R i t a   M e s q u i t a ’ s   B i o g r a p h y

After my internship as a bird bander, I began a Master’s in plant-animal interactions, studying the seed dispersal by birds of a canopy hemiepiphyte. These are like strangler figs, that will begin their lives on the crown of a host tree, grow down their roots, become fixed in the soil, and resemble a tree growing on top of another tree. They may eventually kill their host tree. The species I was studying does not strangle its host, but it grows so big and heavy that one day, maybe during a storm or strong wind, both host and epiphyte could come down and die entangled on the forest floor.

Most of the time they were very high up in a tree, and to make my observations I would climb all the way to the canopy using mountain-climbing gear and ropes. I would stay in the canopy all by myself for four hours each day, starting very early in the morning, and observe through binoculars each bird that came by. Sometimes monkeys would also visit, and a few times I was in the same tree with a monkey. One day, I remember a spider-monkey passing above me with a baby, and another time I counted as many as 22 saki monkeys around me. I always carried an umbrella, more to make sure an aggressive monkey would not hurt me, than to protect myself from the rain. I never had to use my umbrella as a weapon, though!

Rita’s Journal Rita Mesquita’s Biography    1     2     3