The bullet ants, the anteater, and the scaredy-cat

Rainforests are brimming with life. Big, small, and smaller still. Camouflaged coats and colourful garbs. Picky specialists and opportunistic generalists. Dedicated architects and cumbersome foragers. Despite this, most of their most famous inhabitants are very hard to see, in truly untamed forest. Take it from someone who lived in the Amazon for a yearand has been going back for shorter periods for over six years.
I am yet again back in San José de Payamino at the moment, this time for a couple of very brief visits between getting through some lab work in Quito. Although it will be great to get this lab work done and it will hopefully lead to more future collaborations with the Universidad de Las Américas, who are kindly offering me the use of their laboratory facilities, I can’t help but think about this time last year. In January and February 2018 I spent five weeks in Payamino, kicking off the first lot of field work for my PhD, which led to acquiring some of the samples I will be …

Back in Payadise

I’ve been back in Ecuador for just over a week now. It’s been a few years since I’ve spent so much time in Quito in one go, but after a stressful few days of sourcing equipment, buying supplies, chasing chemical companies, nearly missing the night bus down to Coca, and then watching the motorised canoe on it’s way to pick us up flip over and float downriver – I am thrilled to finally be in Payamino!

Waking up to the sound of the Payamino river is simultaneously soothing and exciting. Before going to bed last night I had already seen a couple of gaudy cane toads, some intriguing orthopterans, several gorgeous spiders, and many dazzling butterflies. On the canoe up to the station a couple of mating damsel flies even landed on me. As if to counter balance, I also found a bullet ant in the kitchen and have been bitten my dozens of sandflies. Swings and roundabouts. 

This time, I'll be in Ecuador for three months, the longest stint I will have done here since leaving in 2013, after a yea…

The happy plant that escaped to Africa

Nestled on the west coast of Africa, a plant lives 3000 km from its 3000 relatives. Most bromeliads are relatively similar in shape but take on a wide variety of habitats in the neotropics. Except one. Meet Pitcairnia feliciana.

Hips Don't Lie #3 - Orthopaedics following Hippiversary

One day I'll get back to writing biology-related posts and shut up about my hip...

For the history on the hip issue and the surgery that has changed my life, see previous posts Hip, Hip, Hurray! and Hippiversary! One year post-op
Yesterday I had the year-on orthopaedics appointment. Prepared to spend the usual 3-4 hours in the Manchester Royal Infirmary, the orthopaedics department was unusually quiet and I was in and out of there within 45 minutes! At least, I would have been, had I not got the time of the appointment wrong and mistakenly arrived an hour earlier.
It was a little disappointing that I did not get to see the surgeon who did my hip replacement, as both my physiotherapist and I wanted his personal opinion on whether I am ready to start building up towards running. Everyone has different views on how you should go about recovery and the level of activity you should embark on, opinion differs even amongst surgeons. I got the usual talk on thinking of the hip as a pair o…

Hips Don't Lie #2 - Hippiversary! One year post-op

It's been a year to the day that two weeks into twenty-five, I got a full hip replacement, courtesy of the UK's ever fantastic National Health Service (NHS). Before I start rambling, I would like to take a moment to emphasise just how must I appreciate the NHS. Even beyond the hip, I owe my life and sanity to the NHS and will never forget it.

For background on what happened to the last hip, see this previous post (Hip Hip, Hurray!). It is more interesting than this post will be.

This is essentially an update for anyone who cares, because I get asked about the ol' hip a lot by friends and family. For the most part, these concerned friends and family tell me off for how I treat it or the decisions I make, whether or not I should be doing a particular activity, whether I do enough physiotherapy or not, ... Sometimes they are correct, of course, I can overdo things. However, I thought I might explain why I do these things and demonstrate that I think about my actions a lot mo…

Hips Don't Lie #1 - Hip hip, hurray!

Anyone who knows me or has seen me walking in recent years will be aware that I have longterm problems with one of my hips. In February just gone, I went home to Spain and was met at Barcelona airport by my brother. On the drive to my parents' house, Calloway asked exactly what was wrong with my hip, which had been freshly replaced 2 months prior. I started with "Well, you know what they did to my hip when I was a baby, right?"
"Not exactly, no..." he replied.

A lot of people ask about my hip, so I decided to use the 6-month-versary of my shiny new titanium hip as an excuse for a completely self-indulgent post about what was wrong with my hip to begin with and why I needed a replacement two weeks into my 25th year (and an excuse to show off my scar and some x-rays, look away now if it embarrasses you to see x-rays of my pelvis).

Bee orchids