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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