It’s not all about scientists and researchers!
It is true, Barro Colorado is a place where many scientists from all over the world come to explore and research. They arrive with many questions and spend months and often years making observations, collecting data and trying to answer their questions.
But the scientists are not alone here. As a matter of fact, there are many necessary people who work on the island to make all of this science happen!
Mmmmm, what’s cookin’?
First and perhaps most importantly, there are cooks. Your brain can’t think right if your body isn’t fed right! The cooks spend long days in the kitchen. The cooks spend from about 5:00 in the morning until 8:30 at night preparing food. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast starts being served at 6:30 in the morning. Lunch is ready at noon and dinner is always at 6:30. They make all kinds of things for the people on the island. For breakfast you might find eggs, pancakes, fry bread, French toast, fritters, oatmeal. There is always fruit, yogurt, milk and cereal. For lunch and dinner you can find soup, salad, beans and rice, pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken, fish, hamburgers, French fries, mashed potatoes, lots of vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and zuccini. They also keep coffee and tea, water and juice available all day. For scientists and their assistants who can’t make it back in time for lunch or dinner, the cooks make up a plate and have it ready for them when they get in from the field.
Another group of super important people are the guardabosques. As their title suggests, they guard the forest. The land on Barro Colorado as well as land near the island on the mainland is considered protected forestland. That means that the government won’t allow the trees to be cut down or the animals to be hunted. But there are people who will try to hunt animals on the land, so it is the guardabosques’ job to look for and catch poachers. They patrol the perimeter of the island and mainland by boat and they walk the trails watching for signs that people are in the area without permission. They work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Wait! There is more! The guardabosques also are there in case a boat breaks down. They will tow it back to land. They find lost scientists and bring them back to the field station. If someone gets hurt, they take care of them and take them to the mainland so that they can see the doctor. They use big, sharp machetes out to clear the trails. They move plants and trees that fall over or grow on the trails. The guardabosques know a lot about the forest and the plants and animals that live there. They have backgrounds in education, biology, tourism, or have even been police officers.
How do you suppose all of the people who work on the island get there? You are right! By boat! So of course there are boat drivers. They drive different boats back and forth all day with all sorts of cargo. Sometimes they just take people back and forth. Sometimes they have to go to the mainland to get all the food and supplies needed on the island and then they have to take the garbage and other things off the island.
There are people here who have to know who is coming and when and for how long. They have to make sure that there is a room with a bed for them. They have to make sure that people get keys when they arrive and turn them back in when they leave. They have to make sure people pay for their rooms and meals. Yes, it is sort of like a hotel. And just like in a hotel, there are people who keep the buildings and rooms clean, fix things that are broken and make sure everything is in its place and working correctly.
Volunteers and field assistants
Some people on the island are hired to help the scientists. Professors from colleges and universities send their students here to do some of the work. But many people have been hired to work on the projects day to day. There are people who help collect leaves or insects, plant trees, put tags on plants or animals, tie tags used to identify different information etc. They come in the morning and leave in the afternoon. Some times their jobs last a long time, other times, they work for a few months until a project is done. Depending on the work, some people get hired to work on new projects. So you don’t have to be a scientist to do science work. These people are invaluable to the scientists because they do much of the slow and tedious work so that things can be studied and observed. Many times one study is way too much for just one person, so they have to work with teams.
Right now, there is an extra crew here that is building a new visitor’s center. There are tour guides that also work here. They bring tourists to the island so that they can hike the trails, see some of the wildlife and find out just a little about what goes on here on the island. The visitor’s center is a great place to take visitors!
Would you like to work on BCI? What kind of job might you find interesting? There are many to choose from!