Project Guyana – Expedition Underway

Posted: July 20, 2012 - 15:59 , by royal

By Brennan Caverhill, Biodiversity Intern

Hello! Joshua See here, Environmental Visual Communication student at the ROM. I am writing from the wild heart of Guyana, where I am documenting the research and education efforts of Burton Lim, Assistant Curator of Mammals.

Burton is studying bats in Guyana

Burton Lim, Assistant Curator for Mammals (c) Joshua See

This South American country contains some of the world’s greatest biodiversity, and the ROM’s curators and researchers are embracing discovery in this rainforest frontier. When does an expedition begin? This past weekend, Burton and I caught a series of flights from Toronto, along the Antilles island chain, and finally onto mainland South America. In Guyana’s capital of Georgetown, Burton carefully navigated our final preparations. We shopped for machetes, bought a tank of liquid nitrogen, and negotiated our research and collection permits.

Guyana, South America

There are few roads in Guyana, and those that exist are very rough. Along with a group of student researchers from Operation Wallacea, we drove 12 hours through the humid tropical night along a sometimes flooded and always pot-holed road. After a sunrise boat trip across the Essequibo River we had arrived at the Iwokrama Forest. The journey was an adventure in its own right!

Sunrise boat trip across the Essequibo River

A boat trip across the Essequibo River to Iwokrama Forest (c) Joshua See

This was certainly not Burton’s first time on the long and muddy road. In fact he was on a biological expedition ahead of its construction over two decades ago. If you ask how many times Burton has traveled to Guyana he will admit that he stopped counting after twenty. He is a true expert on the bats and mammals of Guyana. This is especially exciting as there are more species of bat in this single forest than anywhere else on earth. With any luck Burton might find undiscovered species in the coming weeks!

Checking a bat specimen for health and identity

Burton sampling bats at night in the rainforest (c) Joshua See

In addition to his valuable research, Burton is teaching students about bats and how to monitor their populations. The student research initiative combined with Burton’s research is part of the Iwokrama Forest’s mission to be a model for sustainable tropical forest management. There are many exciting and world-class ideas being implemented here.

Burton Lim, and students from Operation Wallacea, sampling bats at night

Burton and students from Operation Wallacea, sampling bats at night (c) Joshua See

Stay tuned for more updates from the field, and on Saturday July 28th come to the ROM for Curator’s Corner: Project Guyana. ROM scientists, who themselves venture to Guyana on their own expeditions, will be on hand to chat and share stories, while Burton and I will (hopefully) check in via video feed from the rainforest!