NSights Blog

From the Amazon Rainforest to the Curi River

Honors College student Isabelle Dalla shares her experience conducting research at the Guyepara research station over the summer

Honors College student reseacher Isabelle Dalla, "Izzy," recently assisted Dr. Lora Richards with research in Ecuador. Here, Izzy tells her story.

I first heard about the opportunity to go to Ecuador though the Honors College. I found out it was sponsored by Young Nevada Explorers and an NSF Government Grant. Dr. Lora Richards was the head of the trip. She is researching the relationship between herbivory and insects, specifically caterpillars, and she was open to taking undergraduate stuents to do research at the biological research stations in the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador.

A group of students walks in a line through a thick jungle forest.
Group of University undergraduate and graduate students leave the Guyepare Research Station in the Cosanga province in Ecuador

Through the HON 399 class to support my research development, I was able to join Dr. Richards and conduct research on the business models of the research stations in the Amazon. Below, I describe an experience from that trip that has helped to shape my future problem-solving style.

After a week of playing card games by candlelight, falling asleep to the sounds of the forest talking to us, and waking up to the bustle of breakfast time at the Guyepara research station, it was soon time for us to leave. It was about a seven to eight hour boat ride to get to Lyarina research station: our next destination. We were ready to face the day.

A group of four smiling young people sit in a boat on the edge of a green water river.
Isabelle Dalla, Paola Miramontes and Rayan Laique undergrads and our adoptive Tia Estella sitting along the Curi River

Excited and apprehensive to go back to the world, we settled into the boat to snooze to the sound of the motor or to gaze at the seemingly endless different kinds of trees. At some point we started playing poker using pebbles as currency, when suddenly the motor turned off and we started to slow down. It seemed we were stopping. But we had already stopped for lunch ...

A large tree fallen down across a green/blue river.
Tree fallen from rainstorm across the Curi river

We all looked up to see that a giant tree had fallen the night before in the rainstorm, blocking the entire path. While this wasn’t the most unusual or surprising thing to happen in a rainforest, it definitely wasn’t a problem everyone knew how to solve. All the people from the boat in front had already leaped out and had started working on ways to remedy the problem. One guy had an electric saw out and was trying to saw at the trunk, another lady was cutting off the branches at the top, yet others were trying to dig a trench for us to squeeze through. We just stood for a moment watching this seamless teamwork.

The fascinating part was that no one was stressed out. No cussing, no blaming, no excuses or apologies. They simply started trying different ways for us to try and get through. This was an interesting space to be in because it wasn’t like there was an immediate solution. It was collaborative, but not too many people working on one thing. I could feel that they were still valuing and respecting each person’s method of success. Everyone was in exploration mode. Creation mode. A mode I thrive in. Seeing it more as a puzzle that needs to be solved, rather than a stress-inducing nightmare. This is the difference between anxious and excited.

A smiling group of people crammed into a small boat, looking very happy.
Abby Jarrett (PhD student), Isabelle Dalla (undergrad), Paola Miramontes (undergrad), and Rayan Laique (undergrad) happily back in the motor boat

As I prepare to lead my Honor’s Ambassadors team at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Fall, this is the type of teamwork community that I aspire to facilitate and lead. By only being an observer of this moment, I’ve already had major takeaways. I realized I want to be someone who carries this calmness with me as I venture out on my problem solving journeys. The amount of gratitude I feel towards Dr. Lora Richards, Honors College, Young Nevada Explorers Program, and my University for this opportunity to go to Ecuador is indescribable. This story was just one moment out of hundreds I could tell you about the serenity energy that surrounds the people there.

About the author

Isabelle Dalla is an International Business and Economics dual major.

Isabelle Dalla headshot outdoors smiling
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