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From Author

Holly Menino

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Mattias Klum

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs from Holly Menino (top) and by Lars-Magnus Ejdeholm



Field Notes From Author
Holly Menino

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    I went for a nighttime voyage in the gondola of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's  enormous construction crane, which biologists use to maneuver around a big section of the rain forest in Panama. It was like diving into a coral reef at night. There were all these billowing forms and occasionally a spot of fluorescence. It was amazing to see animals living in all the different strata—from the spiders on the ground to a brilliant blue bird called the cotinga some 300 feet (90 meters) up.

    The natural world around the cities in Panama is so lush and rich that the poverty of some Panamanians, particularly in the city of Colón, made a serious impression on me. There were buildings that looked as if they had been burned or bombed out. People were living in the upper stories, and children were running past windows that didn't have any glass or guards on them. It was really an eye-opening experience.

    There are so many different animals in the rain forest, and the ways they find to share real estate are often bizarre. Some termites hang their basketball-size nests off trees, and it turns out that one bat species, Tonatia silvicola, also calls them home. These bats climb right into the nests and snuggle up among the termites. So whenever we saw one of these termite nests while out on the trail, we made sure to stop and see who was home.

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