From Lima to Huaraz

28 juni 2014 - Huaraz, Peru

Dear readers,

Already a week ago we arrived in Huaraz. Lima’s traffic and mist have been replaced with mountain sceneries and cloudless skies. The ‘blistering solar radiation’, our supervisor Raúl already wrote about in his papers burned my skin immediately on the first day. Now, I can imagine even better why the invertebrates living in the streams here and on higher altitudes, need a lot of pigments to be protected against this intense contact with sunlight.

In Lima, a week before, we did a lot of laboratory work. Elmer practiced the DNA extraction which he is going to do when we return to Lima in about two weeks. Anouk tried to culture Bacteria from some of the Chironomidae, Baetidae and other invertebrates we collected with Raúl in el Rio Rimac. On invertebrates from the same river, I did a little pilot study on the abundance of pigments. This was quite successful. On Thursday and Friday the geology students and their professor, Eric Cammeraat, joined us in our hostel and Saturday morning we left by bus to Huaraz. Here the real work began, although the first days were not too exhausting. We had a very nice excursion on Monday to the mountains near Olleros, an Andean village south of Huaraz. The day after we did not join the geologists who went sampling already. Instead we went to the university of Huaraz to meet a colleague of Raúl and prepare a place were we could work. The people where very nice and helpful. The following days we went out with all the equipment to the field. On the first day we collected a lot of insects in Rio Cojup, at around 3250 m. This is our lower altitude. The next day we went to the middle one at 3750 m and collected a satisfactory amount of animals again. Unfortunately, both days Elmer did not find the plant his project is about: Werneria nubigena. I don’t think this came as a surprise to him. The Werneria supposedly grows at higher altitudes. And indeed, today we did the third sampling site. This was our higher altitude; 4250 m, and Elmer found a lot of Werneria’s. The walk towards this place was quite long. The bus brought us to around 3900 meters. From here we walked along the river, having some beautiful landscapes behind us and snow covered tops in front. Although the calm valley through which we walked suggests otherwise the river, el Shallap, is heavily polluted. This is a result from weathering of the rocks, that contain high amounts of metals and Sulfate, of which the later one results in acidified water. We measured a pH of 3.5 here. The river bed is orange from the precipitated iron and the lagoon on top green. Anouk and I could notice that much less animals were present in the stream. Monday we will sort out what we found. Hopefully it is enough to use for analyses. If not, then we will return in one and a half week. Tomorrow we will walk a long way again. This time it will be to another 4250 meters of altitude in el Churup, a clean river which is hopefully surrounded by Werneria’s and filled with Chironomids and Baetidae.