Cubilche: a beatiful Páramo lake

Hello all,

Located in the cerro of Cubilche, a volcano at 2600 meters of elevation, there is the most beautiful and pristine lake we sampled so far in Ecuador during the three-week fieldwork campaign. Cubilche is an Andean Páramo lake, volcanic in origin, and is covered by semi-permanent clouds that confers a characteristic limnology: cold and relatively acidic waters and very transparent. The lake is circular in shape, having a maximum depth of 2.5 m. Apparently there are two smaller temporary lakes which were dry during our visit. With the unforgettable help of Javier and Jose Mariano, we reached the top of the mountain by hiking more than 2 hours. Most of the pictures we had avoid getting a nice view of the lakes due to the dense fog. This has been the norm during the last sampling days: sunny and warm at the valley, and cloudy-rainy and cold at the top of the mountains! Anyway, I would never change the experience!

Hiking to Cubilche along the Páramo vegetation

Ready to enter into the lake!

According to our knowledge, there are no previous works on the diatom flora of this lake, either modern or fossil assemblages. It is therefore promising to analyze the species composition of the samples we took: sediment core for paleoclimatic reconstructions, and periphyton for diversity and biogeography. I´m really looking forward to prepare diatom slides (and count them).

More updates on Ecuadorian´s lakes fieldwork very soon!



Yahuarcocha and Cunrro lakes

Hi again,

Our fieldwork in the Andean lakes of Ecuador is ongoing!  The second and third visited (and well sampled) lakes have been Yahuarcocha and Cunrro, respectively. These two lakes are located at the Interandean plateau, basically consisting in meso-eutrophic and shallow lacustrine conditions. Both have a relatively wide litoral zone covered by Juncus type vegetation (Scirpus totora), an ideal habitat for periphyton! Yahuarcocha means “Lake of blood” in local language because based upon local believing, the lake turned red with the blood of over 30.000 killed incas after a battle for the conquest of the “Reino de Quito”.

The coring has been relatively easy due to the shallow waters (7m depth for Yahaurcocha, and 4.5, depth for Cunrro); to arrive at the lakes sites has not been very complicated either, except for the case of Cunrro that is within a private Hacienda. Fortunately, local people is always happy to help, even more when they know that we want to investigate waters and muds of the lakes! They love to see how we prepare all the equipment before get into the lakes. Our experienced team assembled a small platform between the two boats, which helps a lot the operation. Every time we get more and more expertise in assembling and disassembling the equipment! As always, some photos below to share with all of you.

Cunrro lake, Kewrin saving the waypoint

Cunrro volcano, which gives the name to the lake

Yahuarcocha lake


First sampling day in Ecuador: San Pablo lake


Today we have sampled San Pablo lake, located in the Inter-Andean Valley of Ecuador, at 2660 m of altitude, and near Otavalo. Together with Kewrin and Emilia, two super motivated Ecuadorean undergrads of Yachay Yech University, we recovered a 40-cm sediment core of the lake, with associated physicochemical data and water samples for further analysis. Ah! We had a big help of a motor-operated boat (not driven by us, of course ;)), which made the sampling easier for us definitely! Not surprisingly for me, I get burned by the sun, but it has been worth for starting this promising and inspiring fieldwork sampling campaign with a so nice sunny day!

We are staying at Casa Grande, an old reformatted Hacienda in Imbaya, from 10 minutes drive from Yachay. Simply, it is a lovely house! It is surrounded by grasses and fruit trees (even with a pool!), and having all the facilities one might desire! Some photos below:

San Pablo lake; behind, the Imbabura volcano.

San Pablo lake shore

Casa Grande (Imbaya)


Ecuador: here I go!


Today I will be traveling to Ecuador for sampling Andean lakes. The last days and weeks have been dedicated to prepare all the scientific equipment (2 full suitcases ;)), aiming to participate in a lake limnology project with researchers and students from the University of Yachay Tech (Imbabura Province, 2 hours drive north from Quito) and University of Northern Kentucky (US).

Our target is to characterize with different approaches (limnology, geology) 10 Andean Ecuadorian lakes covering gradients of elevation (Páramo-below Páramo vegetation), tropic status and thermal stratification. We will be sampling modern in-lake habitats (water, sediment surface), sediment cores and water physico-chemistry to see how these climate-sensitive systems have changed through time. I can´t wait to start the promising and inspiring field work! More updates very soon.



Dinosaurs and Disasters


Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in the famous Nebraska`s Dinosaurs & Disasters event, organized jointly by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science and the State Museum. This activity is led by scientists, graduate and undergraduate students, who explain to kids and their parents the natural history and science topicsby means of hand-on activities.

Together with my lab mate, Sabrina Brown, we set up the diatom station “Diatoms through the looking glass” to learn about how scientists use diatoms and other fossils to understand past climate. Kids sieved lake sediment that contained fossil diatoms (represented by little colored plastic pieces) to see whether the lake was under a dry or wet climate as reconstructed by benthic/planktonic diatom ratio. That is, if kids counted more blue (=benthic) diatoms, the lake was supposed to be a shallow water lake (dry climate), whereas if kids counted more pink (=planktonic) diatoms, the lake was supposed to be a deep water lake (wet climate).

There was also a giant diatom puzzle in which kids played with different species by fitting them in the correct place and environment they belongs to! So funny Saturday with more than 2000 attendants!


The diatom giant puzzle (courtesy of Mike Harrison)

At the diatom station with Sabrina Brown