January 11: Chocolate Makes the Heart Happy

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.).

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