Some History

In 1965, as an undergrad newbie in biology, I got the opportunity to do fieldwork in Mexico. Four of us, led by a Ph.D. student from University of Arizona and our professor from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (then called Nevada Southern Univ, I think), traveled to a mountain on the border of Jalisco and Colima, Mexico. We set up camp at about 8,000 ft elevation in a tropical pine-oak forest and lived there for about 10 days. We trapped small mammals, collected birds, mist-netted bats, collected lizards and salamanders (they kept getting caught in our mammal traps), and prepared museum specimens of all of the stuff we caught. We were, in truth, “gutbucket biologists”.

It rained almost every day and cooking food was sometimes a real adventure. Hygiene was a challenge – so much so that when we got back to the U.S. and went into a restaurant to eat, we cleared the room. I got a mild case of “Montezuma’s Revenge”. One of the guys had a recurrence of amoebic dysentery that he had picked up in the Caribbean while in the Navy, and another got stung by a scorpion while were camped along the Rio Naranja on the way home. He was in bed for two days. Along that same river, we purchased a freshwater lobster from a local fisherman – it was delicious. I ate a mango for the first time and discovered what real ripe bananas were about.

It was a fascinating and highly educational experience, especially for someone that had just “found” biology. I learned more natural history in that interval than almost any other in my career.  I hope to be able to use some of that adventure in a novel in the not too distant future.

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