31 March, 2023

Albuquerque part 3

Old town
The first thing I have to mention is the diversity of native indigenous cultures and how they can be represented in simple but deep-meaning things like vases, clothing, jewelry, and others. Imagine how the people, in the beginning, were able to become with natural colorants, materials, and techniques to express feelings, beliefs, and other important things like the harvest calendar, all this comes to my mind while I was walking every street of the old town, the red chilies decoration, made me feel welcome and privilege of living through history, almost felt my native side emerging, in my mind had this slow motion image of myself walking in those streets years and years ago while looking at colors of the adobe walls and looking at the stars in the chilly night in the desert around.

But coming back at the real experience, for me was fascinating seeing the pigments on the vase on Navajo vases, those iridescent colors almost felt ethereal. I haven't dug much into the meaning of these ones but I'm sure there is a fascinating story behind every single design and color, hope I can go back and share some time with native people to understand the whole concept of "Native Nation" that sound so powerful and empowering to native communities when I heard it, I imagine how I'm my country that would be and just thinking on the territory division based on native tribes distribution and not in political/colonized minds, it would make much more sense.
Air balloon festival

Non intentionally but grateful about how many beautiful things I encounter during my last visit to Albuquerque, just some hours before departing to California, while watching the sunset, I knew the show was about to start, there were some colorful balloons on the horizon, and in the social media they announced the beginning of the festival on the next day, the 1st of October. It was my first time experiencing an international hot-air balloon festival. Far from the simplicity I imagine, The New Mexico air balloon festival was elaborated, inspiring, and made me understand a lot of the culture. Not. just companies but individuals, prepared during the whole year to take the flight over the Albuquerque desert with the stunning reddish sunshine.
Some of the balloons are really colorful and creative with the shape, and some others go to the traditional side which reminds me of those Disney air balloons with circus inspirations. From 6 am to 9 am, I enjoy the process of seeing how they do the preparation (see video).

Unfortunately this blog doesn't allow me to share links or pictures so I invite you to go to my original blog https://www.junglejournals.soniacamargo.com/

Posted on 31 March, 2023 16:06 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Albuquerque part 2

Sandia Peak Tramway

Another iconic area of the city is the Sandia Peak Tramway, located inside the Cibola National Forest. You are required to buy the tickets online and be ready to go on an adventure in the high desert.

there is plenty of space to park your car there, they recommend not to take your pet, nevertheless, they do have some cages in case you didn't know about this, but I wouldn't feel comfortable up there while my pet is stressed waiting for me, it would definitively be a vibe killer.

the tram is very big and secure, and it also has preferential seats, but on every ride, there are at least 35 persons so the ones in the window are the privileged ones, the ride is about 15 mins up to the peak, and the whole ride it's amazing, you can appreciate the geographical forms, due to his altitude you can see the forest remains mostly pines that blend within the desert vegetation, and the rocky terrain, you can see the different layers in the reddish rock that in the influence of the sun make you realize why is it called the Sandia Peak.

During the tram ride, you can see from the top beautiful perspective of the remaining forest of coniferous (Pines, Aspens, spruce, and fir), and the vegetation around being mostly shrubs, cacti, and grasses from this type of ecosystem. It's stunning the contrast between the rocky mountain and the vegetation, you can feel the depth of the canyon here and how small we are in the landscape.

There is a guide on the tram, telling you stories about the construction and history of the forest, also mentioned that sometimes if you are lucky you can see some animals like foxes, deer, and turkeys passing by, I enjoyed the late afternoon ride from 5 to 7 pm which gave me an incredible sunset even to was super chilly, you get multiple views of the city and surroundings, and there is a board with binoculars and an explanation of the iconic places you can see from there, "Totally worthed".

During the winter you can also enjoy the sky area, some years isn't open due to the lack of snow, the place is been closed since 2021 and this year (2022) they already announce they are gonna be closed too, this is a clear effect on the global warming and how temperature is changing the course not just of nature dynamics but also human activities.

From the top of the tram peak, you can visualize different geographical places like:

  1. South Sandia Peak, part of the Cibola National Park, known as Manzano Mountains (apple mountains)
  2. Los Pinos mountains
  3. San Mateo Mountains
  4. Rio communities, Belen
  5. Las lunas, Magdalena Mountains
  6. kirtland air force base
  7. ladron peak
  8. National Museum of Nuclear Science
  9. Albuquerque International Airport
  10. Old town Albuquerque
  11. Elena Gallegos Picnic Area

Is honestly worthed to be there, filling up your eyes with these colors and contrasts, it makes sense when you hear the name, "Land of Enchantment", you can imagine how The native Nation was living here in a sacred relationship with The Earth.

Unfortunately this blog doesn't allow me to share links or pictures so I invite you to go to my original blog https://www.junglejournals.soniacamargo.com/

Posted on 31 March, 2023 16:04 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Albuquerque part 1

Visiting Albuquerque has a mixed amount of emotions, it was interesting to see or heard the community is proud of the native ancestry, but at the same time it felt like it was more a tourist asset, and not even in the tourist events was a center of attention the 23 tribes (tree Apache tribes and the Navajo Nation), which was a bit concerning but not surprising, but we are here to show the most positive aspect of every region so let's continue.

The first thing I noticed was the altitude and the ecosystem conditions, its altitude is 1.600 m, and its dominated by mostly desert, so it was visually like other deserts I've been to, but felt like 2000 m, very chili and thorny our dog couldn't walk 100 m without limp thanks to Tribulus terrestris, also some "Colombian manner" the sun in Albuquerque is definitively rain sun (we said that when the sun seem to be stronger almost blinding which we call spicy).

Downtown is a very small area and has something magical, you don't see many people around it kind of coincides with the ghost stories which also seem to be a big thing there, in the central park of the city there is a representation of cultural representation, some petroglyphs an archeological piece that also Im not sure if it's an original one, which let me think that all cultural pieces should be accessible to the public, should be considered a civil right but in many places, its also a benefit of class (just if you can pay the entrance to the museum), nevermind that was pretty nice to see.

Albuquerque is famous also because of its trails and natural scenery, so I decided to visit some of them, which lead to many other good and surprising things, I was hesitant about riding the bike to the beginning of the trail because there was no information about a place to put it safely so I decided to go on public transportation, also public transportation gives you a taste of the culture, the modern culture. The bus rate was $0 which make me happy not just for saving 3 or 4 dollars but because I put myself in the position of the community that needs this service the most, and yes they are the most frequent users, so I hope more cities decide to be more inclusive, my ride was about an hour to the city limits, The Sandia Mountains and within this protected area, there is a really easy access trail called "Embudito" one of the 32 different trails in the preserve area ( check the list here).

Something curious I observed was the birds were very active even though it was the hottest part of the day, I watched the following ones in just 20 mins I stayed close to an area that look promising:

🐦 White-crowned Sparrow

🐦 Canyon towhee

🐦 Orange-crowned Warbler

🐦 Rufous-crowned Sparrow

🐦 Black-chinned Hummingbird

🐦 Yellow warbler

🐦 Crissal Thrasher

check the moment when I was leaving

Also had the opportunity to visit another part of the city, "The Old Town" its a "colony", where you can find different stores mostly native souvenirs and restaurants, my first impression was feeling I was in ancient times getting through a colonized Indigenous city, the Adobe buildings with colonials balconies with earthy colors and every column and door decorated by Red chili Ristras as a welcome sign (Loved it!).

you can find pottery from different cultures my favorite Navajo iridescent this, also jewelry, clothing, and accessories.

Part 2 is coming...

Posted on 31 March, 2023 15:59 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Nuquí, Chocó Biogeographical Region. Part 2

On the arrival at the bitter-flavored beach, in a moment you'll see why but for now let me describe what I see that day. The boat manage to ride the waves and the beach showed the violence of the sea, there were some walls of about a meter and a half, exposing some roots of the trees on the shore, and some meters inside, you could see some wooden moldy stairs pretty slimy look and we had two bags of 80 Lt and more each one also those stairs were about sixty steps on it and some of them rotten for the salty humidity, from there, we knew there was gonna be the heavy start of that journey, there was no much help to put our things up in the base so we just figured out our way to climb the stairs. The place is all made of tropical wood, the bedroom we installed had two beds with mosquito net and some shelves where we put some ready-to-go clothes and materials to start the next day, the plan was clear and set before we arrive, we were supposed to be accompanied by a local expert, someone who knew about trees and valuable woods, so it would guarantee the success of the visit and we could enjoy some free time, but the first thing we knew is that the guide was not even an expert on the forest, so we lose not just the day of work but the hope of finding a decent individual of the such valuable tree. Later that day I was told about the reputation of the place (a bad one), not just because they have misleading advertising but because its a coursed land (and yes, forest scientist we do believe in the stories of the jungle), a community land which had been owed by the natives then genuinely sold to researchers and then some native (the one administrating right now that "preserve")in company of some bad people just taking it back passing over any ethic rule or word given, because land in those territories isn't written is throughout a verbal agreement that you can "own it", and usually you wont have a problem as a native to keep your place there, but this land had a terrible violent history of being the reason of disputes, this as some other places in the Chocó Biogeographical Region is full of routes, mammals routes, water routes, ancient routes and also problems routes*, so it was a situation were two people cannot share the same room anymore, adding to that the person managing the place was also having really bad reputation for lying to the scientist visitors about biological matters or logistics of the fieldwork, but coming back to the present, I was told all this information in the middle of the challenge, and thats were you close your eyes and beg all the gods in the jungle and the elementals to show you which and where is your tree within 60 meters canopies and thick forest, so that was the situation, we saw many wonderful things in the four days there , we saw two big groups of owler monkeys that curiously were mad at the guy that was walking with us but they were quiet while we two female were passing by there, we meet a native guy who was trying to set some traps for the hunting chore at night and we give it a try to see if he would know about our tree and a location were we could find it, after finding all the possible words to make sure we were being understood, he say he hasn't see that tree anymore because people just cut it so much, even the people that still working on the wood industry was saying that tree wasn't there anymore, followed by finding the people administrating the preserve was also cutting some trees systematically, so our hope was going in decline, our first 2 days went by just the same walking about 8 ours per day and not finding our tree, on the third day we planned to go diving since it was my colleague's birthday but again plans were ruined due to rainforest storm and for good because after spending the whole day inside and reading and processing our fieldwork data we heard that the ocean has had dangerous currents that day and it would be dangerous to be diving, so we were hoping at least to watch some whale jumping in the horizon, and yes we were in whale birth season but the place was so far into the wild that it was just better to watch them on a youtube video. Anyway, the last day was our last hope to make a huge appreciation for this specie extinction and we just went out on the search just for protocol really.
It was like 4 in the afternoon when we decide to stop the search and we just sit under the biggest tree around talking about our paper, what are we gonna say, how do we tell the scientific community this endemic special specie is disappearing and in this exact location it's a fact you can't find it anymore, there was rage and desperation at that moment, we were angry because this guy had told us we could find a good population of at least 5 adults plus and then nothing, so there was an awkward silence, I was playing around with some leaves from under this majestic tree, feeling frustrated and exhausted when there was a wind that blows and some fresh leaves fall in something call my attention in that leaf, immediately my mental checklist started to fill up and I told my colleague with a tear in my eyes, !THIS IS OUR TREE!. There was joy and hope, we went back to the camp, and was that night were everything went down the hill, it was the moment to finish paying our stay there, and we had an inconvenience bc there isn't internet signal there to do the banking transference they offered to sell us some satellite internet connection that also didn't work out, so the plan was that they were gonna take us to the town and there we will pay the overbalance that was las a 20 % of the whole cost, we didn't have that cash because the cost suddenly went up on absurd justifications like the day that we didn't work also we had to pay the field worker, we ended paying the field work and some other employees stay because even tho they aren contractor by the people there they don't want to cover anything legal even if they are natives too, every extra out after 9pm that the lights were on also had an extra cost, also apparently they had to buy extra groceries because they didn't consider the employees food, and some other costs we were not expecting but the fact was, we were gonna pay just we didn't have the tools to transfer the money there. There was this foreign women, who since the beginning was asking as for help on how to manage the preserve and some other things that researchers know to make a successful preserve, but she seem way to involved like almost this owning feeling on the land and later that day we had the inconvenience was her who become as the managing party, not accepting our offer to pay in town where we all were gonna go, also she start harassing and threatening with not letting us leave that isolated place and not letting us take the research material, so we saw how somebody just under bad intentions was pretending to charge us 4 days full stay and other expenses with no results, we freak out, we couldn't really sleep, and next day first time in the morning we were supposed to be pick up by the boat, so we packed our stuff and expected the worst, even with a contract in between we were in the coursed land, the land of nobody's that wanted to be the kings of the hill, we even offer ourselves to go with the police to make the payment effective but that didn't workout for that women either because she didn't want the money (not in that moment) but she wanted to be recognized as the queen of the hill, the owner of a native land she didn't belong, and she acted desperate because that was everything she though she had, the "respect " from the people when in reality it was just another villain Queen that no-one has heard about but she claim herself the queen of the bitter flavored beach, and natives were scare and tired of her tyrani.

*the unforgettable story of the Colombian pacific forest full of sophisticated labs in the jungle and the need to move around the outcome.

Posted on 31 March, 2023 15:40 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Nuquí, Chocó Biogeographical Region. Part 1

First I must say that this region in Colombia, is considered one the most diverse areas on the planet (in area /diversity), also the rainiest one, with almost 16.000 mm of rain per year, the geographical extension is about 187.400 km² (72.355,5 Mi²), and it's isolated from the rest of the continental country by the Andean Cordillera, making it a treasure chest full of endemism and native organisms.

Now, in personal experience, I consider this territory one of the most magical and complex in all aspects, it's also my happy place and where I have been made as a person and professional during the last ten years of my life).

the last visit was to Nuquí- Chocó, its a well known touristic destination in Colombia, also difficult to visit because it doesn't have terrestrial connections or roads, so you have to take a charter flight from the biggest cities like Medellín or Cali, the flight per se is an interesting experience (non so pleasant is you suffer from motion sickness), the planes that flight there, have a capacity of about 20 passengers, everyone can choose window, making it more intimate, when landing, the first thing I noticed was the humidity sticking to the window, follow by the intense green into your eyes and the vast area of the rainforest, everywhere you look is green or grayish tones, then the landing that can be a bit turbulent, our girl pilot did wonderful, then the doors are opened and a wave of heat and humidity hit your body, almost the sensation of entering in a steam room just more colorful, and you start feeling how your 60% of water content became an 80ish%, your wrinkles start vanishing and while you adjust, you cal feel a bit heavier.

The next thing you'll notice is the scarcity of governmental institutions in the airport, is more like a backyard garage with a 3-bedroom office installation where all the agencies are converging (police, airport personnel, tourist office), you can register your visit, and pay the visitor tax, but don't let this to demotivate you if you keep your mind and hearth open, you'll be rewarded. After doing the registration process, we contact the people from the place we were gonna stay first and due to previous communications we expect that the logistics on the maritime transportation were arranged, but something you must be open to if you visit these isolated territories is that the time goes by so different, you must low expectations otherwise you'll make yourself miserable and you'll activate the Murphy chain of unfortunate events.

for us was difficult to fit into someone else’s routine because forest research is expensive, sponsors have high expectations, and the forest does whatever it wants, so if it doesn't want you to go that day, you better don't go (don't put yourself in an unnecessary risk), so you need to have in mind the possibility of some days of what we call field data process (mostly dedicated to begging to the forest, next day it can show you what you need or the time allow you to move forward in your research).

the arrival to the first place was magic, you have to take a rapid boat throughout the open ocean, which is like the public transportation in the area so usually stops in different villages, and at every stop, the boat is defying the rage of the pacific ocean, it takes a good sailor to take you safe (not dry) to your destination, and all you can see on the horizon is the dark ocean and the forest in the background, steep mountains of forests from mangroves to higher land forests.

Once we arrive at the first destination place, we get mentally ready for the next day, the Challenge? of finding some exceptional individual from a threatened specie to evaluate if genetically is there a possibility of saving it or if it's just a matter of time until is gone.

Posted on 31 March, 2023 15:39 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Monarch's matters

Continuing with the last post, the recent training in Madison was given to me as an opportunity to learn about Monarchs. I wanna make a parenthesis here because you will think I'm here contradicting myself and again making complex for you to understand what a Forest engineer does, we usually work around forests and communities but remember everything is connected and other organisms have been into my interests recently, butterflies, for example, are bioindicators they tell us about the status or health in the surroundings, they always come back to the same breeding or feeding spots so you can monitor the evolution of forests throughout monitoring butterflies population in time.

Understanding how they develop and all details in migration processes, makes it even more interesting to see them in the wilderness, makes me see even more colors, and creates a challenge of try to find them in the trees or wild bushes, (an amazing fact about Monarchs, is that while other butterflies live just 24 days in average, Monarchs can live up to nine months), they are pretty evolved and definitively opposite as you would think, they are not fragile if you compare them to alike organisms, nevertheless, they also have external hazards, they have a certain degree of fragility, and we humans are really good at finding solutions with collateral damage, in this case by using broad-spectrum pesticides and another type of pest control products that can stay for more than a year, we are increasing the risk of butterflies and other beneficent organisms dying for systemic poisoning.

I feel pretty fortunate because while I was learning wonderful things about Monarchs, at the same time they happened to be included on the red list as an endangered specie after 2 years of hard work, from the people behind it. For science is a bittersweet moment because indicates its endangered status is approved by international instances, a fact; But also means that the government has to create policies or use the ones in this matter in order to preserve and try to improve the status of certain specie, it can vary from country to country.

there are some sides of me as a nature scientist, one is the idealist, the one that thinks that small actions made by individuals can really make a change, that's the case of the people I had the opportunity to meet recently, one of them has a huge experience with an international NGO and he has given the big responsibility of dealing with powerful people (even more powerful than governors), in order to get some funding and resources for continuing the work in conservation of forests.

he takes care of the migration processes of monarchs, he makes sure that the forest where they are going to hibernate is healthy and protected from logging, the reward? the yearly exhibition of a forest covered in orange flapping little wings all over the place and the satisfaction of seeing how they go back to the north in another heroic travel to start the new cycle of first-generation monarchs until the north gets too cold. And as it is on the political scale, taking care of migration processes, and making sure the specimens survive is not an easy task, Monarchs are very sensitive and travel a long path in short span of life, apparently just to hibernate in the south but some of the studies have shown this as an evolutive strategy, in fact, the individuals from the north that are sick (parasitized, ill, with physical mutations, etc) don't make it to the south and instead they are part of the local population.

Another example of a small action big impact is the case of a lady who works with rural kids making awareness of their environment, and Monarchs, have given her some tools to make this task more graphic, by explaining how the other part of the live of this migratory organisms, do in the north, so she facilitates a cultural exchange with some other kids in the north which are familiar with monarchs too, and they basically draw in a letter size butterfly everything related to monarch instars and how this organisms identify themself into their culture and life, some of this kids are part of first or second generation of migrant population coming from the south so it really touch them, also there is a religious beliefs on this monarchs of being the family members that fade away and they come every year to visit, so culturally people is attached to Monarch's migration and THIS is what we need to use to create awareness and empower people about their environment, communities are the biggest advocates in conservation and they determine the success or a restoration process in the long term.

We need to always attach conservation to communities in the area of conflict other ways we are just trying to help someone who doesn’t know needs help, scientific papers are essential but they need to be applicable and logical for the people that need to use this research results.

Posted on 31 March, 2023 15:28 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Beginning of journaling path

Always when people ask me what is my career about, I have to take a deep breath and rethink what I'm gonna say, its true my career is titled Forest Engineering, but people don't quite associate trees and math, also is more than trees, its an ecosystem, is the system that holds us, is all the dynamic and communication within the living beings on earth at least discover so far until now.

that happened just recently in the last training which happened in Madison - WI, the attendants were mostly educators at different levels from primary school teachers, to informal educators (artists, community leaders, advocates), so for them is easy to respond to who they teach, is either kids between 0 -3 years old or kids from the city of some country living in this determined territory.

For us, the forest scholars are a pretty wide population you can influence and that's why I consider our profession so inspiring. Just as an example, we go do some research fieldwork, and some of the direct contact people you need to go safely into the forest, are the local transportation, food source and the field guide person, all of them probably are gonna be from the same town, they will know each other and probably all the community in around 20 hectares would know you are coming to stay some time with them.

In the Colombian context, people in the rural areas tent to be kind, welcoming and curious/shy, so they would wanna share more than the strict, work related time and knowledge, some of them will invite you to take a firewood fresh-made coffee, or invite you to get some lunch with the resources they have available, so you end up meeting half or the whole town and all the human context around them, sometimes they don't know what a plotting sample area is or the scientific therms and names we have given to all, but something I can assure you is , if you can translate you petty and discriminatory scientific language into their language they will teach you more than you went to look for in the first place and your research will have an added value, its a very anthropological exercise to do science in the forests, its fulfilling and for that reason, I consider essential, to give back some learning and results to this communities in order to appreciate what our rural people does for us, is more than food, oxygen, clean water, and all the resources we are familiar with directly because we used them every day, they have though me about the most complex concepts in ecology, genetics, functionality and facilitation that our nature envinroment need in order to remain and evolve, so we still exist for some other time in healthy conditions on earth.

I expect this journal to be a little piece of the cake I want to take back to every single one of the communities and forests I have been to (some of which I am still in touch with from at least 9 years ago, and surprisingly they still remember most of what we did and talked about), all as a gratitude of all the learning, love and experiences that made me who I am, like a neuron with a lot of information that still connected to the source.

Posted on 31 March, 2023 15:25 by soniacamargo soniacamargo | 0 comments | Leave a comment