According to my initial flight itinerary, I was to leave early morning on Saturday March 1 from Memphis, Tennessee, and through a series of stopovers in Atlanta and Miami, arrive in Georgetown, Guyana around 9pm that evening. Unfortunately, as nearly anyone who has ever travelled with me can attest, I really don’t have the best luck with smooth trips. A series of excuses about an overbooked flight in Memphis landed me on a later plane to Atlanta. Alright, not too big of a deal, or so I thought, it would just make for some extra rushing to the Surinam Airways desk to get my bags checked. Evidently it wasn’t so simple…As my luck would have it, upon landing in Miami, my plane had to sit on the tarmac for an extra 45 minutes due maintenance issues with the plane occupying our gate. To make a long, boring story short, I wound up leaving my house for Guyana at 4:30 am on a Saturday, and didn’t get settled in Georgetown until about 5:00 am on the following Monday, nearly a whole day and a half later than expected. A less-than rejuvenating two and a half hour power nap later, myself and the other initial members of the Biodiversity Assessment Team were shuttled back to the airport to embark to our first recon point at Kaieteur Falls.

Shortly after landing in Kaieteur, another plane packed full of gear, rations, and science equipment arrived. We quickly unloaded it and sorted the supplies into the respective camps where it was all to be sent. For this expedition, the Guyana Defense Force graciously provided a small helicopter to shuttle everyone and everything to the survey sites. The only problem being its small size required numerous trips to transport everything.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much time to explore Kaieteur Falls, but I did make sure to take the obligatory mecca to see the falls and all of its glory. I was to head to a nearby village called Chenapau with Evi Paemelaere who runs the large mammal surveys, and Michael Branstetter, a myrmecologist with the Smithsonian. The plan was to stop long enough to interact with village Toushou, or village chief, get acquainted with the Amerindians who were going to accompany our expedition, and make our way up the upper Potaro River to our base camp. Unfortunately, seemingly common for these types of expeditions, plans do not always go according to plan. Some of our gear was to be sent up by boat from Kaieteur Falls, normally only a few hour trip depending on the water level, but was delayed until the next morning.

The Toushou graciously gave us access to one of their buildings so we could sling our hammocks for the night and make ourselves comfortable. Not long after, while enjoying our dinner of canned sardines and Vienna sausages, the amphibians started to make their presence known. Just after dark, many different species orchestrated their evening serenade. Knudsen’s thin-toed frogs (Leptodactylus knudseni) muttered their owl-like trills from their terrestrial haunts while large tree frogs like (Trachycephalus resinifictrix) called from the canopy.

Leptodactylus knudseni call:

Trachycephalus resinifictrix call:

Despite the fact that I had no Ziploc bags or other collecting equipment and was still working off of very little sleep, my eagerness to explore this new area for amphibians was as good for keeping me going as a double shot of espresso.

Ironically, most of what I visually found in the short survey was in and around our building. During dinner, a few Tukeit Hill frogs (Allophrnye ruthveni) climbed around the walls, hoping to pick off any insects that strayed too far from our glowing lantern. As my flashlight beam scanned the ground during the short walk to and from the bathroom facilities, cane toads (Rhinella marina) and longnose frogs (Leptodactylus longirostris) darted around the open soccer field.

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Unfortunately my exhaustion from the lack of sleep and all of the craziness that happened during the day soon got the better of me. My hammock beckoned earlier than I would have preferred, but at least I could go to sleep giddy with excitement and anticipation of what my next site would bring.

Credits:

Photos © Andrew Snyder
Frog Calls © Christian Marty & Philippe Gaucher’s Sound Guide to the Amphibians of French Guiana.

About The Author:

Andrew Snyder is a PhD student studying patterns of evolution at the University of Mississippi, where his research focuses on patterns of evolution across Guiana Shield reptiles and amphibians. As an avid photographer, he tries to connect people with the unique organisms found in the ecosystems where he works and aid conservation efforts by raising awareness.

You can see more of Andrew’s work on his: