A dock on the water in Panama.

Duke Diary Dispatch: Bugs and Buffoonery in Bocas

Nhu Bui is navigating high heat and lots of bugs while doing research in Panama

What there is, however, is plenty of wildlife. I’ve lost track of the number of cockroaches and June bugs we’ve found in our room; there are about three house geckos that sporadically pepper our windows, but they’ve really been slacking. For those that are not familiar with the great outdoors, such is the price of living in paradise. It’s not for everyone, but creepy-crawlies aside, it’s incredible to see creatures I’ve only ever seen in zoos or documentaries just casually hanging out by the kitchen.

Between navigating life at the station and trying not to step on basilisks (not the one from Harry Potter), research can almost feel like a side hustle. Except on the days where we’re on a boat for eight hours in the middle of the bay battling a UV index of approximately ten gazillion. Those are poignant reminders of the reality of science, as well as of the privilege of being able to conduct independent international marine research as an undergraduate. Absolutely nuts.

For my project so far, we’ve just been doing a lot of preparatory surveys and test runs. I hope to have more updates soon because – fingers-crossed – we’ll be setting up my experiment this week. However, I’ll admit that preliminary results are not looking great, i.e., I spent two hours looking for clams and found 0 clams, and I may have to scrap a significant part of my proposal. I’m holding out hope, but I’ve been told that such is the nature of field work.

All in all, this is shaping up to be an unforgettable summer. By now, I’m almost okay sleeping without air conditioning, but there is one Panamanian charm I will never get used to: the sound of howler monkeys screaming in the middle of the night. Bone-chilling. And now that I’ve left you with the thought of being woken up at 3AM by those suckers, I’ll bid you all adieu.