Ecotourism Leaders Naturalist Journeys and Panama’s Canopy Tower and Lodge Team Up to Offer a New Biodiversity Workshop

Two leaders in ecotourism, the U.S-based Naturalist Journeys and Panama’s Canopy Lodge and Tower, team up this summer to offer a Green Season Biodiversity Workshop, designed for a small group of 10 participants, July 18-27, 2012.

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Howler Monkey in Panama

Portal, AZ (PRWEB) April 30, 2012

Two leaders in ecotourism, the U.S-based Naturalist Journeys and Panama’s Canopy Lodge and Tower, team up this summer to offer a Green Season Biodiversity Workshop July 18-27, 2012. Naturalist Journeys, an adventure travel company based in Portal, Arizona, selected Canopy Lodge and Tower to host its first international wet-season adventure, after guide Bob Behrstock successfully led a similar adventure in Arizona timed with the summer monsoon rains. Monsoon Madness participants tallied up an impressive list of life forms, and clients were able to document many species for themselves with photography. While there are many excellent eco-lodges in the New World tropics, the Canopy Tower and Lodge’s owner Raul Arias de Para's enthusiasm and assistance in the effort proved key to the selection. Naturalist Journey’s owner Peg Abbott says, “Raul is a relentlessly creative genius. After taking a remote radar station and turning it into an upscale ecolodge, he didn’t quit. He’s opened other lodges, and is working now in the Darien. For this workshop Raul opened doors for us to local experts on a variety of life-forms. He connected us to the Houston Zoo-sponsored amphibian facility in his home town of El Valle, a center for Panama’s frog and toad populations. There, scientists are working hard to understand the sudden decline of frog diversity in Panama before it is too late. He’s encouraged development of a dragonfly and damselfly list, knowing clients that experience their diversity are quickly won over as enthusiasts.”

Naturalist Journeys is known to take a broad approach to the sport of birdwatching, emphasizing science, conservation, and fascinating topics such as mating strategies, protective coloration, and other aspects of bird behavior to enliven its tours to the tropics. They found an ideal partner in the staff experts of Canopy Tower and Lodge, all self and mentor-trained rural Panamanians exhibiting lightning quick eyes, a good record for safety, and a high comfort level in the woods. Naturalist Journey’s guide for this tour, Bob Behrstock, has been stalking and photographing birds, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies for over thirty years. He pioneered birding trips at a time when there were no readily available field guides. This situation is still true for invertebrates, and Behrstock wants to change that. On a winter trip last year, he identified several new large insects for Panama, all within reach of the dining area of Canopy Lodge. Wanting to go farther afield, he compared notes with Canopy Tower’s lead naturalist Carlos Benthencourt. They discussed how to accomplish this, and the idea for a summer Green Season biodiversity workshop was born. Both wanted a program that would go beyond birding and one that would be interactive, so participants could help compile information for ongoing ecotourism, science, and education events hosted by Canopy Tower and Lodge.

While birdwatchers from around the world flock to Panama each year to see its avian riches, few know that summer brings a burst of diversity across the biological spectrum. Abundant moisture encourages plant growth and invertebrate life, in turn food for myriad frogs and toads, dragonflies, damselflies, and stunning large insects such as Harlequin Beetles, Praying Mantis and Katydids. Forms of life emerge at all layers of the forest, making the quest to discover it an engaging treasure hunt. Some of the life forms are stranger than fiction – some of Panama’s frogs display wild and weird head ornamentation; insects take on the patterns of leaves, and moths mimic others of their kind to economize anti-predator defenses without producing expensive toxins; their ruse keeps want-to-be-diners away.

While an impressive butterfly list is on the facility’s website, no similar list exists to date for dragonflies and other large insects. Naturalist Journey’s Biodiversity Workshop aims to fill that gap with a good start during this year’s July 18-27 adventure. Panama’s legendary dense lowland rainforest is no place to wander for the uninitiated, so a guided trek to seek out its dynamic life forms is wise. Its Pacific dry forest and intriguing mid-elevation montane forests provide an additional complement of species.

The workshop is designed for a small group of ten participants. It begins and ends in Panama City and features 4 nights each at Canopy Tower and Lodge. The full itinerary, cost and tour details can be found on their website. A list of Bob Behrstock’s publications and qualifications and some of his photographs can be found on his Naturewide Images website.