April 2019

The Heleconias are once again in full bloom.

Recent Reviews

We do like to hear from our visitors. Thank you for sending in reviews on Trip Advisor and Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/cloudbridge.nature.reserve/


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.

The three orders that indicate good water quality are; -Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), Tricoptera (caddisflies)
The Sentinal creek was one of the water bodies that she researched.

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.


Charlotte Smith

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.

Ellie excited in the jungle

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.

Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) Photo by Jonathon Slifkin
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) Photo by Jonathan Slifkin


Website Update

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.

Training Annoucement:

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.



More beautiful photos by Jonathan Slifkin

Bay-headed Tanager
Black-cheeked Warbler
Costa Rican Warbler
Grey-tailed (White-throated) Mountain Gem
Red-headed Barbet

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March 2019


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.

Jenny and Fransica

Building steps on the Don Victor Trail
The welcome center is becoming more welcoming
A new entranceway for Casa Amanzimtoti
Additional dorm building

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.

Izzy on one of her bird surveys


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 ! 

Team Ket’zal 

Team Ke’ Tzal
Check out their blog here:

Photo Gallery

These photos are courtesy of Xavier Loyer – Canada. Flowers around the Cloudbridge grounds and gardens

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February 2019

The first sight of a quetzal in the wild is unforgettable.

Female Quetzal emerging after digging in the nest
The male is preparing to go in to take his turn at house cleaning.
The male is an extremely elegant bird, but he loses some of his sophistication when he dives into the nest with only his tale sticking out.

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!

Marcella and her painted quetzal


Wilderness Inquiry group from Minnesota.

Tom Gode gives the group an introduction to Cloudbridge
Enjoying the garden on the reserve.
Visiting the art studio at Cloudbridge
Mixed media tactile painting makes art accessible to people who are visually impaired.


Fun Times

We celebrated Valentines day down at the Garden House Bird Observatory cafe. It was a night of pizza, cake and other goodies.


Forest Progress

Montana trail – 2012
Montana trail – 2019

Jungle Humor

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January 2019

Study Abroad:

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.

Introduction to Cloudbridge – Tom Gode explains the history and purpose of the reserve. The first day is an adjustment to the high elevation with an exploratory hike to become familiar with their temporary home and surroundings for the week.

Jeff Roth is our bird specialist and led the bird groups
This group studied bromeliads with the guidance of reserve manager Ryan Helcoski
The tree group makes their way up the steep incline of the main trail. Their mentor is Jenn Powell (red scarf), the scientific coordinator of the reserve.
Dr. Stone from WKU is helping his group find a plot for plant identification

The plant group setting up their transect for identification.
Identifying, recording and measuring in the forest.
This stick bug is happy that he didn’t get stepped on by the research group.
He seems to want to be part of the group
Dr. Martin Stone stops to talk to the group after a long uphill hike.
Soil sampling for a tree study
Birding in the old growth forest
And they saw some beautiful birds.
Learning about bromeliads
Measuring the height of a tree
…… and more measuring.

Dr. Keith Philips and his beetle group sorting through their catch of dung beetles. Dr. Philips has been a part of this Gatton Study Abroad Program in Costa Rica every year. His extensive beetle research throughout many countries provides a rich learning experience for his group.
Derick Strode was one of the first people from Gatton Academy to come to Cloudbridge on a mission to find a suitable travel abroad research facility for his students. As Assistant Director, Academic Services he is a busy guy at the academy, but returning every year on this trip has been one of his passions.
Derick enjoying one of the waterfalls with staff leaders Chelsee Dalcourt – Councelor at Gatton Academy, And Dr. Martin Stone – Associate Professor of Horticulture.
Data analysis after the field work is done.

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.

Linda Moskalyk taught an art class. Often the students say they can’t draw but the results show something different. The drawings were amazing.

Exploring the river
Hammock Time
The Students were treated to a trip to the San Isidro farmers market to check out the variety of local fruits and vegetables produced by Costa Rican farmers. Dr. Stone promotes local farmers markets in Kentucky and with his own horticulture experience and farm he is a wonderful advocate for fresh, locally produced food.
Campasino traditional music and food night.

Pizza night at the Garden Cafe
The food from the Cloudbridge kitchen for lunches was good too. Mango chili served with nacho chips and pineapple crisp.
Dr. Philips serving tea to his group. Just starting out easy for what will be a busy week.
Time for a little relaxation down the road at the Garden Cafe. Staff snuck away for delicious coffees and baking.
Pokey Bowan – Assistant Director of Counseling Services at Gatton Academy, and Cheryl Kirby Stokes – Coordinator of Academic Opportunities were there to make sure everything ran smoothly for the students. They also had time to do some hiking.

Thank you Gatton Academy for a outstanding two weeks at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.

Research and Volunteers:

Jennifer Powell and Nina Champion’s report on “Butterfly Bait Preference in Cloudbridge Nature Reserve”. (http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2019-_Butterfly_bait_preference_Cloudbridge_Powell_Champion.pdf)


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. 

Ben and Mathilde

Dorian Rose

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.

Dorian Rose


Volunteers from the organization ARO – Quebec Canada transplanting seedlings in the tree nursery.



Wilderness Inquiry is a non profit organization based in Minnesota, serving all of the USA. They provide outdoor adventure travel experiences. This group had the opportunity to learn about the cloud forest and the history of the area. They hiked to the waterfalls and an old growth area of the reserve and also visited the art studio.
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December 2019

Christmas in the Cloud Forest

Research and Volunteers:

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! 

Tapir photographed on the Montana trail


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 the reserve. 

Jeff – Back for his 2nd year at the reserve!


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.

The construction crew
A work in progress
New home made bunk beds
How level is good enough?

Community volunteering:

Cloudbridge Staff and volunteers helping out for the church fund raiser in San Gerardo de Rivas.

Photo Gallery:

Stealing from the bird feeder

Forest Fungi
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November 2018

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
Ranindranath Tagore




Here are the recent research reports that can be found on our website.   http://www.cloudbridge.org/


Alena Frehner’s report on “The influence of habitat factors on species richness and abundance of animals in a montane cloud forest.”  http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-Habitat_factors_richness_abundance_of_animals_Alena_Frehner.pdf
Chiel van der Laan’s report on “Forest assessment of planted, naturally regenerated and primary tropical cloud forest.” http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-Forest-assessment-planted-naturally-regenerated-cloud-forest-Chiel-van-der-Laan.pdf
Graham Montgomery, Frank Spooner and Benjamin Freeman’s paper on “Apparent cooperative breeding at a nest of the Silvery-throated Jay (Cyanolyca argentigula) and first nest description.” (http://www.wjoonline.org/doi/abs/10.1676/16-225.1)
Éloïse Roy’s report on the “Owl survey at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.” (http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-Owl-survey-at-Cloudbridge-Nature-Reserve-Eloise-Roy.pdf)
Úna Williams’ report on the “Comparison of avian flight initiation distances at trails within a Costa Rican cloud forest.” (http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-Flight-Initiation-Distances-At-Trails-Within-Cloud-Forest-Una-Williams.pdf)
Jade Roubert-Olive’s report on “White-nosed coati learning and problem-solving behaviour, Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, Costa Rica.” (http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-White-nosed-Coati-Learning-Problem-Solving-Jade-Roubert-Olive.pdf)
and a collaboration we did with SINAC and MAPCOBIO on the conservation status of the Jaguar (Panthera onca) in Costa Rica through the integration of species records data and modelling of the ideal habitat. Only available in Spanish. Seulement disponible en espagnol. “Estado de conservación del jaguar (Panthera onca) en Costa Rica a través de la integración de datos de registros de la especie y modelaje del hábitat idóneo.” (http://www.sinac.go.cr/ES/partciudygober/Monitoreo%20Ambiental/Estado%20de%20la%20Conservacion%20del%20Jaguar.pdf)




Climate Change :

One thing that is often not discussed for climate change mitigation is our food systems.  In this open letter to Al Gore the discussion of agriculture and diets is addressed.


Open Letter to Mr. Gore Regarding Animal Agriculture

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.”
  • Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future summarized five studies which all demonstrated that the most dramatic declines in greenhouse gases are made possible through reduction in meat consumption.
  • 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.


Katie Cantrell

Executive Director

Factory Farming Awareness Coalition

Climate Reality Leadership Training Seattle, 2017

If anyone is interested in taking the Climate Reality Training with Al Gore the next sessions coming up in 2019 are March In Atlanta Georgia USA, and June in Melbourne Australia.  https://www.climaterealityproject.org/training?segment=web_homepage_tile

If you live near these locations it is well worth going to.  The training is free.  You just have to get yourself there.



Now accepting applications for:
  • General volunteers;
  • Bird interns interested in a study on mixed-feeding flocks (to start late January), or long-term bird monitoring study (to start late February/early March);
  • Research interns interested in a topic of your choosing;
To apply, please fill in our application form on our website! (http://www.cloudbridge.org/volunteering/volunteer-application/)
Annual Summary: 
2018 was a productive year for Cloudbridge.  Check out this link to see what was accomplished.
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October 2018

Even the rain can’t keep away birdwatchers.                               Photo courtesy Leonardo Valverde


And the birds are watching whooo?                                           Photo courtesy Leondardo Valverde






Research and Volunteers:

Nina Biburger – Germany

Hi, my name is Nina, I am 21 years old and study landscape architecture and planning at the technical university of Munich. As a part of my semester abroad I am staying at the Cloudbridge Reserve for one month as a volunteer. For this time, I got a little project to work on: improve the drainage system in the camp. First, I looked for the biggest problems and thought of ideas to solve them. Afterwards I started with some volunteers with the execution of the plan. Another great thing was the tree planting day. We planted a lot of little trees, that was a lot of fun and made you feel like you are helping the environment a lot. 

I am really interested in helping the environment and subjects linked to landscape and nature. This is the perfect place to give something back to nature , I really appreciate being part of the Cloudbridge Project. It is so beautiful to live just right in the cloud forest, which is a gorgeous phenomenon itself. I would recommend the Cloudbridge Reserve to anyone who loves nature and helping to save it!





Celine Stegers – Germany

Hi! My name is Celine, I am 19 years old and have high school in Germany this year. I am volunteering at Cloudbridge for one month. During my time here I have supported the researchers on their projects. So far I’ve planted trees to maintain the reforestation. Also I assisted one of the researchers to build the drainage system. We dug two holes as collecting ponds for the rainwater and transferred pipes. I also helped another researcher with collecting leaves from the trees in one plot. For that we used slingshots and an oversized secateurs to get the samples. I hope I’ll finish more projects the next weeks and explore the jungle.

I really love the nature here – to awaken by bird sounds and the waterfall every day, and I enjoy the atmosphere between the researchers and volunteers at the reserve. Everybody is helpful and pays attention when you need someone to talk to. Living in nature with the plants and animals is a unique, personal experience.

I would recommend this project to all nature lovers and adventurers! I am proud to be a part of Cloudbridge and their projects to save and enhance the Cloud forest!


Luisa Burg

Hey, my name is Luisa, I‘m 18 years old and finished high school this summer. Before I start to study I wanted to travel and help to reforest the cloud forest in Costa Rica.

Now I‘m at the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve as a volunteer for one month.

In my first week here I supported one of the Volunteers to build a draining system for our current home.

Another really nice experience was to plant trees and be part of the reforestation progress at Cloudbridge.

To live in the jungle with so many different animals around is such an impressive experience!

I‘m so happy about my choice to be a part of Cloudbridge!!!




Leonardo and his brother David, two enthusiastic high school students from the local town of Rivas, are studying fungi diversity in the reserve. On Sundays, they walk the trails looking for interesting mushrooms and other fungi, take photos, record important information, and make spore prints to help us identify the mushrooms. Here are some of the ones they have found so far.








A few years ago Leonardo’s family weren’t quite sure what he was interested in and so one Christmas they got him a Nintendo Wii. He played with it for a few days and got bored of it so his dad exchanged it for a camera and Leo’s been interested in photography every since.  His photography is stunning!





A Spooky Thriller in the Mountains (or maybe not that scary)  – Oct 31st

Jenn (Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, Luisa and Celine (Ghostbusters), Jesus, Tom (Mosquito Net), Helen (owl), and EV (not entirely sure…).


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September 2018


When it all began. The early days of Cloudbridge.



2001 The view Jenny and Ian saw on their way down from their Chirripo hike while on vacation. This is was the inspiration they needed to start a reforestation project.



Upon seeing the deforestation in the Chirripo valley, Ian said, “Let’s come back and buy some land for reforestation”.

Three months later, they returned to Costa Rica, drove around the country looking at properties, and coincidentally, found land on the slopes of Mt Chirripo.

The first piece they bought was stunning in its beauty – with a series of waterfalls, and mountain views, and even a house.



Los Quetzales area. You can see where the Chirripo park stops and the barren Cloudbridge property existed




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The Gavilan slope


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Montana Trail


cloudbridge North

Cloudbridge North – the trail to Vulture Rock


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Recovery of the forest after many years of tree planting.


Welcome to our new manager of the reserve:

Ryan Helcoski came to Cloudbridge directly from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal Virginia where he was working with the Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) studying dendrochronology, forest carbon sequestration, and climate change. Before that he was employed by the sustainability program at the University of Maryland where he obtained his M.S. in conservation biology and M.P.P. in environmental policy. Ryan has worked as a contractor for the United States Department of Agriculture, The Amazon Conservation Team, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. He has volunteered and interned for numerous nonprofits and agencies including the Wildlife Trust of India, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, the Grameen Foundation, and Cielo Azul. He has nearly a decade of experience in science education, most notably his four years teaching biology and zoology at the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science in Baltimore, MD. Ryan is forever interested in the natural world and has traveled broadly in South and Central America both on contracts and for personal interest. He is excited to begin his new position as reserve manager at Cloudbridge and can’t wait to learn all he can about his new home.



Erline Vendredi  (We call her EV)

With a background in accounting and procurement, Erline is responsible for the business operations, development and bookkeeping. She works closely to support the Director as well. Erline hails from Haiti, and she’s fluent in English, French and Haitian Creole. Alongside her Cloudbridge work, she is also working with a Haitian artist from Port-au-Prince to promote his art internationally. She maintains close relationships with Haiti by providing marketing and branding supports to small enterprises and local organizations.





Research and Volunteers:

My name is Marianna. I am at Cloudbridge as a volunteer for one month. So far I’ve had the oportunity to to accompany the researchers on their projects and plant some trees.  Currently I am working on new ideas for the welcome center.
I love the atmosphere at the reserve: Hearing the waterfalls and the birds every day and living in a little community of people interested in nature is exactly what I was looking for.

Marianna planting trees.




My name is Max Hoving and I’m doing my best to find the secrets the forests all over the world have for us to uncover. While studying forest and nature-management at VHL in The Netherlands, my home country, I realized that I had spent too much time focusing on just this one small temperate corner of the world. To broaden my knowledge, I decided to major in tropical forestry and do my internship in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world; Costa Rica! Cloudbridge has established good relations with my school and my classmates recommended me going here for the great views over the forests, good living conditions and all the opportunity to grow and learn about the topics that interest me the most.

Using tools like slingshots to collect leaves, flowers and fruits and conserving the leaves with a plant press I do my best to identify tree species to get a better idea of forest compositions within the different habitat types. By the end of this 5-month period I hope to be able to present a more complete catalogue of all the species found in Cloudbridge.


Helen Lancaster
Coming to Cloudbridge has been the second of many volunteering experiences I hope to have. Formerly, I worked at an Animal Rescue Centre in the UK, which led me into a search for somewhere I could get involved in conservation. My reasoning behind this is that to me, prevention has a greater effect than recovery when it comes to endangered species. However, this is a generalized field, therefore the current focus of my travels is to discover a more specific career route to work towards.
Some projects I am working on here at Cloudbridge are reforesting, creating a new compost system, and conducting an Owl survey which occurs twice a month. This survey involves playing different calls through a speaker at different markers along a given trail, also taking bearings with a compass when one is heard, and having a disturbed sleeping pattern for about a week.
What makes Cloudbridge special is that although there is abundant wildlife; it may seem scarce, but it will be present beyond your sight, and this makes it even more exciting to finally see.
The cultural exchange is also something I find fascinating, as we all share and compare our differences; whether that be a sense of humour, odd terminologies, or experimental food – this being my personal favourite.
When I come to leave it will be a great accomplishment yet a saddening loss of what truly feels like home.
Some of Helen’s beautiful photos at Cloudbridge



Cristhian and Josue are sustainable tourism students from UNA (Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica) who are with us one day a week for an English practicum. They are working at our Welcome Centre greeting guests and providing information on the reserve to hikers, as well as working on two projects. Josue has been conducting a survey of hikers after they have finished their hike to ask what they saw and find out what they did and did not like about the reserve. Cristhian has been creating animal information cards on our most common and interesting animals which we will display at the Welcome Centre.




New Discovery:

This month a new mammal species was identified for the reserve! Derby’s Woolly Opossum (also called the Central American Woolly Opossum) (Caluromys derbianus) was identified after reviewing some historic camera trapping images. Originally mistaken for a rat due to its small size and rodent like movements, it was identified as an opossum by the distinctive two tone tail (half grey and half white), and as a woolly opossum by the thick fur that extends well onto its tail. An exciting find!

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August 2018

The rainy afternoons this time of year create some amazing rich green colors in the forest.  As the rainy season continues there is good reason to visit this area if you don’t mind a little moisture.  The lushness of the forest, swelling rivers, and dramatic waterfalls are all a sight to see.


Research and Volunteers:

Cléa Lefevbre from AgroParisTech in France just finished a forestry internship with us where she was examining the differences in forest structure between planted and naturally regenerating (NR) forest of the same age. She also did some general comparisons with old growth forest. She found that planted forest had a linear relationship when plotting tree height against diameter at breast height (DBH), while NR forest had an exponential relationship. She thought this was because the trees in the planted area are planted at least 2 m from each other and the vegetation cleared so the young trees don’t have to compete with each other or other plants so can can grow at a steady rate. In the NR forest, the young trees have to compete for light so focus initially on growing tall to capture the light. Once that is achieved they then will start to increase their girth.

She then looked at the distribution of trees across 5 size classes (seedling, sapling, small tree, medium tree, and large tree). She found that the plantation forest had a large number of trees in the sapling category, no large trees, and few seedlings. While the NR forest also had a large number of sapling trees, it had a much larger number of seedlings and a few large trees, a structure more similar to the old growth. This means that recruitment is lower in the plantation area, which could lead to issues in the event of a disturbance in the forest (ex. blow-down, landslide, etc.).

She also found significant differences in DBH (greater in plantation), wood volume (greater in plantation), carbon storage (higher in plantation), and canopy closure (less light in NR), and no significant difference in tree height or wood density between planted and natural regeneration.
She concluded that while the naturally regenerating forest looks closer to the old growth in terms of overall forest structure, the planted forest is storing more carbon which is of benefit to combat climate change.

Her plots will be used in future years to continue to monitor the differences between the two forest types as they age and it will be interesting to see how things change over time!

In July, Una Williams completed her research on avian flight initiation distances (FID) (the distance at which a bird will move away from a threat (i.e. hiker)) on trails with different human activity levels. Increased FID’s and vigilance behaviour can lead to significant alteration in energy expenditure for the birds. Larger FIDs may indicate increased sensitivity and reduced tolerance to disturbance.
Study trails were grouped into 3 different activity levels: low (<5 visitors/day), medium (5-15 visitors/day), and high (>15 visitors/day + horses). Overall, across all bird species, she found that FID increased as trail activity level increased, although differences were not significant (p=0.117). There were 3 species found on all of the study trails: Common Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus flavopectus), Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor), and Slate-throated Redstart (Myioborus miniatus). Of these three, the Slate-throated Redstart showed a significant difference in FID between the trails, with much larger FIDs on the high traffic trail (Chirripó), and the shortest FIDs on one of the low traffic trails (Gavilan). This may indicate that the Slate-throated Redstart has become sensitized to the high traffic on the Chirripó Trail.
She is still completing her analyses so we look forward to seeing her final results!  Una is from Queen’s University, Belfast in Northern Ireland.


Catherine Walker, Elle Boone, Kelsey Davies, and Harriet Tyson from Exeter university in the United Kingdom finished a 6 week study on ant diversity and distribution in Cloudbridge. They wanted to study ants as they are the forest’s caretaker’s, cleaning up dead material, and can be used as bioindicator’s of reforestation success. Using pitfall and baited traps (tuna and sugar water) to collect the ants, they studied 3 forest types: planted (<15 years), natural regeneration (>30 years old), and old growth forest (70+ years old). They were able to identify the ants down to at least genus and many also to species. When comparing overall abundance and species richness, there was no significant difference between the habitats, which is a good sign for the effectiveness of our reforestation efforts. However, when looking at the similarity of the abundance of each genera present in the different habitat types (Bray-Curtis), they found that the planted and naturally regenerated habitats were moderately similar (0.5), while natural regen compared to old growth was lower (0.3), and planted compared to old growth was the least similar (0.1). Further analysis is being done to see if there were certain genera specific to each habitat and what that means for our forests.

They also compared the effectiveness of the different trap types they used and found that the baited traps were significantly more effective than the pitfall traps, in both abundance and species richness, but the baited traps were not significantly different from each other.
They did some great work and identified a lot of new genera and species for our species list. Here are some of their favourites.

Eciton burchellii parvispinum  (an army ant)


Eciton burchellii parvispinum  (an army ant)

















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Acromyrmex coronatus (a leaf-cutter ant) worker


Acromyrmex coronatus (a leaf-cutter ant) Queen

Pachycondyla impressa (largest species found, >7mm)

Carebara reina (smallest species found 1-2mm)


Alena Frehner from Van Hall Larenstein in the Netherlands completed her camera trap study in July. She used camera trap data (6 locations) and habitat data she collected to examine habitat factors that may affect the abundance and species richness of animals around the camera traps. The habitat factors she looked at included: habitat type (old growth, naturally regenerating, or planted forest), canopy closure, difference in slope of trail compared to the surrounding landscape, and tree size (when looking at arboreal and semi-arboreal species only).

She found that while species richness was not significantly different between the camera trap locations, abundance was, both when looked at as individual locations (with two of the sites showing higher than expected abundance and the rest lower, p=0.00) and when locations were grouped into habitats (with natural regenerated and planted forest having greater abundance than expected and the old growth lower, p=0.00). When examining the other habitat factors, none of them were found to have significant relationships to either species richness or abundance on the camera traps.

However, when looking at tree size (average, median, and max tree height; and median DBH) and abundance of arboreal and semi-arboreal species, with the exception of one outlier, there appeared to be a positive relationship between abundance and height, and a negative relationship between abundance and median DBH. The outlier was location E1, which also had a much higher abundance of animals than expected, and was by far the most productive camera trap location. E1 is located at a pinch-point along a ridge trail, where a large boulder and dense vegetation force most animals to walk along the trail, and therefore in front of the camera, making it more likely that the camera will capture images of animals in the area. Because of this, E1 may be skewing the data and not be a true representation of habitat choice as the animals in that location have little choice but to walk in front of the camera. As such, the examination of tree size and presence of arboreal and semi-arboreal animals on the camera traps warrants further investigation.

Some of Alena’s camera trap photos  (Puma, Ocelot, and Hog-nosed Skunk) :
Janina Harms of Van Hall Larenstein in the Netherlands, finished up a study this month looking at the feasibility of using the reserve as a sloth release site. Building on the work of Ramon te Beek who did a sloth habitat suitability study earlier in 2018, Janina spent some time at an active sloth release site and then looked at the practicality of setting up a release site at various locations around the reserve. She developed a suitability index based on: habitat suitability, presence of wild cats, site accessibility, slope of the site, set-up costs, and human disturbance. Different to the habitat suitability index which found planted sites as the 3rd most suitable, she found that the planted areas were generally most suited to setting up a release site, with the other habitat types being fairly similar. The planted sites came out on top mostly because they were more accessible and flatter than a lot of the other habitat types. Janina also found information gaps that we would need to fill before we could proceed with a possible release site, which will be very helpful for us moving forward.

As part of her work on the index, she collected samples from trees to better identify potential sloth trees and took them to the national herbarium for help confirming the identifications. As a result of this work, they identified 3 new species for the reserve!


Brunellia darienensis

Styrax glabrescens

Meliosma allenii

Janina’s final presentation also included some interesting facts about sloths and a look at her time spent at the Sloth Institute at Manual Antonio.

Janina at the The Sloth Institute

Elisa Yang finished up her birding internship at Cloudbridge this month and presented her results on the last three months of the bird monitoring study. After calculating Simpson’s Index of Diversity for the different habitat types, Elisa noted that the old growth (or primary) forest had one of the lowest diversities. She wondered why this was as old growth forest is considered to be of higher value than secondary (or regenerating) forest. After looking closer she found that while overall diversity was lower, all four of the Near Threatened and Vulnerable bird species found at Cloudbridge have their highest abundances in the old growth. In addition, the furnarids (an uncommon group at lower elevations) reached their peak diversity in the old growth as well. This is in contrast to the naturally regenerated and planted habitats which had a higher presence of common and widespread birds like Common Chlorospingus and Slate-throated Redstart. This shows the importance of the old growth habitat for vulnerable and sensitive species.
Elisa also brought a unique perspective to the bird study as she is skilled at identifying birds by their calls, which is very hard to do. Birds identified only by audio are typically excluded from analysis in the bird study as it is difficult to do accurately or to standardize between researcher due to widely varying skill levels. After readjusting the Simpson’s Index to include birds identified by audio only, she found the old growth diversity was one of the highest, rather than one of the lowest. The difference between the two is due to the difficulty of visually identifying birds in the dense and high canopy of the old growth.

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Introducing a new volunteer – Marissa Romp

Hola amigos y amigas,

‘The earth has music for those who listen.’ This quote is one of my favorite quotes of all time because it catches my thoughts and inspires me to take decisions in life that contribute to this ability and creates that possibility. My name is Marissa, I am 27 springs young and am currently studying Wildlife Management in my home country – The Netherlands.  Although I am still wondering ánd wandering about what profession I want to engage in, I am the happiest surrounded by forest, its inhabitants and the beautiful music they make. As part of my study I have worked at an Animal Ambulance to transport wounded or neglected animals. Last year I conducted a behavioral study on Samango monkeys in the province of Limpopo, South-Africa. After returning back to the Netherlands I knew something was missing. This experience of living in basic conditions – compared to my Western upbringing – and surrounded by the beauty of the forest has ignited a little spark of wanting to go abroad again. Hence next adventure; Costa Rica. I choose to do my internship at Cloudbridge because of the remoteness, the presence of two of my favorite species (White-faced capuchin monkey and the Geoffroy’s spider monkey) and the chance to surround myself with people passionate about the conservation of the forest and its wildlife. Here, I am currently engaged in a new mammal study which recently started for a period of five months. The aim is to set up a mammal species list and to see whether there might be any differences in mammalian species diversity between the different habitats present at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. I am extremely excited to find out what the results will be. Pura vida!

Marissa in the jungle.




New Research Report Now on Our Website:

Two new reports have been added to the website this month. Check them out and many other reports on the research done at Cloudbridge on our publications page (http://www.cloudbridge.org/publications/reports/).

Ramon te Beek’s report “A habitat suitability study for sloth species Bradypus variegates and Choloepus hoffmanni in Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, Costa Rica. “ (http://www.cloudbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/2018-Habitat-Suitability-Study-Sloths-Ramon-te-Beek.pdf)

Cloudbridge Fun:

We do like to have fun.  Its not all work.  Sometimes there is a little rumble in the jungle for birthdays on the reserve.


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July 2018

Cloud Forest Fungi




Research and Volunteers:

My name is Eli and I’m 21 years old from Wales, UK. I’ve just finished my second year at The University of Manchester studying Zoology with French. I came to Cloudbridge as a volunteer, having already spent two weeks in Costa Rica on a field course as part of my degree: 1 week at Macaw Lodge (a sustainability and eco project located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica) and the second week at La Selva Biological Station. I have spent the past two weeks helping the research interns with different projects such as obtaining samples for the forest reclamation project, setting up a mammal project and planting trees, all whilst hiking the trails in the beautiful Costa Rican scenery. Waking up to the sounds of wildlife and hiking the tallest mountain in Costa Rica are probably the highlights of my stay, as well as making what I hope to be lifelong friends along the way. Cloudbridge will always have a place in my heart and I will miss all the hard-working people who make the reserve what it is!!!





Exeter University Students – UK :

Hi my name is Kelsey Davies and am a proud Welshman, raised in Cwmllynfell near Swansea, Wales (Cymru am Byth!) I am currently an MSci Zoology student at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus and work part-time in retail, thoroughly enjoying a life on the Cornish coast. At this point I am in the transition from second to third year. I have always had a love for being outdoors which quickly developed into a keen interest in the environment and its inhabitants- especially insects! Therefore I was extremely excited when our final decision on a research project was focussed on ants! I am quickly realising I could easily become accustomed to life researching in the cloud forest, through spending free time exploring, hiking and, especially, relaxing in hammock with a book. From this experience I hope to continue in the field of research after university, whether it is abroad or at home in the UK, continuously gaining knowledge about what nature has to give! Diolch enfawr i Cloudbridge!  We originally came across Cloudbridge through our university where there have been previous groups conducting research at the reserve. Our focus is on the formidable critters, ants. We hope to discover if ants could possibly be used to show the success of reforestation. This will be carried out through comparing the species diversity and abundance between pasture, planted, regenerated and old forest, determining if there are any differences/similarities. We also hope to add to the ant species list of the reserve, where we have already found numerous unlisted species. We are confident that through this research, we will gain incredibly valuable field experience that will be essential to continue our careers within the field of Biology and Conservation.  Also as a group, we are very eager to help out and learn about the many other fantastic research going on at the reserve, therefore gaining an insight into other people’s interests and passions. We are very thankful to the reserve for having us and are already falling in love with the cloud forest!


Hola, I’m Ellie Boone, I study BSc zoology at the University of Exeter and will shortly be entering my second year of study. Originally from Cheshire, England, I decided I wanted to study zoology as I had always had a passion for biology, however I was less interested in the micro side of things and I wanted to find a way of incorporating travel into my career, therefore, zoology was the perfect option. I am active and enjoy the outdoors, I’m finding the trails at cloud-bridge exhilarating and great fun, and they’re a good way to push myself. Although studying ants here, after my degree I think I would like to go on to study birds and their behaviour, as I find them beautiful and highly intelligent.


Hello, my name is Catherine and I am about to go into the third year of my BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology degree at the University of Exeter in Cornwall. As a wildlife enthusiast, with a long held dream of going to Costa Rica (allegedly one of the happiest countries in the world), the opportunity to embark on research at the Cloudbridge reserve was too good to miss. Cloudbridge has been an amazing place to see how progress can be made towards reforesting the Earth and I am thoroughly enjoying getting outdoors to see the wealth of species in this region. I hope to go on to do a masters after my degree and ultimately take part in more research to learn how best to protect our planet and its inhabitants.


Hello, my name is Harriet and I am studying towards a BSc Zoology degree at the University of Exeter, going into my third year. I have always been fascinated by nature and wildlife from a young age, so studying a wildlife-based degree has always been something I’ve worked hard towards. For so long Costa Rica has been at the top of my list of places I’d love to visit based on its picturesque scenery and its incredible biodiversity. The opportunity to carry out our very own research high in the cloud forest, surrounded by other great researchers, is a once in a lifetime chance. I have already loved hiking through the forest, learning more about reforestation and seeing some truly remarkable wildlife. From this amazing opportunity, I hope to gain valuable skills, research experience and, importantly, enjoy being in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

The Exeter Group





My Name is Eva Szekeres and am from Austria. At home, I am studying biology because I am very interested in nature. I came to the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve because always I wanted to see the rainforest, wanted to make a research internship and because I wanted to make new contacts with students from other countries. Here in Cloudbridge I am conducting a study about butterflies to collect data for my bachelor thesis. I really enjoy the work with these gentle and beautiful animals. In Costa Rica I can discover something new everyday, be it a humming bird feeding on the flowers, a butterfly looking exactly like a leaf, bananachips or scarlet macaws on the beach. I like the community in Cloudbridge and the simple living in middle of the forest where I can hear the birds when I get up.




My name is Tamara Pohler. I come from Austria and I’ll stay in Cloudbridge for nearly 1 month. I research on spider communities in the three different forest types – primary forest, naturally regenerated forest and planted forest.
My biggest interests are wild cats, especially leopards and lions. I have already worked with cheetahs, lions and other cats in South Africa. Now its time to face my other passion, spiders. Costa Rica is a perfect place to research on spiders. There are many different species, some of them even not been scientifically identified.
So, there’s a great adventure, waiting for me. See you maybe there 😉






Chiel van der Laan has spent the last five months conducting forest assessment research in different areas of the reserve. He took measurements from trees in many different plots, incorporating areas of planted, naturally regenerated and old growth (primary) forest habitat. Looking at the trees in each habitat, he found several differences between them: for example, trees in Cloudbridge’s primary forest are significantly higher than those in other forest types, but no greater in volume. He also demonstrated that older trees have slower growth rates (measured as DBH increase per year), and thus denser wood than younger trees. He then used wood density data to estimate the mass of carbon sequestered in each habitat type around Cloudbridge – an excellent figure to be aware of with deforestation contributing so much excess carbon to the atmosphere! It’s great to know that so much carbon is being stored in the trees protected within the reserve.

Chiel giving his final presentation.

“After I had collected all the data I did a normality test to find out whether the data was normally distributed or not. I did this for every tree/forest characteristic that I measured. The number of trees per hectare and canopy closure turned out to be normally distributed, so I used the one-way anova test for those. For the others I used the Kruskal-Wallis test. The pictures show some of the results of the statistical tests for DBH increase, crown class and wood density.

These results I used to see if there was a relation between the amount of light received by trees and the density of the wood. In the picture with the correlations you see that the wood density (WSG) increases with an increase in canopy closure and crown class. Also when the tree growth (DBH increase) increases the wood density becomes lower. This proves my hypothesis that: Less sunlight results in slower tree growth and thus denser wood. Because when a tree receives less light it invests more growth in wood density than volume. Although this is not based on a lot of data so more data should be collected to be more certain about this statement.

I also just wanted to show the difference in carbon sequestration between forest types. You can see that there is a big difference in the amount of carbon stored per forest type. I did no further analysis on this because I only have the data of 3 plots which I found not enough to be sure about any results.”






Hola! I’m Seth and I’m one of the volunteers at Cloudbridge. I’m from the UK and came to Central America after finishing my BSc in Horticulture with Plantsmanship and spent a month climbing trees in a research station In Panama before coming to Cloudbridge. I was drawn to Cloudbridge by its amazing location and montane cloud forest at the reserve as well as the botanical beauties it holds (especially the lichens, I like lichens…). So far at the reserve I have been helping researchers with plant identification, taking tree measurements in the old growth forest, helping to maintain newly planted areas of the reserve and giving tree climbing demonstrations to visiting school groups. I have loved my time at Cloudbridge and I’ll be really sad to leave! I loved being immersed in the beautiful surrounds and getting to geek out with the others at the station. I’ve had lots of ideas for projects during my time here though, so maybe you’ll be reading another post from me in the future??? Adios!!




This past month Cloudbridge has hosted two groups of British high school students,
from Lancaster and Stamford in the UK. They were able to enjoy this experience through an organization called Outlook Expeditions who organized the trip to Costa Rica.  https://www.outlookexpeditions.com/

It has been a pleasure to spend several
days showing them around the reserve – even up to Catarata Don Victor
and Vulture Rock!  The groups were able to see some local wildlife
(including spider monkeys and a peccary), and they thoroughly
enjoyed afternoon swims in the river.

The students also contributed to the reforestation of the reserve,
planting trees that were grown in the Cloudbridge nursery.  They
were able to learn about canopy ecology from one of the researchers,
who climbed up a beautiful 30-meter tree.  The spider monkeys came
around to see what was going on!  Tree-planting day finished up with a
talk on climate change, which emphasizes strategies for creating
resilience on the local level.  The students engaged with questions of
their own and a worthwhile discussion afterwards.

One of the groups was able to enjoy a Sunday brunch at the local Jardines
Secretos and a night walk as well.  It was truly a pleasure to engage
with these groups and we hope to host more in the future!












Community Outreach:

The staff at Cloudbridge were instramental in organizing an event to promote sustainable agriculture in the Chirripo Valley.

July 26th, in San Gerardo de Rivas, Victoria Arronis of
the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), gave a small
talk about sustainable livestock.  Certain practices can reduce the
emissions of greenhouse gases associated with cattle production.
Planting trees, feeding the cattle more locally grown forages and
proper management can reduce production costs and mitigate climate
Managing livestock intensively, in small enclosures which are given
rest periods, with the presence of trees and shade, allows for less
stress on the cattle due to heat.  Forrages that are highly nutritious
and digestible can partially replace commercial feed.  Using forrage
banks which the animals are allowed to directly eat from reduces the
labor associated with chopping and transporting feed.
With these types of changes, it is possible to produce milk and meat
more sustainably, with more resilience to climate change, with many
benefits for producers and the environment.


Camera Trap Photos
















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