Name: Jenny Gonyer ‘14
Hometown: Hill City, SD
Major: Biology-Environmental Studies
OCS Program: SFS Panama – Tropical Island Biodiversity & Conservation Studies
Title of Research: Physiological tolerance of amphibians and reptiles to climatic warming in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Description of Study: My research involved catching amphibians and reptiles for two weeks and determining their CTmax (critical thermal maximum) , which is the temperature at which an individual loses coordination and the ability to respond. I spent many hours chasing after frogs through the jungle, catching them in butterfly nets, and testing their CTmax in our temporary field labs. To do this, we placed each frog or lizard collected into a water bath, where we slowly increased the temperature, while flipping the frog onto its back every 30 seconds. Once the frog could no longer flip itself back over, we recorded the temperature (the CTmax), and placed the frog into a recovery bath with cooler water. We then released the animals where we found them.
Every day I came back from the field with muddy rain boots, exhausted from chasing after poison dart and rocket frogs. I loved it! The thrill of catching a red-eyed tree frog and studying how these animals will respond to climate warming was only part of the enjoyment of knowing that my efforts are important for the conservation of unique and fragile island ecosystems. Living and being immersed in the environment I was studying gave me the best opportunity to truly appreciate and observe my surroundings. I will never forget trampling through the jungle in rain boots, snorkeling with sharks and spotted eagle rays, and tasting chocolate freshly made from cacao. I couldn't have asked for a better way to end my junior year than to study abroad in Panama.