I am in Peru catching up on our six-month long expedition to measure plant traits along the Andes-Amazon slope.
The field team had been almost continuously since April, and will continue until October. It is a huge and amazing logistical effort, perhaps the most ambitious project I have ever attempted.
They are just over half way through, and I am visiting them at the remotest site, Trocha Union plot 4. To get to this plot involves driving to the top of the slope, at Tres Cruces at 3700 m, with a spectacular view on Andean peaks and the forests below. Then we hike down for 3-4 hours on an old Inca trail, until we come across the field camp.
There are about 15 people in the team, most of them Peruvian. The people currently in the field include three climbers, a cook, and many students, and one American postdoc, Allie. The field camp is spectacularly isolated, perched on this wild ridge in Manu National Park, but is nicely set up. A field lab run by generators has been set up, and everyone sleeps in tents scattered around the forest.
After so many months in the field, the team is working to a smooth routine. Their dedication, motivation, persistence and constant good humour is a joy to witness. The team have been working on the collection for months now, and have a smooth rhythm of work and collection and processing of the samples, all to the accompaniment of the students' eclectic music collection. It is important to remember the dedication and sheer hard work of this field team as we analyse and write up the results in future years, and hopefully enable many of these students to write up projects and papers.
The surrounding cloud forest is amongst the most beautiful of all our plots around the world, dense in tree ferns and majestic moss-clad trees. It is quite a silent forest, but for the occasional flutter of mixed-species flocks of understorey birds. Camping can be damp at times and frankly rather cold - this is the last plot before we descend into the warm lowlands.
After a day I slip into the rhythm of the camp routine and the delightful spectacle of this beautiful cloud forest, perched alone on a mountain side on edge of the greatest rainforest on Earth.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University