Andrew Elliott's Diary
Butterflies of Vietnam
July 15-23, 2003


Wednesday, August 6, 2003
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Monday, July 21, 2003
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Saturday, July 19, 2003

Friday, July 18, 2003
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Monday, July 14, 2003
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Related Sites


Wednesday, August 6, 2003

I would like to thank Alcoa, my manager, Mary Kate Phillips, and my coworkers for giving me the opportunity to join this Earthwatch expedition as well as the support that I needed while I was on this incredible experience. The purpose of this research is to understand more about butterflies and their habitats with the intent that butterflies will one day be used as indicators of the health of Southeast Asian tropical forests.

This narrative of my journey in Vietnam and research with butterflies starts at the end of this page, so I would encourage you to scroll down or use the links above to view my early diary entries.
Thursday, July 24, 2003

Waking up early with my bags packed, I consume a breakfast of beef pho, a traditional hot soup. After checking out of my hotel at 5 a.m., I have a hair-raising taxi cab ride to Hanoi's international airport. Going through the various government lines, I hope that I have everything in order so that I can start my 24-hour journey back to Chicago.

The flight home is uneventful. As I take a taxi home from the airport along streets crowded with cars and single family homes, I think of how different the country is that I left behind only yesterday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

After a quick breakfast at the hotel in Tam Dao, the team prepares to leave for Hanoi. I have left my butterfly net and several books for the next group. Heading down the mountain, we pass small villages, rice paddies, and roadside markets.

Once in Hanoi, the group visits the Museum of Ethnography to get a better understanding of traditional Vietnamese life and the country's different minority groups. After a wonderful lunch and some shopping in Hanoi's old district, we meet one last time for dinner and a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Finished with our five days of research, the group heads down from Tam Dao after a rainy and windy night to see the Vietnamese countryside. In the morning, we go to a temple that has its origins over 2,000 years ago. Stopping for a lunch of snails, goat meat, and tofu, we avoid a brief rainstorm and then attend a large local market that sells everything from fruit to shoes and toys. As we are returning from our trip, we stop at the park headquarters to view the park's taxidermy displays and enjoy some green tea.

Apparently there is a typhoon in just off shore, which means that there is a lot of rain and wind this evening.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The storm has blown through, and the weather is good for our last day of research. Along the road, we see a number of large and small butterflies. After we return, our group helps Lien with a scientific paper that he will submit based on his research at Tam Dao. In the afternoon while on the road, we observe more butterflies than we have previously. At one tree, there are a number of butterflies, and we find three groups that are mating.

During dinner, Lien thanks us and announces that our group has seen 64 species of butterflies and more than 733 individual ones. He treats us to some locally made bee alcohol, which has bees floating in it.

The results of our research will be statistically compared among the different habitats, weather conditions, and other groups' findings to look for trends in our observations that can be applied generally to butterfly behavior and conservation.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

After the heavy rain last night, everything is much cooler. Today I am walking the forest transects. Just as our group comes to the end of the first transect, it begins to pour. We turn back to the hotel.

Since the weather has improved in the afternoon, we are going to go back into the forest. All the rain means that the butterflies are less active, but we find that it has made the leaches more so. We are constantly brushing them from our shoes and clothes.

At dinner, our group welcomes the park director, and we exchange several speeches about the future. After dinner, I walk to another hotel that has an internet connection but have trouble checking my e-mail since the power keeps going out. I think that the jet lag is finally passing.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Today in the forest, we have found some butterfly species that we did not see on Thursday. The decision has been made to only do each forest transect once a day in the morning instead of twice since it is so physically demanding.

On our way back from the forest with Lien, we buy a jackfruit at the roadside market for dinner, which is excellent. After a lunch of chicken, pork, beef, and lemon vines with rice and soup, I head out to see the local attractions, which include a waterfall and radio tower on the top of the mountain. Both areas are crowded with Vietnamese tourists who have come for the weekend from Hanoi to escape the hot weather.

Friday, July 18, 2003

This morning, our group is on the road transect which runs along the outer edge of the resort. Next to a small stream we encounter white dragontail butterflies, which are unlike any butterfly that I have ever seen. Incredibly fast with long tails and a transparent portion of the wing, they are extremely beautiful. In the afternoon, we encounter 18 species of butterflies and some very large spiders, centipedes, and bees.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Lien, Teresa, Emily, and I are walking the three forest transects today. While walking each transect, we note the time, weather conditions, and butterfly species that we encounter. Even though we start early and are at a higher elevation, it is already extremely hot and humid as we walk through a habitat that varies between tall grass, bamboo, and canopy forests. We spot a number of colorful butterflies, learning which prefer specific habitats. For not following Lien's advice about wearing double socks, I am bitten by a leach on the ankle while walking back to the hotel. After lunch, our group heads back into the forest for another three hours over broken ground. Early in the evening, I am dead tired from the physical exertion, hot weather, and jet lag.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Today we start our daily routine of eating breakfast at 7 a.m. and meeting at 8:30 a.m. to begin our research. In the morning, Lien reviews the project, its layout and format as well as the common butterflies that we will see in the park. After lunch, we walk the road transect (route) and try and put our new knowledge to use.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Rising at 6 a.m., it is already quite hot and humid in the city. I take the opportunity to walk around some of the tourist sites that are on my map of downtown Hanoi. I find that this is not the best idea as it is apparent to everyone that I have just arrived. I am besieged by people selling T-shirts, postcards, maps, and rides on scooters. After a quick trip to Ho Chi Min's mausoleum, I make it back to the hotel to meet my Earthwatch team:

Lien—Vietnamese entomologist and principal researcher
Ahn—Vietnamese entomologist working with Lien in Tam Dao National Park
Viet—Lien's brother, an English teacher, who is on summer break
Donna—A teacher from Mississippi
Rebecca—A teacher from California
Susan—A teacher from New Jersey
Teresa—A Starbuck's employee from Canada
Emily—An employee of Earthwatch from the UK office

After a two-hour ride to Tam Dao National Park, located northwest of Hanoi, we move into our accommodations for the next week. We meet for a traditional dinner consisting of four small entrees followed by rice and soup and then dragon fruit. This is the typical format of our lunches and dinners.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Twenty hours, three airplane meals, and one day later I arrive in Hanoi at 10 p.m. My ride to the hotel is late. After getting in the car, I find that there are no seatbelts and that I have to adjust to the Vietnamese way of driving, which requires lots of honking and has right of ways that seem to be based on vehicle size. Since the taxi is relatively large compared to the swarms of scooters that fill the streets, I feel rather safe.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I quickly check my list and make sure that I have all my important documents, money, and equipment, and I take a taxi over to Chicago O'Hare Airport. My flight takes me through Tokyo, where I change planes for Hanoi, Vietnam.


Related Sites


Butterflies

Butterflies of Costa Rica
This Central American country is home to about 1,000 butterfly species.
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Butterfly Ecology
Information from the Butterfly Conservatory of the American Museum of Natural History.
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Butterfly Conservation
This United Kingdom charity is taking action to save butterflies, moths, and their habitats.
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Vietnam

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
Information for tourists and others interested in learning more.
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Exploring Vietnam
An introduction to the country's geography, culture, people, and history.
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Conservation in Vietnam
The Cuc Phuong Conservation and Ecology Project is a multifaceted conservation initiative for southeast Asian turtles.
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Photo Gallery


View the images from Andrew Elliot's diary.
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Earthwatch Institute


Learn more about this international nonprofit, which supports scientific field research worldwide.
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Butterflies of Vietnam Expedition


Learn more about the expedition and its scientists.
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Butterfly Biology


Explore the physiology and lifecycle of this popular insect.
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