Meetings, And The Fish That Tastes Like Meat-December 3, 1997

At the INPA research campus, Manaus. Today was even more full of meetings: young researchers, administrators, an educational TV executive, computer jocks from Brazil, Japan and the Czech Republic expert in remote sensing. My mind is teeming with new names and pronunciations. Resolved, Portuguese language tapes before we return, to help with the soft and liquid sounds I need to add to my repertoire.

The researchers are universally enthusiastic about their work, and eager to share it with American students. But I’d not been prepared for the second thing just about every one of them said: you know, it’d be great to find some way of sharing this electronic field trip with Brazilian youngsters too. Turns out Sao PaUlo, the megalopolis south of Rio, is just about as far from Manaus as is Miami, FL, and Brazilian students are as likely to read textbooks about the deserts of distant Africa as the forests that make up half the land mass of their own country. Over a lunch of wonderfully tasty fish from the Amazon—far richer in flavor than the fish and chips of my youth, almost meat-like in texture!—I hear first hand about work in the flooded forest, where trees have evolved to survive months of inundation. I find out about the human logistics of research, how days of pretty arduous circumstances in the field, fighting bugs and conditions so wet that pens won’t write on paper, are interspersed with days of data analysis back at INPA, blessedly air-conditioned so the computers (and humans!) will work. And I begin to put human faces and personalities on the research project known as the “Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments”, which some describe as the biggest controlled experiment on the workings of the natural world ever attempted, fittingly situated in the planet’s largest remaining rainforest, the Amazon.

Geoff’s Journals Meetings, And The Fish That Tastes Like Meat