Monday, May 19, 2014

Costa Rica 2014... we made it!

Started from the bottom, now we're here! We arrived in Costa Rica on May 14th to work on a 5 year ecology study at the La Selva Biological Station. We were all ridiculously excited as soon as we stepped out of our planes. La Selva is full of really cool undergraduates, graduate students, Ph.D candidates and Doctors and Professors doing a ton of amazing biological research. We've also met a lot of Costa Rican locals, who are often referred to as Ticos and Ticas.

One of the coolest things about Costa Rica is the huge diversity of fruit that they have here. One of the very first things we did when we left the airport was drive through the mountains of Costa Rica and stopped at an open fruit stand.
This was our very first first interaction with Tico culture and we wanted to eat it all. Carrie suggested that we try the young coconut. The woman working there poked a hole in a coconut for each of us. We chugged it and had her chop it open so we could eat the inside of the coconut. The inside was really sweet, but strangely gelatinous, which is really different compared to coconut that we typically have access to in central NY.  Another really fun fruit to eat was Spanish guava. It looks like a huge pea pod with fuzzy succulent seeds inside (somewhat reminiscent of the baby bats we saw later).

Spanish Guava, which we enjoyed after a long day of climbing in the rainforest.

After one of our climbs, we walked down the STR trail at La Selva and found a palm sliced along the vein, that created a shaded enclosure that housed seven baby bats.

At La Selva, there's a huge bridge that goes over a river, that connects the entrance of the research station to the field station and cabinas. People always find a lot of really interesting wildlife along this bridge. We've seen a Cayman, a sloth, a cloudy slug eater snake and tons of leaf cutter ants.

 The Bridge at La Selva. The bridge was built in the early 90's. Before the bridge, researchers had to take boats across the river to access the research station. The four of us have grown to love the bridge, especially at night, when we can stand in the middle of the bridge, shut our head lamps off, and see hundreds of stars in the sky. When we get really lucky, we see a lot of shooting stars.

 The Cayman alligator is a huge frequenter of the river at La Selva. The water looked really enticing until we spotted this guy on the bank. When we returned from dinner the night that we saw this cayman, his red eye-shine stared back at us during our entire walk across the bridge.

We found the cloudy slug eating snake when we were walking across the bridge at night with our new friend Brian (he's a grad student at Auburn who studies reptiles and amphibians). This is a non venomous snake species that is pretty common at La Selva.


 This three-toed sloth was up in a tree next the the bridge at La Selva. The fur on its head has green coloring because of a symbiotic relationship it has with green algae that lives in its fur.

The reason for our trip to Costa Rica is the field research that we're doing in the rainforest canopy with Cat and Carrie. We're researching the effect of nutrient deposition (as predicted by climate change) on epiphytic plants in the rainforest canopy. Epiphytes are plants that are not rooted on the ground, so they have to collect nutrients using other methods. When the weather is good, we strap into harnesses and climb 100ft into the rainforest canopy on a free line rope system to sample our epiphytes, which are found in 9 experimental trees.

It's also been really cool to experience Tico life in Costa Rica. A few days after we arrived, all of us went into the town outside of La Selva. We got to experience a Costa Rican grocery market,and even though the market is 4,012 miles away, we can't seem to escape the Colgate bubble (see Colgate toothpaste display below!)! The snake boots in the picture are a necessary fashion statement in La Selva (they also protect us from the snakes that Lindsay and Providence are terrified of).

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