Saturday, April 30, 2011

Food in Formentera

Last Tuesday we went to the grocery store here on Formentera. There are 4 or 5 small towns on the island and the biggest town, Sant Fransesc, has a supermarket. All of the towns have small convenience stores, but they don’t have the variety and the prices are rather high. That being said, even these little convenience stores are a step-up from the ones in the Galapagos in terms of variety. I was rather impressed by Eroski, the supermarket in Sant Fransesc, mostly because I was envisioning the Galapagos when I came here, later to find out there is 5x the population here than on Isabela and those people need food! What I was most excited to find in the supermarket was store brand items. The exchange rate from euros to dollars is terrible and after all we are poor college students (I was a little terrified when I looked at the balance in my bank account the other day, good thing I will be making some money this summer). Food is expensive and when we are out working in the field, instead of say, sitting in class, we need to eat a lot of it to keep us going. Thankfully we have started to figure out what foods give us the best bang for our buck and which ones we need to give up (peanut butter, tortillas, shredded cheese) in order to save money.

Breakfast usually consists of cereal. The Eroski brand corn flakes cost €1.13 for a box that is double the size of a normal cereal box. The milk is €0.96 per box. (The milk comes in boxes and never goes bad so no refrigeration needed before opening. Surprisingly, it tastes pretty good.) I cut up a banana on top, which cost between €1.60-1.90 per bunch. For lunch we were originally planning to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but after we used up the jar of Jif I brought with me from the states, we found out that peanut butter costs €3.80 for a jar that is half the size of the mini one I bought from CVS before I came here. After the exchange rate you are looking at $5.70 for 340g of peanut butter. That is NOT cost effective and pretty ridiculous especially when considering the side of the jar says it is distributed from the USA. Come on USA! Your citizens need cheap peanut butter while abroad! Instead we do tuna or pepperoni and cheese sandwiches. The tuna costs €1.39 for 3 cans. (1 can makes 1 sandwich, but we can easily eat 2 sandwiches per meal.) The pepperoni costs €1.35 and makes many sandwiches. All of these are store brand items of course. Their comparisons that are name brand sometimes cost double or triple the price. The store brand wheat bread is the best deal of all. €0.96 per loaf! For dinner we make things like chicken nuggets (€2.43 per bag in the frozen section), tortellini (€1.62 per bag), or pasta (€0.54 per large bag) along with frozen veggies. We also eat fruit, chips, yogurt, crackers, and other snacks throughout the day, which are also cheap.

Thank you Eroski for providing us with store brands so we can escape paying hundreds of dollars every time we go food shopping. I am slowly learning how to save money on my own and feed myself quality food while not spending a ton of money. Last time we spent €92.09, but the food will carry us through (hopefully) a week and a half. If you do the math, the per person cost of food is about $32 per week. I’ve never lived on my own before and had to provide myself with food (this experience will start this summer), but this doesn’t seem that bad to me. What do you think?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Finally Facebook

After much delay(with a final push with a cold, cloudy, windy day in Formentera leaving us stuck inside), my Galapagos pictures have been sorted, edited, deleted, and selected. I narrowed it down to 119 photos which comprise the album "Best of Galapagos". Eventually all my pictures will be posted on Picasa, but until is the link: Best of Galapagos

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Can Marroig

Nate is on vacation this week so we have some "days off". I say it like that because this work that we are doing is not extremely strenuous and we do have some responsibilities while he is gone such as catching 50 lizards and keeping the lizards that we have alive. So far, so good. Today we visited Can Marroig which is in Catalan so it is pronounced 'cammaroach'. This site was truly beautiful and we were the only people there all day. We rolled in around 12 and I spent some time reading while Ryan and Marina snorkeled and then we went cliff jumping.
Ibiza is the island in the background

I will be the first to say that I am the biggest wuss when it comes to things like this. I sat on the ledge for at least 10 minutes trying to give excuses why I didn't want to jump and Marina and Ryan yelled at me until I finally did it (if you're facebook friends with me Ryan put up a lot of pictures that he took from the cliff angle). 

The water here is freezing (around 55) but the snorkeling and water clarity is excellent and I saw some pretty cool stuff during the short time I could stand being in the water.

It's finally nice to be a little independent and get to see the island. We fixed up our bikes, went to the grocery store, got our clothes washed, and are well on our way to being adults :)
My Lizard Catch Count: 6

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter (Deadliest Catch Style)

He is risen! Happy Easter! While it is almost 6 PM here, the East Coast US is 8 hours behind us and it is fun to imagine children waking up right now and running to see if the Easter bunny came or sitting in church. This morning we made more clay models and this afternoon we had a little adventure...

Nate has this friend Alex. Alex works for the Marine Reserve here in Formentera. Alex also has a 100,000 + euro zodiac for his work. Today Alex took us out for a ride in this $150,000 boat. Did I mention this thing goes up to 80mph? Ya, it was a pretty cool Easter. When we arrived on the boat Alex offered us waterproof, red overalls. It started off as a funny joke when we put them on, little did we know that we were going to be covered head to toe with splashing water and pelting rain.

Ryan, Marina, and I in our Deadliest Catch outfits
 This boat is made for bad weather. I mean really bad weather. The Coast Guard in Vancouver when I visited a few summers ago had the same type of boat and similar outfits. It was a cloudy day here, but we still went out and got a good view of the coastline of Formentera. We also went a little bit out into the water between us and Ibiza so we could see what this boat was meant for. The swells and waves were huge, HUGE. And Alex turned around to us (there were 3 seats directly behind the driver and the copilot seats and handles on the back) and said "Hold on for this next part. If you want to stand up over the large waves it will hurt less. Let me know if it's too painful. Be careful." We didn't really know what this meant, so we grabbed the handles and could not have imagined what happened next. We began flying over waves and bouncing over them I swear the propellers exited the water many times. We were hanging on for dear life and water was spraying everywhere and bouncing in and out of our seats as we flew over the swells. This is the kind of activity that, even though it is perfectly safe and this is what Alex does for a living, terrifies me and I was screaming. Afterward Ryan compared it to the screaming I did about the manta rays. At one point Nate turned around and said my eyes were the size of dinner plates and I had a look of sheer terror. And that is exactly what it felt like.
Before the waves with dry hair (note the handles)

After the crazy waves with soaking wet hair and clothing
The waves were only rough on certain sides of the island due to the way the wind was blowing and we got a very nice tour of the beautiful cliffs, caves, and color of the water here. The lack of waves also enabled Alex to go top speed on the boat, which is fast.

I also managed to have a little fun in between the "life flashing before my eyes" moments.
my boyfriend Ryan and I

Marina and Ryan striking a pose
Nate and Alex talking in a cave that we pulled into
Alex closing up his boat after the ride

Happy Easter Everyone! The Easter Lizard failed to show up this morning so eat some jellybeans for me! I guess I can't complain since I didn't put out a basket.
My Lizard Catch Count: 6

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm Famous

Here is the link to Nate's latest Field Vision Video where I explain the clay model experiment! Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Worst Work Environment on the Planet

lizard storage
We've been continuing the research that I've explained in my other posts. We are working on the clay model experiment at Cap de Barbaria and the male intruder technique at Trucadores. We have also set up pit-fall traps at Cap de Barbaria. We built rock piles around empty soda bottles with the tops cut off and then baited them with fruit. We go back every once in a while and check to see if there are lizards are present and take their measurements. We have the traps in both open and vegetated areas and are testing to see if more juveniles are pushed out into open, marginal habitats by the larger males.
Cap de Barbaria lighthouse

A huge perk of working in the Cap de Barbaria area around lunch time is getting to go to the cave to eat lunch. There is a hole in the ground that you drop down into and walk through a cave out onto a ledge looking over the ocean. There are sometimes a lot of tourists there, but the view is still amazing and we get to eat lunch and enjoy the sun.
Where we eat lunch

Collecting clay models at Trucadores
We have collected a total of 6 transects of clay models at Cap de Barbaria so far and we have gotten pretty good data. We have to analyze the clay to see what kind of animal has left the marks and I'm getting pretty good at it.

Rat bites- visible teeth marks

Lizard bites- mark left by the grinding plate

Avian attack!

Another avian bite
It is a beautiful area to lay out transects because by the end of the transect you end up in a very different scenic area compared to where you began. Last time the end of my transect ended on the cliff so I had to end it 3 points early, but got an amazing view.

Beautiful, clear water
It still hasn't warmed up here and today was cloudy, windy, and cold so we couldn't do field work. The lizards aren't active unless it's sunny, so it's pointless to go out on bad weather days. Nate usually wakes us up in the morning by knocking on our doors, but no knock came this morning leading us all to sleep in. I was the first one up at 11:30- I guess we were tired!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bushwacking on the Way to the Internet Cafe

The internet is super slow so you only get a few photos today. I've made friends with the lizards and am still having boat loads of fun....
my friend, Rafael, hanging out between trials
helping Nate with tying the noose

a male I've named Rafael wearing a harness...he has no toes on his front, left foot
The experiment we've been mainly working on the most for the past couple days is taking males that we've previously captured and presenting them to wild males using harnesses and fishing poles. The lizards are introduced by literally dangling them on a fishing pool and placing them down near the wild male. We video record the reaction of the wild male to the intruder so we can measure the time it takes for a reaction. If we present a male in Trucadores with a male that we captured in Trucadores, both of which are brown, it usually ends in a fight with the wild male winning (because he was guarding his own territory and had the advantage). If we present the wild, brown, male with a larger, blue male from Cap de Barbaria (all the blue males are larger), the brown male will usually run away in terror. These trials actually take A LONG time and we have to deal with some males that are scared of us, the camera we bring in, or the fact that there is a flying lizard attached to a fishing pole entering his territory, but all the while we are having fun together and I am gaining a huge amount of understanding for field science which I am enjoying a lot (the experience, behavioral biology I'm still not certain about). Tomorrow= more of the same. More trials=better data! I also made the decision today to learn Spanish. I've been practicing over the past 3 months in the Galapagos and will continue in Spain, but I've set a deadline. Even if it kills me, I will be near fluent by the end of the fall semester. December 14th. If not, I will buy Rosetta Stone and learn it that way. At this point, I have no excuse when I've been in Spanish speaking countries for 6 months. My only setback is that I'm around Americans all the time in the Galapagos and here, but I WILL learn Spanish.

If you want to see more scientific stuff from this trip you can follow Nate's blog at:
The posts by him clearly say his name, but his friend posts some pretty awesome stuff also. We've recorded a few videos and I have a line or two in one of them :) You can also check out his more than amazing photography here:

I'm starting a new part of my blog post for the time I'm in Spain. Every once in a while we have to catch lizards for experiments using a noose and a long fishing pole, which I am terrible at. It's horrifying. I end up hitting the lizards in the face with the tip of the pole instead of getting the noose around their heads, but I am slowly getting better. So here it is...
My Lizard Catch Count: 5

Saturday, April 16, 2011

18 Feet of Biologists

Hello from Spain! We've been on the island of Formentera for a few days now and are slowly settling in and getting used to what will be our home for the next 6 weeks.
lighthouse on the ferry ride to Formentera
 The reason I am here in Spain is to help a phd candidate with his research. He studies Ibiza Wall Lizards and they only live on certain islands in the Mediterranean. From island to island they vary in color and size and Nate studies the evolution that leads to these differences. Nate has a house in the small town of Es Pujols (pronounce the "j" unlike normal Spanish pronunciation) for a few months every year while the lizards are most active. We started straight to work when Ryan and I arrived by making clay models of female lizards. The females are slightly smaller and skinnier than the males. We used clay of 3 different colors to represent the different colors found on various islands/parts of islands.
lizard mold

 We made over 300 lizards! It takes a lot longer to make them well than you would assume and we worked on it for all of Thursday afternoon and Friday until midday. The house is really functional and Marina (when she arrives) and I have our own room. 

The girls' room

 Yesterday (Friday) was our first day out in the field. We placed the clay lizards in transect lines 5 meters apart. At each 5 meter mark, 3 models of the 3 different colors were placed in a triangular shape. The point of this experiment is basically to see what color gets preyed upon more. The brown lizards are the ones who live in this area so it's predicted that the bright colored ones will get attacked more often. Predation is shown by marks left in the soft clay. We also got a chance to practice catching the lizards using a noose. Together Nate, Ryan, and I make up 18 feet of biologists(and more once Marina gets here!)

We also saw an area of rock formations that Nate told us some 60-year-old speedo guy makes during the summer. They were everywhere....

Today we did some more field work and started another experiment involving live male lizards, harnesses, and fighting! Sounds exciting, right? More on that in a future blog. So far we are having a lot of fun here on Formentera and the internet is actually pretty quick compared to the Galapagos so I promise lots of pictures for this trip. The frequency of the blogs might be unfrequent because we are busy for so much of the day, but keep checking back!

Monday, April 11, 2011

This Happened Yesterday

Yesterday I gave a presentation on the Galapagos to some 20 blog readers that are friends of my parents and/or parents of my friends that live in the Bonita Springs area. It was a lot of fun and it was great to see everyone again and find out how many people actually follow the blog (who knew?). It was also my Uncle Jack's birthday and it was my dad's birthday 2 days ago (Violet also had a birthday on April 4th), so we had a little birthday dinner and cake. We also watched the very important Masters. This is my Uncle Jack's picture from the end of the night.
My sister Rachel and I in front of our parents house in Bonita Springs, FL

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quote for the Day

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

-Raymond Carver

I Straddled The Equator!

Thursday morning, April 7, the final 6 students had some time to kill because our original 8:30 AM flight was rescheduled to 6:30 PM and everyone else had already had their plane flights. SO WE WENT TO THE EQUATOR. I don't know why I was so excited about this activity, but ever since I found out I was going to Ecuador, the country named for the fact that it is located on the equator, I wanted to go. And now I can say I did. We did a group tour that was arranged by our hotel and we rented a van to drive us around for the day. The driver/guide was actually from the Galapagos so we had a lot of fun talking to him about what we did and saw. The entrance fee to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth, funny translation) was $2 and inside was a little touristy with shops and cafes. The entire place actually had a line marking the equator running through it.
 In case you were wondering- It was my right foot which entered the northern hemisphere for the first time in three months. And no, it did not feel any different.
I waited a long time for this picture

and I was soooo happy

 One of my favorite parts of Mitad del Mundo is the llamas that are running around. The whole area is fenced in and there are several llamas and alpacas running around eating and chasing each other. In the shops they sell things made of the wool (is it still called wool if it isn't a sheep? I feel like my cousin Jennifer would know this.)

An alpaca munching grass on the equator

straddling the equator

We were definitely taking it slow that day due to the altitude. The first time in Quito, I didn't really notice the difference, but this time it was killing me. I would walk up the stairs and be out of breath. I woke up in the morning and started panting to get enough oxygen and my head hurt. Any more complaints?
Our guide then suggested we go look at this crater in which people live and farm because the topography of the area makes it have a lot of rain. Since it is an active volcano, they also have a warm water spring. The place was called Pululahua and provided the most gorgeous view.

Pululahua caldera

The final 6 students
We then went to an area that was supposed to be ruins from a native Ecuadorian group that was pushed out by the Incas. I'm not exactly sure if I bought that story because the rock walls looked kinda recent and there was a fire pit with recent charcoal, but it provided another nice view.
I didn't realize how mountainous Ecuador really was and I'm glad I got to spend my last few days there getting a taste of the country outside of the Galapagos. It truly is a beautiful area. As you can see from the pictures, it got progressively cloudier and foggyer (is this a word?) throughout the morning and by the time we got to our last stop, Teleferiqo, it was raining. We were supposed to take a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain right in the middle of Quito, but we opted out since the top of the mountain was in a cloud and we were all asleep in the van anyways. What we did do was go back to the hotel and go out to eat. We indulged in these amazing Moroccan gyro type chicken burritos that we thought cost 40 cents each, later to find out they cost $1.50 each. Oops.  Either way it was an awesome way to end an awesome trip to Ecuador.
The aftermath of the chicken gyros feast- I think we at 14 in total