As a tradition, we ended the field season with a CHICHARONERA, a party at RIgo's house with the traditional Costa Rican food of fried pork and yucca--delicious!
What a Whirlwind! We are back and what a successful field season. We are studying the effects of nutrient addition (mimicking the predicted increases in pollution) in the canopy and how these nutrients effect the plant community and nutrient cycling. This is the third year of the project. This summer we remeasured/measured over 3500 plants in the canopy, collected >500 foliar samples of epiphytes! We had a strong and dedicated research team this year that impressed me daily (yes, this is Cat). We climbed everyday, often with three teams in trees each day. Data were input at night, printed and reviewed each day to find errors. I have two awesome field assistants who maintain the plots and fertilize on the weekends during the year: Rigo and Ralph!
We also saw more animals in the four weeks we were down there than I have seen in previous years at the station--granted, 6 pairs of eyes see more than one, but still we saw: Ocelot, Sloth with baby, pooping!, monkeys on the bridge, coati's on the bridge, fer-de-lances, eyelash pit viper, possum, kinkajoo, snapping turtle, Cayman, rare frogs, note the howler moneky AND iguana in the tree above, and of course lots of birds.
Importantly, we also managed to travel. As mentioned below we went to the Pacific Coast, to Montezuma for a few days to relax and then up to premontane cloud forest to check out Monteverde. Afterward we swung by the active Volcano, Arenal.
We will now switch gears to study the mitigating effects of liming on acid rain effected forests in the Adirondacks. We will measure trees in plots that have been limed and compare them with the growth of those in control plots. We will also study the nutrient cycling by collecting soils within each site. This is the fourth year of this study. It will be very different than tropical rainforest--no snakes, no climbing, no heat!
We have had a busy time since the last blog post! We finished the censuses for all of the trees (including “Maria”, which Maddy and Katie climbed together as their first “solo tree”!!) and have been preparing to begin a new shade house experiment. The latter portion of our endeavors involved making baskets to hold the hanging plants, and we have all realized that Rigo truly is a jack of all trades as his professional-looking baskets put all of ours to shame. Our only upcoming tasks now include Emily and Sheila re-climbing some of the trees for more plant samples and the rest of us collecting plants and soil for use in the shade house.
Equally as exciting as the progress we have been making in the research department are our recent reptilian sightings. First instance: on a pathway we took to a delicious Italian restaurant (not to be confused with the place in Montezuma where Sheila ate her fabulous banana chicken curry), we found a fer-de-lance chilling in the brush just off the path. However large this snake was, we were perhaps more afraid when we learned that there was a baby fer-de-lance residing in a tree stump outside of our cabina. Babies are scary because they cannot control how much venom they inject when they bite. BUT, thanks to our snake boots, we never have to worry too much! Even inside the safety and security of our snake boots, Maddy, Emily, and Katie did not hold back from running from the coral snake/coral snake mimic that followed them home the following night. Finally, as Emily was working on soils, Sheila, Maddy, and Katie took a walk down one of the trails. In the same spot it was last year, was a little yellow eyelash viper!
We gladly left the snakes in the comfort of their La Selva homes and ventured to Montezuma (beach, pool, and obsessive stray cat time!!), Monteverde, and Arenal. This trip was designed to give Cat a chance to explore the research potential at different sites. While Cat and Carrie were meeting with research representatives in Monteverde, Maddy, Katie, and Emily helped her out by zip-lining through the forest with the obviously SOLE intention of surveying the epiphytes while Sheila held down the fort at the hostel where we bunked. As soon as the other three returned, rain-soaked and muddy from canopy escapades, Sheila was joined for an intimate snuggle session in her 8-person bed as we watched “Pirates of the Caribbean 4”. Tired of being alone in the vortex of wind and doom with the constant threat of imaginary beings breaking in (due to the wind rattling the door), Sheila welcomed Emily, Maddy, and Katie with open arms. From Monteverde, we traveled past the Arenal volcano on our way back to La Selva. We took a “Jeep, Boat, Jeep” and got a great view of the volcano while on the boating on the Arenal Lake just before clouds rolled in to cover it up.
We have officially been at La Selva for 7 full days and have finished measuring and sampling plants in 5 and a half study trees. On Tuesday Sheila and Emily finished the tree they had been chased out of the day before by monkeys, while Cat, Maddy, Carrie and Katie finished a new tree. On Wednesday Cat and Sheila finished half of the “wedding tree” where Cat and Eddie were married. While taking data in the tree Cat was pooped on by a bird (and it barely missed her mouth!) and Carrie, Katie, Maddy and Emily finished another tree. After tomorrow we are hoping to have another 2 under our belts meaning that we will only have 3 study trees left and soil to collect.
The past 3 days have been very exciting animals days for the whole crew! Sheila, Emily and Maddy ate lunch with a slaty tailed Troon on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Cat and Sheila decided to walk home through the swamp and Sheila spotted a large Caiman under the bridge as Cat was walking directly over it. Sheila also spotted a parrot snake that slithered up a tree and ate a frog right out of a bromeliad! Their excitement continued as they encountered a huge snapping turtle in their path, and they had to go off trail around it to get back to the lab.
Since the swamp was so active during the day, Sheila, Emily, Katie and Maddy decided to go back to the swamp that night. The swamp was buzzing with frog activity and as we were approaching the end of the swamp, Emily noticed eye shine and quickly asked the other girls if they saw it. Initially Emily thought it was a Kinkajou but they quickly realized that it was an OCELOT!!! There was also another group out at the swamp and after everyone unsuccessfully snapped pictures of it, the ocelot went back into the forest. However, they were still able to see its eye shine. A couple minutes later, while everyone was taking pictures of frogs mating, the ocelot pounced into the swamp after its prey, which sent everyone scattering back to the lab.
Today, all of Sheila’s dreams came true…one of the other researchers on station came into our lab and told us that there was a mother sloth carrying her baby right outside the station library. (This was Sheila’s version of the monkeys on the bridge for Emily) Sheila, Emily, Maddy and Katie frantically grabbed their rain gear and cameras and rushed to the tree. The sloth’s were right at eye level!! Sheila immediately ran back to our cabina to grab her camera (Sheila does not run in the rainforest). Everyone took a number of pictures of and with the sloths and videos of the sloth climbing down the tree to poop. And as we speak Sheila is bagging the sloth poop for “science”!
Hola! This time around it is Cat, Carrie, Emily, Sheila, Katie, and Maddy braving the Costa Rican jungle to provide you with awesome stories and cool pictures that you to enjoy from the comfort of your air-conditioned homes! It is only day 6 with all of us here on station and we have been busy! We arrived on Wednesday and hit the ground running. Thursday we had a refresher on tree climbing in the arboretum (it’s like a well labeled tree garden). Everyone got back into the swing of things and Maddy climbed her first tree! The next day Carrie, Emily, and Maddy climbed one of our study Virolas and Cat, Katie, and Sheila climbed another. That means we have data for 2 study trees! Very exciting stuff people. We should finish these trees tomorrow and then be over a fifth of the way done already.
Today was a bit of a hiccup in our progress though. Cat and Katie reached the top of their tree only to realize that they were being kicked out by capuchin monkeys! Sheila and Emily made it through a threatening rain cloud before howler monkey got too close for comfort and Carrie and Maddie managed to finish their tree just before another group of howlers kicked them out. No one likes their ropes monkyed with, not even Emily. It was a very unusual day.
In terms of other fun jungle things Katie and Maddy have already met the usual station residents, the chanchos (white collared peccaries aka smelly pigs), iguannas, howler monkeys, and the red-eyed tree frogs that live in the swamp. Maddy, Emily, and Katie saw an uncomfortably large boa in one of the shade houses and everyone got to see a troupe of howlers cross the bridge that connects our station. Emily was beaming and grateful for Carrie’s wake up call and we were all happy to see the monkeys when we were not hanging in a tree. Sheila got up close and personal with a coati that followed her across the bridge and Emily got pooped on. Cat is not so slowly, but surely teaching everyone plant identification and we should all be brilliant botanists by the time we go home.