Today I learned a great deal about plant life in the crater. While walking along a trail to the east of the volcano (remember, the gas typically blows to the west, so this should be a low impact area) my group and I collected sulphation plates and conducted plant surveys. Sulphation plates are little petri dishes coated with lead that detect the amount of sulphur dioxide in the air based on the reaction of the lead. The results, however, cannot be determined until the plates are brought back to the lab to be analyzed in England. The plates have been strategically placed near and far from the volcano to help determine which areas are most severely affected by the gasses, and thus far, the research supports the theory that the plume of the gas blows west and affects not only the area directly in it's path, but also the places in a fan's width of the plume.
While collecting the plates, we also conducted surveys on three specific types of trees; the Plumeria alba, the Bursera simaruba (fondly called the "tourist plant"), and the Bombacopsis quinta. All three can be found in abundance around the crater, and the scientists are interested in knowing if and how they are affected not only by the sulpher dioxide, but also by the lava flow, which comprises the majority of the soil in some areas. To provide more data for this investigation, we recorded the number of each tree in a 20 by 20 meter square, and then measured the circumference of the trunk and estimated the height and width of the canopy. I saw some amazing trees both in this targeted group and otherwise. Wildlife highlight of the day: several white-face monkeys!!!!
Would anyone like to guess why the Bursera is knicknamed the tourist tree???