I landed on the island of La Reunion on July 27 after a long journey from the Azores Archipelago (Portugal) where I live and where I´m doing a Master in Management and Conservation of Nature while I work in the Azorean Biodiversity Group in the arthropod laboratory. I came to the island thanks to the Erasmus + scholarship that allows mobility among students of the European Union. I chose this destination because I wanted to learn about the fauna and flora of the island. What better place than the laboratory UMR PVBMT at the University of La Réunion to learn about both in a positive environment.
During my stay I participated to two different projects. The one that has occupied me the most time has been the processing of the partially analyzed samples of arthropods obtained by Light Traps in ten plots of the island during the month of April 2018 by the team led by R. Kitching (Griffith University, Australia). First I created a database with the number of samples and their origin in order to be able to add the data of the occurrence of the different orders. Thanks to the equipment of the laboratory and the downloadable mobile app Leica Airlab I had a great time taking a lot of pictures of the different individuals that were appearing. These photos, apart from the artistic function, are a good tool for possible disclosures about the fauna found, as well as a fantastic educational resource when it comes to teaching differentiating between different groups, since it allows showing parts of the physiology of the organisms that are only observable through the microscope.
The other project in which I have participated has been a preliminary study of arthropods in the Protected Area of Les Makes, within the DIVINES project. In this area we have installed five interception traps called SLAM. For this purpose, five different altitudes have been selected and a trap has been placed every 400 m, with the highest one at 2350 m and the lowest at 750 m. The traps were left for 30 days taking much of the month of August and a few days of the month of September 2018, corresponding to the winter season in Réunion. After that month we collected the traps and analyzed the data separating and counting the individuals of each order, offering abundance data for each sample, for which I created another database with the data obtained and the characteristics of the plots. These samples will be identified at species level in the coming months in order to obtain wealth data and make comparisons, in the future, with the samples that will be obtained in summer when the traps are installed again.
This stay has offered me the possibility of knowing new habitats, directly through the field work, and indirectly through the samples of arthropods with which I have worked. But not everything has been work, in my free time I tried to visit the place to the maximum. The island is a privileged place for people who love the environment because it offers the possibility of entering into numerous types of ecosystems from humid forests full of tree ferns to volcanic plains where only some organisms are able to survive. To the striking fauna and flora I must add the wonderful coexistence between the different cultures existing on the island, where you can find a little bit of Africa, Asia and Europe in the same street, all this makes the meeting a unique place in the world.
I greatly appreciate collaborating with Claudine Ah Peng, and the rest of the team, all the help they have given me both professionally and personally, turning this stay an unforgettable experience.
Alejandra Ros Prieto (University of Azores)