With freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in tow, we were off to Lago Bayano. We were warned about the bathroom situation for the day and despite trying my hardest to avoid the restroom, those 2 cups of herba tea caught up with me. After surveying some tall grass that could be possibly used as a bathroom, Claudia got the key to the one in the gas station. We opened the door and to our pleasant surprise, a 5 star, 3 stalled bathroom awaited. Wow- what a nice surprise! It really is the little things in life.
After a 2 hour drive and a few mishaps with the gps, we boarded 3 boats and headed off. As Ian said, “it’s a race!” (also quoted from Mr. Bean). Our boat sped off and navigated through a series of beautiful islands. Amongst the islands, tops of trees were sticking out of the water, creating the perfect pedestals for all of the incredible birds in this lake.
We made it to the first island that we would be working on for the day after some gps navigation. We pulled up to the beach where the veterans told us it had been at least a few meters more exposed the previous year. We immediately got to work scanning the scene. Gretchen, our paleontologist in training, immediately found 2 shark teeth! That was all the inspiration we needed! Teachers in the field are just like our students. We were all excited to get our hands dirty and make some discoveries.
The big inspiration came when we heard the word “megalodon”. Adam was our star for the day and picked up a megalodon tooth that was lying near the vegetation. After he went around to show us all, it was on! We were all on the hunt for a megalodon tooth. While I didn’t find any megalodon teeth myself, I had a great day of discovery and adventure. After receiving some hints from Claudia on how to search, I set off on my square and immediately picked up my first shark tooth! I felt like a little kid on an easter egg hunt. After Claudia took of picture of my huge grin, shark tooth in hand, I excitedly shared my find with Bruce and proudly told him it was a Carcharhinus (Victor told me how to spell this so if it’s incorrect, take it up with him). Considering the majority of shark teeth we were finding were Carcharhinus, it was a pretty easy guess but I was still proud of my knowledge.
Bruce decided it was time for a few of us to adventure to some other islands and a small crew quickly assembled. This is when we really felt like adventurers; trailblazers. We were able to truly see a scientist at work as Bruce searched the different islands for higher relief or more exposure. He found our next target and headed off. After making some discoveries on two different islands and being stalked by black vultures and hairy spiders, we headed back to the main island to meet with the rest of the crew. Today we truly felt like learners but we also were able to contribute to Victor’s research which was even more exciting. I can not wait to share my experiences from the field with my students and I feel like I have a new found appreciation for learning and experiencing something for the first time.
Though the paleontology was over for the day, the adventure didn’t stop when we got in the van. Nestor is not just a driver but a dj, historian, and comedian. He shared with us his mix of music from Britney Spears to Celine Dion to the Begees as we passed by brightly colored buses and packed streets. He mentioned this mix was made for 30-50 year olds, though I still enjoyed it.