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Thermal River Systems of the Amazon

June 10 2018

I will be traveling with a team to the Peruvian Amazon to study thermal river systems. Along the way, I will trek around Cusco hitting locations such as Machu Picchu, Puno, Lake Titicaca and more! I am excited to immerse myself in the culture of Peru, using all that I experience and learn along the way to create classroom materials for teachers! Part of my mission is to aid The Boiling River Project in learning more about thermal river systems of the Amazon and to promote the protection of this important and sacred space.

Support this expedition in 3 different ways:


June 10 2018


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Preparation Stage

Part of preparing for this expedition in particular is photography. I recently had the pleasure and amazong opportunity to learn about photography, videography, and science-telling/storytelling from experts at National Geographic Society. That experience alone is worth it's own post!

Suffice it to say I learned a lot and try to practice what I learned often. Some key points I learned were:

  1. Unless you absolutely must (or have a crazy-awesome camera meant for this type of shooting) do not zoom in--YOU get close!

Since I am shooting with my iPhoneX, I am working on the "no zoom" principle and finding ways to get close to what I want to shoot.

  1. Patience.

Man--if you know me at all, this is NOT me. It requires a lot of concentration for me and I am getting better each time. Waiting for the right shot is paramount.

  1. Perspective will make or break your shot.

Working on this concept is actually what makes it fun for me. I take tons of pictures of the same subject from as many different angles as possible. I have the most fun, honestly, when I pretend to be microscopic and take photos from underneath a subject.

  1. You didn't take enough pictures (even if you took 1000)

Functioning on this principle means, just keep shooting. You never know what you will catch. Better to have too many than not enough. Wait, you can never take enough. . .so scratch that.

So, those are my biggest takeaways, I learned a lot more than that of course, but the point of this post, really, is to share some of my favorite shots from today's practice shots.

Do you have tips and tricks for photography? Share them!

I am enjoying practicing now and can't wait to use my skills in the field and share with you all soon!

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In preparing for the biodiversity I will encounter in the jungle and rainforest, I paid close attention at the zoo recently and found a few "friends" that I may encounter along with some of their relatives. Snakes, tarantulas, and spiders, oh my! Good thing they are not on my list of fears. I am fairly confident, tarantulas and snakes, in general, will be abundant. Mostly, this excites me beyond belief, especially thinking more specifically about what may inahbit the banks and close proximity to thermal river systems. What can survive in boiling water? What THRIVES in boiling water? What feeds upon THOSE? Questions just keep coming and I love that! Afterall, that's the basis of science, questions and questioning. Just as I was typing those few sentences, this question rang in: What lives in and near thermal systems that we did not previously know about? Can any of these organisms be used as indicator species of the water quality and surrounding areas health?

In my classroom, we study the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which is comprised of six east coast states. An indicator species for water quality locally is the Brook Trout. As a part of this study, citizen science project, and experiential education tie, we raise brook trout in our classroom from eggs to fry stage then release into a freshwater river system. The health and abundance (thinking positively!) of this particular species indicates the quality of water within this watershed. The project is sponsored by Trout Unlimited and occurs in many states using various salmanoids as indicator species depending on geographic location. We often get lost in this study (in a good way!) and thinking of this expedition is making me think of what ties we can find within this tropical location.

Has this prompted any questions in YOUR mind? Post in the comments or visit my flipgrid and record your questions. Don't forget the super secret password: Cape

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Preparing for an expedition is more than having an idea, booking flights, visas, research permits, etc--part of preparation is knowing your location in its present form but also historic presence, changes, and significance. I believe this is true for almost anything you are preparing--you have to know it's history and present-day configuration in order to attempt to prepare. I also believe no matter the amount of front-loading prep you make, you will undoubtedly find some gaps in knowledge. What matters is your attempt and commitment.

I recently bought the book "Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon: Footsteps in the Forest" in order to read from two naturalists' points of view while exploring the Amazon. Alfred Russel Wallace was on expedition in 1848, and the author Sandra Knapp interjects about her tropical rainforests studies where it appears there are gaps in Wallace's recounts. I have only begun this book, but I believe it will be a great background knowledge for what I may or most likely encounter while on expedition.

I look forward to comparing/contrasting my expedition and studies to theirs--and who knows--maybe I will write a book which compiles information from all of our expeditions!

Support this expedition in 3 different ways:


Expedition Gear update! I wanted to show you the awesome shoes that Outdoor Provision Co donated to me for this expedition as well as share some pictures of the gear I tried on! It was pretty exciting getting geared up and figuring out what types of clothing were best for this trip.

What was NOT cool was seeing price tags. That's okay though, I WAS able to purchase 1 shirt, 1 pair of pants, and a pair of hiking socks. It would be great to have the ability to alternate at least one other outfit here, as well as have a hat and neck buff to protect from the sun.

Below I have two links, one to a GoFundMe Campaign, and one to a registry I put together on amazon for those who prefer to just purchase actual items. If you are interested in helping, feel free to check those out or pass information along to someone who can help.

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So, why the jungle? Why South America? Why thermal river systems? What exactly are you up to? Why are you doing this?

All great questions. I am excited to answer them all plus some! :)

I love learning; learning about anything and everything. When I grow up, I want to save the world. Pretty small goal, huh? Well, it's true. I am certain the only way to do this is through education, whether formal or informal, with youngest of students or most seasoned. I know that goal is lofty, but I also know it's attainable because we have this huge gift called education. I could blog about that topic along for days, but let's keep it brief, shall we!

Currently, in the field of science, my passion for education and learning has brought me to study the jungle, rainforest, biodiversity, and thermal river systems. How did that happen?

Two words: Andres Ruzo

If you have ever had the pleasure to meet him or encounter his work, I am willing to bet you know how his passion caught ahold of me. His passion for conservation of the Shanay Timpishka (a thermal river in the amazon) is captivating and his story, his journey equally captivating.

Once I heard his message, heard his story, I realized the importance of the conservation of this thermal river system, jungle, and rainforests. Basically--if you have lungs; this is important to you. Rainforests generate massive amounts of oxygen, which I am sure you know, we need in order to survive. The amazon alone produces nearly 20% of the world's oxygen. Destroying it directly impacts human beings (yes, YOU!). Honestly, this again is just the surface here. I could also blog about this for days, but for your sake, I'm providing a cliff notes version. If the impact of rainforests have a large impact on all human beings on the mere basis of survival--think now about those who live in and near the rainforest. Let's focus on indigenous peoples for a moment. This is their home. The effect on humans as a whole is large, think about the paramount effect on those who even more directly depend on this ecosystem for daily life, belief systems, heritage, etc.

Now, thermal river systems in the rainforest are a whole other topic. They are incredibly special being that they occur independent of typical geothermal activity: volcanoes. Around the world, there are thermal river systems that are near volcanoes--but these in the rainforest are not. They are not nearly close enough to be affected or a result of that geothermal source. So then, how ARE they formed? What powers them?

Great questions: we are studying THAT! This opens up a lot of opportunity for scientific study, discovery, and possibility of energy alternatives. As you can imagine, that can all be sensitive to broach, the important part though is studying and understanding the systems. The world is a vast and amazing place, there is so much to learn out there, especially with these unique systems. I cannot even begin to imagine the organisms that live here that we most likely have never discovered before. What lives in and around a boiling river? Let's find out!

Apart from the pure scientific part of this--I want, as a teacher, to provide opportunities for my students that are authentic, experiential, and spark their curisosity for the world around them. One tool is using field science protocols with my students. THAT is real science. By participating in this expedition, I am completing field science. With this experience, I will better be able to serve my students and provide them with authentic, experiential education in the sciences. They cannot possibly learn those skills from a book--okay, maybe they can. But isn't it better if they DO it instead of just consume the information and know what it is?

I think so. And there you have it folks, an abridged version of my "why"

So, tell me, what else do you want to know?


Alrighty, yesterday I had an appointment with Zach Roberts of Great Outdoor Provision Co, the Virginia Beach, VA location to talk all things gear, outfitting, and well--survival! He is incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and on top of it all, decided to donate a pair of Astral TR1 Junction Shoes for which I am incredibly grateful! These shoes are great for hiking and trekking, even when your terrain becomes muddy or wet! I can't wait to use them on this expedition and get some great action shots to share with you all!

I was able to check out a lot of outfitting choices, now I need to find affordable options--anyone have ideas?! I would love to hear them! I am looking into long sleeve, breathable tops and pants as well as hiking sandals.

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Today is a big day in the preparation portion of this expedition. Later today, I will be meeting with a local outdoor outfitting store to talk about equipment, gear, and clothing I will need in the Amazon. I look forward to seeing and trying on the gear with an expert. What I am not exactly prepared for is the cost that might be associated--I like to call this #expeditionproblems #explorerproblems #fieldscienceproblems but guess what?! It is not going to stand in the way!

Have you ever traveled to a tropical rainforest or jungle? I am curious about your experience, equipment necessary, and gear you brought along. Any advice?

Talk to me, I would love to hear from you!

I haven't traveled there but ever since I read the opening chapter in the Song of Trees by David George Haskell about the Ceibo tree in Amazonian Ecuador it's been on my list to do.

Beautiful! I will be reading Footsteps in the Forest by Russell Wallace soon!

As I prepare to head out, I would love to hear from YOU! Visit the link below and talk to me! There is an intro video asking about what you want to learn about my expedition. This will help me know what interested YOU most, and where to focus my energy as I learn about rainforests, jungles, thermal river systems, and the culture of Peru. BEFORE you jump to the link, you will need this SUPER SECRET password: Cape

I can't wait to hear from YOU! :)

Excellent! I tried to sign in. The password wasn’t working for me. Let us know!

Hey David! Make sure you use a capital C in Cape--let me know if it still does not work, I can update!

Expedition Background

Photo Credit: Sofia Ruzo

In 2017, I was awarded the Donna Sterling Exemplary Science Teaching award which provided a small amount of funding to complete professional development. Under the mentorship and guidance of Andres Ruzo, I have chosen to accompany him in collecting data in the Amazon for The Boiling River Project. I will use data we collect to create educational materials for teachers to incorporate into their classrooms!

Support this expedition here: