2-25-19: On the hunt for Piper reticulatum

Today we were helping with a particular project that involved two things:
 
1.  Piper reticulatum - the peppercorn plant species that was mentioned previously
2.  Quadrous cerialis -  the insect whose larvae form (caterpillar) feeds on Piper 
 
The way to spot these guys is to:
 
1.  be able to identify the Piper plant
2.  be able to identify which type of leaf shelter Quadrous likes to make on Piper leaves, which are folded (not tent) shelters with half-moon shaped bites out of the leaf
It turns out that around this area (including within La Selva), the phytochemistry (chemical composition of the plant) is different within Piper plants at different locations, even though they are all the same species - Piper reticulatum.  The differences in the phytochemistry could effect how much the caterpillars want to use Piper as their food and shelter sources (the chemicals might taste bad to the caterpillar, etc), so what Dr. Dyer's group is interested in doing is sampling Piper from different areas of the park and testing the following:
 
1. chemical analysis
2.  genomic analysis
3.  herbivoire - based on bite/eating marks, what other herbivores are eating the Piper (competitors to the caterpillar)
 
So today, we went to six different sites around the park and did the sampling, and collected the following:
 
1.  soil samples (3 from each site, 12 inches deep for each)
2.  calculated canopy cover
3.  collected leaf samples from EACH Piper tree in the designated area for a) chemical analysis b) genomic analysis c) herbivoire, so we ended up taking a sample of 20 leaves from each tree
4.  searched from Quadrus (the caterpillar)
 
It rained A TON on us today, but certainly less hot than yesterday.  It was learning curve, as we will be doing this several times over the next few days at different locations
And of course, while walking to the different sites, we got side-tracked by AMAZING plants or insects (oh, and we did see a tree full of monkeys, but they were too far away for a picture)
Some wild plants
Oh, and of course, being on cloud 9...