We are headed into the swamp. I remember, years ago, seeing the movie "The Piano." There is a scene where the heroine is moving to Australia from England in the late 1800's. She is walking to her new home, but has to cross a swamp on a series of moldy, half-submerged logs, covered in mud and algae. "Gross," I thought to myself, "I'm so glad that I'll never have to do that." So now, far away from the shining linoleum corridors at the office and my carpeted apartment, I twist my ankles and balance precariously on logs in pursuit of the "rats and bats" (small mammals) team.
"Is balance hereditary?" I ask Burton. To keep from falling into the drink, I clutch at a palm leaf, grateful that it isn't the spiny variety. "It always takes me a while to get my bush balance, too," Burton laughed. And he should know.
Burton is blessed with a life in motion. He worked for the Royal Ontario Museum a solid 17 years, and in that time he has been to Guyana 13-14 times not to mention many other locations across the globe. He's also wrestled bats out of chimneys with a pair of chopsticks in Vietnam, and one week before setting out for Guyana, he spent a month batting in Malayasia. "I'm probably gone 3-4 months out of the year," he tells me. "Although some of that time is spent getting permits and equipment together."
TOOLS: Learn about nets and other tools used to find and catch small mammals.
Field biology may look like a natural passion for Burton, but it really was more of an accident. "I was trying to go to medical school – my parents wanted me to – but physics was my downfall." So a twist of fate led him to accept the job at the museum, and the rest is called a resume.
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