Friday, August 18, 2017

Week 9: My Research

I have really enjoyed this week, for my last two weeks I am with Danielle, a 70  year old French woman. She is extremely sassy, kind and great to be around! She has started traveling the world when she turned forty years old and that is very inspiring to me. 

Monday is the start of my last week of my internship. It makes me sad that this chapter of my life is almost over and I am so thankful for this experience. Personally, through this internship I have learned how to be flexible, take charge and communicate with a variety of people. Professionally, I have been able to apply and discuss key concepts from my classes. I have also developed and completed my own research project (I am in progress).

Research: I am analyzing Neotropical Otter behavior at Peri Lake by reviewing camera trap videos taken in the seven otter shelters during 2015. I have first separated all the videos into three categories: no otter present, other animal present and otter present. I focused analyzing otter behavior for the last category of videos.

 I have four main questions:
1) Which behavior is most frequent?
            a. I think running then urinating/shitting.
2) Do otters spend more time by themselves or with multiple otters?
a. I think by themselves due to previous research supporting them being solitary animals.
3) How is the behavior of otters influenced by external parameters?
            a. I want to see if behaviors correlate to temperature and humidity.
4) If multiple otters present in the otter shelters, how are they interacting?
            a. I think they will show more positive than negative interactions.

Now, I am reviewing every video with otters present and recording the time that they walk, run, sleep and urinate/shit. I also record other information like the time of day, number of otters present and other observations. I have noticed that many otters spend a long time smelling the shelters so I am debating adding a column on my data sheet. I am spending all weekend to finish watching all the videos and then I will run some statistics. Next week, I will let you know of the results!

Thanks for reading,
Melissa

This is my boss, Junior, playing the Berimbau. The berimbau is a traditional instrument used for Capoeira. Capoeira is a type of dance and martial arts that developed in Brazil that slaves used to develop self defense that was disguised as a type of dance. It is amazing to watch and is a big part of Brazilian culture! 

This is a picture of the data sheet that I have developed to analyze the videos with.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Dear Future Interns

Dear Future Interns and Eco volunteers,

I’m excited for you! I have enjoyed my time here at the Otter Project. I have now spent about eight weeks here in Floripa (that’s what people call it). To be successful here you have to be flexible, knowledgeable and be crazy enough to go on adventures. I would not come here if you’re afraid of heights, hate the beach or not willing to be very physically active.

One thing I recommend is learning some Portuguese. English is everywhere it seems but many people can’t understand it. For example, there is English on people’s shirts and the radio switches between English and Portuguese music. Also, many volunteers come from France or speak a different language than English. I have been blown away by the kindness that many people from Brazil have shown me. Marcelo, Junior, Priscilla and many others have worked hard to make me feel comfortable here.

This internship is physically intense, so be prepared to work hard. We feed all the animals twice a day, provide enrichment (sometimes this involves chopping a banana tree with a machete) and go on treks. We usually go on 2-3 treks a week. This usually involves going on an intense hike, then collecting otter feces and hiking back to monitor otter intensity. Some of the places that we go include Saquinho, Lagoa de Leste, Nafraguados and Armaçao. We also go kayaking/canoeing at Lagoa de Peri to setup camera traps at seven different otter shelters. Even though we work hard we make sure to have fun by swimming in waterfalls, searching for camon, and eating at small villages along the way.

This internship has pushed my beliefs and values but in a good way. Sometimes it has been difficult because of the weak internet, power outages, homesickness and the twenty minute walk to the main road. It has also made me frustrated, angry and confused but has allowed me to destress. Being in the rainforest is paradise, even though I hate the giant spiders!

Be prepared the best you can but just know you will have an amazing experience! Bring lots of bug spray and enthusiasm. When I leave, I’ll miss all the people I met, living in the middle of the rainforest, being close to the beach and most of all the otters!!

Good Luck,
Melissa




One of the signs I saw at the park of Lagoa de Peri. I didn't really want to run into snakes!
We had the opportunity to check the otter feces we collected for parasites and eggs at the Federal University!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Being busy and the value of time

I have been raised with the idea that being busy is the best thing. It’s an accomplishment if someone asks you to hangout and you can’t because your “too busy.” Somehow listing off all the things you have done, or doing is supposed to impress people. If you fail to list off several activities or accomplishments, then your seen as not good enough or you are not using your time wisely.

I hate and love being busy. I love being productive, being involved and making a difference. I hate missing my friend’s birthday party because of a meeting or not having time to destress.

Sometimes, I feel like I am rushing around for nothing.

Brazil, has made me question the value of being busy. I couldn’t understand at first why Marcelo, a worker here, would walk so slow. Now I’m starting to understand. When you walk slow your able to observe the world around you in much more depth, and sometimes notice amazing things like that hidden Toucan that is five feet away from the trail. The thing is Marcelo may walk slow but it’s deliberate and powerful.

Where do you I go the most in Brazil? The beach, of course! I think the ocean is so powerful it seems to remove all my worries and stress. The water is a bit cold to swim in though because it’s currently winter.

I hope when I return to Brazil, I can learn to treasure the little moments and take the time to slow down my life. The joy of reading my favorite novel for the hundredth time and crying at the same page even if I already memorized the plot or maybe taking an hour and getting pie shakes with my best friend Taylor.

P.S Shout out to my cool coworkers this week! I have enjoyed getting to know you even though I don’t quite understand your obsession with yogurt.

Stay tuned,

Melissa

A cool surfing penguin mural near my favorite beach! 

I visited the turtle project, they do amazing work protecting sea turtles by working with the public and fisherman.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hardest Part of my Internship

I have really enjoyed my internship so far but there is one thing that I am struggling with. Let's go through like five common guesses what people would think the hardest part of my internship is.

1. Being away from home?  Nope, I mean it would be fun to be home.
2. The language barrier? I'm slowly getting better at Portuguese and I have a couple people I can talk to in English which is nice.
3. Doing a very physically intense internship? No, I really enjoy being active and outside all day. We go on treks which are very intense because we climb mountains and rock climb in order to collect otter feces for research. This work is very rewarding though because I feel like I am making a difference for an important endangered species by educating the public and contributing to valuable research.
4. The weather? No, it keeps it exciting! The weather changes all the time from very hot to cold. I have learned to not trust the weather because it doesn't last.
5. Being surrounded by people that are different than you? This is sometimes hard for cultural differences and opinions but I have enjoyed learning more about Brazil and France through the other interns.

The hardest part of my internship is cooking. Many people know that I am a terrible cook. I cook for substance (so I don't die).  I am thankful for my friends, family and the ability to get food whenever I want. I can cook the basics but I'm not creative because I don't put in the effort. I either don't have the time, or I'm tired or lazy.

In Brazil, I have been forced to cook more. This is because I live about twenty minutes away from the main road. There are good places to eat there but for dinner they open late and are far away. After working about 8-10 hours a day, I'm too exhausted to walk to the restaurants and back. I have slowly been getting better at cooking but it's hard. There aren't the same ingredients and I live with a basic kitchen. Also, I don't have a car so I have to carry my groceries home from the store and it's tiring and I can't get take out easily.

Anyway, I am trying my best! If you have any simple recipes please let me know. I may not have the ingredients but it might give me some ideas!

P.S I love the food in Brazil! It's simple and tasty! I eat it as much as I can but unfortunately I can't eat out all the time!

A lunch I got fresh from a local village. Some fried fish with beans and rice.

Brazilians love their pizza! It's a bit different with more cheese than sauce.




Friday, July 21, 2017

Week 5: Goodbyes and Lessons

I have learned a lot this week but I have tried to enjoy my time with my friends before three of them left. I am thankful to know you Emilie (princess), Rudy (sleeping beauty) and Lydía. You have each been influential in my learning here and you have not only been a coworker but a true friend.

Now, I have been here the longest and I am responsible for showing the new volunteers how everything works. Soon we will have more volunteers! The Otter Project has a Ecovolunteer program that focuses on the idea of ecotourism. It allows people to gain hands on experience with otters and research while, having the option to travel and enjoy Brazil. These volunteers can be from any country and any age. There are also other students like me that are here to complete an internship. It’s difficult to get close to a volunteer and then have them leave the next week! It keeps it interesting, you learn new lessons from each person you meet.

Major Lessons this Week:

-Things are replaceable you are not. I know you care about your phone but if someone comes and steals your phone and runs into a dark alley it’s not worth it to go after them. Here in Brazil this is extremely dangerous, they may have a knife or gun or maybe just more people are ready to beat you up. I know this may seem difficult but you owe this to you parents or people that care about you to return safe home after being abroad.

-Sometimes no matter what people will just not understand and that’s okay. Many of the volunteers speak English but we still don’t always understand each other. There was a couple events that happened this week that annoyed me so much and made me incredibly frustrated. It was a simple misunderstanding between some of the volunteers and I outside of work. I understood their opinion but I did not agree with the solution. No matter how I explain it, the argument is caused by a difference in our cultures. Instead of yelling at them, I wrote my frustrations in my journal and decided to move on.

P.S I love the food here in Brazil! I’m always eating avocados (delicious and huge!). If you want to make a delicious avocado smoothie like me, here is the recipe. In a blender add sugar, ice, milk and avocado, then blend until the avocado smoothie is fluffy. My favorite desert here is brigadeiro. It’s made of chocolate, milk, butter and chocolate. People have it on anything like pizza, cake and have it for any occasion! 

Also, I might start my own research project here next week! More information to come!!

Lydía posing with our chocolate cake with brigadeiro on top! It tasted amazing!

The local fisherman delivers fish for our otters that live at the sanctuary. This fish looks so ridiculous!

This famous restaurant is covered in white slips of paper from customers, it's fun to just read what people wrote!