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!
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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!
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!
We welcome Carrie Visintainer the new manager of the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. Carrie’s just arrived at Cloudbridge from Colorado. With a background in communications and non-profit management, she’s taking on responsibility for the overall management of the reserve, working closely with the volunteers and local employees. She has a deep love for wild places and is happy to be working with this dedicated team to conserve our natural resources for future generations.
I’m Jenna and I’m a sustainability student from England. I am a volunteer at Cloudbridge which means I get to do a bit of everything, from getting muddy planting trees to going on bird surveys and setting up camera traps. Cloudbridge is a great place to learn about the wildlife here. I’m excited to get involved with the owl and bat surveys and paint some cool designs on the walls around the dormitories and classroom.
Hi, I’m Greg, a professional Arboriculturalist and Conservationist from the South coast of England. I’m a six month conservation intern and have been at CloudBridge for six weeks. I work on the reforestation program where we are monitoring the growth rates of the trees in the newly planted, naturally regenerated and old growth sites. I have also be given the position of Volunteer coordinator, which involves taking out groups of base volunteers and school and collage groups to help with tree planting programs. Other things I do on base are look after the volunteers, maintainace, building furniture, organizes and plan projects, and I am also working as a tour guide. The reserve here is an amazing place with beautiful scenery fantastic wildlife and a great bunch of wonderful people.
My name is Fergus Jackson, I am from the North of England. I came to Costa Rica with GVI (Global Vision International) to do a 6 month internship. Having spent the first 3 in Tortuguero, I moved to Cloudbridge and am a bird researcher here, and I lead the bird point count surveys every week.
Hi, I’m Bert from Belgium. I’m here for 6 months helping out in Cloudbridge. I help with making bamboo bridges, trail maintenance, and tree planting.
Ryan Andrews and Martin Stankalla finished up three month internships at Cloudbridge in July, where they had been working on the bird monitoring study. Ryan’s final presentation discussed the benefits and difficulties of using audio data in bird studies, in particular at Cloudbridge. Many birds are more likely to be detected audibly rather than visually, and in the dense forest of the reserve, this can be of great benefit in recording the presence of these species. However, while both audio and visual identifications are currently recorded during the bird monitoring study, only the visual data is used for analysis due to several issues associated with the reliability of audio data. First is the difficulty of identifying and learning the bird songs, as with a species list of 300 birds and each bird having several different kinds of calls, this is a massive undertaking, and difficult for short-term researchers to do. Second, some songs or calls are quite similar making a verifiable ID difficult. Third, there is a strong bias in audio data towards species that have very distinct calls, which can skew the data. One day Cloudbridge hopes to attract a long-term bird researcher to the reserve so we would be able to include audio data into the results, as this would bring a lot of value to the study!
Martin conducted an analysis of the results of the bird study since 2016. Overall, the most common birds found in the reserve were Common Chlorospingus and Slate-Throated Redstart. These birds are very versatile generalists and are also resident in the reserve year round. Their presence in the data compared to other birds may also be somewhat inflated as they are very vocal and active birds, making them easier to spot and record. Some of the other more abundant birds include several migratory warblers (Wilson’s Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and Black-and-white Warbler), Northern Emerald Toucanet, a hummingbird (White-throated Mountain-Gem), and Sulphur-winged Parakeet. Looking at the habitat preferences of 4 of the most abundant birds: -Common Chlorospingus showed a preference for the mixed Planted/young naturally regenerating sites, -Slate-throated Redstart was found more in the mixed planted/regen and planted sites, and was not much present in the old growth sites,-Silver-throated Tanager showed a preference for the young naturally regenerating sites, and-Black Guan showed a preference for the planted sites.While these results were statistically significant, additional study is now needed to determine if the forest type or other factors (such as food availability, predation, inter- and infraspecific interactions, etc.) is driving these preferences.
As a side project, Ryan Andrews also photographed and attempted to catalogue some of the moths in the reserve. By simply leaving a light on on a white wall during the evening, Ryan was able to photograph around 500 different species of moths in around 2 weeks worth of observations. At the time he left, he had managed to identify around 138 species from his photographs. Identifying the rest of the them could be the work of a lifetime!
Broadreach groups were given a basic introduction to the cloud forest, worked with camera traps, had a local cooking class of traditional Costa Rican foods, participated in a climate change presentation and discussion, and spent a morning planting trees.
The Lord Williams School (Outlook Expeditions) was a totally student led expedition who came to focus on service to the environment. The group hiked while being presented with a Cloud forest introduction, studied camera trap images of our fauna and participated in the climate change discussion. They spent the majority of their time and energy working on trail enhancement, building stairs on our principal trail and then they tackled a challenging tree planting day. Credit is due to the hearty ones who were the transporters carrying concrete blocks and crates of trees. Everyone slept well after their days of work.
Jonathan Slifkin was here for 3 months continuing the work of Izzy Soane and Jeffrey Roth on studying Mixed Species Feeding Flocks (MSF) in the reserve. Mixed species feeding flocks are just that, flocks of birds of at least 2 different species moving and feeding together. While they are found around the world, they are particularly prevalent in the Neotropics. They are thought to provide antipredator benefits and/or facilitate foraging efficiency and can be negatively impacted by deforestation so can be seen as an indicator of forest health. Jonathan observed 31 different flocks ranging in size from 3 birds to 24 birds, and composed of between 2 species to 12 species. Out of 108 bird species observed during his surveys, 32 species were seen to participate in MSFs. Jonathan found that Common Chlorospingus were the most abundant bird species in MSFs by far, followed by Red-headed Barbet, Silver-throated Tanager, and Slate-throated Redstart. Jonathan also calculated the flocking propensity (likelyhood that a bird species will join a MSF) by comparing the total number of species seen during surveys with number of that species seen in a MSF. While Common Chlorospingus was the most abundant species, Red-headed Barbet and Black-cheeked Warbler had higher flocking propensities at 42% and 41%, while Common Chlorospingus was only at 30%. Barred Becard had the highest flocking propensity at 75%, but as only a few were observed, this number may not be accurate. He also found that he observed a number of MSFs of larger size later in the day after the surveys were complete. As such he suggested altering the survey protocol to include surveys at different times of the day to see if more or larger flocks occur later in the day. Images: Common Chlorospingus, Slate-throated Redstart, Species found in MSFs, Flocking Propensity, and Barred Becard.
Number of observations outside mixed flocks
Number of observations in mixed flocks
Silver- throated Tanager
Harry Elliott and Charlotte Smith from the United Kingdom have been at the reserve since April studying the diets of hummingbirds in the cloud forest. They observed 13 different hummingbird species feeding on 13 different plant species, as well as observing 3 different instances of hummingbirds eating insects. For understory species, heliconia species were the most commonly fed upon by hummingbirds and was used by several different species. For canopy species, there was a wider variety of plants used, but the most commonly used was Gonzalagunia rosea and Saurauia montana. While they were conducting their study they made a discovery! They observed a number of the hummingbirds feeding directly from the fruits of the tree. After some investigation, they found that this behaviour had only been mentioned very briefly a couple of times before in the literature and usually only in passing. As this was a very rare behaviour, they chose to look into in more depth and focused on observing the feeding at the S. montana trees. Locally called the ‘Snot Tree’, S. montana produce fruits that are very sweet and full of a sticky syrup (see photo). This allows the hummingbirds to suck up the syrup when they pierce the fruits. As the fruits were very popular with a number of the animals in the forest, ripe fruits were only available for a few weeks, after which they hummingbirds no longer visited the fruits, so Harry and Charlotte were very lucky to observe this behaviour when they did. They have submitted their observations of this unique behaviour to a journal for publication and we look forward to seeing their work in print!
Three students from Borderless World Volunteers and McGill University in Canada were with us over the last few months doing a project on agroforestry. Agroforestry is the practice of growing trees alongside crops and within pastures. This provides a lot of benefits for the environment (increased biodiversity, erosion control, better soil quality), livestock and crops (provides shade and fodder, improves crop yields), and farmers (enhanced income in the form of cash crops from the trees). Before arriving, Cordelia, Megan, and Dasha raised funds to purchase and plant trees in local farmers fields. Upon arrival, they met with a number of people to learn about agroforestry and the best trees to plant in the area, and source trees to purchase, and went to local farmers markets to make contact with farmers and create some interest in the project. They ended up planting trees in the fields of our local workers (Edgar and Oscar), our neighbouring dairy farmer (Marcos), and the owner of Quesos Canaan (Willberth). With the aid of our volunteers and some local workers they hired to help, they spent a few intensive weeks prepping the land and planting a variety of fruit and forage trees in sugar cane and coffee plantations, as well as a dairy pasture. Quite a success!
The agroforestry project at Cloudbridge consisted of three volunteers – Megan, Cordelia, and Dasha – working on local farmers’ plots to improve their sustainability. Agroforestry is essentially the idea of creating food forests; a variety of tree species are grown alongside croplands or pastures. Our project grows from a deep appreciation for how forests provide lifelong support for communities, and we learned much from a community interested in improving its sustainability. The five-week-long project culminated in the planting of over 500 trees of 30 different species among the plots of four community members.
My name is Dasha, and I was an agroforestry project volunteer at Cloudbridge. I am majoring in Earth Systems science at McGill University. In my hometown of Saratoga, California, I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering for environmental and educational causes: tree planting organizations, nature camps for children, tutoring, a donkey sanctuary, an ocean cleanup organization. My most valued time is time spent away in nature, and I am highly passionate about any and every opportunity to give back to the planet! Working in the San Gerardo community on the agroforestry project was an incredibly exciting experience given the community’s openness to sustainability initiatives and our opportunity to plant so many food-providing trees!
My name is Megan, and I’m one of three girls that worked on an agroforestry project as a volunteer while living at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. I’m currently studying cognitive and neurosciences at McGill University, with my hometown being Cooperstown, New York where I am an active volunteer in the medical and environmental communities. My house is set on a 30 acre apple orchard where I got my first taste of planting and caring for trees, and I jumped at the opportunity to help plant more diverse food forest systems with local farmers who will cherish them. I am passionate about causes such as this that not only give to people but also to the world around us, and I can’t wait to watch the success and developments of our project in future years!
Hi! I’m Cordelia Dingle and I ran the documentation and media for our agroforestry project with Cloudbridge Nature Reserve and Borderless World Volunteers along with Megan and Dasha, I am a student at McGill University. I am majoring in Geography: Urban Systems with a minor in computer science and environmental studies. Originally American, I grew up and went to school in both Montreal and Toronto. I’ve been a part of my school’s robotics team and blockchain hackathon, and well as leading Model UN and being a provincial level archer. was originally interested in planning and being part of this project because of my interest in learning how to run, execute and document/share sustainability initiatives. I can definitively say that working directly in a community was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Hi, my name is Amanda and I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada but currently studying Conservation Biology in the UK. I came to Cloudbridge as a research assistant and am currently assisting on multiple surveys, mainly Sulphur-winged Parrakeets, bats and owls.
My name is Gloria Greenstein. I came to Cloudbridge in pursuit of my growing interest in field biology and conservation biology. The past year I have been focused on marine ecosystems and wished to use the opportunity to expand my horizons. Here I am able to gain experience assisting researchers on site in a variety of projects including: camera trapping, species surveilance, animal behavior, restoration monitoring, and developing my own hypothesis.
Mike Pawlik from Poland was here for 3 months working on bird studies. His final month with us he undertook a small study to see if using non-native fruit feeders would attract additional birds to an area. His initial idea was that by providing a mixture of non-native and native fruits, these feeders could be used to enhance reforestation efforts as birds could help spread fruit tree and shrub seeds within the forest. He chose a study site that was known as a good bird site and set up a simple fruit feeder in an open area, and a second feeder in a more closed area. The feeders were baited with pineapple and banana the first week, a mixture of pineapple and banana and native fruits the second week, and only native fruits the 3rd week.. After a few days with no observations of birds using the feeders, he also installed a camera trap so he could monitor the feeder while he wasn’t present. Unfortunately, science doesn’t always work the way you expect it to and over his 3 weeks of observations at the feeders, not a single bird came to feed on the fruit. The reasons for this were not entirely clear, but may have been due to a number of different factors including: feeder placement, feeder style, site choice, not enough time for the birds to habituate to the presence of the fruit, native fruit choice, and mammals stealing the fruits. White-nosed Coatis were particularly adept at stealing the fruits. Mike brain-stormed a number of reasons for the difficulties he had with the study and came up with a list of changes that could be made to improve the study and hopefully have some success in the future. It just goes to show that science isn’t always about everything working perfectly the first time, and as much can be learned from failure as from success. Good for you for persevering Mike!
Callum Winter was with us for 3 months studying the presence of leaf cutter ants and their nests along our trails. While he found a number of leaf cutter trails, single ants, and small groups, he also found a total of 5 nests near the trails. The nests were made out of a variety of materials including bark pieces, leaves, and sand and soil. He also found a large tree with nests of different materials built on different sides of the same tree. Photos: Map nest locations; 3 examples of leaf cutter ant nests
Hi my name’s Savannah and I’m a research assistant here at Cloudbridge! I’ll be working on several projects with researchers as well as my own project studying owls and bats at the reserve with a few other assistants. So far I’ve gotten to work with butterflies, sulfur wing parakeets and a bit of camera trap exploring!
Ellie Townsend was here for 3 months studying butterfly diversity to look at the effect of different habitats on butterfly presence and the impact of using different baits on the results. She set baited live traps in three different habitat types every week (planted, naturally regenerating, and old growth forest), rotating through the trails in the southern part of the reserve. Four different baits (banana, pineapple, dog dung, and fish sauce) were used during this study instead of just the fermented banana bait used previously. This was done to try to attract different species of butterflies to the bait traps instead of just fruit feeding butterflies. Looking at the effectiveness of the baits, she found that they did not attract a significantly different number of butterflies, nor a significantly different number of species, to the traps. This is good news as it means each bait type is performing well. Looking at the community composition captured by the different baits, there was a difference in the species of butterflies attracted by the fruit baits (banana and pineapple), compared to the types of butterflies attracted by the stink baits (dog dung and fish sauce). This is also good as it means that the different baits are attracting different species, helping to diversify the butterflies caught in the study. Comparing the different habitat types, she found that there was no significant difference in the number of butterflies nor species richness caught in the different habitats. Comparing community composition, she found that the natural regeneration and old growth habitats were most similar, although the planted habitat wasn’t too different from either of those. As the difference isn’t great, these results show there isn’t a dramatic difference between the three habitats in terms of providing butterfly habitat. This is good news in terms of our reforestation efforts and the overall health of the forest. It will be interesting to continue this study with the new baits at different times throughout the year to see if these results change in the different seasons. Graphs: Community composition comparison of fruit vs stink baits, community composition comparison of habitat typesPhotos: 3 different butterflies (sorry, don’t have the names)
Greetings, my name is Eric Livasy, from the United States. I am a Tropical Bird Intern participating in the Mixed Species Foraging Flock Study. It is a dream come true to research the rich diversity of species in Costa Rica!
Cloudbridge is under new ownership!
Genevieve (Jenny) Giddy is proud to announce that Cloudbridge Nature Reserve and Educational Centre, located in the cloud forest of the Talamanca Mountain range of Southern Costa Rica has been acquired by Salish Coast Land and Marine Conservation Association from the United States. It also has a 530 acre Bio-Reserve called “Woodwardia” in British Columbia, Canada. The transfer of Cloudbridge will begin June 1st, 2019.
Salish Coast is now entrusted with continuing the Cloudbridge mission launched back in 2002 when Jenny and Ian Giddy founded the reserve.
Jenny and her partner Charles will still be visiting the reserve from time to time, but with three young grandchildren, she feels it is time to devote her energies to family, and environmental issues closer to home.
Tom Gode, the long-time Director of the Reserve and his wife Linda Moskalyk, resident artist and arborist, will stay on in their house at Cloudbridge for the foreseeable future, though Saskatoon will still be their summer home.
Salish Coast looks forward to stewarding Cloudbridge into the future. The combination of a temperate rainforest, with the endangered (CDF) Coastal Douglas fir Biogeoclimatic Zone in British Columbia joining the rare tropical montane cloud forest, in Costa Rica’s southern highlands is a great opportunity to “Bridge” these two unique bio-reserves and create a larger carbon-sink. With flora and fauna of unparalleled biodiversity that will add to the ever growing private conservation projects worldwide. Both are open to the public and will continue to add to the scientific community a place to monitor and address the climactic changes occurring to the planet.
For further information Visit http://www.cloudbridge.org/ and https://www.woodwardia.land/
Contact James Mack, Executive Director of Salish Coast Land, Marine and Wildlife Conservation at 408-444-1200 USA and 604-486-0015 Canada.
In the summer of 2017, students from the University of Exeter and Falmouth University in the UK did a preliminary investigation of the moth species of the reserve while trying out several types of moth traps. In the process they photographed 212 unique species and were able to identify 40 of them to species. Identifying moths is really difficult, so we are very happy with this result.
Hello my name is Leah M. Kahn, I’m a senior student at the State University of New York at Cobleskill, School of Environmental Science and Technology. I am a Wildlife Management student with a passion for parrots and behavioral ecology. I am an all-around bird nerd who loves exploring new places and birds to add to my personal life list. I came to Cloudbridge to study the elusive Sulphur-winged parakeet as a research intern. These little guys are prevalent on the reserve yet very much understudied. I am here to conduct visual encounter surveys to helped better understand how these parrots spend their time throughout the day. Sulphur-wings are commonly seen in flocks of 15-20 and when flying by, clearly make their presences known and heard.
Hello! My name is Ryan Andrews and I am an intern at Cloudbridge. I am working on the longterm bird study, conducting point counts and doing walking surveys. I have been a birder for most of my life but wanted to get involved on the field work side of things and Cloudbridge provided an excellent opportunity for this. I hope to increase my skill as a field biologist and learn as much about the birds and ecology of Costa Rica during my stay here.
“My name is Dylan and up until now my background has been very much focused on the marine environment. As part of my masters course I applied to spend three months working at Cloudbridge. It appealed to me as I wanted to challenge myself by working in an environment that was relatively unknown to me. While here I will be helping to set up a long term camera trap study investigating the reserves mammal species.”
My name is Martin Stankalla, I’m from Germany, 28 years old and finished my Master degree in Ecology last year. I decided to take this opportunity after my studies to go on a one year journey through Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. After working with sea turtles on the Galapagos Islands I’m now looking for practical experience in monitoring birds here in Cloudbridge. I really hope to see a Quetzal!
I am Moana, 19 years old, from Germany and I was a volunteer at Cloudbridge for 2 weeks. I’ve always loved to travel and to be surrounded by nature. So when I decided to go to Costa Rica, I wanted to see all of it. So I did my research and found Cloudbridge. As a volunteer l take care of the garden and the hiking trails, but I also helped with the butterfly research. At Cloudbridge I learned more about environment and animals. I also got to know lot’s of new friends from all around the world. I will definitely come back!
Other volunteers in May included; Samira Turowski – Germany, Elisha Leon – Germany.
Volunteers have been working on trail work, painting, gardening & landscaping, bamboo bridge construction and assisting researchers.
My name is Fabian and I am from Germany. I am here in cloudbridge because I decided to do volunteering in nature conservation for 5 weeks. Now I have already done 3 weeks and it is just amazing and even more than I expected. I can work here everyday on something different and I also can go with researchers and help them at their research. I am enjoying it to live here in the middle of pure nature and see so many different species of flora and fauna.
Two new bird species have been seen in the reserve in May by our bird interns! The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) was spotted and photographed by Jonathan Slifkin, and the Black-bellied Hummingbird (Eupherusa nigriventris) was also spotted by Michał Pawlik. Both were unusual sightings for this area. Well done guys!
Photos: 1 and 2, Crested Caracara taken by Jonathan Slifkin; 3, Black-bellied Hummingbird from Neotropical Birds Online (https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/blbhum1/overview).
Cloudbridge welcomed the 30 member Jazz Band from Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. It was exciting as we toured to hear several young musicians discussing the possibility of doing a music internship at Cloudbridge where they could incorporate music composition in the cloud forest.
May 14-16 we were fortunate to be visited by a group from Aeres MBO Almere. These students come from a unique MBO school in Flevold, Netherlands with courses that connect city and nature. The group came directly from Work with Nature https://work-with-nature.com/en/ on the Caribbean coast. Matthijs Bol, one of the founders of Work With Nature was an intern at Cloudbridge in 2009. It is always great to work with a past Cloudbridge researcher.
Photos of some of our reviewers enjoying their experiences at Cloudbridge.
Trip Advisor Review:
Forget Monteverde, Go Here instead: “I spent two months in Costa Rica and my one day spent at Cloudbridge was hands down one of the absolute highlights. Not only is it not plagued by hordes of tourists like you’ll find at Monteverde/Santa Elena and elsewhere along the tourist path, the scenery is stunning with wild rivers rushing over big boulders, beautiful waterfalls,mountain breezes carrying strange and wonderful spicy smells, an abundance of wildlife (if you’re lucky you might see Quetzals–we did), a network of pretty great trails and barely any other visitors (at least at the time we were there!). Couldn’t recommend it any higher– also the fact that entry is by donation is very attractive: you pay what you felt your visit was worth.”
On that rare occasion that we get a less positive review it is often due to miscommunications or bad timing. An example of this was when some young men drove up to Cloudbridge and didn’t actually find their way to the reserve. They ended up stopping at a reserve down the road where the owners were going to charge $25 to hike. They were upset because they knew that the Cloudbridge entrance is by donation during the week days. They wrote a bad review saying that Cloudbridge should let people know of such a drastic price change. As it turns out they were just at the wrong place. We try hard to explain some of the circumstances or miscommunications that result in those reviews. Please read our responses. We want every visitor to come away with a feeling of total nature enjoyment and nothing less.
Research and Volunteers:
Dara Dunlop from the UK (University of Birmingham) finished her research on Fresh Water Ecology. She studied the benthic macro-invertebrates in 3 streams at Cloudbridge. These are small animals that live on, under, and around rocks and sediment in the streams. Their numbers are dropping rapidly world wide. Even with that dire news she found that the species richness at Cloudbridge was high, and the water quality was good. This could be attributed to the reforestation of the area and few disturbances of human activity.
Our names are Harry Elliott and Charlotte Smith and we both come from the UK. Harry studied Environmental Conservation at Bangor University while Charlotte studied Zoology at Reading University. Since graduating in 2017, Harry has been working as a teacher at a special educational school where he used circus skills and outdoor learning as a form of therapy. Meanwhile, Charlotte interned as a reserve warden with the RSPB, followed by working as an Ecological consultant. We have just finished 3 months working on a project on the small island of Bonaire in the Caribbean, where we coordinated the countries annual roost count for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot. After arriving in Costa Rica we wanted to expand our experience and increase our bird ID skills, and so we decided to come to Cloudbridge. We are conducting a study on Hummingbirds to see how they utilize the habitat within Cloudbridge. We are interested in finding out what plants they feed from, and if this changes between species.
Ellenor Townsend – England
Hi I’m Ellie and I’m from England. I came to Cloudbridge because I wanted an adventure and to do something worthwhile (that was preferably wildlife related). Cloudbridge has more than met those expectations. I’m currently working on the long term butterfly project here and have discovered that butterflies are cunningly deceptive escape artists but well worth the time to study.
My name is Callum McGregor Winter. I am from the UK. The reason I am at Cloudbridge is because this is part of my 6-month internship, that I’m doing with GVI. (Global Vision International) I have already done 3 months prior to coming to Cloudbridge and now I will be studying the abundance of ants at for the next 3 months.
Michal Pawlik – Poland
Hi everybody! My name is Michał but for English speakers just call me Mike! I came a long way from Wrocław, Poland.
I’m one of the new interns, currently working on bird biodiversity in Cloudbridge. I opted for the internship to get more in field experience before I go back to uni and start my Masters degree. In future I would like to work with wildlife as a field biologist so Cloudbridge is a great opportunity for me to test my knowledge, skills and stamina!
Kiana Safford – USA
Hello, my name is Kiana, I’m from Washington State, and I recently graduated with a Bachelors in Biology and a minor in Environmental studies. Before coming to Cloudebridge, I was an intern at Tortuguero National Park for 3 months helping out with forest biodiversity projects within the park. I came to Cloudebridge as an intern to get more field experience in research and to learn more about the Costa Rican wildlife. I love the outdoors, animals, and exploring new environments, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to both do what I love and get a feel for what I’d possibly want to do in the future. During my time here I will be recording the bird species diversity in different forest types and hopefully come up with an independent research question to further look into.
Jonathan Slifkin – USA
My name is Jonathan Slifkin and I’m from New York City. I am a bird research intern at Cloudbridge where I will be taking over a long-term survey of mixed species feeding flocks in the reserve. I am a lifelong bird enthusiast, and since graduating from college in 2017 I have spent most of my time traveling the world to see and photograph birds. Working at Cloudbridge is a great opportunity for me to gain experience in research and fieldwork, as well as a great introduction to Neotropical birding.
Jonathan confirmed another bird species! So far he’s found two new species for Cloudbridge in just over a week at the reserve. The Ovenbird was new to the list, and the Canada Warbler had been reported once before, but never confirmed, and now it has been.
The moth species list is up on our website. You can find it here: http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Moth-Species-List-Cloudbridge-14Mar19.pdf
Watch the blog next month for a full report by Exeter University – Moth Diversity at Cloudbridge.
Visits and entrance information:
Cloudbridge has become quite popular and while we appreciate the opportunity to share the wonders of the cloud forest with the public it is reaching the point of being unsustainable on Sundays and holiday weeks. So effective 15 April 2019 Cloudbridge has initiated an entrance fee for Sundays and holiday weeks. In an effort to continue to be accessible to everyone Cloudbridge will continue to be open by donation all days except for Sundays and holiday weeks. Cloudbridge is open every day from sunrise to sunset.
Cloudbridge Fees for Sundays and Holiday weeks:
Tourists $7.00 USD or 4,000 colones
Children under 16 accompanied by parents Free
Costa Rican National Adults 2,000 colones
All other days during the week are still by donation.
3 of our staff from Cloudbridge have previously taken the climate change training through the Climate Reality Project. One of the upcoming sessions is in Minneapolis Minnesota this year. The training will be hosted by chairman and founder, former US Vice President Al Gore. Ken Berlin, the president and CEO of the Climate Reality Project will also be speaking.
We highly recommend this training program if you are at all interested in making positive change happen. The training program is free of charge. You just have to get yourself there. For anyone living in Canada or the northern US this is a great opportunity close by to learn more about climate change and join the project. Applications have to be in by June 19th.
We were fortunate to have a number of great volunteers in March. Volunteers worked on; Painting buildings, tree maintenance and clearing around seedlings, sign design and painting, educational material development, and step building and trail maintenance. They also got involved in the community road paving project mixing concrete. Volunteers included; Jenny Todino – US, Samantha Dejean – US, Jana Heimann -Germany, Franziska Nebe – Germany, Jenny Lo from Taiwan, as well as Team Ke-tzal, from France
For the past few months the staff and volunteers of Cloudbridge along with some talented local workers have been able to upgrade some of our buildings and infrastructure. In addition to adding two additional dorm rooms to accommodate our study abroad students without disrupting our researchers. We added a second communal kitchen again this way we can accommodate student groups as well as our longer term researchers and volunteers. We built an additional storage bodega to accommodate our program supplies as well as allow us to better organize our linens and streamline our rental building housekeeping. We expanded Casa Amanzimtoti to provide more privacy for our staff living there as well as a new entry area. Additionally we upgraded rain gutters, water heaters, and a lot of trail improvements.
Joel Firebrace wrapped up his work on composting at Cloudbridge. Joel built a new compost bin and developed instructions on how to effectively turn our waste organic material into rich soil for our seedlings.
Students with the organization Broadreach spent 5 days learning about the cloud forest, spending time with camera trapping, invertebrates in the river, climate change discussion, birds, night hikes, owl surveys, local interactions at the trout farm, and so much more.
March 7th the organization ARO from Quebec arrived with 47 students to visit the Reserve and participate in an active discussion following Linda’s presentation on our changing climate and what we can do to address it.
Izzy Soane from the UK has been at the reserve for 2 months and presented her research on mixed species flocks. Her findings indicate that even though there are varying numbers and species in these flocks there are nuclear species that are almost always found within the groups. They seem to be the main instigators of the flocks as they forage for food. These nucleus species are: the Golden crown warbler, Slaty antwren, Spangle-cheeked tanager, Costa Rican warbler, Common chlorospingus, and the Yellow-thighed finch. But the warblers make up the bulk of most flocks. She also learned that they seem to have a preference for old growth forest. She wondered if this might have something to do with more insects, better shelter, and less human disturbance.
She also started a short survey studying hummingbird behavior at feeders. This research will be continued with new researchers that are arriving.
We are a group of 7 french students from a Business School in France. We are in Costa Rica during 4 months to help associations protecting the environment. The name of our group, Ke’Tzal, is formed by the contraction of the name of our school Kedge and the name of the symbolic and traditional bird of Costa Rica, the Quetzal.
We have been attracted to Cloudbridge’s concept because they are reforesting the environment they are surrounded by.
The biodiversity is very rich and they are plenty of vertebrates and plant species.
We participated in reforestation and protection of animals like Quetzals birds, for the most part of the work.
We have been delighted to work with every member of each mission in Cloudbridge. Thank you Tom for your hospitality and the various interesting missions you gave us. Pura vida !
These photos are courtesy of Xavier Loyer – Canada. Flowers around the Cloudbridge grounds and gardens
In January 2018 Alyce Straub started a project constructing six quetzal nest boxes. Unfortunately she needed to leave prior to completion. Frank Spooner & Arran Redman later installed five of the boxes throughout Cloudbridge. One remained, so Tom placed the remaining one in a Mexican Elm in front of his house. Nest boxes were monitored throughout 2018 with none being used. On the 24th of January 2019 a male quetzal was spotted checking out the box in Tom & Linda’s from yard. As we go to press we can say that the Male & Female have been working diligently on upgrading the nest box daily, so with a little luck we may get the opportunity to observe them nesting and hopefully fledge one or two chicks. More next month or follow us on Facebook for updates and photos
My name is Izzy Soane, a Research Intern here at Cloudbridge. I am a University of Birmingham graduate studying Mixed Species Flocks, hoping to gain experience in the field of ornithology. I am very excited to be surveying the birds each morning in such a beautiful area. This is a fantastic place to go hiking in my spare time and explore the natural world of Costa Rica. I am looking forward to experimenting with food at Pot Luck events and meeting new people over the course of my time here. I would like to thank Cloudbridge for being so welcoming. I will be studying an Ecology Masters course at Imperial College London from September and will use all the knowledge I have gained being here.
My name is Claudio and I am a student at the University of applied sciences van Hall Larenstein in the Netherlands, attending the Tropical Forestry and Nature Management specialization course. I am doing a carbon sequestration research project in Cloudbridge nature reserve comparing carbon stocks in natural regeneration and planted forest. The information I gather in the field will help determine the above ground biomass and is used to calculate the yearly increase of carbon stocks in the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve forests. Growing forests support the reduction of harmful carbon emissions, help sustain clear water in rivers and microclimates and thus ensure a healthy environment for future generations.
My name is Jorna van Ommen, I am 26 years old and currently studying Tropical Forestry at the university Van Hall Larenstein located at Velp in the Netherlands. During my education, I have learned about tropical ecosystems, plant taxonomy, soil types, geology, GIS and remote sensing. I have done research about the correlation between vegetation cover and reptiles and I have also done research in Suriname, about improving the community forest for the indigenous tribes over there. I am most interested in the relation and ecology between animals and vegetation in tropical ecosystems. During my previous education I have done animal management so that’s were my passion for animals come from. I am most interested in the relation and ecology between animals and vegetation in tropical ecosystems. During my previous education I have done animal management so that’s where my passion for animals came from. At Cloudbridge I am going to measure the carbon stock in different forest types together with my colleague Claudio. After this I will do some camera trapping on mammals to see if there is a difference in abundance in these different forest types. I am happy to bring the skills I have acquired so far to practice.
Hi, my name is Mary Long and I come from east Tennessee, one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse areas of the United States. I chose to volunteer at Cloudbridge because the work they do in science, education, and conservation work is impressive, and the location is fantastic! While here I am assisting researchers in stream sampling and bird monitoring, and working in the tree nursery. Back home I help manage a small family retreat center and lead forest and meadow restoration projects. I am recently retired from public service as a conservation planner, national forest ranger, and natural resource specialist; opportunities which took me across the US, Puerto Rico, and southeast Asia. Previous experience included hands on work in my small business in landscape construction and design, nursery and greenhouse propagation. Now as a retiree, I continue to appreciate volunteering in the world to listen and incorporate local knowledge and belief systems into projects, while sharing my knowledge of work.
My name is Marlon, I am 22 years old and from Germany. I will stay in Cloudbridge Nature Reserve until at least the middle of April.
I work as a volunteer and so far, have mainly helped the researchers on their daily routine and have done painting jobs. It is a very interesting way for me to get some experience about environmental research after having finished my bachelor studies in agricultural sciences. In the coming weeks I will work on a bridge repair project. Ryan, the Manager, agreed to support me with this. The Nature Reserve is really beautiful and there are a lot of free time activities you can pursue after work, which is usually not to exhausting but still gets you tired in the evenings. The people around are all very nice and open and the general mood is very good. Some afternoons I’d just lay in a hammock and read a book or play some guitar, or sometimes I’d go for a swim or a small hike if I feel like it. I love that the work is mostly very interesting, that I can come up with my own projects to work on and that you really feel like being in nature here. No car noises, no city lights, just the stars, beautiful nature and good people. On Mondays we usually have ‘Pot Luck’, which means that everyone who wants to take part prepares some food and in the evening we all dine together. It is great! Most volunteers and interns stay for at least a month, but we have also had a couple of people who only stayed for two weeks, which is also fine because new arrivals are integrated very quick.
My name is Leticia, I am 19 years old and from Germany. After highschool I decided to spend half a year in Costa Rica before going to university. I will volunteer in different projects, including in Cloudbridge for three weeks. Here, I helped the reserve with painting the rooms and I got a lot of insights in all the different research projects, for example tree and stream measuring or the construction of a now compost bin. In my last week I started my very own project: I painted a design on the walls of the welcome center to make it look nicer, since it only had plain white walls before. What I liked about the volunteer project was, that I could learn more about the work of the researchers, being independent in my own project at the same time. After work, I had a lot of fun with the other volunteers while cooking, jamming or playing games. Hopefully, I can come back to Cloudbridge some day in the future.
Marcella Snijders – Canada
I came to cloudbridge to discover end explore CR’s rich flora and fona. I wanted to live in cloud forest jungle to take in all its wonders. My goals were exceeded tenfold, what a wonderful place! I have a science background in Geography and Ecology and welcome the opportunity to help with the field work at Cloudbridge. During my time here I worked on an aquatic insect study and owl surveys. The people at Cloudbridge are walking encyclopedias of local natural science expertise. I also was able to do some painting and trail landscaping. For several days I worked on beautifying the welcome centre with Laticia. And, best of all I was able to see and paint a quetzal!
Wilderness Inquiry group from Minnesota.
We celebrated Valentines day down at the Garden House Bird Observatory cafe. It was a night of pizza, cake and other goodies.
Our new year started off with two busy weeks of hosting 39 students and staff from Gatton Academy of Western Kentucky University. This is the 9th year for their Annual Gatton Academy Research Symposium at Cloudbridge. Three credits are earned through this honors class ‘Costa Rican Biodiversity Studies and Research’. The students from this school have come here to learn about the ecosystem of the cloud forest and challenge their ideas about biological systems in the tropics.
The research ended with presentations of their results on some challenging subjects. The students used a variety of indices to measure species diversity – Chao, Simpson, Shannon and ACE. They learned the differences between primary and secondary forests, as well as natural regrowth vs planted areas. Some of the groups used T-Tests and the ANOVAs for their statistical analysis. Through conversations with their group leaders, internet searches, and books available in the Cloudbridge library they learned surprising facts about tropical ecology. For instance, dung beetles are more active during the night, the pineapple is a species of bromeliad, and there are around 300 species of birds at Cloudbridge. Other discoveries include that there seems to be more understory plant diversity in the middle aged forest, core samples taken from a tree can determine the carbon density in a species, and very acidic soils create an environment in which it is difficult for microorganisms and bacteria to break down nutrients.
The biggest limitation for their research results was the limited time they had at the reserve. But the field experience and daily challenges in a unique environment was invaluable as an educational tool for observational skills, group work, and data collection.
It wasn’t just about research and field work. There was time for other activities such as art class, pizza night, relaxing, a climate change presentation and discussion, and swimming.
Thank you Gatton Academy for a outstanding two weeks at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.
Mathilde & Benjamin – Paris France February 2018, we left Paris to start a long journey around the world. We have been traveling, from east to west, from Russia to Costa Rica – from cold and beautiful winters to warm and sunny summers. Before going back to France and to work in an office once again, we felt the need to do some volunteering in the outside. Our choice was to support the beautiful reforestation project of Cloud bridge. We have stayed in Cloud Bridge for two weeks, during which both of us worked on trail renovation, on data collection, and on tree protection. Our favorite activity was to build some stairs, that people can walk on right after crossing the river, at the beginning of Sendero Sentinel- a beautiful trail surrounded by gorgeous trees. The Cloudbridge forest is a little paradise. Mountains, waterfalls, trails, birds, and butterflies charmed us… We will bring these memories back to France, along with the fact that actions from a few can make a true difference for our planet.
My name is Dorian Rose. I recently returned to Tufts, where I started my degree years ago, and completed my degree in Biology with a focus on conservation. My primary interest is in birds, and how they are indicators of biodiversity and habitat health. While here at Cloudbridge, I am honing my research interests in a step towards applying to graduate schools. Cloudbridge, and their mission, is perfectly in line with my interests. I am deeply grateful and excited to be working here as a Tropical Bird Monitoring Intern, contributing to conservation efforts.
Volunteers from the organization ARO – Quebec Canada transplanting seedlings in the tree nursery.
Marissa Romp finished up a 5 month diurnal (active during the day) mammal density study this month. She was comparing the quality of density estimates using Distance software using three different field survey techniques: line transects, point counts, and camera trapping. The Distance method takes into account that during surveys some animals will be missed and that the likelihood of detection decreases as you move further from the observation point. The software ‘Distance’ is used to calculate a detection probability curve which is used to modify density estimates to get a more accurate estimate than assuming that all the animals seen during surveys were all that were there.
Additional information also needed to be collected to be able to use the camera trap data with the distance software, including determining the angle of view of the cameras, which involved a lot of crawling around in front of the cameras pretending to be peccaries and coatis!
For the line transects method, she walked 3 routes once a week, at a speed of 1 km/hr, and recorded all the mammals she saw. For the camera trap and point count methods, she identified 2 locations on each of the 3 walking routes to set up the camera traps and act as point count locations. For the point counts, she stood quietly for 3 minutes at each location (to allow the animals to become accustomed to her presence) and then spent 4 minutes observing, 1 minute in each cardinal direction. The camera traps were set up a little way off of the trail pointing towards the trail to capture both trail and off-trail habitat, similar to what would be observed during the walking and point counts.
While she still has a lot of data processing to do, her initial observations are that the camera trap method will yield better results for most animal species as they cause less disturbance to the animals, result in greater species richness and abundance, are more likely to capture rare and elusive species, and can also provide data on nocturnal species. The line transect data only captured data on 6 different species, most of which were Red-tailed Squirrels, and required a lot of time and effort for less results. However, line transects were able to capture data on arboreal species, like monkeys, which is generally lacking from the camera trap data. The point count results yielded no sightings. We look forward to her final results! Best of all, from one of the cameras set up in a location we have never monitored before, she captured our first camera trap images of a Tapir within the reserve!
Hello my name is Joel and I am from the UK. I’m at Cloudbridge to discover and explore the natural world of plants. And I am also here to collect data for an experiment investigating the effects of lining cardboard around the base of newly planted trees. The aim of this experiment is to determine if trees benefit significantly from the addition of cardboard to their surface soil environment. Somewhat unrelated to this investigation, I wish to learn about the interaction between nature and culture, and also agroforestry. My first week at Cloudbridge has been eventful and I look forward to many more excitements to come during the three months I have here.
Estefany is a local student who has volunteered at Cloudbridge for a few years. Now she is also teaching us how to make tamales on Christmas Eve. This is one of the perks of volunteering abroad. Cultural traditions can teach us all a little about the diversity on our planet.
My name is Jeff. I have a degree in Biology from SUNY
Cortland. I have been a birder ever
since I took Ornithology while still in school.
I began this year at Cloudbridge as a Bird Monitor Intern from January
to early April. Upon leaving Cloudbridge
I worked for West Virginia University performing Avian point counts across the
State of West Virginia. I finished the
Summer up north in Canada with the James Bay Shorebird Project before returning
here to Cloudbridge to become the Resident Biologist.
I look forward to leading tours and
engaging with the public about the birds I am passionate about. On top of giving tours I will continue my
research that I began, as an intern, on mixed species flock dynamics throughout
We have added another dorm building to better accommodate the student groups that will be visiting and extended the kitchen area. Thanks to our local builders and the volunteers who did the painting.
Cloudbridge Staff and volunteers helping out for the church fund raiser in San Gerardo de Rivas.
At the Seattle Climate Reality Project training, Mr. Gore and the expert panel of scientists addressed a question about the UN Food and Agriculture Organization finding that animal agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector.
Mr. Gore essentially answered that while animal agriculture is a significant contributor of GHG and he himself is vegan, it is inevitable that meat will remain a large part of people’s diets, and that consequently we should look towards improved practices such as rotational grazing.
One of the most compelling components of Mr. Gore’s materials is the conclusion that we must change, we can change, and we will change our energy infrastructure. The same is true of the food system, and we look forward to Mr. Gore reaching this conclusion as he continues his essential work in the fight to reduce the impact of climate change.
The science is in that we must change our diets:
A 2014 analysis by the University of Cambridge found that “the agriculture-related emissions in our business-as-usual scenario alone almost reach the full 2C target emissions allowance for 2050,” and the only scenario that would reduce emissions in 2050 compared to 2009 levels was the low-meat “healthy diet” scenario. Furthermore, “Almost all of these large GHG emission savings (5.6 out of ∼6 GtCO2e yr−1 ) are associated with livestock reductions.”
Chalmers University in Sweden concludes that, “Large reductions, by 50% or more, in ruminant meat consumption are, most likely, unavoidable if the EU targets are to be met” because “technological options alone are very unlikely to be sufficient.”
A meta-analysis of 120 studies found that if Americans transitioned to a plant-based diet it could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 79%, as well as avoiding 460,861 premature deaths, and saving $289 billion in health care and climate change mitigation costs.
A team of researchers from four universities found that by simply replacing beef with beans, the United States could immediately “achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the U.S. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of U.S. cropland.”
The Global Calculator from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change allows people to see these stunning results for themselves. Selecting the Chatham House “high meat” and “low meat” categories displays the dramatic disparity in the degree of warming achieved with maximal or minimal changes to diet, while holding other abatement strategies steady.
It is evident that we can change our food system. Unlike the energy sector, which requires technological innovation, changes in energy policy, and infrastructure investments, the food system can be shifted much more rapidly and readily. Plant-based proteins require less land, water, and energy to produce, and are generally less expensive than animal-based protein. In fact, simple supply and demand is already accomplishing this change; beef consumption has fallen 19% since 2005, reducing GHG emissions equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from 39 million cars.
So it is not only true that we will change our diets, but in fact we are already changing. 60% of adults surveyed report a reduction in their consumption of animal-based protein. The numbers are even more potent when examined generationally: “12% of millennials report being ‘faithful vegetarians,’ compared to 4% of Gen X’ers and 1% of baby boomers.”
Just as the clean energy sector has seen a positive spiral – ideologically-driven increased demand leads to increased investment and innovation, which leads to increased availability and decreased price, which leads to market-driven increased demand – so too the plant-based food sector is seeing a similar spiral. Vegetarian protein is consistently a top food trend. In fact, even meat and dairy companies are seeing the writing on the wall and investing in plant-based foods:
Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat producers in the world, recently bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, makers of plant-based chicken and beef products.
Pinnacle Foods, the company famous for Hungry Man frozen dinners, bought Gardein, makers of an array of plant-based meats.
Danone, the parent company of Dannon Yogurt, recently bought Whitewave, the parent company of Silk and So Delicious plant-based dairy products, for $10 billion.
Technology is also playing a role. Millions of dollars in venture capital are flooding to companies like Impossible Foods, makers of the plant-based “burger that bleeds.” There have also been recent breakthroughs in “clean meat” by companies like Memphis Meats who culture animal muscle tissue to grow animal protein. This process generates 96% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional animal agriculture, and also uses 99% less land and 96% less water.
As plant-based products become more accessible, affordable, and accepted, the stigma of discussing diet is falling away. Thanks to the rise of movements like Meatless Monday and Green Monday, as well as “flexitarian” or “reducetarian” diets, discussing food choices is no longer an all-or-nothing proposition.
At a time when people are desperate for ways to make change, there is no reason to ignore one of the most effective and immediate ways for individual consumers to curb climate change and many of the most pressing environmental issues facing our world.
In light of these facts, the undersigned Climate Reality Project trainees implore Mr. Gore and the Climate Reality Project leadership team to incorporate animal agriculture more thoroughly into CRP materials as both a significant contributor to climate change and a shining reason for hope.