The final days of work in Peru
Since returning from my rainforest trip to Tarapoto, it's been a time of mopping up some details, making final contacts with various people and holding discussions about possible future projects. I made a visit to Pamplona Alta, the poor zone on the edge of Lima that I've mentioned in the past. I went to this area with my colleague Jorge Cardenas and a group of young professionals who work on various development projects there. If you check out the picture album (link below), you'll see that this is a desperate area. Clean water availability is a problem, as well as any kind of sanitation system to speak of; many of the photos have shots of make-shift "latrines" near to homes, animals, etc.
To pursue projects in this area I met with leaders of Solidaridad en Marcha who would be able to help us coordinate transportation, etc. to work in Pamplona. It's possible to work in the polyclinic in San Juan de Miraflores (of which Pamplona is a part) and to participate in various projects in parasite control, clean water issues, etc.
It was nice for me to continue conversations with faculty members at the URP (Univ. Ricardo Palma) in Lima. Prof. Mercedes Gonzales de la Cruz is the Director of the Museum of Natural History and was very gracious in providing me with lab space, students to help with projects and support. She's a botanist -- ethnobotany, to be precise -- and is very interested in future collaboration both in Lima, in mountain areas and in the rainforest where many of the people use traditional medicines to combat different infections.
I visited Prof. Nieves Sandoval at the Univ. Nacional Mayor de San Marcos to discuss wetland research projects in which students could be involved. While there I was introduced to Prof. Amanda Chavez, another member of the Vet Faculty at UNMSM. Because a student of hers was beginning a research project on an important trematode parasite that infects many people in the mountain regions of Peru, they had numerous questions regarding patterns of infection that might be expected, the survivorship of the parasite in the external environment, and how to best collect, transport, and maintain the snail intermediate hosts in the laboratory.
We were able to take a fun family day-trip about 3 hours south of Lima to the area of Ica. This was an area that had gotten leveled by a 7.9 earthquake back in 2007. Along the coast is the Paracas National Reserve, including the Ballestras Islands (sometimes called the 'poor man's Galapagos'); we took a boat tour around these islands which are covered by seabirds, sea lions and lots and lots of guano! It was fun to learn about how the guano was harvested in the past and the interactions that has had with the seabird populations and the fishing there. After touring around the islands we visited the Reserve and the beautiful scenes of this desert as it abuts the ocean. We stopped off for some great (and fresh!) seafood at a small restaurant before heading back to Lima. It was a great trip to an amazing place, and a nice opportunity for us to get away from the pace of Lima.
Here's a link to a photo album with pics from these different places: