It has been such a fun month here at Cloudbridge! School is out for summer, which means we have students from around the world joining us! Our thirst for information about the cloud forest has been insatiable. Students are studying all kinds of cool stuff: soils, birds, moths, frogs, reforestation, and everything in between. We have even been hosting vegan potlucks and watching documentaries about the state of our planet. Recently we watched Racing Extinction, a great documentary about a group of people protecting oceanic animals and working with the arts to create awareness. There is never a shortage of interesting topics with this crew, thanks for checking us out!
Research and Volunteers:
We experience the conservation movement every day here at Cloudbridge. We read it in the news, we see it in the applications we receive, we hear it from our visitors, and we experience it in the culture of Costa Rica. People of the world care about what happens to our environment and want to help to make a change. Mutual support of the environment is undeniable and successes are achievable. Broad Reach brought students here to work with us for a couple of weeks this month. These students have an interest in a future of science. They spent time planting trees (pictured below) and helping with trail maintenance. They really enjoyed their time in this beautiful forest and the stories they share will help create awareness too!
Our researchers and volunteers always make new friends during their time here. Pictured above are a group of volunteers at Catarata Pacifica. (Left to Right: Nicky, Emilie, Matt, Michael). In a lot of respects, visitors, volunteers, and researchers are getting out of their comfort zone, experiencing a new culture, a new environment, and pushing boundaries of things they didn’t anticipate. As Emilie said, «I don’t know how to do it, but I know I can!» Emilie works as an occupational therapist in Denmark, helping kids with a range of disabilities with every day skills. Deeply passionate, she cried when she took her first look at the Pacific Ocean on a weekend trip to Dominical, Costa Rica (the closest beach town to Cloudbridge). Emilie loved being in this steep, high altitude environment for the month and was an invaluable resource for the reserve.
Nicky has been a fun volunteer for us! Previous researchers of ours, DK & Oli, studied under her and suggested she come our way. Nicky was a Teaching Assistant for a statistics class that DK and Oli took at University of Otago. With a Masters in Ecology and Bachelors in Zoology, Nicky has been a great addition to our team. Not only has she has been helping with our reforestation and maintenance projects, she has been immersing herself in the beauty of the cloud forest and that daily white blanket of moisture that covers us every afternoon. Nicky is touring around Latin America before heading back to New Zealand to pursue her new career in Ecology.
Matt and Micheal are visiting us from Manchester University in England. Micheal is a student of Aerospace Engineering and Micheal is studying Computer Science. They teamed up for this trip to immerse themselves in a tropical climate and widen their understanding of ecosystems and environment types. These men have a passion for nature and are hoping this experience will lend some ideas they can take back to their other scientific pursuits. As they pointed out, their academic studies have great potential to assist scientists of the natural world. Matt and Micheal will be with us for a couple of weeks doing general volunteer work before they head back to England and hit the books!
Observing the world in all directions, we call the group of students above, The Exeter Group (Left to Right: Chloe, Rosa, Tamar, Sophie, Lucy, Rhys, Ellie, and Jack). With half the students from Exeter University and the other half from Falmouth University, these students grouped up to execute a trip where half the group has special artistic talents to help document their experiences and scientific findings. They are writing an awesome blog, documenting their expedition. This team is doing it all, from birding to attracting moths and documenting it all with the pile of equipment they brought with them. Every day they study epiphytes in the morning and moths at night, working in two teams to get the work done and rotate so that they all have similar experiences. Working in the jungle has proved to be a fun experience, clouds of moths bringing smiles of biodiversity to their faces and midnight kinkajou interactions creating confusing fight or flight moments. 🙂 We have been lucky to have this group of students from England who are overflowing with enthusiasm! Stay tuned for information on their study results, it will definitely not disappoint!
Traveling from Italian speaking Switzerland, this University of Basel student of Geoscience is studying soil. Prisca is hoping to see if there are differences in productive soils between our different types of reforestation environments: Planted Areas, Natural Regrowth Areas, and Old Growth. She hopes her study will lend more information to what soils are more productive. When she isn’t digging holes and looking at soil horizons, she is getting lost in the cloudforest and liking it!
Introducing, Baley! Coming to us for three months from Iowa, USA as a senior student of Biology at Cornell College. She has been working on our Bird Survey Project where she is constantly on the look out for her favorite bird, the Emerald Toucanet, and finding species new to Cloudbridge like the Oliveaceous Piqulet. Her experience at Cloudbridge will add to her previous biological experiences, such as, studying Flying Fox in Burma, the Ornate Box Turtle and Monarch Butterflies in Iowa, and deciduous trees in Minnesota. Baley is a heap of fun, just don’t ask her to stay up late these days because she can’t sleep past 6AM anymore!
Drew Hart has an M.Sc. in Sustainable Development & Conservation Biology and is working on a Ph.D in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. Drew is studying an epiphyte (a plant that grows on the limbs of trees), Tillandsia punctulataon on several montane plots in Costa Rica, including the cloud forest of Cloudbridge. After collecting specimens for a couple of weeks, he is quantifying leaf-surface impressions. Drew is trying to find out if the microscopic structures (trichomes and stomata) that cover the leaves of these ‘air plants’ and are responsible for capturing and retaining water directly from the atmosphere (rain and/or cloud mist) and if they change morphologically along altitudinal gradients in tropical montane cloud forests. If they do, what could this tell us about the ecology and evolution of epiphytes and their response to anthropogenic climate change?
Michal is volunteering his time all the way from Germany. Michal has just finished high school and is waiting on university acceptance letters. He has spent the past year studying a lot and keeping his grades up so that he can study biology. In his down time at Cloudbridge, he has been playing soccer in San Gerardo. He is excited to play sports again as it was something he had to give up in the past year. Michal is pictured here in front of Cloudbridge Falls, pura vida!
Our Scientific Coordinator, Jennifer, attended the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) in Cartagena, Colombia. She learned a lot about new techniques and methodologies to use in the reserve, and was able to connect with conservation professionals from around the world. She also presented a poster on «Addressing the Challenges of Maintaining Research Quality With Volunteer Researchers», which was well received. You can see the full poster here.
For the past five months, our independent researcher, Jade, was researching White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) behavior. Specifically, she looked at this mammal’s learning ability by studying the animal as it tried to get a banana out of a puzzle box. By placing bananas in a location for 2 weeks she habituated a male coati to regularly visit a study site. She started by placing bananas in a mesh box and then progressed to placing a rock on top of the lid. She observed how long it took for for the coati to open the box. Once it had mastered the rock, she added additional impediments to the box, including a wooden twisting knob, a bungee cord and a string hooked over a wooden peg. It was able to learn how to get past all the impediments, but was quickest at dealing with the rock and had the most difficulty with the wooden knob.
This was a challenging project and Jade made a number of interesting observations during her many many hours of watching the coati, and we are looking forward to reading her final report!