We awoke early this morning for the last time in Cuerici. After loading the truck, we hiked for over an hour up the long and scenic trail (almost all up-hill) to the main road where the bus was waiting (cassie got a sweet ride in the truck, teehee). We then had a relaxing drive down from the mountains back into San José. On the way, we stopped at Moravia, where there are lots of souvenir shops. After browsing through the colorful trinkets, we had a filling lunch down the street. Jared ate about three mealsand was still hungry for more, but by then it was time to leave for the hotel. We knew we were back when we saw the glowing sign of the Denny’s in the distance. Back at the hotel, we took a few hours to shower, relax, and finish up some last-minute details on our projects. Jared, Lydia, Megan, and Davi invented a game that involves bouncing a soccer ball back and forth and potentially getting tossed in the pool if you mess up. At our last dinner together, we enjoyed fried plantains, pork rinds, cas juice, and lots of laughter. After dinner we said our good-byes one last time as a full group. The six juniors will begin their semesters abroad and the rest of the class will begin at Colgate again on Monday, the last semester for our seniors. We are so proud of you, Abby, Sierra, and Danny (*woo*!) and the juniors will miss you all so much!
Vibe of the Day: Winding down
Quote of the Day: “The best part about living in cities is watching people through their windows.” – Lindsay McCulloch
The birders saw two Resplendent Queztals on their walk, one of the rare treasures of Costa Rica that many birders spend lots of time and money trying to find. The whole group left at 7:30 am to begin our hike up to the continental divide. We went to the bottom of a rock face and found a rock to climb on. While some climbed, others relaxed in the field. Then we made our slow descent back to the station, but apparently not that slow because we finished the hike an hour sooner than expected.
After we returned, tired but feeling quite accomplished, we had a tour of the trout farm. Ana told us about how the trout are divided into different pools. All the reproductive trout are kept together. She told us about how the eggs are taken from the trout for the hatchery. We saw the pools of baby fish – there were so many! We also learned that the tastiest fish are the smaller ones. We all thought about which fish we wanted tonight for dinner. After the tour, we had lunch, spaghetti and meatballs! It was a surprising change from rice and beans, but not to worry, we had rice pudding for desert, so we weren’t completely without one of our staple foods. After lunch, we all got to work on our projects. People who had less to do helped other groups. Around 3 pm, those who were brave (or not asleep) were shown how to catch, kill, and gut the trout we would eventually eat for dinner. Elena and Aidan were suspiciously good at and enthusiastic about killing the fish, which was done by hand by hooking one’s fingers through the gills and pulling up to snap the neck. After some more work, we enjoyed the trout for dinner. The rest of the night was spent working on group projects and then we presenting our Cuerici-specific projects.
Vibe of the day: Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize! (thanks danny! *mama!*)
Quote of the Day: “This is not a drill. They have toast.” (Lydia, at breakfast.)
This morning was riveting for the birders, who thought they almost saw a puma. It was actually a bird. The birders then had another fruitful conversation about Harry Potter (one of many). The plant group did transects with the help of some others. The rest of the group worked on R for their independent projects. Lindsey and Jacob somehow had enough energy to do hill sprints after the transects were done. The rest of us simply watched in awe and confusion. After lunch, Lindsay made friends with the woodpecker who loves to watch himself in the mirror. The rest of the day was a grind, but not without some hammock breaks. After dinner we did presentations for our independent projects. First to present were Lydia, Megan, Julieanne, and Cassie. They studied leaf-cutter ant foraging behavior, which was quite exciting, especially when they got to watch them foraging in the middle of the night at La Selva. The next group was Sierra, Elena, and Abby, on nectar-robbing of Heliconia bracts. Sierra was particularly interested in the behavior of wasps on the Heliconia, who would scare all the other insects away from the flowers. Next, Jared, Davi, and Danny told us how they braved the underbrush of the successional plots, avoiding snakes to gather data. They studied how insect diversity differs over different aged forests. Aidan and Jacob presented on the relationship of hemiepiphytic ferns to moss. Presentations got everyone’s spirits up as we cuddled near the fireplace in the lab and cheered each other on. These projects were first conceived halfway through the semester so it was satisfying to see them come to a close after so much hard work. Cassie and Elena attempted to sleep outside in the hammock tents, but neither of them lasted the night in the cold. But 10/10 would recommend hammock camping.
“You use your mouth quite often, so why didn’t you use it then?” (Elena, to Danny)
“I love it when Elena throws shade.” (Lindsay- on a debacle about the open door)
Rose: Finishing independent project presentations
Thorn: More R
Lydia Proskauer ’22, Molecular Biology Major, Environmental Studies Minor
What is your favorite childhood memory in nature?
In elementary school, we used to collect inchworms and make homes for them, but apparently inchworms need oxygen to survive so they all died. Luckily, I’ve come a long way since then.
Favorite part of this trip?
White water rafting was SOOOO fun and we saw a sloth, which I relate to because they just like to chill and vibe out
Future aspirations/goals? Dream job?
I’d like to work with stem cells or cancer research, but I also want to travel a lot so unsure.
We awoke this morning to a breakfast of rice, beans, eggs, and pb&j. What a luxury, to have peanut butter. We then departed for a long hike up what we thought was a mountain at Cuerici, but turned out to be Mt. Everest. When we weren’t too busy being dramatic, we enjoyed the sites of our hike. We learned so much about the new plants we were seeing at high elevations! One species of orchid is quite unique in that it resembles a female bee so as to attract male bees. We learned that bromeliads are red at high elevations in order to protect them from the high light environment. Davi very excited to see some pink Melastomataceae flowers (see photo below). At the top of the mountain we found a perch on an old wooden stand that allowed us to enjoy the breath-taking view. We encountered puma feces but unfortunately no puma, and tarantula nests but no tarantulas. Once back at the station, we received a well-deserved lunch. Julieanne was excited to see us all as she had spent the whole day alone at the station on quarantine, staring at the trout. After lunch we worked on independent projects. Most of us were mentally destroyed/obliterated by R and our papers. While working on the independent projects, we sustained our field-hardened bodies with snacks and hot drinks. With exhaustion looming over us, we happily went to bed.
Quote of the day:
“Who put rice and beans in my shoes??” – Danny
“I feel most validated when I make Aidan smile.” – Lindsay
Vibe of the day: Rise and Grind
Rose: Singing Lion King on the trail (thanks danny for the tunes!)
Megan Herbruck ’22, Biology Major, Art Minor
What is your favorite childhood memory in nature?
There was a ravine in my backyard, so I would go down to the river and catch frogs and minnows and I would find salamanders under logs.
Favorite part of the trip?
Rafting was reallllly fun and exhilarating and I got a rush of adrenaline, but it was also a really good way to relax and get away from work for a little bit
My dream job would combine being in nature and the medical field. It has also been my dream to have a side business to draw/paint family portraits.
This morning was bittersweet, as we said goodbye to the beautiful, bustling biological station that is La Selva and began our journey to the much quieter Cuerici, secluded in the mountains. After a quick breakfast at the comedor, we grabbed our packed lunches and settled in for the bus ride. Much of the group participated in karaoke, while others slept. At the Mega Super Store, we stopped for some necessities – medication for Julieanne who had fallen ill, and, most importantly, more snacks for the lab. The Chiky cookies disappear almost as if by magic! We also discovered Lindsay’s (and now cassie’s) favorite ice cream, “Mmmmmyo.” The rest of the drive we watched the mountains go by and the little dogs running in front of the colorful houses. As our bus gained elevation, we watched the landscape morph yet again. The trees became much shorter, holding on to earth. We were in Paramo, a unique habitat at high elevation. After taking some pics for the ‘gram and meditating in the fresh air and sunshine, we got back into the bus and twenty minutes later were at the head of the trail to Cuerici!
The caretakers brought a truck to load our stuff into and take down while we hiked the hour and a half to the biological station. At the station, we received the warmest of welcomes from the caretakers who live here in Cuerici. The Cuerici biological station looks like the farm where your parents sent your childhood pet. There are oaks, but different species than the U.S., and where you would see just bark, the trees are populated with more plants. Mosses, ferns, and red bromeliads. A trout farm bubbles just downhill of the station, with long pools filled with all sizes of rainbow fish. We are living in a Bob Ross painting, and all the trees are happy trees. We were given a second lunch and worked on projects between this and dinner. After dinner, we had a movie night in the lab. Curled up next to the glowing fire, we watched “Live, Die, Repeat” in which Tom Cruise fights time-controlling aliens and goes from a selfish good-for-nothing to a noble hero. After the movie, we all hopped into our bunk beds in the large dormitory, blankets piled high in the cold nighttime air. pura vida …
Quote of the day: “Where’s Aidan??” – Jacob, immediately after waking up.
Vibe of the day: Refreshed
Thorn: Slow start to the day
Professor McGonagall: Cardelus
Gryffindor: Jared, Cassie, Abby, Danny, Jacob
Hufflepuff: Davi, Megan
Ravenclaw: Elena, Lindsay, Julieanne, Aidan
Slytherin: Sierra, Lydia
Davi Bendavid ’22, the upcoming Hozier, Biology major, Geography and Geology Minor
What is your favorite childhood memory in nature?
Camping in Rhode Island, going to the beach and parking in the fisherman’s parking lot. From there, we would walk along the shore and check out tide pools. We would play in them and look at crabs and other crazy things. I thought they were the most fascinating things ever.
Favorite Part of the Trip
Seeing the vast differences in environment in all of the different sites. I expected Costa Rica to be mostly like La Selva but it was cool to see Cabo Blanco which reminded me of Florida, and Cuerici which is kind of like New York.
Anything that lets me travel and be outside. Maybe a fuel scientist but still mulling it over.
The last full day at La Selva began with a tasty breakfast of rice and beans. This was followed by a wonderful hike led by Lindsay along the Sendero Sabalo-Esquina, a trail at the eastern edge of La Selva that leads along the gorgeous Río Esquina. About half-way through the hike, the sky clouded over and rain poured down on the happy hikers. We soon reached the base of Volcan Barva, a volcano connected to La Selva via the Braulio Carrillo National Park. The mountain is home to the Barva Transect, a very famous set of forest sites at increasing altitude which has been studied by many of history’s greatest tropical ecologists, including Professor Cardelus!
After lunch, several people enjoyed bags of delicious homemade coconut ice cream that can be purchased at the gift shop! Then it was off to the lab and the field to finish up independent projects. Abby, Sierra, and Elena continued to observe and record insect presence on modified Heliconia bracs. Aidan and Jacob spent the day in the field lovingly surveying and collecting fern and moss samples. Megan, Lydia, Cassie, and Julieanne videotaped leaf-cutter ants and their activities around their nests every three hours and analyzed their data. Jared, Davi, and Danny took pictures of collection sites at the successional plots, and spent many hours identifying collected invertebrates. Unfortunately the long-awaited La Selva soccer game had to be cancelled as the field was too wet due to rainfall earlier in the day. After a lovely dinner of rice, beans, and fish, the students headed off to clean up the lab and prepare for tomorrow’s early departure to the next station, Cuericí!
We will be offline for the next few days, so no blogs will be uploaded until our return to San Jose on the 17th. We love and miss you all!
Vibe of the Day: Wrapping up
Rose and Thorn:
Rose: Seing our individual projects begin to come together
Thorn: Soccer game being cancelled 🙁
Quote of the day: “I wish I had a tail so I could chase it around in circles.” – Jared
Scientist Spotlight: Jacob Watts! Fern Lova
Favorite Memory in Nature
My family and my friend’s family would go to the beach together on Lake Erie. Not many people knew about it so it was very secluded. It was the best place in the world when I was a kid. There was a beautiful river that flowed into the lake. One time my friend and I built a dam across the river, completely redirecting it over a little patch of sand. Building that dam was probably the best day ever.
Favorite Part of the Trip
Just being in the tropics and in the moment with everyone here and getting to know everyone a lot better. Joking around with everyone and having a good time. Being able to be active after a really long semester of just sitting down and reading books and studying. I like feeling like my muscles are sore at the end of the day.
Right now, my dream job is to become a professor and study and teach about plants. I don’t really care if its tropical plants or not, but that’s definitely my dream job. Ideally at a nice school, but you can’t ask for everything.
After a short night of sleeping, everybody woke early to begin their independent research projects (woohoo!). Throughout the last couple of days many of the groups came to the realization that their research methods would not work in the field. It was a tiresome and stressful process to alter the projects to ones that would work, but every group had come up with doable methods by this morning. Cassie, Julieanne, Megan, and Lydia went into the field to observe the activity levels of their leaf-cutter and nest. Danny, Davi, and Jared woke to collect their traps at sunrise, a tedious task due to peak-snake hour. Sierra, Abby, and Elena travelled to their heliconia plants to look at the insects within the flowers. Jacob and Aiden went back into the forest to continue looking at the gametophyte populations on moss. Afterwards, we all met back at the dining hall for a filling meal of rice, beans, and French toast.
The van arrived to pick us up for our trip to the cacao plantation at 7:15 and we all packed in with the thought of chocolate in our minds. The plantation was a small family owned business oriented around conservation and other local cacao farmers. Our guide was incredible and did not hesitate to point out animals and tree types around us to fulfill our ecology cravings. He walked us through the chocolate making process and we sampled the cocoa beans at each step of the way. The beans tasted better each time as they lost their bitter taste and purple color. A few of us were picked to assist in test tasting and grinding the cocoa beans. In the end, we all were given as many chocolate samples as we wanted in the form of chocolate liquor, hot chocolate (the drink of the gods), melted chocolate, and solid chocolate pieces. We could all feel the mood boosting qualities of the chocolate (especially Cassie who had to sit down to taste her sample). We headed back to La Selva for lunch (the rice, beans, and pork making us miss our last meal of chocolate) and divided into our groups to continue working on our projects.
At 5:00, we regrouped to hear a talk by Gary Hartshorn about tree diversity and singleton species along the Barva Transect, an elevational gradient extending from the southern border of La Selva to the summit of Volcán Barva. We were given a shortened version of the presentation because Gary was feeling under the weather, but it was wonderful anyway. We returned to the lab after the presentation to finish up our work for the night before getting ready for our fiesta with the OTS graduate students! The fiesta filled the atrium with card games, ping pong tournaments, and of course lots and lots of dancing. We were all exhausted and fell asleep right when our heads hit our pillows.
Rose & Thorn
Rose: SO MUCH CHOCOLATE
Thorn: Stomach aches from stuffing our faces with chocolate ( worth it though)
Vibe of the Day: Mellow
Quote of the Day:
“Entonces” -Chocolate guide
Scientist Highlight: Aidan Harrington, Junior at Colgate University, Biology Major, Geography and Peace and Conflict Studies double minor.
What is a memory you have in nature?
My dad was a big fisherman and we lived near a river in the metroparks that has a wintertime steelhead fishery where we would go out together and fish. There was also a small nature center there where I would learn about the natural history of the area, which was always really exciting for me.
What has been your favorite part of the trip so far?
The intertidal zone. I loved swimming around and seeing all the cool stuff, especially the sea slugs, spiny lobsters, eel, choral, and sea urchins.
What is your dream job?
To be able to continue looking at plants and their ecology while also being able to pass along the information in a meaningful way (aka Eddie Watkins is my role model.).
The bird group woke up early for the final time at La Selva and had their most successful day to date. They spotted a wide variety of beautiful birds including toucans, snowy egret, green ibis, and iguanas (not a bird, but still super awesome). The group grew in popularity this morning as our fearless leader Lindsay has acquired quite the reputation for being a fantastic birder. The whole class met up and enjoyed a delicious meal that included the staples of our diet for the past 2 weeks, but a little variety was added today as we had enjoyed some French fries with our rice, beans, and eggs. The group lingered at the breakfast table, basking in the warm morning sun, discussing project ideas and the plans for the day. It was quite a beautiful morning at La Selva, surrounded by good people and a great place.
With high spirits,
people split up to work on group projects and individual projects. Davi, Jared,
and Danny went to the successional plots to work on setting up their insect
traps. Abby, Sierra, and Elena went to scout out heliconia plants for their study.
Jacob and Aiden measured different epiphytic ferns and relationship with mosses.
Cassie, Lydia, Megan, Julieanne went to survey leaf cutter ant activity to plan
out their study on the ant behavior and activity. These individual project preparations
were sprinkled in with data analysis for group projects and finalizing papers
and presentations for tonight. The students scurried over to have a light lunch
in order to be well prepared for rafting in the afternoon. The unyielding rain
over the past 2 days has resulted in exciting (but still safe) conditions for
rafting. Our certified lifeguard Lydia would certainly save us if anything went
The afternoon was filled with action packed adventure and fun! The group had a fantastic time rafting down the Río Puerto Viejo in the Braulio Carrillo National Park.We splashed and paddled through class 2 and 3 rapids guided by energetic and fun-loving guides who pointed out plants, animals, ecosystem functions, and even a little Spanish lessons along the way. What a better way to raft than to pair it with a botany lesson. Each and every one of us was knocked out of the raft at one point on the course. We even got out of the raft and jumped off a cliff. One of the highlights was the fresh pineapple, watermelon, and butter cookies at the half way point. Another highlight was when one of the guides threw our beloved leader Lindsay off the raft, and Cassie proceeded to launch the guide into the water, claiming that “no one messes with Lindsay”. We paddled the afternoon away getting thrown into the white foam of the river and chanting Pura Vida. We finally disembarked from our floats and huddled our chilly selves in a van to go back to our current home, La Selva! The group was ecstatic and buzzing with energy as we sang some tunes acapella including Dancing Queen and talked about the amazing experience we just had rafting down a river together in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!
On a high
from the rafting, the group scarfed down a quick dinner of lasagna, bread,
rice, and carrots, and scurried off to the lab to finish up work and present
our group projects. The rest of the night passed quickly and slowly at the same
time as we worked diligently to finish analyzing data to present. After the
presentations (which are only getting more impressive by the day), the group
tucked into bed to rest up for tomorrows early morning individual project set
up and tour of the cacao plantation! Hasta Luego!
Quote of the day: “I feel like George Washington” Cassie (in the front of the raft)
“Why isn’t that bird called a giraffe heron”- Lydia to the rest of the raft
“They have a long neck like that” – Davi in response to Lydia
Rose & Thorn:
Rose- Definitely splashing through rapids with awesome
Thorn- Missing the soccer game because of rafting… 🙁
Scientist Spotlight: Cassandra Ferrante – Meme master, rafting guide, and our very own Freshwater Marine Scientist
Favorite childhood memory in nature?
Growing up, my house is in the forest. We had a big tree going through the porch that has a glass solarium, and I used to watch all the deer and trees moving in sync. I love watching, and after watching I’d hike down there and play around in the forest.
What have you most enjoyed about this trip so far?
Being surprised everywhere we go. I have learned a lot and I am still learning, but I also know that there’s so much more to know about these sites. I am continuously surprised at each site.
Underwater archeologist. I like studying how things connect. Specifically I enjoy thinking about how humanities and science comes together. This job is about combining oceanography and anthropology, and I think it would be very cool.
The day started with a wonderful Costa Rican breakfast, consisting primarily of…wait for it…rice and beans. With the previous day’s rainstorms still fresh in everyone’s memory, the sunny blue skies were a very welcome sight. As the group crossed the green suspension bridge to the lab clearing, we noticed that the river had swelled by several meters since the day before due to the high amounts of rain. The murky, muddy water rushed around the trunks of trees that were sitting comfortably on the bank the day before.
The morning was spent in the lab, as we diligently worked on our projects. Identification and analysis was going swimmingly and we all began to plan for our independent projects to come in the afternoon. Music filled the lab and smiles filled our faces as we are finally falling into the Costa Rican ecology groove. The plant group left with Professor Cardelus to complete their final Gentry transect. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and we all headed back to the dining hall to yet again attempt to converse with the people of the world (success!).
We devoured a chicken curry medley with rice and beans and veggies 🙂 We all remembered the night before when Megan punched over Davi’s entire cup of juice out of excitement for how good the juice looked and had a hearty chuckle. We all headed back to the lab to continue working on our projects for the next few hours. Megan finally received the long awaited text from her twin saying her class had reached La Selva and Megan sprinted to the comedor to say her hellos. The twin reunion was filled with hugs and laughter.
Before dinner, Professor Cardelús gave a wonderful and fascinating talk about her canopy research to the class and many other interested parties. After a dinner of beef stew accompanied by the obligatory rice and beans, it was back to the lab for more sample identification and data analysis. Everyone headed to bed excited to start our independent projects in full force in the morning.
Vibe of the day: Scramblin’
Quote of the day: “Do you think the iguanas are happy?” – Cassie to Lindsay
Rose & Thorn:
Rose- Sheet with UV light with bugs Thorn- Having to adjust individual projects due to unexpected conditions!
Scientist Spotlight: Jared Collins (Jdog) – Soccer enthusiast and stream ecology connoisseur
Favorite Childhood memory in nature?
Honestly, probably just sleeping in a tent in the backyard, just for funsies.
What have you most enjoyed about this trip so far?
I really enjoyed the hike to the continental divide at Monteverde. It was really cool to see the drastic changes in climate, temperature, and wind within a small site. It was really interesting to see how that affected the ecology.
Probably environmental development or management. I think it would be a good balance between science and public service and has been growing in importance throughout the past 20 years or so. It will continue to grow and become more important. I think it’s a career path with a lot of opportunities.
It was an early morning for the insect and birding groups who woke up at 5:15 am to get work done before the 7:00 breakfast call. We all enjoyed a diverse spread of gallo pinto (a traditional food consisting of….rice and beans) and fried eggs, along with cereal and a selection of fresh fruits. After were all full we headed to meet the guides that would be taking us on a nature tour of La Selva. The professionals were able to point out animals that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. As we set off for our tour, the rain began to start and we quickly realized the meaning of the name “RAINforest.” Highlights of the tour included bullet ants, spider monkeys, the bluejeans poison dart frog, sloths, an eyelash viper, peccaries (which we smelled long before we saw them), and tons of incredible birds. The spider monkeys were extremely close to us and even walked across the path in front of us! Our guide told us they were behaving in a way he had never seen before, but his guess was that a male was trying to attack a baby and it’s mother was protecting her child.
After the tour we headed to the
comedor for a quick lunch and met at the lab to prepare for our plant walk with
Orlando, a good friend and expert on La Selva.
We kept an eye on the sky as conditions started to worsen, but continued
onward into the dense jungle to complete our Gentry transects. Jared and Davi departed from the group to
join the OTS graduate course for a stream hike.
They had a great time going into a stream, splashing around in it for a
few minutes, and walking back out of the jungle. Just kidding, their playtime was very
educational as preparation for their independent project. Individual projects are just a few days away
and we are all anxiously looking forward to see which methods will actually
work in the field!
While Davi and Jared frolicked in
streams, the rest of the class spent the afternoon measuring transects 25 m
into the forest from the trail, carefully measuring DBH while avoiding bullet
ants, snakes, and spiders, collecting samples and attempting to properly label
leaves all in the torrential downpour.
This was the textbook definition of type 2 fun. We headed out of the forest soaked to the
bone with the thought of clean laundry and luke-warm showers in our mind. Some of us attended the stream ecology talk
at 5 and quickly headed to dinner afterwards.
The entire class went to a lecture on rapid inventory in the Amazon
after dinner and finished the night in the lab with some group project work
(and a sing along). The relentless rain
and a quick thunderstorm lulled us all into a much needed deep sleep.