The Most Dangerous Thing — “It’s not the large carnivores”

Boone Kauffman and his research team share their field work with leeches, disease-carrying insects and other dangers. (Photo courtesy of J. Boone Kauffman)

By Lee Sherman Gellatly

“You asked me what’s the most dangerous thing I encounter in my work. It’s not the large carnivores such as crocodiles or tigers or poisonous snakes. It’s the little things. In the last few years, I have had two students come down with Dengue fever. This is a huge concern of ours.

“In our years of tropical research, we not only have contracted Dengue but also malaria, leishmaniasis, dysentery and countless internal and external parasites. This includes leeches in Asia, botflies in the Amazon and ticks in Mexico. We commonly had 20 to 40 leeches on us after a day’s work in Borneo. My wife once had over 120 ticks attached to her after one day’s work in a Mexican wetland. It’s all part of working in this environment.”
For more about Boone Kauffman’s research, see Blue Carbon.