Friday, August 25, 2017

THE END

It’s over.

I finally had realized that last night like wow, I’m done. No more otters and no more treks. I’m going to miss it so much. I’m tired but my soul is full. Brazil makes my heart happy.

I’m so lucky to make such strong relationships with people here in Brazil that it makes it hard to leave. Priscilla, good luck with becoming a veterinarian. You are good at cooking and I am good at eating. I’ll always laugh when I think of you calling me a bottomless pit in Portuguese. I would be offended if it wasn’t true. Marcelo, your otter tattoo makes me jealous and have fun taking care of Draco, a dog that is like the real-life Scooby doo. Júnior, you inspire me. I promise to make you proud! I think you will always be a teacher and I wish I could always be your student. These are only a few of the people that I have gotten to know and I am also thankful for everyone else!

The Otter Project has taken initiative to protect and conserve otters throughout Brazil and the world. The research conducted at the Otter Project has been influential in getting information about otters. It’s difficult in research to have access to long term data sets. The Otter Project however is providing valuable information about intensity and parasites that has never been found otherwise for many years. Otters are elusive, it’s difficult to see them. Having access to these long-term data sets allows researchers to monitor populations much more effectively and correlate fluctuations to changes in the environment or other factors. This information is also heavily used with the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

I have learned a lot about myself, wildlife and people through this internship. Many times, people have opened my eyes to new possibilities. Why can’t I drink tea in a bowl? Or why do I say I’m going to the bathroom instead I am going to the toilet (what if the toilet is in a different place than the bathroom, I have never thought about this possibility)? I feel liberated and I am questioning everything that was normal. I never realized how strange my normal was until a person from a different culture pointed it out. It was not strange to me, it’s just the way I have always done it. Completing this internship has also reassured me that I am passionate about working with wildlife internationally and that I can do it. I am going to continue to pursue a career working with international wildlife. I’m not sure where I will go next but I know I will be happy and that will be enough.

It’s not the end but only the beginning,

Melissa

I celebrated my 21st birthday on Wednesday with chocolate cake, friends and caipirinha (the national cocktail of Brazil).
We celebrated my last diner at the Otter Project with mussels from the local fisherman. 

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.