I am woken up by the obnoxious beep of my alarm at the ripe hour of 4:30am. The air conditioning unit buzzes loudly in the corner as if threatening to collapse off of the wall. The loud buzz of the air conditioner overwhelms the ambient hum of the night insects outside of our window and tries to lull me back to sleep.
Stepping out of the room each morning is always a small surprise. I am met by damp warm air and all of the insects that have collected around the light outside of the room in the still dark morning. I slip into my tall rubber boots, still slightly caked with mud from the day before, step over moths on the ground that didn't make it through the night and head to the dining room for breakfast. Here we meet, quietly eat our breakfast, pack a pb&j for the road, discuss our route for the day, and start trekking by 5:30 am.
It's usually two of us on this dawn patrol route walking along the road surrounded by dense jungle to snap photos of the forest canopy. With luck, we will get an overcast day with no rain, ideal for capturing photos. Unfortunately, the jungle is less than cooperative most days. As we hike our daily 30 minutes to reach our location in the jungle, we banter in Spanish, whack spider webs out of the path (so they don't envelop our faces as we walk), and scan the trees for morning monkey troops.
As the day progresses we move through the forest, stopping at marked plots each containing seedlings that have been annually marked and measured. At each plot we set up the camera, upwards towards the canopy, facing due North, exactly 1 meter from the ground, to snap photos. When the light filtering through the trees above is too bright to resolve a decent photo we pack our camera gear and join the rest of the Metz team to snack, joke, and measure seedlings. At 1 o'clock, after a long hard day of field work (given we haven't been rained out) we all make our way out of the dense forest buzzing with life back to the station, eager for lunch.
In the heat of the day, it is a huge relief to get out of the sun and sit down for a fresh meal. We take a siesta to digest after lunch, napping in hammocks, reading on a dock overlooking a calm brown river, or taking alone time in a refreshing air conditioned room. After a needed midday break Metz Lab is back at it! We hit the lab to process data and prepare for the next day of field work. As we work we enhance our trivia knowledge by listening to hours and hours of podcasts, let loose a bit with funk music, or sing along with some Nora Jones.
Dinner is always the best meal. Everyone gets together and debriefs over their days. Maybe someone saw a particularly poisonous snake or had an extra hilarious run-in with one of the adopted jungle "pets" at the station. We go around swapping food, overwhelming Robin with rice, and getting ready for what the day ahead will hold. After a delicious dinner usually featuring rice, plantains, and some kind of soup, we make our way back to the lab to finish up before putting a cap on the day. Materials are packed, data sheets ready, field clothes are clean (sort of).
After a long tiring day full of Spanish and spiders, mud and seedlings, friends and lab mates I make my way to bed. Falling asleep to the same hum and buzz that will I will wake up to the next morning to do it all again.