Susan - There's no place like a rainforest
I’m an ecologist studying how tropical forests recover from disturbance. The forest all around me in this photo is younger than I am– about 20 years old in the background, and about five years old in the foreground. It’s remarkable how fast tropical forests grow back, as long as there are seed sources and a relatively complete assortment of seed-dispersing animals.
Working in the tropical forest brings its share of challenges. I’ve been stung dozens of times by bullet ants (Paraponera clavata), inch-long black ants with what has been described as the most painful of all insect stings. I’ve also had run-ins with venomous caterpillars and a scorpion. I’m constantly on watch for pit vipers and other dangerous snakes. On a visit to China, I had to pull land leeches off my legs. But there is no place on earth where I’d rather be than in a rain forest. The quality of the light, the sound of rain dripping from thousands of leaves, the sense of frenzied life everywhere… these ecosystems have so much to teach us, and I hope to spend the rest of my life learning from them.