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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