Mountains, monsoons and mosquitoes: highlights from amphibian biologist Dr Jodi Rowley's diary of her recent field trip to Central Vietnam.
We woke at 6am, stuffed our wet and smelly gear back into our bags, and cleaned the hut. At 8am, two local men turned up to help us carry our gear out of the forest. We were walking about 45 minutes in the forest, and then about another hour down the road to the rooms we were to sleep in at the rangers station.
After dinner, we rode, three per motorbike, back up the road to the edge of the forest. We then split into two groups- I went with Tan and Djung up the large stream, while the others meandered at the forest edge and then slowly walked back along the road, looking in flooded roadside verges. Neither Tan or Djung spoke much English, and my Vietnamese was worse, but we communicated with a couple of words and by hand gestures. When it came to communicating what species of frog we had just found, we simply imitated the advertisement call of the species. Easy.
The survey itself was not so easy- we had to forge our way up a wide, swift river, and it was borderline as to whether we would get swept away in places. Despite our efforts, it was about 30 minutes before we even saw a frog. The stream was very disturbed on at least one side, but I was still surprised how few frogs there were.
We walked through swamps and small streams, up and down cliffs, and bashed through forest (tramping down vegetation with our bodies as Djung didn’t bring his machete). We encountered only a handful of frogs, and almost all we had already seen on this trip. The few that we hadn't seen were all species that are more common in lowland areas, and in disturbed habitat.
After the survey, I got on the motorcycle with Djung, and sped down the dirt road to meet the rest of the team and then return to our room at the rangers station. The headlight on the motorcycle kept turning off, which kept things exciting as we raced through the darkness.
We slept on the tiled floor, getting eaten by mosquitoes and swarming ants, until morning meetings with the National Park, and then the drive back to town.
Over the last 11 nights, our amphibian survey team has discovered a huge amount of new information on the amphibians of Kon Ka Kinh National Park. We've found approximately 30 species of amphibian, recorded the advertisement calls and identified the tadpoles of many of these species, and we will continue to work on the data we collected on the trip once we return to our various institutions. All this information will contribute to our understanding of the true diversity and conservation status of amphibians in this part of the world. Some of amphibians may even be undescribed, but only detailed analysis of their morphology, advertisement calls and DNA will confirm this- so it's back to the lab and computer for a while for us!
Interested in why I do what I do? Read more here.