I’ve always played with the idea of writing a blog but I never expected it to be so stressful. I must note that I am even writing this on the tropical island of Solarte, in Bocas del Toro, Panama, swinging in a hammock…

Our classes here on Solarte have just started picking up and we are coming to the end of our most-packed week in the field so far. The most surprising aspect of the week was not the pufferfish I saw cruising the sea grass floor, the flamingo tongues on the coral, or the several enormous spider and Strawberry poison dart frogs I saw on our hikes (some pictured here).  By far the most surprising thing in fact was that I started wearing a watch.

I never dreamed I’d wear such a bulky nuisance, but it’s a good thing I did, as I needed to wake up at 5:30 AM Wednesday morning to go birding on our island for our resource management course. If you have never birded before, you should know that it requires great patience and silence. This can be quiet difficult with a group of eight eager chatty students trudging through mud in rain boots. But despite these adversities, we quietly persevered and were able to hear, spot, and identify several types of birds. In particularly the Purple-Crowned Fairy hummingbird which had never been seen on the island before.

But the day did not end there, and my watch continued proving its importance with our tight schedule when we continued our field study of marine ecosystems after lunch (the previous Monday, we snorkeled though a mangrove forest cluster and a sea grass bed). As my watch signaled 2:15 PM, we hopped onto a boat and went off the coast of Solarte to explore a coral reef and study and identify its structure and its many inhabitants.

I have casually snorkeled before with my family, but this time I teamed up with a group of kids strapped with their waterproof tablets, cameras, and GoPros.  It was incredible how much more I observed while snorkeling after spending the previous classes learning all that is down there and how the organisms interact.

Our week is coming to a close but we are heading out to a second coral reef tomorrow morning and identifying butterflies after lunch.  I also must mention that this Saturday will be comprised of dissecting the infamous invasive lion fish.

I have spent less than a week with my watch and it has already shown its use.  But I am finding its greatest importance is not making sure that I keep up with our jam-packed schedule, but that I don’t lose track of time; as we have just been here for almost a month and time is starting to fly by.