We flew in by chopper two and a half days ago, over some of the most rugged
country I’ve ever seen. The base rock here is uplifted limestone, and it
has worn away into a network of sinkholes, caves, and washes that
chaotically fill the landscape. We’ve worked now for two days, catching
birds and bats, and we’ve seen some amazing animals ‹ including the little
red King Bird of Paradise ‹ a bird that I think is the most drop-dead
gorgeous animal here in Papua New Guinea.
The BBC crew is amazing. Everyone is really cool and fun to work with, and
they are all great photographers and camera people. They have so much
enthusiasm for the animals we are working with and studying, and I think
that they are doing an excellent job of collecting stories about the land
and people here. Our camp is amazing too – it is run like a small village.
Despite our extremely remote location along the Hegigio River and the
surrounding karst, we have a mess tent, a store, a production lab, a science
lab, showers, three full (huge) sleeping quarters, and infirmary, and at
least three more houses for the work staff, generators, water pumps.
We currently have ten mist nets up and catching birds and bats. The DNA and
viral samples are coming in nicely. Most of the birds are fairly common
species, but this gives us good samples for estimate disease prevalences for
these species. And, even though the species are common, our other work
suggests that many of these isolated populations are genetically distinct.
And so far, we have caught a few of the species that we are working with in
our other studies, so these samples will be very valuable.