable parade of researchers attracted there by the nearby Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. and the ejidos surrounding it.
For the moment, we met Celine, a stunning young French geography student who looks like she just walked out of a 1920s feature film... and into the jungle. Celine is studying a tract of sick-looking chicozapote trees, trying to figure out if there are any spatial patterns to the disease, what its effects might be, and whether it is a disease at all. Her study is a series of circular plots within which she measures every tree and plots its location. The most surprising part of all is that she's not using any GIS! I was just getting a handle on what "Geography" was, but the idea of geography without GIS is throwing me for a loop.
One of Mauro's good friends, Rafael, just came back to Zoh Laguna from 3 years without fieldwork! He did his PhD work on white-lipped pecaries*, and has come back to continue working on those and maybe become a primatologist. Since he's been in Canada and the US for so long, his 3 year old and one year old have never seen their home country!
Zoh Laguna is one of those examples of stepwise community building that fascinate me. In the US, when a person from, say, Armenia, moves to a town, they later invite a friend, spouse, or family member to join them in their new home. That person, in turn, invites someone else, and so on, until you've got a little Armenian village in the middle of a US city. It seems the same thing has happened here, only with Science!
* Mauro is most definitely still a vet. He was going to tranquilize the dog, but couldn't find the drugs for it. He also spays and neuters any stray cats unlucky enough to come to him for food.
** Hey, I found one of Rafael's papers on the intertubes! Check out the PDF here.