We had our first day of fieldwork which involved all participants from all the different disciplines encompassed in the project. They came from all levels: undergraduates, graduates, experts and the local people were also quite involved. The backgrounds of the student groups were multidisciplinary, we had students from an array of disciplines : biology, medicine, engineering, architecture, social sciences and even the humanities. So we split into three groups of entomology, one mammal research group and one clinical group.
We begun early in the morning at the elementary school in Chaquizhca, one of the communities we are working with, where we had a delicious breakfast prepared by “Don Pato” the project’s own cook, it was a slice of heaven. The coffee was extremely strong and dense, as it always is in Ecuador, one of the participants was even saying “I didn’t know what I was going to do, I was so sleepy, now I’m like ‘man I’m ready to go!’, really potent coffee”. After breakfast we split up into groups and went to visit houses or collect samples from animal to test for Chagas Disease and other research purposes.
Our group visited four houses in one of the most remote parts of Chaquizhca. We have visited these houses every summer to find bugs and spray every house to get rid of chinchorros, also known as “the kissing bug”, clever insects that live in unkempt houses and feed on animals and people. chinchorros are particularly dangerous for people, as they carry a bacteria which causes Chagas and other diseases. Amongst all four houses that we revisited, we only found one chinchorro found, it was in the most remote house of the community. However, we still sprayed all the houses to make sure the chinchorros would stay away from them.
While the entomological team was working on finding the bugs and spraying the house, other people in our groups have different tasks. Some students conducted socio-economic surveys to find out the people’s source of income, the architects worked on the blueprint and analysis of the house to see which ones need to be improved and which ones need to be completely rebuilt.
It was quite interesting that all of us have different research backgrounds and we are all in one group studying the same house from such a diversity of perspectives. After such a productive day, we came back to our base in elementary school in Chaquizca, content with the outcome of the day and excited to tell other people what we found out during the day.
It was also quite an adventure as the places we visited are high up in the mountain and the way to get there is not easy at all. They are so remote that what for locals is “just right here” for us is a country mile’s journey. However, that makes the journey more exciting and adventurous to all of us. And well… hiking is also supposed to be a good exercise, right? 🙂