May 2020

After being closed to the general public for two months, we are pleased to have reopened the reserve beginning on May 16th.  Thank you to all of the visitors who have come to get a dose of nature, after Covid-19 confinement! 

The crystalline colors of the river at Cloudbridge never fail to impress.

Border restrictions in Costa Rica currently only allow Costa Rican nationals to enter the country until at least June 30th, so the interns and researchers that were planning on coming over the Summer have had to postpone or cancel their time at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. 

Volunteer Christina Kruse took some amazing photographs during her time with us, in addition to helping out with various tasks!

Due to this unusual situation, we request that you please consider coming to volunteer or research on the reserve (or recommend it to people you know). Alternately if you are able to support us financially with a recurring or one-time donation, it will be much appreciated.

Research intern Georgia Smith takes note of the relevant information after moving one of our camera traps.

We have had a lovely group of interns and volunteers who stuck it out with us throughout this difficult time, and we are very grateful to them. However, May was their last month here at Cloudbridge, as they will all be leaving shortly. We wish them all the best on their journeys!

Buen Viaje!
Enjoying the sunset at Casita Blanca before leaving…
This tree is so large, it is hard to capture in a photograph!
“Stephan´s plot”, in 2002 and 2019.

In 2008, Cloudbridge researcher Stephan Lehmann planted a grid of plots with different combinations of pioneer and climax species trees. Our research intern Max Battison has recently been measuring the trees in these plots to see how they have progressed over the last 12 years. It is fascinating work!

This beautiful Clown daggerwing was found sunning itself by the river.
Operations manager Greg Oakley poses next to Catarata Don Victor.
Hiking in the cloudforest, it´s possible to feel that you are in the clouds…

Now that the rains have begun again, everything has been growing quite rapidly, including a multitude of fungi, of all shapes and sizes. Here is just a small sample of the many varieties we have seen this month:

Another magnificent tree, protected by Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.
Clara and Greg interact with a group in a virtual field trip.

This month we have greatly enjoyed engaging in a couple of virtual field trips on the reserve. We received very good feedback, with some teachers calling it the highlight of the school year! Please don´t hesitate to reach out if you are interested in a virtual field trip.

This spider monkey was just hanging around the reserve! Photo credit: Anthony Garita
This baby Capuchin monkey is enjoying the ride! Photo credit: Anthony Garita
Our staff team will be one short soon, we`ll miss you Antoine!

Though these last few months have been strange and difficult for many people around the world, here at Cloudbridge we have been blessed with a stellar team of staff (including workers Edgar and Oscar, not pictured here). Though Antoine Jeunet will be leaving us soon, we are still thankful to have such a great team! Thank you.

Recommended Reading

  • This lovely essay by arborist and author William Bryant Logan explores the symbiotic relationship between humans and trees, when our managemente actually helps the trees to live longer, healthier lives.
  • Seeing as how the United States is currently in a state of turmoil due to the many unnecesary and violent deaths of people of color, most recently that of George Floyd, we are including this thoughtful article about the difficulties of “Being black while in nature

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April 2020

Handsome white-faced monkey. Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen.

April has been an unusual month, at Cloudbridge and the world over. Many countries have effectively “shut down” to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and Costa Rica has not been the exception.  In the case of our small Central American nation, these efforts have been fruitful, as the caseloads have remained quite small, not even coming close to overwheming the public health care system. 

On May 11th, we hope to be able to reopen the Reserve, following social distancing protocols. Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen

Cloudbridge has remained closed for the whole month of April, though we hope that on May 11th the government guidelines will allow us to reopen.  Of course, we will be following social-distancing guidelines and a covid-19 protocol.  As is the case for many around the world, we have suffered a severe loss of income due to this pandemic.  If it is at all possible for you to support Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, please consider making a donation of whatever amount you please.  We are very thankful for any assistance!!

The Resplendent Quetzal is one of several vulnerable species who make their home at Cloudbridge. Please help us continue to protect these species by making a donation today! Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen
These beautiful embroidered moths are made of recycled materials and inspired by a recent trip to Cloudbridge. Photo and artwork credits: Maya and Laura Fried.

This April was the 50th celebration of Earth Day. Here at Cloudbridge, we staged a Virtual Earth Day Celebration on Facebook, asking participants to share the actions that they perform to help the Earth in day to day life, as well as related artwork. There were some very inspiring responses, from places as far-flung as Vermont and Australia! Thank you to all who participated!

Old shoes and other “trash” can make excellent flowerpots! Garden / photo: Casey McConnell
The dusky nightjar (Antrostomus saturatus) is a newly identified species on the reserve.

Over the last couple of months, we have added to our bird species list, bringing our identified species that have been seen at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve to a total of 305 (!!). Above, this dusky nightjar came and hung out near the staff house for a while, before wandering off again. It truly is a birders paradise, here.

The new display case in the welcome center. We have key chains, coasters and a new batch of T-shirts!
Fragrant herbs, delicious food, and a lovely space to lounge, right near the staff house!

The lovely group of researchers and volunteers who have chosen to stay here in the midst of the pandemic have kept on with their work and studies. Our bird monitoring program is ongoing, we have some forestry studies happening (including in a plot that has been abandoned for some time), and of course the camera trap surveys are also ongoing. We have also made some new gardens around the classroom and the staff house, and updated the welcome center. We have kept some of the volunteers busy with making souvenirs from forest materials.

Volunteers at Cloudbridge get to practice all sorts of different skills. Here Christina is preparing some souvenirs for the welcome center. Photo credit: Antoine Jeunet.
Collecting data at the Reserve involves a bit of hiking and some beautiful views! Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen

It is definitely not all work and no fun at the Reserve. Because they have been in a “bubble”, maintaining social distancing from the outside world, our researchers and volunteers have been able to socialize amongst themselves, making them a lucky group! With delicious, fresh, local food available for pick-up, there have been wonderful feasts and a lovely Easter weekend celebration. We even spent an evening watching shooting stars.

Unloading the car with products from the “Mercado Local Solidario del Chirripó”.
Though the local trout farm has been closed for in-person fishing, we have been placing orders by phone, for fresh, local trout.
The rainy season is beginning!!

This month has also brought the rains again! The Earth seems to be sighing with relief and pleasure, we are so happy to have the rain.

With the beginning of the rains, we are also able to enjoy the lovely mist. Photo credit; Charlotte Vermeulen

Pictures from around the Reserve

Our forestry intern Ben Petch takes a quick break to enter some data!
This female collared trogon posed quite beautifully for the camera. Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen
Max and Ben take a pause in their labor to smile at the camera.
Tree ferns make beautiful patterns with the sunlight. Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen.
This peccary almost seems more photogenic than usual : ) Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen
This coati is hanging out in the gardens of Casita Blanca!
The resplendent quetzal, magnificent as always. Photo credit: Charlotte Vermeulen

Suggested Reading

Recognizing the importance of our non-human neighbors and the indispensable services they provide (such as pollination), is a growing trend that more cities and suburbs will adopt. This article describes the experience of Curridabat, a suburb of San José that has given citizenship to bees, bats and butterflies.

The giant sequoias of California´s Sierra Nevada are magnificent beings who have lived through millenia. Documenting their decline is a heartwrenching experience, but something that this author feels is important to do.

With so much attention being placed on Covid-19, it is easy to overlook the immense threat that our changing climate continues to pose to millions of people´s health and well-being. Certain regions that already experience food insecurity are now being further threatened by vast clouds of crop-destroying locusts.

The drastic shifts that have occurred in the wake of Covid-19, and the large stimulus packages that are currently being designed, offer an unprecedented opportunity for society to push low-emission, green technologies. However, few governments seem to be taking this into account. This opinion piece explores this dilemma.

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March 2020

It may seem that the world has stopped, but the natural world has not changed much. Here is a beautiful view from the porch of Casita Blanca. Photo credit: naharah.visualize

March has been a month of great changes on the global scale. Here in Costa Rica, society seems to have entered into a state of hibernation, with all parks, markets, beaches and social gatherings shut down. The government has requested that we all practice social distancing, to ease the load on the public health system. So far it has been quite effective, as of March 30th there have been only 2 deaths in the country due to COVID-19, and a total of 330 confirmed cases. Here at Cloudbridge, we have officially closed the reserve to the public. Many of our researchers have had to leave early due to the global situation. Those that have stayed are continuing with their work, and not leaving the reserve at all, to maintain social distancing. Thankfully we are all in good health and good spirits. We all agree that if you must be in quarantine somewhere, Cloudbridge is not a bad place to be.

Visitors like this lovely coati, make being in quarantine much more pleasant. Photo credit: Christina Kruse.

We realize that around the world, many people have experienced a loss of income because of this pandemic, and we wish all the best for those workers who have been laid off or suffered a reduction of hours. Here at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, we have also suffered a significant loss of income, as could be expected given the circumstances. Please consider making a recurring or one time donation to help us with our daily operations during this difficult time, or to help us eventually move forward with our special projects.

Our “special projects box”. Before we closed the reserve to the public, we were very pleased with the response to our requests for support in building a new Research Lab. Please feel free to contribute here.
Saying goodbye to the many interns who felt the need to leave early was a bit sad. We are very grateful to the lovely group that have chosen to weather the storm here at Cloudbridge!

We are very grateful to the researchers who are able to stay at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve during this difficult time, keeping our ongoing projects moving forward. Our bird surveys and monitoring of wildlife using camera traps are projects that we are happy to continue pursuing during this crisis. We have received a number of new interns this month, though in some cases, they had to endure a period of quarantine before joining the team!

Welcome to our new interns!

Hello, I’m Riccardo Palladini, an Italian student working at Cloudbridge as a researcher. My actual inquiry is about mammal and bird biodiversity in the secondary forest, to assess the effectiveness of the reforestation effort at the Reserve. Back in Italy I studied biology in my bachelors and now I’m attending an international Masters course called Global Change Ecology & Sustainable Development Goals. My internship experience at Cloudbridge has been chosen particularly for two reasons: to understand how to set up and perform a research project, and to get in touch with the situation of an NGO committed to environmental restoration and cooperation for development with the local population. I believe that my future job will be highly related to these themes and I’m looking forward to clarifying my ideas about it during this experience.

Hi, my name is Christina. I’m from Germany and I’m a biological-technical-asistant. At home I work in an environmental laboratory but now I am taking a 3-month sabbatical and I’m thankful that I can stay here at Cloudbridge in the wonderful nature. I’m curious about all the things that I will experience here.

Hola ! I am Gabriel Henry from France. I discovered Cloudbridge two years ago and I knew I was going to come back. I am a graduate with a bachelors in Economic Sciences and I am doing a gap year between the two years of my Masters of Environmental Protection. I am here to learn biologist tools in the field, to have multidisciplinary skills in environmental managment and protection. Cloudbridge is the best place for this! I am working here on the bird survey and data analysis.

Hi I’m Charlotte, I’m a French architecture student passionate about sustainable materials and nature. I’m doing a gap year in my studies and I came to Costa Rica to learn more about sustainable living. Cloudbridge is the place to be for that ! I have here the opportunity to work on great projects about the reserve with people from all different backgrounds. I can’t wait to start this new adventure and quite glad I ended up “confined” in this magical place.

Pictures of Cloudbridge

This rainforest racer was hanging out in the staff bathroom!
This juvenile pit-viper can be found in the same place every night.
This mountain gem has been hanging around Casita Colibri. Photo credit: Christina Kruse.
Catarata Caldera, the “cauldron”. Photo credit: Naharah.visualize
With social distancing there is not much chance of using this lovely picnic table in the memorial garden. Hopefully the elves do, though! Photo credit: Naharah.visualize
The “poró de montaña” (Erythrina berteroana) has edible flowers that are also quite beautiful. This pioneer tree is native to Costa Rica, unlike it´s well-known cousin, the poró gigante (Erythrina poeppigiana). Photo credit: Naharah.visualize
The net-casting spider throws a net over its prey instead of waiting in a web. This is our manager´s favorite spider!

Recommended Reading

Exploring the link between the destruction of natural ecosystems and the current pandemic, this article proposes that the current situation could just be the “Tip of the iceberg”.

In this article, Brett Jenks argues that the social changes that we are witnessing in response to Covid-19, can offer us hope that as a society, we could take more action for the ongoing crisis of climate change. Some of the changes that we could take, and a vision of the world that we could create together, are described briefly here.

And just in case this time of shut down is feeling a bit overwhelming, Dr. Laurie Santos offers science-based approaches to happiness in her lovely podcast, The Happiness Lab. She has been providing Coronavirus bonus episodes, beginning with this one, Beat your Isolation Loneliness.

And to end on an even more positive note, here is a nice article about bacteria that have evolved to eat plastic.

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February 2020

The start of the XXXII edition of the Chirripo Race, which took place last February 22nd. Image source: www.carrerachirripo.com

February is one of San Gerardo´s most exciting months, as this is when the Chirripó Race occurs each year.  The race weekend is accompanied by many festivities, along with the sale of food prepared by the local community.  Cloudbridge´s researchers, volunteers and staff were able to help out with chopping vegetables and more, which was a great opportunity to give back to this wonderful community, practice Spanish and learn about traditional Costa Rican cuisine.  Our congratulations and admiration for the athletes, who completed an incredibly difficult feat.

Chopping vegetables was one of the tasks performed by Cloudbridge interns in the days leading up to the race. Image source: Clara Moreno.

As usual, this month has been filled with fun and exciting activities, in addition to our daily work of conducting surveys, collecting and processing data, and more. The fun, camaraderie and team spirit of our researchers and volunteers, is part of the appeal of Coudbridge Nature Reserve´s internship and volunteer programs.

Before our soils intern Alesha left, she helped organize an obstacle race!
Pizza nights at the Garden Café, dinners at the Uran and freshly caught trout meals at Cocolisos (pictured), are some of the activities that our researchers enjoy doing together.

The success of our internship and volunteer programs means that we are at a stage where we need to expand our infrastructure. Specifically, we are in need of a new research lab, and already have the design drawn out. If you would like to help make this a reality for Cloudbridge, please consider giving us a one-time or recurring donation. All income directly supports our conservation and research efforts on the reserve, and is greatly appreciated. If you so desire, feel free to indicate in the donation that it is for the lab, and we will put it into our special projects fund.

Our current lab is little bigger than a closet, and we have research projects spilling out into the kitchen. Please help us make our new research lab a reality, and donate today!

This month has seen big changes at the Reserve, with our long-time Scientific Coordinator Jennifer Powell returning to Canada to spend more time with her family and pursue a PhD.  She will definitely be missed at Cloudbridge!!  Her Costa Rican doggy Lupi, is now having to adapt to the snow and cold.

Even with his snow coat and booties, Lupi is not too sure about this snow thing!

Our recent director Carrie Visintainer has also left the Reserve, and will be missed.  Stepping in to fill her role is long-time friend of Cloudbridge Casey Ella McConnell.

This picture of outgoing scientific coordinator Jenn Powell (left) and new director Casey Ella McConnell, was taken just hours before Jenn left the reserve.

Hola! My name is Casey, I´ve lived here in Southern Costa Rica since I was 8 years old. I am honored to be the new director of Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, a place that I have loved since before it became a reserve in 2002. I am an Agricultural Engineer, have a Masters in Environmental Studies and live with my family on a small agroecological farm in Rivas. I am also Vice President of the environmental association Montaña Verde. I am very excited to assume this leadership role for the amazing project that is Cloudbridge.

Clara Moreno, our Scientific Coordinator, feeling good after a small morning hike on the reserve.

¡Hola! I’m Clara, from Spain. I recently joined the amazing team at Cloudbridge to be the new Scientific Coordinator. I graduated with a PhD in Ecology at the University of Southeast Norway in 2014. After graduating, I mostly worked on small conservation organizations focusing mainly in sea turtle conservation. I love the outdoors and I don’t conceive working on anything other than nature. Living and working in the cloud forest of Costa Rica is a new and exciting challenge for me. After just a few weeks here I am certain that this will be such an enriching experience! ¡Pura Vida!

Hi. My name is Georgia. I am from London and study conservation biology at Plymouth University.  I arrived at Cloudbridge 3 weeks ago to carry out a 3 month internship as part of my university placement year.  I am working on the camera traps and have already seen a variety of different animals including a puma.  I chose Cloudbridge because of the amazing biodiversity and the much warmer climate than England!

My name is Jonah Lutz and I’m from Germany.  I am now living at Cloudbridge for one month as a volunteer, which means I can work with the researchers but I have no specific research topic of my own.  I love being here because this place is absolutely amazing.  After work I normally make lunch and then go out for a hike or just relax in the garden.  Sometimes I go to the waterfalls and sit next to it for an hour to calm down and relax.  But the work is great fun too. Working in the forest and learning something new or just being at the Welcome Center and talking to the guests, it’s so cool.

Hola! I’m Juan Pablo from Colombia. I recently graduated from ecology and environmental sciences and I’m looking to gain more research and fieldwork experience in Latin America. I’ll be studying epiphyte presence and niche partitioning across different areas of Cloudbridge. This place is paradise!!

Recommended Reading:

  • This month marks one year since the government of Carlos Alvarado launched one of the most comprehensive national decarbonization plans in the world. The plan would allow for Costa Rica to achieve net emissions of zero, by the year 2050. Here is a UNFCCC announcement of the plan, and here is the plan itself (in Spanish).
  • Though Costa Rica is well-know for its pacifism and political stability, we have not been untouched by the wave of death which has touched environmental defenders from around the world. The most recent victim of this horrific violence is the Indigenous leader and activist Yehry Rivera. This article, from a UK-based newspaper, explores the dynamics behind his death.
  • A bit further from home, this interactive article explores the consequences of extreme heat in Australia, which has been on the frontline of climate change.
  • And of course we don´t want to end on a negative note, here is proof that forest-bathing is going mainstream, when there is an article about it in Good housekeeping. : )
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January 2020

Students and staff from the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, and their Cloudbridge group leaders. (Week 1)

At Cloudbridge, we started off the new year (and new decade) right with two weeks of inspiring visits from 11th and 12th graders from the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science. This study abroad program, coordinated through Western Kentucky University, is designed to introduce students to a Costa Rican cloud forest, including the flora and fauna. While on site, participants focused on an an area of research, such as butterfly diversity, bird monitoring, or tree diversity/carbon sequestration, with the goal of learning basic field research techniques, while enhancing their knowledge of the importance of our global rainforests and their impact on the environment.

One student holds a glasswing butterfly (Greta oto) during fieldwork to determine feeding habits in butterflies.
The birding group woke up early in order to hit the trail at 6 a.m. with Cloudbridge resident biologist Jeff.
These students examine various species of plants, gathering important data related to their hypothesis.

The Gatton students also participated in afternoon activities, such as this presentation on climate change, let by expert and activist Linda Moskalyk.

After the presentation, students broke up into groups facilitated by Cloudbridge research interns and volunteers. They openly brainstormed and discussed ways to to reduce carbon emissions on a governmental, local, and personal level.

But of course, it wasn’t all work and no play. There was plenty of time to chill on the deck, or rest in hammocks at the dorms.

And what’s a proper study abroad program without a little cloud forest yoga?

After finishing with the first week of students, the second group arrived, and we dove into another exciting experience in the cloud forest. It sure is delightful to work with young scientists!

Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science: Week 2

Research Interns and Volunteers

We always look forward to welcoming new research interns and volunteers, who bring so many skills and interesting perspectives! Here are a few of our recent additions.

 I am Nele and I come from Germany. I chose to come to Cloudbridge as a volunteer because I love nature. Therefore, Costa Rica and especially Cloudbridge is the perfect place to be. The landscape and view up here is incredible!
Hello, I’m Maliya from Vancouver, Canada. I graduated with a degree in biology in 2016 and have since worked a variety of research and field jobs. I came to Cloudbridge as a birding intern because I wanted to experience the cloud forest and learn about all the amazing birds and wildlife here. 
Hi, my name is Áoife. I’m from Ireland (hence the unpronouncable name) and recently just finished my undergrad in Biology. I came to Cloudbridge to gain more experience in environmental field work and different conservation practices. I am currently working as the camera trap intern here at Cloudbridge.
I’m Colin. During my Public Health studies I’ve researched how tree planting is the most cost effective solution to climate change and developed an awareness of the socio-economic and environmental benefits that contribute towards such an overwhelming business case for investment in re-forestation projects.
This has encouraged me to explore my dream of replanting a woodland in the UK.
So when planning a career break I knew I should volunteer in a similar field.  Hence, I’m very grateful to Cloudbridge for the opportunity to learn about this project and its amazing contributors.
I leave wanting to stay and feeling inspired to realise my own ambition. 
I’m KC, and I’m volunteering here are Cloudbridge with my partner Colin. We’re here (in this amazing place!) for a few short weeks, our adventure here is part of a bigger, year-long adventure around Central, South America, and beyond!
We’re both here because of our love of nature and trees! We came to help where we can and be part of something. We’re lucky to be spending our time here with an amazing bunch of likeminded people doing good for the planet!
Hello, I’m Camille.  I’m 24 years old, and I study animal behavior (ethology) in Paris, France. I came to Cloudbridge for 5 months to do my graduate internship. I will study flight initiation distance of birds in the reserve. I’m so happy to be here, it will be a great experience!

Suggested Reading

This past month, Australia has seen some of the most severe wildfires that modern humans have experienced. Aboriginal Australians feel that respecting their cultural heritage and land management traditions could help mitigate future damages. Read more about this fascinating subject here

The World Economic Forum, which recently took place in Davos, is a space where economic leaders discuss strategies to face the coming challenges brought by climate change. Some speakers at this forum advocate for humans to learn from the forest. More info here

Here at Cloudbridge, the forest brings us health and well-being on many levels. In this piece, a skeptic describes the benefits of forest-bathing.

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December 2019

December has been a lively month at Cloudbridge. On Christmas Day, we gathered for an afternoon of festivities, including a highly competitive game of croquet, pictured above.

We also shared international foods in a community potluck. Here, our bird intern Amauta dishes up traditional rice porridge, a recipe from her family in Norway. One lucky person had an almond in their porridge, winning a gift of chocolate.

Once everyone had their food, we gathered around the table to talk about how fortunate we feel to be together at Cloudbridge!

What holiday gathering would be complete without a white elephant gift exchange? Favorite presents included treats from the local chocolate shop, linens handmade in Cambodia, an Ultimate frisbee, and a bottle of Costa Rican wine.

Research and Interns

Although we said goodbye to a plethora of research interns and volunteers in December, we also welcomed some wonderful new staff, interns, and volunteers.

My name is Jeff Roth.  This is my third year coming to Cloudbridge, and my second as the Resident Biologist.  I have worked as a Field Biologist ever since I graduated with a degree in Biology in 2014.  I have worked all across North America focusing primarily on birds.  It was my passion for birds that first brought me to Cloudbridge and it’s what keeps bringing me back.

Hi, my name is Thimo, and I’m 21 years old. I’m a biology student from Holland, who loves to spend time in nature. I applied as a Cloudbridge volunteer currently helping on ongoing trail and tree maintenance throughout the reserve.

Hi! We are Greg and Christine and we volunteered at Cloudbridge for two weeks in December. We are both from Winnipeg, Canada and work as an engineer (Greg) and chemist (Christine) for our day jobs. This year we decided to take extended leaves of absence from our day jobs to explore the world; we choose to spend the last of our time off volunteering at Cloudbridge as a way to learn about conservation and give back to the community.

During our time at Cloudbridge we helped set up fruit traps, collect animal habitat data, assisted with frog, bird and owl surveys and relocated epiphytes off of a fallen tree – not to mention we did a lot of hiking. We really enjoyed learning about the on going research projects and the history of the nature reserve. We hope to be back one day.

Hello, I’m Alesha. I am a graduate student from the University of Miami studying soil and water nutrients at Cloudbridge. I have a degree in biochemistry. Currently, I am completing my degree in Exploration Science. I am excited to see where this research will lead thanks to Cloudbridge.

Here, our volunteers are working to re-establish the abundance of epiphytes in the cloud forest. They have collected them from the ground and are placing them in spaces where they will thrive.

Pictures from Staff, Interns, and VolunteersWhat’s cuter than a venomous snake trying to hide behind a tiny leaf? Nothing, we say! This pic was captured by our science coordinator Jenn near the staff house one evening.

Research intern Aoife captured an armadillo on one of her camera traps.

Do you see what we see? A very special moment happened when our frog researcher Sophia, and her assistant Thimo, spotted a margay in a tree during a night survey. We’re pretty sure this will be a lifelong memory for both of them.

This male Quetzal was spotted by resident expert Tom Gode in a tree not far from our main trail.

 This silk moth was hanging out near the classroom, attracting much attention.

This beautiful click beetle, photographed by guest Steve Lustgarden, looks like it’s all dressed up and ready for a party.

Recommended Reading

It’s pretty exciting to see 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg chosen as TIME’s Person of the Year.

Want to learn a bit more about what constitutes a healthy forest, in order to combat climate change? This article in Scientific American will help you see the forest for the trees.

If you’re planning to visit a national park in Costa Rica in 2020, you’ll likely be covered by an insurance policy in case of injury, as highlighted in this piece in the Tico Times.

The European Green Deal is a progressive model for the world. Learn about Europe’s goals to become a climate-neutral continent by 2050 here.

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November 2019

Two male White-crested Coquettes having a territorial dispute.  Photo credit: Laura Hulbert

October went out with a bang with our Halloween party, held on the Day of the Dead. 

After the party, we had to gather our strength at the river.

November has been a very productive month. We’ve had interns arrive, and have moved forward with various projects on the Reserve, including the installation of metal barriers to protect our Quetzal nesting boxes, and the construction and use of a fire-pit.

Greg installs a barrier to prevent predators from reaching our Quetzal nesting boxes.

Staff and interns enjoy the fire-pit.

We are pleased to announce that we have identified a new species on the Reserve.  The Bicolored Hawk (Accipiter bicolor) was spotted by our interns Amauta and Laura.

The Bicolored Hawk.  Photo credit: Laura Hulbert.

Research and interns

As part of the Ecology of Plant and Hummingbird Interactions (EPHI) project that spans several countries in Central and South America, we’ve had three Costa Rican women working on a hummingbird-plant interaction study in the reserve over the last few months. They have been conducting pollinator exclusion experiments on several flower species by covering flowers with bags to prevent the hummingbirds from accessing the flowers and then seeing how that effects the nectar and flowers. These ladies have been visiting for 2 days every 2 weeks and we look forward to hearing the results of their studies! Left to right: Silvia, Karen, and Yandry.

The mesh bags serve as a deterrent for hummingbirds from selected flowers.

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Hi! My name is Amauta, I am half Norwegian and half Bolivian residing at the moment in Oslo. I have a bachelor’s in biology, and I want to become an ornithologist. After observing birds in boreal regions and the arctic, I was curious to see how the birds in the tropics would be. After being here a week, I am amazed! I will be collecting bird data in point counts and walking surveys.

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Ciao, my name is Daniel and I am from Italy. I came to Cloudbridge as a volunteer to gain some experience in the environmental field and to meet new people from all over the world.

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Hi, my name is Dora and I’m a student from England. I’m working as a research assistant here at Cloudbridge and am really enjoying learning more about the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. It’s also great gaining some research and conservation experience before I get to study biology at university next year.

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Hi, I am Stefan, and I am working in a molecular biology lab in Freiburg, in the southwest of Germany. I came to Cloudbridge to volunteer for three weeks, aiming to gain some field work experience and to enjoy the amazing cloud forest. In Cloudbridge, I am assisting the ongoing research, reforestation and maintenance efforts. The diversity of plants, fungi and animals in the forest is just amazing! Volunteering in Cloudbridge is an extremely rewarding experience, and I am looking forward to coming back some day.

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Hi!  I’m Sarah, an Earth Observation scientist from the UK who came to Cloudbridge as a volunteer for 2 weeks to learn about the research projects being carried out here.

Pictures from our interns and camera traps

 We captured images of a curious ocelot.

This collared peccary was curious to explore the camera trap.

Jacob Jackson, the Real Herp Hero, has finished his internship here at Cloudbridge, but he has generously shared some of the amazing pictures he took.

Warszewitsch’s Frog (Rana warszewitschii).  Photo credit: Antoine Jeunet

     Lichen Katydid (Markia hystrix).  Photo credit: Greg Oakley

White-crested Coquette.  Photo credit:  Laura Hulbert.

Recommended Reading

This newspaper article explores the effects of light pollution on insect populations.

Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz explains why GDP is not an ideal measure of progress, here.

Closer to home, in the Southern region of Costa Rica, there is dispute about new pineapple fields slated to be developed near the Ramsar-designated Terraba-Sierpe wetlands.

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October 2019

October has been another fun and exciting month here at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.    As many of you know, October can be a rainy time of year in our part of Costa Rica, but this year it hasn´t been too bad.  We have a great team right now, and have been moving forward with various projects.

We have continued to participate with the environmental education program, which next year will begin to be implemented in local schools.  Our most recent contribution is with a demonstrative erosion box.

Antoine, Greg, and Elena Vargas from the UNDP Productive Landscapes program, test out the demonstration.

In Costa Rica, one of the main holidays celebrated in October is the “Día de las culturas”.  On October 12th, 1492, Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, though it is important to note that other cultures were living here already.  For this reason, the date is now used to acknowledge the cultural diversity of Costa Rica, including eight indigenous cultures, Afro-Costa Ricans, and of course the Hispanic heritage.

Locals from San Gerardo wearing traditional dress pose in front of one of San Gerardo´s first homes.

We are happy to announce that Cloudbridge has continued expanding our recreational activities for staff, volunteers and interns.  The newest addition to our excercise facilities is a volleyball court.  Some brave souls have even been playing in the rain!

And for indoor activities, our recently departed intern Emma Bowman has handmade a lovely Cloudbridge Monopoly game.

The Cloudbridge Monopoly game has already been put to good use.

 

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS

Emma Bowman finished her research on hummingbird feeding dynamics this month. She spent the last few months observing hummingbirds feeding along the trails of the reserve as well as in the gardens around the buildings. The flowers that were most commonly fed from included: Yellow Jacobinia (Justicia aurea), a wax mallow (Malvaviscus concinnus), and a common pea plant (Phaseolus vulgaris) that is a remnant in the forest from when the area was farmed. While these plants were the most popular overall, some plants were exclusively fed upon by one species, while several hummingbird species might visit other plant species (see graphs below). Graphs representing which hummingbirds fed on which flowers

Her study produced many interesting findings. Comparing the trail and ornamental sites, she found that females preferred the trail sites, while males preferred the ornamental sites. She thought this may be because males are more territorial than females and as the ornamental sites had a much higher value than the trail sites (more flowers in a smaller area), they would gather there and defend those sites. This was particularly true for the White-Throated Mountain Gems (Lampornis castaneoventris) where the males were exclusively found at ornamental sites, and the females almost exclusively found on the trails.

She also found that 57% of the feeding events she observed were ‘illegitimate’. This means that instead of feeding from the front of the flower (and helping to pollinate the flower), the hummingbirds would pierce the flower at the base and steal the nectar without pollinating the flower. This is very interesting and seems to mean that some other organism would be helping to pollinate these flowers.

And finally, in support of the observations of Harry Elliott and Charlotte Smith from earlier this year, she also documented several hummingbirds feeding directly from the fruits of the ‘Snot Tree’ (Saurauia montana). This is a very unusual behaviour and has only been documented on a couple of occasions in the literature, so is exciting to see it again!Her final report is almost finished and we are looking forward to getting it up on the website for everyone to read!

    

Justicia Aurea (Yellow Jacobinia) and Malvaviscus concinnus were the flowers most commonly fed from.

Image: Phaseolus vulgaris, or common pea plant.

Stripe-tailed Hummingbird feeding from the fruits of Saurauia montana.
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My name is Philippe and I am a bachelor student of biology from Leiden, the Netherlands. I came to Cloudbridge to learn more about the tropics, gain more fieldwork experience and to enjoy the beauty of this forest. During my time at Cloudbridge I will be doing a habitat assessment to create more knowledge on the specific habitat of five (near) threatened bird species.

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Hello!  We are Dani and Elsa and we are a couple.  I (Dani) am from Uruguay and I (Elsa) am Italian and we are both living in Spain, in Malaga.  We have left our jobs in Spain for a few months to undertake a trip from Costa Rica to Peru combining travel with volunteering related to environmental protection such as reforestation and conservation.

Our desire is above all to carry out field work in areas of forests and jungles.  The first stage is in Cloudbrige, where I (Elsa) had visited in 2012 and have  now fulfilled my desire to return.  For me, Dani, this is my first time in Costa Rica, and my first adventure of this kind.  Our common goal is to contribute everything we can to this project that we love and that gives us the opportunity of  learning about what we like, soaking up the energy of this magical place.

Here at Cloudbridge, we are very thankful for all of the work that Dani and Elsa have put into our electrical installations, infrastructure and more.  Thank you!

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Hi, my name is Sophia, and I am from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I am here as part of my gap year to gain more field research experience before I start university. During my time at Cloudbridge, I will be conducting surveys on glass frog behaviors as well as assisting with the other projects. Super excited for the next few months!

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From left to right: Ben, Jacob and Max, the Tree Musketeers from Bangor University.

My name is Ben and I’m a Forestry student from Bangor University in North Wales. I have travelled to Cloudbridge with 2 of my classmates as part of a work placement year. I am from Essex in England and am formerly a tree surgeon / landscape gardener. I chose to come to Cloudbridge as I was keen to undertake research within a tropical cloud forest. It seemed an exciting opportunity, completely different to anything I had experienced before. I have just taken over a project at Cloudbridge, I will be looking at natural regenerated vs planted sites and comparing the carbon storage. I am at Cloudbridge for another 7 months and look forward to meeting lots of new people along the way!

Hola I´m Jacob from Belfast! I´m here with my dos amigos from university.  We study forestry in Bangor Wales. I am here in Cloudbridge for 7 months as part of my work placement as I am interested in tropical forestry. I aim to carry out my own project and aid in others.  Pura vida!

My name is Max and I’m from the UK. I study forestry at Bangor University in North Wales and am here with two of my classmates, using our time at cloudbridge as an international work placement.  During my time here I will be taking on some ongoing research projects and maintaining the trees of the beautiful nature reserve.  I chose to come to Costa Rica because I have always been interested in tropical forestry as the trees and plants here are so different to anything that grows in the UK.  Coming on an international placement is also a great way to meet new people from all over the world.

IMAGES FROM OUR CAMERA TRAPS AND INTERNS

The Tapir (danta) is the largest terrestrial mammal of the neotropics.

This Margay was caught enjoying its dinner.

Here the camera has trapped the most exotic species of all!

Jacob Jackson has shared some of the images he has captured with us.  The snake is Urotheca guentheri (Gunther´s brown snake).

RECOMMENDED READING

This month marks the one-year anniversary since the IPCC released its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC.  I´m sure many of you remember the splash that this report made around the world, effectively communicating the urgency of our situation.  For those of you who have not yet browsed this landmark special report, you can do so here: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

In the same vein of exploring our climate emergency, and proposing solutions, author and activist Naomi Klein has recently published her newest book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.  For more information, please check here: https://naomiklein.org/on-fire/

And just in case you still think that the scientists may be exaggerating, this article explains why this is not the case https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/25/the-real-reason-some-scientists-downplay-the-risks-of-climate-change

This years Nobel Prize winners in the field of economics have argued that a more humane perspective should replace our need for rapid growth.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/30/changing-world-better-economics-honest-humane?CMP=share_btn_link

Spending time in the forest, whether it be here at Cloudbridge or anywhere else with trees, allows us to slow down, and perceive things that in our hectic lives would usually be passed by.  In this excerpt from her book “Erosion:  Essays of Undoing”, author Terry Tempest urges readers to slow down and listen to the trees.  https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2019-10-07/erosion-terry-tempest-williams-excerpt?fbclid=IwAR3bp640yPbOgyJq4A5hnZyezmwaOKHa2rP7ROzfo7SHfLSMXAtCkgsFYPc

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September 2019

September is Costa Rica´s civic month – the country´s Independence is celebrated on the 15th, with parades, folkloric dance, singing of patriotic hymns and delicious typical food. In 1821, Central America (including Costa Rica) was granted Independence from Spain, which had colonized the region beginning in the 16th century. Celebrations also include a “desfile de faroles” or lantern parade on the evening of September 14th, where schoolchildren show off their homemade, colorful lanterns.

This year, September has also seen some of the largest youth-led climate demonstrations, with over 4 million people mobilizing worldwide on Sept. 20th, to kick off the “Global Week for Future”. On that day, staff and interns from Cloudbridge met with other local groups and individuals to discuss how we can make an impact. The main takeaways from this conversation were: Agroforestry networking, involving local communities, interest in biofuels (using solar technology for distillation of alchol), producing educational media from our community and supporting existing recycling/environmental projects, and expanding where possible. Inspired by this meeting, on September 26th there was a demonstration in the park of San Isidro.

Climate demonstration in the park of San Isidro.  Photo credit:  Anthony García

Trying to promote climate action not only in Costa Rica but also in Canada!

What we´ve been up to…

Jennifer, our Scientific Coordinator, gave a presentation at the Universidad Nacional’s (UNA) Día Internacional del Turismo (International Tourism Day) about the evolution of Cloudbridge as a reforestation project and as a reserve and the role tourism has played in those changes. The day brought together students from the tourism course at UNA, tourism operators from Perez Zeledon, tourism and environmental officials from the government, and a couple of nature reserves to discuss a variety of sustainable tourism related topics and showcase tourism in the region.

Jennifer Powell at the National University (UNA Sede Región Brunca)

Cloudbridge has also been collaborating with other environmental groups to design an environmental education program, which will be taught in local schools beginning next year. Under the auspices of the UNDP´s “Conserving Biodiversity in Production Landscapes” program, this joint effort will teach schoolchildren about various environmental aspects. Subjects such as biodiversity, protected areas, agroecology, responsible consumption, and others, will be adressed, always with the underlying themes of social justice and climate change.

Jenn and Greg participate in a meeting for the environmental education program. Photo Credit: Anthony Garcia

Cloudbridge now has a small outdoor excercise facility! Just in case all that hiking wasn´t enough, interns and volunteers now have the opportunity to do pull-ups and many other calisthenic activities, on our new bars.

Interns and staff

Our most recent bird intern, Fergus Jackson, finished his time with us this month. Fergus was working on the long-term bird monitoring survey. In his final presentation, he looked at the distribution of hummingbirds within the reserve. Overall, he found that the largest numbers of hummingbirds were found at the point counts that were lower down in the reserve. Looking at the 4 most abundant hummingbirds, he found that White-throated Mountain-Gem were found at all the survey sites and were most abundant at the lowest sites. This was similar for the Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, although there were 2 sites where this hummingbird was not found. However, they were also found in moderate numbers at the highest sites. Lesser Violetears were not found at all the sites and had distinct site preferences, mostly at mid-altitude sites. Scintillant Hummingbirds also showed some site preferences for mid-altitude sites, and were found in very low numbers or not at all at the highest sites.

White-throated Mountain-Gem, Photo credit: Leonardo Valverde.

Stripetailed Hummingbird. Photo Credit: Jonathan Slifkin.

Graph credit: Fergus Jackson

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This month we have been pleased to welcome Antoine as our new Volunteer Coordinator and Social Media guru. Welcome aboard!


My name is Antoine and I am from France. After my studies in tourism and a year working as a guide in a museum in France, I decided to quit for more international experiences. I chose Costa Rica for the vision of the government about tourism and ecology, but I also secretly hope to see a dinosaur since I realised as a kid that Jurassic Park is supposed to happen in this country.

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It has also been a pleasure to welcome our intern, Jacob Jackson.

Hello all my name is Jacob Jackson also known as The Real Herp Hero! I am an ascending conservationist and avid herpetologist/photographer. I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and currently live in Laguna Hills, CA. Before starting my adventure at Cloudbridge I was a small time Zookeeper working with reptiles, arachnids, and amphibians doing educational hands on presentations as well as feeding our zoo animals. My journey brought me to Cloudbridge because I know that I want to work in conservation but not along what lines I want to operate under. So this amazing nature reserve high up in the mountains is my way of figuring out where I desire to take things next; hopefully in the direction I have been dreaming of! I am a research assistant so I follow after the researchers who are currently engaged in camera trapping, tree measuring, tree maintenance, and surveys on a plethora of birds. It’s been an amazing experience so far and I look forward to the next few weeks soaking in as much information as possible.

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We have also been enjoying the presence of our bird intern, Laura.

My name is Laura I am from Michigan, currently residing in Oklahoma. I am an aspiring ornithologist working towards my degree in fish and wildlife research. During my time in at Cloudbridge I will be collecting bird data by conducting point counts, and owl surveys for the next few months. Hit me up for a bunch of random bird facts!

Published Reports and other Suggested Reading

We are happy to announce that two new reports of research which took place at Cloudbridge, have been added to the website this month. Click on the link to take a look:

Hoving, Max. 2019. Tree species comparison in planted, naturally regenerated and old growth cloud forests. – Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences

[http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-Tree-species-comparison-regenerating-cloud-forest-Hoving.pdf]

Romp, Marissa. 2019. A comparative study of different methodologies to determine mammal density in a cloud forest, Costa Rica.Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences

[http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Different-methods-mammal-density-Marissa-Romp.pdf]

We would also like to provide links to just a few of the many interesting environmentally themed articles that have been published this month:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/science/bird-populations-america-canada.html

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/09/book-excerpt-vaclav-smils-growth.html

https://ticotimes.net/2019/09/27/watch-costa-rica-receives-champions-of-the-earth-award-from-un

Last but not least…

Zachary Chang, and Outlook Expedition leader who visited us with a group last July, has generously shared some of the pictures he took at the reserve.  We are very glad that Zachary enjoyed his stay with us, and thankful that he is allowing us to share these photos with all of you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 2019

Research and Volunteers:

Dylan  presented the preliminary results on a new camera trapping program we have been setting up in the reserve. The new program has set up 8 cameras in the reserve, that we rotate through 16 locations every 2 weeks. This allows us to cover more locations in the reserve with fewer resources, but still allows us to sample each location 2 weeks out of every month. While previously, camera traps in the reserve have been set up along trails. For this study, the locations were set up in a grid pattern across the reserve to randomize the locations and Dylan and various other interns and volunteers helped him break trails to each of the locations, some of which were quite challenging to reach! These new locations have already yielded some great images of rare and interesting animals, including: Armadillo, Tayra, Oncilla, Ocelot, Paca, Coyote, Cacomistle, and our second ever recorded Tapir!

Armadillo

Coyote

Tayra

Tapir

Paca

Oncilla

Ocelot

 


 

Leah Kahn finished up a study on Sulphur-winged Parakeets this month. Sulphur-winged Parakeets are a small parrot that are endemic to the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. Found at altitudes between 1300-3000 m, these parrots have not been studied much and little is known about their biology. Leah was interested both in the food trees they used, as well as the parrots’ social interactions. She observed the parrots feeding on three main types of trees: Güitite (Acnistus arborescens), Guayaba (Psidium guajava), and Jocote (Spondias purpurea).
Having found a couple of fruit trees where the parrots regularly hung out every day, she also conducted daily activity budgets to determine how they spent their time and used these to see if the amount of time they spent on social activities changed between the wetter month of June and the drier month of July. This was done by observing a single individual for 5 minutes and recording what they were doing (social, comfort, alert, feeding, and locomotion) every 10 seconds. Leah found that the parrots spent less time feeding, but more time being social in July, although these results were not significant. She is hoping to be able to pursue a longer-term study in the future to be able to see if their behaviour changes throughout the year and if factors like weather have an impact on how they spend their time.
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Hi my name is Alina and I am from Germany. I‘ve been a volunteer already last year at Cloudbridge for a week. This year I am having an internship for five months at Cloudbridge. I am doing the camera trapping project to estimate the abundance of different species in the reserve. My greatest finds so far were a puma, an ocelot and a coyote! I hope I will catch a Jaguar or even a Tapir in the next four months on one of the 16 camera sites. Keep your fingers crossed! Pura Vida
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 I’m Emma from Australia! I came all this way after completing my bachelor of science to see the amazing floral and faunal diversity that Costa Rica has to offer. It has not disappointed and has given me a newfound appreciation for plants, birds, and more. I am researching hummingbird diets within Cloudbridge reserve, and have had the pleasure of watching them go about their business within their natural habitat. Stay tuned to see what I find!

Emma

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Eric Livasy was with us over the summer continuing our study on Mixed Species Foraging (MSF) flocks in the reserve. MSFs are when groups of birds of 2 or more species move through the forest together to forage. It’s thought that this is an adaptation to improve foraging success and provide additional protection against predators. While MSFs occur all over the world, they are particularly prevalent in the Neotropics and are poorly studied in mountain environments.

Building on the work done by our earlier MSF interns, Eric was looking at how MSF flocking changed throughout the day. He would survey the same trail 3 days in a row, one day starting at 6 am, the next at 8 am, and the last at 10 am. He found a slight decrease in the both the number of flocks and the number of individuals within flocks as the start time progressed, although there was not enough data to determine if these differences were significant.

Not surprisingly, the 2 most common birds in the reserve were also the 2 most common birds found in the MSFs, Common Chlorospingus and Slate-throated Redstart. However, Eric found that the Common Chlorospingus were much more abundant in the early morning flocks, while Slate-throated Redstart were more abundant in the later morning flocks. This finding raises a lot of questions about why this is occurring (possible competition between the two birds?) and warrants further study.

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Amanda Rajala and Gloria Greenstein were at Cloudbridge for several months working on a variety of projects, including our monthly owl surveys and our new bat survey. They used the Echo Meter Touch 2, a small device that attaches to a smartphone and detects the echolocation sounds that bats make while flying, to record the bats’ calls while out in the reserve at night. The device also provides a potential ID for the bat based on a database of bat echolocation recordings. However, the device’s database is still being developed for Central America, so many of the detections were not identified, but hopefully, as the database grows, we’ll be able to identify them in the future. Using bat detectors is a much more humane way of studying bats than mist netting and other methods of bat capture, and eliminates the dangers to humans of handling bats and potentially getting bitten by them.

Since June, 26 bat species were identified by the device, however, some of those identifications are questionable as some of them were species that are not known to be in Costa Rica. So there is still a lot of work to be done reviewing the data before we can draw any conclusions from it. However, some of our more reliable detections included: the Mexican Dog-Faced Bat (Cynomops mexicanus), the Hairy-Legged Myotis (Myotis keaysi), and the rare but widespread Northern Ghost (Diclidurus albus).
We’re looking forward to seeing where this new technology takes us and what we can learn from it!

Mexican Dog-faced Bat. Photo by: Jose G. Martinez-Fonseca. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/3178710

Hairy-legged Myotis. Photo by: Gerald Carter. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19896000

Northern Ghost. Photo by: Steven Easley. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9942017


 

 Jordan Chambers – I’m a 25 year old student residing in sunny California. I’m a landscaper by trade and I’ve been actively pursuing field biology and research for the past couple years. This is my second time at Cloudbridge and it definitely won’t be my last! I first arrived here in 2017 to conduct research on the native and migrant Warblers at Cloudbridge. This time around I’ve been working as a volunteer and part-time research assistant for some of the other projects, including the reforestation efforts, which are very dear to my heart. I’m so grateful to be back with my cloud-forest family, and I cant wait to return!

Jordan


 

Activity update:

Jenn Powell has done us proud with her participation in the Aguas Eternas 13 km Cross Country run.  Congratulations for finishing this gruelling run up the mountain, over streams and through the valleys!

 

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