Sept. 21, 2016
Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.
If you asked me a couple of years ago if I would ever experience waves of pleasure at the site of fresh feces, I would have probably answered “maybe.” I can now give a definitive “yes” to that question, if anyone was wondering, as my fall fieldwork in Sichuan Province, China, kicks off the ground. I am now in the north of Wolong Nature Reserve, staying in the village of Genda. From there it is a 20-minute drive and a couple hour hike into the mountains to reach the edge of the reserve, where it borders Caopo Nature Reserve to the north. The quest for panda poo is not easy at this time of year – it is the tail end of the rainy season, which leaves ground slippery and muddy and the bamboo understory soaking wet even on clear days. The pandas in the area are also currently eating the leaves of arrow bamboo, a species that occurs at high elevations above 2700 meters. This means a long climb every day, usually with the threat of rain, and without promise of success.