June 2012

The Sentinel

Younger Sentinel – 6 years earlier

Hiking to the Sentinel.  Not an easy task.




June has been a busy month of people coming and going.

Marlos continues her weed suppression study.  We all joined in to help plant trees up on her plots. 


“What an irony it is that these living beings whose shade we sit in,
whose fruit we eat, whose limbs we climb, whose roots we water, to
whom most of us rarely give a second thought, are so poorly
understood. We need to come, as soon as possible, to a profound
understanding and appreciation for trees and forests and the vital
role they play, for they are among our best allies in the uncertain
future that is unfolding.”
Jim Robbins,

 Marloes and seedlings

 Planting on the ridge

 Just leaning on a shovel

…or is he digging a hole?

Edgar,Victor and Tom

This shows the slopes that we are planting on.  Very exposed conditions and poor soil make it difficult to establish trees.

We have planted some trees with the introduction of mycorrhizae and compost to see if we can enhance the growing conditions for these seedlings. Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial organisms that form a symbiotic relationship with plants that result in increased water and nutrient uptake.  Our method of  collecting mycorrhizae is to take new soil from under the leaf litter in mature forest and a then add it to the planting hole of each seedling.

Our GVI researchers Ken and Holly continue their biological assessment surveys.  They have extended the area to include the Chirripo trail.  This may become a regular part of the route so that Cloudbridge can share data with Minaet. 

 Anteater on the road near Cloudbridge. 

Another exciting find that they caught on their camera traps were two ocelots. 

Holly left Cloudbridge on the third week in June to take on a new challenge in the education system at Quepos.  Good luck Holly.


Armelle and Sandrine are first year students in a program leading to a masters in Agriculture at the National Institute of Agronomy in Dijon France.  They will spend 6 weeks at the reserve.

Their time at Cloudbridge will give them valuable experience in tropical studies. At present they are doing biomonitoring surveys.








Yan-Yee from the UK has joined us to complete a research project. 

«I will be investigating the species composition and abundance of Anurans at Cloudbridge. My fieldwork involves visual encounter surveys and acoustic surveys during the evenings on two different trails».


Yan Yee 

 Eleutherodactylus spp

 Eleutherodactylus cruentus

Toxic Saddleback caterpillar





Rick is from Harvard University and is here studying birds. «Eagle Eye Rick»










Volunteer visit by Kathleen McCormick – Boulder Colorado


I’m sitting in the new classroom building at Cloudbridge, listening to the birds and the soft rain falling on the trees outside, and taking a break from helping prepare Cloudbridge for some new researchers who will be arriving next week. The wood sander is whining away as my husband, Michael Leccese, sands a post for beds we’re helping build for the new researchers’ residence under construction just up the slope. The classroom building is beautifully made with local wood and stucco and sliding glass doors and large windows that look out over the tree nursery and a moss and fern garden. Around one of the glass doors is a brilliant mural of birds and tropical flowers painted by two local women. The building has a lab room, a kitchen, and bathrooms, as well as a wrap-around covered porch, perfect for sitting and watching a tiny hummingbird drink from purple tubular flowers and for the observing the clouds drift into the treetops. 


Michael and I arrived in San Gerardo on Sunday with our 16-year-old son,Vito Leccese, and his good friend Andre Hamm, planning to volunteer at Cloudbridge for a several days. We learned about Cloudbridge from our friends Tom Volckhausen and Francoise Poinsatte back home in Boulder, Colorado, who own a couple acres of land with a casita in San Gerardo. We loved the idea of planting trees to help reforest a clearcut area of the rainforest, and of seeing this region around Mount Chirripo, the highest mountain in Costa Rica. When we looked at the Cloudbridge website, we knew we had found our project. We live in the Rocky Mountain foothills at about the same elevation as Cloudbridge, but with a very different climate–high desert, with hot summers and cold snowy winters, and about a tenth the amount of annual rainfall as Mount Chirripo. We were excited by the idea of being in the cloudforest with birds and other wildlife and old-growth trees.     


Two days ago, we met Tom at the Welcome Center and hiked 2,500 feet up to Sendero Montana to help Marloes, a Dutch researcher, plant eight quads of trees to reforest the clearcut slope, which had been used as pasture for the past 50 years. Victor and Edgar dug the holes, and we followed, slitting the black plastic bags filled with saplings and soil, carefully placing them in the holes, and backfilling with soil.  It was dirty strenuous work on a steep slope, the last hour or so in the rain, but also really rewarding.

We planted 200 trees–cedros, Mexican elms, oaks, yas and yos (which will grow into big canopy trees), and some fruiting trees such as solanums,aguacatillo (whose fruit will hopefully draw the elusive quetzals), and watiti. This last tree was especially interesting, because we planted yard-long branch cuttings–basically sticks–which will quickly take root. Marloes is conducting research on the effectiveness of various methods of weed suppression, and some of the quads were covered in corrugated cardboard from boxes hauled up to that high place (6,300 feet in elevation).  So around many of the trees, we arranged the cardboard pieces to cover the ground up to within a couple inches of the saplings, and then staked them to keep the cardboard in place.

Our volunteer family from Boulder Colorado – Michael Leccese,Kathleen McCormick, Vito and Andre



Yesterday, we took a long hike part-way up Mt. Chirripo in the National Park to see some of the old-growth forest, and we took the cut-off trail back through Cloudbridge, a primeval kind of experience through secondary forest that has grown over the past 50 years without research or management. When we emerged into the light and steep pasture slope where we had been working the day before, we appreciated how radically the natural environment had been altered by clearcutting for farming and grazing, and how difficult it must be for local people who still make their living this way, because the rainforest grows so quickly.


Today, Vito and Andre helped Tom assemble a double bed out of cypress for the new research residence. The wood came from Cloudbridge; Tom and local workers had salvaged wind-damaged trees that came down on the property, and milled it with a chain saw mill on site. We spent the morning sanding the planks to make the bed frames, carefully selecting sides of the rails to finish that had more character in their grain and knots. Michael and I meanwhile drilled holes in either end of the posts, which took awhile because the wood is so dense and hard(very fragrant, too). When completed, the bed will be part of a double bunk bed for the new cabina, which is under construction by Tom, Alonza, Victor, Edgar, Jason, and other workers.


We appreciate the work that Tom and Linda and all the researchers and local workers are doing in this model reforestation reserve. We are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at Cloudbridge, and hope to be back some day to check on your progress!

Michael sanding boards for the new cabina





 Vito and Andre…More Sanding




 Tom with the Boulder Crew





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