Every day, after I put on my long sleeve shirt and long pants (against mosquitoes and spines), I put on a belt that has two leather pouches. In one pouch will be the small vials into which I collect the spiders, and in the other pouch will be the vials full of newly-collected spiders. Then I put on my day pack and fanny pack, lace up my boots, grab my beating sheet and stick, and I'm off to find spiders.
Here's what I have in my packs:
- 10x hand lens (loupe). Indispensable -- spiders are small, and often we want to look for their distinguishing characteristics as we find them.
- paintbrush. See my post about collecting on tree trunks.
- leather gloves without the fingertips, to protect my hands but still let me manipulate small things. When beating vegetation, our hands are pushed into spines, rough branches, nasty insects, and other things I don't want to know about.
- water in bottles. Also, electrolyte-drink powder. Much sweat is lost.
- sesame snaps, an old-fashioned and amazingly dense snack -- I call them "lembas".
- weird sandwich, invariably squashed. Today's contained jam, chile peppers and whole peanuts. In the field, you have a license, and sometimes the necessity, to break the bounds of normalcy.
- sunscreen, bandages, iodine, mosquito repellant, water purifying tablets, painkillers, antihistamines. I almost never use sunscreen on these expeditions, as we are usually deep in the forest shade.
- eyeglass defogger. Foggy or wet eyeglasses are the bane of my tropical collecting. I am hot and sweaty, the air is hot and sweaty, the leaves are wet even if it isn't raining, and so it is a constant struggle for me to maintain clear glasses. Contacts would solve it, if they would work for me.
- paper towels or tissues to wipe eyeglasses and for other emergencies.
- pens, pencils, paper for labels.
- 100 or more vials for spiders.
- GPS receiver, to record our location as data, and for safety. It's dangerously easy to get lost in a tropical rainforest. Rarely can you see more than a 100 meters. Also, I bring an old-fashioned compass just in case.
- headlamp, for safety but also to look on trunks and ground in the dim light of an overcast day under the forest canopy.
- whistle, for safety
- walkie-talkie, for safety, and to coordinate sampling with team members.
- spare batteries.
- extra beating sheet, in case the first one rips or gets too bloodstained. Bloodstained? Well, an exaggeration, but a few drops of blood fall occasionally. I'll write a post on Vines and Spines to explain.
- zip top plastic bags to organize everything.
Much of my equipment is adorned with fluorescent tape. I even put some on my eyeglasses when I'm in the field. Colleagues have teased me for it, but items dropped are hard to find on the messy forest floor. I'd rather look outrageous than lose my eyeglasses, GPS, or precious beating stick.
Previously in this series:
Text and images © W. Maddison, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY)