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In which we take an expedition deep into an area of unstudied rainforest, and document our discoveries. At night.

This is the first part in a series about The Field Museum's Rapid Inventory No. 27, a journey through the forests between the rivers Tapiche and Blanco in Peru. Every year, the Museum's conservation group [the Action Center!] gathers together leading scientific experts across a number of disciplines (botany, zoology, geology, and anthropology) in order to gain an understanding of little-known areas of the rainforest. They work with local communities and their governments to help inform decisions made for conserving these unique, precious, and threatened parts of the world.

To learn more about the Rapid Inventory program, check out our episode: Into Peru!

Read more about The Field Museum's Rapid Inventory programs:

This expedition would not have been possible without the generosity and help of Corine Vriesendorp, Alvaro del Campo, Tyana Wachter, Ernesto Ruelas, and the rest of the Rapid Inventory team. Thank you for allowing us to join you on this journey, and for giving us the trip of a lifetime.


Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera:
Tom McNamara

Theme music:
Michael Aranda

Created By:
Hank Green

Production Assistant:
Katie Kirby
Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL

We're indebted to our incredible (and sometimes nocturnal) translators: including Andrés García, Evan Liao, Batuhan Özcan, Katerina Idrik, Waris Mohammad, and Seth Bergenholtz.


In search of nightlife

1. Look!
Emily: So every night, the herp goes out between the hours of, like, 7 and 3 a.m. looking for snakes and frogs and salamander and then they bring them back to camp, so we're going to go with them and see what we find.

Man: Ooh, bat.

E: What was that? Bat?

Man: Yeah.

E: So Markus found this Anolis sleeping up here on the twig. Sleeping or pretending to be a stick, um, hoping that we won't see him. He's looking at me like (face) "Please don't pick me up. Please don't pick me up. Please don't see me."

For one thing, it doesn't blend in with its stick very well. It did a pretty poor job of picking a stick to sit on, but it's bright green and it has these, uh, these lines on it, it's an Anolis transversalis? Si?

Markus: Si.

E: Because it's named after the lines that it has on its body. And it has, like, funny little webbed feet kind of like a gecko and a pretty blue eye that it's using to stare at me. Kind of cool.

2. The Team
E: Oh, Tom.

(Laughter and music as the team is listed. People speaking Spanish.)

3. Encounter with a tree frog
E: Pablo found this spiny-backed tree frog over here, and one of our botanists found one in the same genus earlier today, and you can tell that it's got this beautiful white back to it, helps it camouflage in with the branch, so - woop, there it goes.

I got him. He jumped on my hand as I - woah, woah, woah.

Man: They're slippery.

E: Yep, whoap. OK, I got a frog. So this has been an ordeal, trying to get this guy this evening. He's got sticky fingers, too. He jumped on the camera a minute ago. And I've also been told that I shouldn't be touching my face after holding him, because their skin is poison.

4. March of the leaf-footed bugs
E: They're stink bugs, but they kind of smell like pineapple juice. With tangerines in it.

Álvaro: And you know what? It was here and now it sort of hurts here.

E: Oh, ow! Hoo! Hooo!

Á: So what you should do is just pour some water.

E: Oooh! That was a terrible idea!

Á: Mine is going away, so... yeah.

E: Oooh. Mine's not. Don't pick up random things you find in the forest. Do you want some?

Á: I'm just getting a little rash. Yeah, just put some water there, pleas. Thank you. I'm not sure what's the association with this vine, but they all love it. You saw how strong it was -

E: Yeah.

Á: ...that I felt it over my t-shirt? 

E: Yeah.

Á: And yours was over bare skin.

E: Yeah, it was on my skin.

Á: But now its gone. Now I don't feel it anymore.

E: Aww. Good for you. God.

Meanwhile in the jungle
E: Oh, Tom, what just happened?

Tom: I smelled a fruity smell, and then a burning feeling on my neck, and... stink bug.

E: Stink bug happened?

T: Yeah. Apparently it attached itself to my camera.

E: Yeah, that's why it flew off when I started recording you? 

T: Exactly, yeah.

E: Gah.

T: I've been feeling some more like jumping on me right now.

E: Yeah, now I'm going to be paranoid all night.

T: Yeah. I think we're under one of those goddamn vines.


E: Yeah, let's get out of here!

5. A snake in the dark
E: So we were walking along with Pablo for quite a while, waiting for him to find a snake. We kept asking "Pablo, when are you gonna find us a snake?" Got kind of tired. Turned around to head back to camp. We're probably five minutes away and we hear "Un serpiente!" And we came running back and this is what we had found.

Pablo: It's a whip snake. Chironius fuscus.

E: And you think it's a juvenile?

P: Mhhmm.  It's a juvenile.

E: So when we came in to camp on the first day, both Tom and I stepped over something that was like two meters long - don't bite me - and very fast, was that a relative of this guy?

P: Mhhm. Other species, more... bigger.

E: And this one seems to be very interested in biting you at every opportunity.

P: It's like, ah, fish bite.

E: Like a fish bite?

P: Small.

Á: Well, sharks are fishes...

E: Yeah, sharks are fish too.


Á: Depending on which fish.


E: It still has brains on it.