For our last excursion in Panama, our group went to the Kuna Yala in northern Panama. The views were stunning and it was a relaxing and fun last vacation with all of my friends on the trip.  The Kuna Yala is an indigenous group in Panama so while we were there we also got to visit some of their villages and learn about their culture. Today I flight out and arrive in JFK early tomorrow morning. Although I am so excited to be back home, I will definitely miss Panama and the people I met and adventures I had while here. 


After getting back to Panama City on Friday morning, I finished my 25 page ISP paper yesterday and presented my results today. I am officially done with work for this semester. Wednesday morning we leave for a 4 day reflection period in the Kuna Yala. I hear it is beautiful so expect a bunch of pictures from that trip!


Pictures of me doing my fieldwork in rivers with hydroelectric dams. I am collecting macroinvertebrates from multiple sites along rivers, above and below the dams, to determine if there is a difference in water quality that is displayed by the types of macroinvertebrates found. After my field work is done, I have to write a paper and prepare a presentation for next week. 


Views from around Cerro Punta and the research station, FUNDICCEP, that I am living in right now. I will try to get more photos of Cerro Punta because I think it is the most beautiful place in Panama. 


I just spent the last weekend in Chitre with Aileen, Caitlin, Adrianna and Jack!!!!! It was so nice to meet up with them! We spent time on the beach, exploring Chitre and visited Sarigua National Park. Jack and I tried our best to make the girls have a typical Panamanian experience with traditional food and activities. I had a great time and I’m sure Aileen will have a great rest of her trip and so many stories and pictures from Panama and Costa Rica to share with you all!


I just spent a fews days in Panama City finalizing plans for my Independent Study Project and I just arrived today in Cerro Punta, Chiriqui to test water quality of rivers with hydroelectric dams on them. I’m so happy to be in the highlands for a little relief from the heat and the spectacular views. I will definitely post some photos when I get the chance. I spent today working with middle school student in Parque Internacional La Amistad. Tomorrow i will meet with my advisor and officially start my ISP!


At EARTH University in Costa Rica, we learned a lot about living sustainably, specifically about sustainable farming. A large component of that was reusing old plastic bottles and materials. As you can see from the pictures, they used old bottles are wheels to line their gardens instead of rocks or wood. We also made brooms out of 2 liter coke bottles. We watched a documentary while there, Recycled Life, I would definitely recommend it. It is about the life of people in Guatemala City who have made their home the garbage dump. It makes you think a lot about the way you get rid of your waste and the effects it has that you don’t consider. At EARTH, they feed their cafeteria waste to the pigs and use the methane from the cows and pigs for a biodigestor to later cook food. We also saw a sloth while we were there. The last picture is our plane that took us from Changuinola across the border in Panama back to Panama City.


After the Naso territory we spent a few days in a hotel in Changuinola, which is in the northwest of Panama, and went to banana and cacoa farms and got to see the process that went into doing both of those things. There are a whole bunch of pictures from the farm to the boxes. It’s crazy what a process goes into making the perfect banana! There is also a picture of a cacoa plant. We got to eat some right off the branches and depending on the type they had a sweet or sour taste then we had fresh hot chocolate made for us right after. 


We spent Tuesday through Thursday in the Naso Territory. The Naso are one of the seven indigenous groups in Panama that still exist today. Their territory is in the northwest of Panama, in the Bocas del Toro province. They still have a strong language and culture that we were able to learn a lot about during our three day homestay with them. We traveled up a river for three hours in traditional canoes carved out of trees just to reach the territory. Once we were there, we got to learn about medicinal plants from one of the doctors of the group. We also got to watch and participate in their dances. Their houses are made from wood from the area with bamboo floors and palm roofs. This style house is common to the Caribbean of Panama. We also spent a lot of time with our home stay families. On the way back to town, we rode in traditional rafts made of bamboo tied together with string. The ride consisted of many rapids and getting very wet. It was one of the best parts of the trip. 

Pictured is me with my home stay mother and a few of the children who lived in the area. My home stay mother was only a few years older than me but already had three children. This lifestyle is typical of the indigenous group but was shocking to all of the students.


We spent five days last week in Bocas del Toro at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute learning about the marine ecosystems there with our professor, Juan Mate. We learned a lot about the coral, mangrove and seagrass habitats and the types of species that live in those areas. We learned about these topics in the classroom with lectures, in the water collecting samples and doing transects and in the lab identifying and counting different specimens. We also focused on the anthropogenic effects of the coastal development and tourism in that area and how it is degrading the natural environment. 

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