September 2020

Children gain great benefit from nature, as do we all… Here children enjoy Ian Giddy´s memorial garden at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.

September is Costa Rica´s patriotic month, when the country celebrates it´s Independence from Spanish colonization on the 15th of September of 1821.  This date is usually celebrated with parades and civic activities, but this year most of these celebrations were held virtually.  These truly are strange times we are living in, so much has moved online, even all schooling, here in Costa Rica, until the end of this school year (in November).  Another special holiday celebrated in Costa Rica this month was Children´s Day, on  September 9th.  This holiday was officially created in Costa Rica in 1946, to highlight the importance of children´s rights, and celebrate the citizens and leaders of tomorrow.

Edgar is happy to receive visitors to the Reserve at the Welcome Center.

This month we have finally been able to officially reopen Cloudbridge Nature Reserve to the general public, after three months of closure due to the pandemic. It is such a pleasure to welcome visitors to the Reserve once more, and hear of their marvelous experience on the way out! We have also expanded our souvenir stand a bit, now offering beautiful artwork by local artists, some Cloudbridge stickers and locally produced probiotic beverages, in addition to the T-shirts, key chains and coasters that we have been offering for some time now. The revamped welcome center is very welcoming to visitors, in addition to having new signage regarding proper handwashing, social bubbles and preventative measures against Covid-19.

The meditation labyrinth is one of several attractions for visitors to the reserve.
Catarata Pacífica is one of the closest and most accessible waterfalls for visitors
Cloudbridge waterfall can be seen in the distance at one of our beautiful lookouts, or from a shorter distance from the lookout on the River Trail.
Caldera waterfall is two waterfalls in one, with a round, inaccesible pool in the middle

Visitors to Cloudbridge can once again visit the memorial garden, the labyrinth, several waterfalls, and kilometres of trails through gorgeous cloudforest. The opportunity to see wildlife is always present, but even if visitors aren´t lucky enough to see a troop of white-faced monkeys or a couple of coatis, they still gain great benefit from immersion in a natural environment, breathing the fresh air and getting a bit of excercise! We are also open to receive researchers and volunteers, we are very grateful to the few people who are scheduling their internships with us soon, after the pandemic has disrupted so many plans and lives.

A recent guest at Cloudbridge enjoys the tranquility of Casita Colibrí.
Photo credit: Nelson Cordero Quirós

Our three guest cabins are a perfect space to retreat into the forest with your loved ones and get away from it all. We are very grateful to all of the visitors who have taken the time to give us a good review at Tripadvisor after your time with us, this has led to us recently receiving a Traveller´s Choice Award, placing us in the top 10% worldwide…Thank you!

Enjoy a morning coffee with these views at Casita Blanca.
Photo credit: Nelson Cordero Quirós

We are only a little over a week away from the 24 hours of Reality: Countdown to the future. The Climate Reality Project and TED are partnering for two days of presentations and discussions exploring the future we want and how we get there. It kicks off at 11am ET on October 10 with TED’s Countdown, a five-hour program of livestreamed TED talks and discussions with world-changing innovators and thought leaders confronting the climate crisis head-on and showing the way to a just, zero-carbon future. Then at 4pm ET, the activity continues with 24 full hours of digital presentations and discussions of how the climate crisis, COVID-19, and racial injustice shape our planet and this incredible moment. All led by former Vice President Al Gore and Climate Reality Leaders and happening all around the world. Cloudbridge director Casey McConnell will be participating with a climate change talk in Spanish on October 11th, at 1 pm Costa Rican time on FB live. We hope that you can join in!

On a lighter note, we have a magnificent puma that has been hanging around the reserve, it seems like every time we check the camera traps we get another glimpse of him (and we are always delighted!). We have posed the question on social media, and we would like to pose it here: What name do you suggest for him/her? Please let us know either through Facebook, Instagram, or sending us an e-mail to director@cloudbridge.org. We are looking forward to selecting a name with your help!

The puma isn´t the only amazing feline we´ve had the opportunity to see in the camera trap images this month. This ocelot put in an appearance as well!

The diversity of tropical forests never ceases to astonish and inspire, from the fungi, lichens and plants to the charismatic fauna and towering trees. In September, a local environmental group, the Fundación Sembrando Agua held a small workshop on flora and fauna inventories. The director of Cloudbridge was able to participate, along with her husband, and it was a lovely experience.

Suggested Reading

  • September has seen California and other Western States suffer unprecedented devastation from wildfires (or should we call them climate fires?), and the fire season is far from over. Portland-based writer Erica Berry explores how overlapping crisis can take a psychological toll in this opinion piece. Here is an article about “The science connecting wildfires to climate change“, though land management decisions such as fire suppression (disregarding and forbidding traditional indigenous practices) have also played a role.
  • David Attenborough is well known and loved to naturalists around the world. His newest production Extinction: The Facts is refreshingly honest and real about these facts, depressing as they may be. The Global Biodiversity Outlook report that was published mid-September confirms that our ecosystems are suffering, though progress has been made in some areas, we have basically failed to meet the Biodiversity Targets laid out in Aichi almost ten years ago.
  • Here is an interesting article about tipping points, an important concept to try and understand regarding climate change. And David Kabua, President of the Marshall Islands, speaks eloquently to the existential threat that his country is facing.
  • I understand that these articles may be causing some distress, so here are two soothing and hopeful pieces: listen to astronaut Leland Melvin read Pablo Neruda, and explore how our language shapes our relationship with nature with Robin Wall Kimmerer.
  • And finally, many of you have heard of the “Green New Deal”, in this blog we have mentioned Naomi Klein´s book on the subject. Now an intellectual heavyweight, Noam Chomsky, has joined forces with economist Robert Pollins to produce the book Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal. In this interview, they speak about this fascinating topic.

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August 2020

This handsome mottled owl was hanging out with us the other day as we were hiking through the reserve to change the camera traps. Quite inquisitive!

August has been another quiet month here at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. The classroom and dorms for the researchers have never since they were built, been so quiet and lonely for such a long period of time.  We are hopeful that now that Costa Rica has opened its borders to certain countries and US states, more researchers and volunteers will come to spend time at the reserve.  Students who are choosing to take a gap year before continuing with University are also invited to continue learning and accruing relevant experience with us at Cloudbridge during this time.  For more information about our internship and volunteer programs, please visit our website.

Volunteers and interns have the opportunity to assist with ongoing projects in the reserve, or conduct their own research, assisted by our scientific coordinator. Here, our director Casey poses with a tree on her way to changing a camera trap.

We are very thankful for all who have supported our crowdfunding campaign! This has been a lifeline for us during these trying times. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to please contribute and help us meet our operating costs during this period that we cannot depend on our usual sources of income. You can also donate on our website or contact us. Thank you once more for your support!!

This glasswing butterfly is one of many, many animals who will benefit from your generous donation!
A piglet frog (Craugastor podiciferus), blending into the leaf litter of the forest floor.

Though we have not had volunteers and interns over the last couple of months, we have been improving and building upon the infrastructure that they will be using! We are looking forward to welcoming back researchers as soon as possible, and are well-equipped to provide a safe, welcoming space!

The beauty of the cloudforest never fails to impress. Since it is difficult to photograph the magnificence of these gorgeous trees, sometimes it is useful to focus on the details…

One of the perks of reaching out to people with our fundraising campaign, has been hearing back from people who spent time at Cloudbridge years ago. We are grateful to Joel Firebrace, who had this to say: ” Send my regards to the compost bin. I helped bring him into the world. Don’t forget to feed him regularly. He likes eating banana peel, egg shells, and orange skins. He’s vegetarian, so don’t give him any meat since it attracts coatis who like to clamber into his tummy and have a good rummage around inside. That said, he does like a good belly scratch from the inside using a pitchfork – it helps him digest. Oh and make sure his tummy worms are happy.” Yes, Joel, we have been taking good care of the compost bins, thank you for your efforts!

Community Carbon Trees has a long history of supporting rural communities in their reforestation efforts, with an innovative model that supports people as well as the environment. They were involved in reforestation efforts at Cloudbridge many years ago, and continue to support us, most recently with a generous donation of trees. We are very grateful, and have already put them into the ground, taking advantage that we still have some months of rainy season left!

We hope that you are coming to expect a special fungi section in each of our monthly blogs, because we are always blessed with a diverse abundance of these important organisms that fulfill important roles in the ecosystem of the cloudforest. The interconnected mycelium of fungi provide an interconnected network, sometimes called the wood-wide web… We are very excited to announce that along with the local interns Leonardo and Daniel Valverde, we are hoping to put together a field guide to the mushrooms of Cloudbridge soon. Until then, you will just need to be patient with the lack of names!

Suggested Reading

  • Though this article by Bill McKibben is written with a focus of perspective from the United States, it is a very interesting article on the urgency of political action regarding climate change.
  • Given the state of climate emergency and the many people whose lives have been affected, sometimes to the point of migration, this exploration of the term climate refugee seems quite relevant.
  • As has become increasingly apparent, Australia is at the frontlines of the climate crisis. Australian youth are demanding an education that will equip them with the tools to face the new reality they will face as the leaders of tomorrow. Read more here.
  • On a brighter note, did you know that bees can manage their sources of pollen? In this study, researchers observed bees biting plants, prompting them to flower 7 days earlier.
  • This lovely interview with author Richard Powers touches on many of the topics he explored in his lovely book The Overstory.
  • Just in case you missed it, please be sure to check out this lovely video of Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. Feel free to comment or like!

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July 2020

Edgar Madrigal has been working for Cloudbridge for over five years. We are very grateful to him for his consistently friendly and agreeable demeanor in addition to his amazing work. Thank you, Edgar!

July has been a busy month here at Cloudbridge. Though we are still officially closed, and don´t have any researchers or volunteers at the moment, we have kept our camera trap program going and made some improvements around base, including a new social area (for once the researchers return!). We have also launched a crowdfunding campaign to help us through this difficult time, and perhaps most excitingly, some of our staff have participated in the climate reality leadership training led by Al Gore!!

Many of you may have heard of former US Vicepresident Al Gore´s Climate Reality Project. Our previous director Tom Gode and his partner (and Cloudbridge´s artist in residence) Linda Moskalyk have been climate reality leaders for a number of years now. This month they were both able to participate as mentors in the first-ever virtual Climate Reality Leadership Corps: Global Training 2020. Along with 10,000 other participants, the co-founder of Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, Jenny Giddy, and the reserve´s current director, Casey Ella McConnell were able to participate as trainees. It was a very rewarding experience!

Ian and Genevieve Giddy fell in love with the rainforest of the Talamanca mountains and decided to protect what they could, founding Cloudbridge Nature Reserve in 2002

On June 23rd, 1988, climate scientist James Hansen testified to the U.S. senate about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions: “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.” 22 years later, these changes to our climate have become all too visible: Wildfires, “rain bombs“, heat waves and drought have caused tremendous upheaval and human suffering, in addition to an economic impact of over $120 billion US dollars in 2019 alone. But the problems are beyond economic: how could we put a price on the anxiety that young people around the world are experiencing, the cultural loss of island nations who have been forced to relocate, or the food insecurity experienced by already vulnerable populations whose crops are being ravaged by locusts?

In 2019, teenager Greta Thunberg made an impassioned speech to the World Economic Forum highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the world is capable of reacting decisively and drastically to a perceived crisis, but it remains to be seen if we will collectively respond in this way to the enormous threat posed by the climate crisis. This is part of why it was so heartening for us to participate in the Climate Reality Training and come in contact with so many people who also feel passionate about the subject. As Mr. Gore has stated, the economic and environmental advantages of renewable energy sources are on our side, and we must continue to have hope, and push for environmental justice, honor indigenous knowledge and work together to make our world a better place. I invite anybody who is interested, to sign up and join the next virtual Global Training which will take place in August.

Nutrient cycling, production of water and oxygen and microclimate regulation are some of the ecosystem services provided by a healthy cloudforest.

The climate crisis is not the only current threat to biodiversity: the pressure posed by human development on natural ecosystems around the world can have severe and direct consequences on our own health and well-being. The ecosystem services provided by healthy ecosystems are literally the basis of our own health and well-being, and by threatening the world´s biodiversity we are also threatening the survival of the human species.

This is why organizations such as Cloudbridge Nature Reserve are playing such an important role in assuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the same privileges that we have taken for granted. As with most businesses and organizations, Cloudbridge has suffered great financial losses due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is why we have set up a crowdfunding campaign, which we encourage you to share widely, and if possible, please make a donation (for Spanish, look here). We are very grateful to all who have already contributed, thank you for your support!

In addition to providing essential ecosystem services, the biodiverse cloudforest is a source of wonder and awe, contributing also to our emotional and mental health. Here, our scientific coordinator Clara Moreno enjoys a moment in the forest.
The Cloudforest is known for the wonderful mist which envelopes its visitors, allowing you the experience of literally being in the clouds!
Tree ferns are vascular plants which do not produce flowers or seeds, making them one of the most ancient plant forms. They reproduce via spores, which are located on the bottom of the leaves.
These white-faced capuchin monkeys are cuddling on a branch in the reserve. When you donate to Cloudbridge, you are helping to protect these and many other species of the cloudforest.

We are very pleased to be able to offer our sincere CONGRATULATIONS to Brittany Beagle & Marian Barz for their recent marriage.  Brittany and Marian are currently both working in the Netherlands for companies that do mapping and have recently purchased their first home.  They both did internships at Cloudbridge in 2016, which is where they met : )

Love is in the air…Congratulations to the newly-weds!

Suggested Viewing / Reading

  • We are very grateful to Amiram Roth and his family, who have generously put together this wonderful video about Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.
  • A recent study found great promise for mitigating climate change through an innovative, low-cost carbon-capture strategy.
  • We have barely mentioned the pandemic in this blog post, and now that we will, it´s positive news! Costa Rica´s Clodomiro Picado Institute has developed a serum to help Covid-19 patients, which testing in the US has confirmed to be effective.
  • We would like to give a shout-out to the excellent work being done by Jenny Smith and Community Carbon Trees for ethical reforestation here in our area.
  • And last but not least, this blog post from 2007 shows how our interns have been enjoying Cloudbridge for well over a decade! Thank you Ryan, for giving us permission to share.
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June 2020

Intergenerational planting is the latest trend! Here Marshall Culbreth and his granddaughter Amada Luz plant a tree together.

Though June has been another difficult month for many people around the world who have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, here at Cloudbridge we have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by nature and have the opportunity to practice some reforestation! Keeping to our own social bubbles, we have been able to plant about 100 trees this month, and have lots of fun while we´re at it. We are very grateful to the supporters at HELPCA who have donated to the reserve to support our reforestation efforts! Thank you.

Trees of the cloudforest provide valuable ecosystem services

Here in Costa Rica, June 15th is National Tree Day, which of course here at Cloudbridge we are happy to observe with a hike among the forest and hugging trees. Seriously. The creation of this holiday in 1915 by President Alfredo González Flores makes it one of the first pieces of environmental legislation in the country. As we all know, trees provide us with oxygen, shade, habitat for wildlife, soil and water protection and much more. As many of us know from experience, trees also provide us with an intangible sense of calm and well-being, as anyone who has tried “forest-bathing” can attest.

We love trees!!
The path ahead may be winding and hard, but we will get through this difficult time!

The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to wreak havoc upon the citizens of many countries.  While Costa Rica has been handling this crisis relatively well, the social and economic cost has been quite high.  Though we consider the risk of contagion in a nature reserve to be quite low, we have been informed that we are not yet permitted to open the reserve to the general public.  In addition, Costa Rica´s border restrictions have now been extended until at least August 1st, at which point restrictions may remain in place for visitors from certain countries.  All of this is necessary and good for protecting the health of Costa Rican citizens and not overwhelming our health care system, but unfortunately the economic impact is being felt around the country, including at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.  For this reason, please consider making a donation to Cloudbridge if you are able, to help us continue operating throughout this difficult time.

This male white-throated mountain gem is one of many, many animals that you could help protect with a donation
The morning light shines on the haze created from dust from the Sahara Desert over the Talamanca Mountains. Photo credit: José Fernández

The Sahara Desert is located halfway around the world from Costa Rica, but even so, we have lately been affected by giant dust clouds that have travelled over 7000 kms to create haze and possibly even drive away the rain. This is a perfect example of how interconnected our planet is, and why the tropical cloudforest is of benefit not only for Costa Rica, but for the whole planet!

Greg, Clara and Casey, part of the staff team at Cloudbridge right now, on our way to plant some trees! (not pictured are Edgar and Oscar, who are also essential staff).

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our researchers and volunteers who were scheduled to arrive over the last few months have not been able to do so, and it may be a couple more months until we are able to receive interns once more. Of course, we will have safety protocols in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19, but we are looking forward to receiving interns once more. In the meantime, we have had to take on the basic research tasks that are usually performed by interns, such as moving the camera traps. For this reason, we are pleased to have two volunteers currently with us, who have been a great help!

Greg, Junior and Ismael cooperate on rebuilding one of our bamboo bridges.
Ismael Moore and Roberto Culbreth plant a tree together.
Junior Brathwaite has a bird in his sights.
The deck of Gavilán cabin is bathed by the morning light.

We know that many of you are stuck at home and dreaming about where you will go once we are able to travel once more. We would just like to whet your appetite with these pictures of our remote Gavilán cabin, located within the reserve, surrounded by forest and spectacular views

Gavilán cabin has an equipped kitchen and sleeps 4 people comfortably.

Pictures from around the reserve

The morning light illuminates this beautiful Sphaeropteris brunei. The tree fern is a unique plant that is much the same as it was in the time of the dinosaurs!
The luxuriant foliage of philodendron plants is emblematic of the tropical rainforest. Here, a Monstera deliciosa catches the morning light.
This non-poisonous dark wood snake, Ninia psephota, is a very handsome little fellow!
The striped glass-tail, Urotheca guentheri, is another non-poisonous snake who is part of the wonderfully diverse ecosystem of Cloudbridge
The sun peaks out from behind a stand of trees.
Elves in the forest, with the morning light behind them. Companionship and nature will ease our souls!
Of course we can´t put up a whole monthly blog post without a single picture of the spectacular fungi of the reserve. : )

Suggested Reading

  • A “natural laboratory” with unique conditions of elevated carbon dioxide created by volcanic activity provides an important research opportunity at the Rincón de la Vieja in Northern Costa Rica. Read about it here.
  • As you may have heard, Costa Rica has ambitions to become one of the first carbon neutral countries in the world. This article explores some of the strengths and challenges of our small Central American country.
  • In previous blog posts we have linked to articles about the devastating locust swarms that are putting millions of people at risk of hunger in certain parts of the world. It is easy to forget about this topic, with all of the other turmoil going on, but unfortunately the problem has not gone away.
  • Though he has long passed away, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda captured the current global sentiment quite well in the beautiful poem “Keeping Quiet”. This video of the poem was shared with us, and we also found it worth sharing.

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May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Reading

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

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April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures from around the Reserve

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

Suggested Reading

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

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

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

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

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March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to our new interns!

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

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

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

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

Pictures of Cloudbridge

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

Recommended Reading

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

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

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

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

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February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science: Week 2

Research Interns and Volunteers

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

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

Suggested Reading

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

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

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

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December 2019

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

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

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

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

Research and Interns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Reading

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

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

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

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

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