Curitiba 13-18th: Preparing for the Amazon
After a long transatlantic flight and a mad dash across Sao Paulo airport we arrived safe and sound in Curitiba to be meet by George Brown, our Brazilian host and one of the worlds most renown Earthworm biologists. Only two things of note about the long-haul flight both concerned the 1.5M long soil corer we were transporting. Firstly, the ridiculous £145 excess bagage charge that Lufthansa levied because we had one extra piece of check on baggage in contrast with the £5 charge from GO! for excess weight – but the fantastic polite enthusiastic member of Sao Paulo check-in staff who nearly completely re-wrapped the corer for no extra cost and smiled all the way – I love the Brazilians.
In fact this week has been wonderful. I have had the privilege at presenting our research both at EMBRAPA and at the Curitiba University and on both occasions I had an enthusiastic and engaged audience – and I think they liked it. This week was partly about building relationships; solidifying those started on the internet, making new friends and collaborations and exploring common interests. The other half of the week was about preparing for the jungle – from hotel booking, calculations of number of tubes and preservatives and most important printing labels. With 18 people going into the jungle next week and taking other 14 different type of measurements (soils – at 8 depths, ants, termites, earthworms……) at ~9 holes at up to 20 sites means we will generate over >4600 separate samples. This type of undertaking demands complex planning. I have to say I am in awe of George’s ability to keep all the elements of this expedition in his mind at the same time – and even plan for another one in May and a workshop in June !!! Just an amazing guy.
The highlight for me was when we were shown George’s collection of South America earthworms and yes there was a Giant Earthworm (a Minhocucu if I remember correctly – at nearly 2 M long this is a colossus of the soil fauna. If you want to see something to made your eyes bulge just look at its mate anchors (ventral setae) – and your thought some guys were rough !!
So you now know what excites me – I came half way round the world and got to see a giant earthworm. May be next week we will see a live one!!
OK up at 4.30am tomorrow next stop Manaus.