In March, Andreas Hernandez, a botanist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution, located on nearby Barro Colorado Island, identified the trees at the plot. "Tropical plants are very diverse and difficult to identify if they don't have flowers or fruits," Professor Berkov noted.
Although she usually works with an arborist who climbs trees to sever bait branches, in Panama field assistants cut down selected trees and then suspended branch sections in the forest canopy along with portable weather meters that measure temperature, humidity, and wind speed. In May the researchers returned to salvage branches with concealed larvae for further study at a lab set up in Gamboa, a short boat trip from the site.
Professor Berkov developed a protocol for gathering and studying branches that allows for comparisons among different plant specimens, and with plants at other research sites. For each tree, the researchers collected the branch section suspended in the canopy, along with three thick branch sections and six smaller branch sections from the cut tree on the ground.
The samples were placed in mesh bags before they were brought to the lab to observe the emergence of beetle species. They are kept in approximately 200 cages three cages for each of the 60-plus trees that provided samples; one for the canopy branch, one for the thick branch sections and one for the thin branches.
Dr. Sara Pinzn-Navarro, who recently earned her PhD at Imperial College in London, is leading the fieldwork. Joyce Fassenber, a PhD student at CCNY, is assisting her.
Two months after the trees were cut down the first adult beetles emerged. This was much faster than in Professor Berkov's previous studies in French Guiana and Peru, where the first adults emerged after four to seven months.
Professor Berkov said further research would be needed to explain why the beetles emerged so
|Contact: Ellis Simon|
City College of New York