Research and Volunteers:
My name is Janina Harms and I am from Germany. I am a 22 year old girl studying Animal Management in the Netherlands. As long as I can remember, my life has been centered around animals, whether that be pets, animals from a farm, a sanctuary or wildlife. And almost equally strong was the mentality my parents taught me regarding environmentalism and conservation. Both topics shaped my worldview, but still, I had never thought about a career in that field. I am not sure why, maybe because I thought that the chance of making your passion your job was so small, it wasn’t worth the effort. But then, I tried anyway. And now, here I am in Costa Rica as a research intern. My project is still a little up in the air since I’ve just arrived, but basically, I will be trying to find an answer to the question whether Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is a suitable release site for rehabilitated sloths. I really hope that this 5-month internship will give me the opportunity to gain some knowledge and skills needed for my studies and my future job and I am excited for the months of research that are yet to come.
Rosie – I’m Rosie and am from the UK. My background is in managing invasive species and human-wildlife conflict. Whilst at Cloudbridge, my project involves quantifying poultry predation in the area, with the aim of reducing conflict between people and carnivores. To achieve this, I am talking with local residents about their experiences with wildlife, to find out why people might tolerate predators on their land. I am also volunteering with casita rentals at the reserve.
Emilio Masotti-Black finished his participation in our long term bird monitoring program. In his presentation he talked about the most recent updates to our ongoing avian species lists.
Besides Emilio’s participation in our on-going bird surveys he also looked at specialist species. Specialists are birds who occupy specific ecological niches. This makes them vulnerable in landscape fragmentation thus they are indicators of forest health and biodiversity. He looked at woodpeckers in primary forest and degenerated forests. Another group that he focused on was the mistletoe specialists. Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant that attaches to their host tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant. Mistletoe seeds are distributed to other areas of the forest and to new host plants by the specialist birds who feed on it.
Phoradendron tonduzii is one of four species of mistletoe found at Cloudbridge.
His results show that that Rudy Pigeons are vulnerable and without the mistletoe in Cloudbridge they may not exist here. Therefore mistletoe is vital for some species to exist in certain habitats.
His full report when finalized will be posted on the Cloudbridge website.
Besides his research at the reserve, Emilio was appreciated for his skill at ultimate frisbee with many a game played down at the local sports field in San Gerardo.
Warbler Interaction and Distribution – Willem Van Doorninck and Logan Bradley
This research studied the distribution change between migratory and residential warblers as well as the difference in behavior between the two. This included family interaction, and cooperative or neutral behavior among them.
They compared the different habitat areas on the reserve.
The analysis said that the warblers didn’t have a strong preference for different habitats although the study was done only in a short period of time and future research would be helpful.
His results found that warblers don’t seem to care which families they interact with although Wilson’s Warbler was less cooperative. And it did seem that resident warblers interacted a little more within their own species than did the migratory warblers.
They also had some time to study mixed flocks. This is always a challenge as an area can be totally quiet and then the mixed flock moves in and collecting data becomes hectic as the variety of species move quickly through the trees in all directions.
It is important to mention that Willem is only 18 years old – just out of high school. His passion for birds and conservation is evident and to take on a dedicated research project like this is a good indication that he will do some amazing work in the future. He will be going to University later this year in the Netherlands.
Amnity Allen attended Bangor University in Wales and is now currently applying for her masters back in the UK. She wants to focus on native species in the UK. While at Cloudbridge she completed a ‘Small Mammal Survey’ using chew cards and footprint tunnels that she made herself. The chew cards are baited on the corners to entice animals to leave their tooth impressions. She made tunnels using a few different types of materials and used an homemade ink pad for recording footprints. The bait used in the tunnels was peanut butter and tuna.
Cloudbridge already uses camera traps for identification of mammals. It is an accurate way to identify species but some of the problems are the expense of buying cameras and their sensitivity to humidity which can cause technical faults and eventually the camera quits working. She wanted to explore other other methods that would endure wind, rain, heat and humidity. These methods can be placed in many areas across the reserve at a low cost.
She found that the chew cards were used 52% of the time. Some of the issues were that there was species interference with more than one chewing on the same card and it was difficult to identify them. She couldn’t get down to species level and was only able to detect that it was a carnivore. (It will only puncture through if it is a carnivore)
The tunnels only recorded two species – squirrels and coatis. It was easier to identify the species with the tunnels than with the chew cards.
She found that as the season changed to drier weather the ink in the tunnels dried up too fast. Through trial and error a new type of ‘ink’ was made using charcoal and oil. This seemed to resolve that problem. The bait she had chosen only attracted a small diversity of species. Other baits tried were raw egg, scrambled egg and bananas and wild berries. This is a great research project for working on home made devices and problem solving. With a little more time maybe we can continue to refine these methods to be used to compliment the camera trap identification. A monitoring program to target multiple species or life stages within a species sometimes requires multiple detection methods.
Arran Redman completed his research on ‘Soil in The Changing Environment’
Fell in love with soil?? You don’t hear that too often.
Arran added that his parents were a big influence in helping develop his passion. As a family they worked to reduce their carbon footprint and even purchased some land to reforest in the UK.
His research included a soil assessment of varied habitats and posed the question – Does the soil composition vary between habitat types? Also the research looked at progression between active and passive reforestation. He looked at planted, natural regeneration, and primary forest sites. His research included some very challenging sites with steep slopes and thick vegetation.
Some of the problems that he encountered were maneuvering around landslides, finding numerous sites for his plots, finding a reliable furnace for drying soil, species identification, and some unfriendly neighbors destroying his bridges to access sites.
He has some preliminary results but he is also sending soil samples home to the University to continue with the research.
We have been using cardboard as a form of mulch for many years around our newly planted trees. It is light weight, easily to find, and very readily breaks down into the soil. Rachel Larson has been investigating “How Soil Moisture Effects Sapling Growth”. This research compared saplings which had the cardboard mulch installed around them to those which had no addition of cardboard. Is there higher levels of moisture beneath the cardboard and is there an observed difference in the growth of the trees?
Even though Rachel was here for many months during both part of the wet season and the dry season she couldn’t find a considerable moisture difference between the cardboard mulched trees and the ones without. Does that mean we are hauling cardboard up the mountain for nothing? We want to believe that we are helping the newly planted trees by doing this. She says that there could be outlying factors effecting her results – slope, amount of cardboard, wicking of moisture from wet to dry areas, canopy cover etc. Her future analysis will continue to explore these factors.
As far as the effect on the growth of the trees, that will have to be researched further when the young saplings are given more time to begin growth after their initial shock of planting and and when they become established.
My name is Raquel, from Costa Rica.
I came to Cloudbridge to improve my English however I received more than that. This experience made me realize that beautiful places like this are in Costa Rica. It’s a motivation to appreciate and do more exploring around this amazing country.
My work as a volunteer consisted of helping the researchers with their projects, putting traps to catch butterflies and see which species are common in the area and also working in the tree nursery and measuring trees.
Mike Popejoy from Arizona is finishing his PhD in philosophy with a focus on environmental ethics. He wasn’t familiar with Costa Rica and decided to come down to volunteer. This is also the perfect place for him to train for the US Mountain Championships coming up in July. Every morning Mike would be out running even before the sun was up and then back at the reserve by 7:00am in order to volunteer. He worked in the tree nursery, and did maintenance of steps on the trails, and helped look for the sloth that was spotted earlier.
Cloudbridge was featured in a short news story on the Al Jazeera news channel. Al Jazeera is a major global news organization. It was a pleasure to spend the day with such a culturally diverse team – journalist (UK), camera man (Mexico), support staff (Lebanon and Costa Rica). They spent the day exploring the reserve and interviewing our staff and researchers. The result is a short news clip about reforestation efforts and the benefits of forests in Costa Rica.
Contributing to Reforestation in the tropics:
We would like to thank Steve Mellish (from the UK) who visited the reserve this month. The reforestation project inspired him and he is now a monthly doner to the reserve. Thank you Steve for your generosity. The money will be put to good use. Some of the on going needs of the reserve are research equipment such as camera traps and forestry equipment, expansion of the volunteer kitchen, maintenance tools, hard drives, computer etc.
Steve found it easy to put a monthly donation through Paypal.
Cloudbridge is extremely fortunate to have a wide range of volunteers and interns working at the Reserve. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s assistance from the 18 year old with no experience to the 70 year old with a life time of construction experience. It is through these dedicated people wanting to make a difference that we are able to expand our educational programs both internationally and locally.