Feb 1st - Nunupi Base Camp
We flew in by chopper two and a half days ago, over some of the most rugged country I've ever seen. The base rock here is uplifted limestone, and it has worn away into a network of sinkholes, caves, and washes that chaotically fill the landscape. We've worked now for two days, catching birds and bats, and we've seen some amazing animals ‹ including the little red King Bird of Paradise ‹ a bird that I think is the most drop-dead gorgeous animal here in Papua New Guinea. The BBC crew is amazing. Everyone is really cool and fun to work with, and they are all great photographers and camera people. They have so much enthusiasm for the animals we are working with and studying, and I think that they are doing an excellent job of collecting stories about the land and people here. Our camp is amazing too - it is run like a small village. Despite our extremely remote location along the Hegigio River and the surrounding karst, we have a mess tent, a store, a production lab, a science lab, showers, three full (huge) sleeping quarters, and infirmary, and at least three more houses for the work staff, generators, water pumps. We currently have ten mist nets up and catching birds and bats. The DNA and viral samples are coming in nicely. Most of the birds are fairly common species, but this gives us good samples for estimate disease prevalences for these species. And, even though the species are common, our other work suggests that many of these isolated populations are genetically distinct. And so far, we have caught a few of the species that we are working with in our other studies, so these samples will be very valuable.