i can’t believe i’ve been to three field stations without blogging again! it’s been such a wild ride.
after santa rosa we headed to monteverde field station for one more project and a whole lot of paper writing. i spent a lot of time on a hummingbird project, but didn’t get any decent pictures of hummingbirds, because my camera sucks. we looked at hummingbird size, territoriality, and foraging strategy, and i think that’s been my favorite project so far. we also got to walk around on beautiful mountain trails and work on papers at one of the most beautiful field stations yet:
We also hung out at a neat butterfly garden where one of our TA’s used to work. Best butterfly garden visit ever - I learned so much about bugs and we got to touch so many of them, including some amazing blue morphos.
The next field station, then, was actually a privately owned rainbow trout farm - Cuerici Biological Station, owned by Don C. It was cold, and the altitude really got to some of us, but we got to go on some excellent hikes and play around with the farm cat’s litter of kittens. My group did a project tagging Don C.’s rainbow trout, as well as taking data on their size and body condition - it was a whole lot of fun, and I actually got really good at handling the huge fish. Plus we ate fresh fish for lunch on the last day!
Finally, we headed to Corcovado, which NatGeo once called the “most biologically intense place on earth.” And, well… I’ve gotta agree. I actually didn’t take too many pictures because there weren’t a lot of opportunities to plug in my camera charger, but holy shit. First of all, we took a 23km hike to get to the field station, and the same hike back out in half the time - 4 and a half hours instead of 8 or 9. It was the most physically taxing thing I ever did in my life, but I am so so proud of myself.
At Corcovado, we saw spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and howler monkeys. We saw tapirs more than once. We came the closest I’ve ever been to crocodiles. We came across huge leafcutter ant colonies and smelly bands of peccaries. Some of the group saw sharks. We also saw a fricking anteater. I did a cute little project on anole lizard dewlaps, but I was so busy looking at everything else that I don’t even think of that place as a field station - just an unforgettable place where we saw animal after animal every single day. Here are the crummy pictures that will never capture how insane our stay was. I will never forget Corcovado.
Again: 23km hike! That’s about 15mi in the hot humid lowland rainforests of Costa Rica. I am so fricking proud of myself.
Till next time.
we’ve been breaking our backs with work, but we went on a river cruise today, on brackish water - got to see lots of mangroves and lots of cool animals! i also figured out how to take pictures THROUGH my binoculars to compensate for the noobiness of my camera:
so things have really escalated for all of us on the FSP by now. we had our last day of just kind of hanging around and sightseeing, which was great because we spent our sunset on la roca, this lookout point with an amazing panoramic view. prof r told us that our hearts would explode when we got there, and he was kind of right:
that day was also insane because we ran into a troop of capuchins, who took some time to hang out with us and give us very photogenic faces:
we’ve seen monkeys almost everyday after that - in fact, s.b. got peed on by a howler monkey on our way to la roca - but for the past couple of days we’ve been working hard on our fip’s - faculty initiated projects. my fip2 is on antlions, which actually build little pitfall traps to prey on ants, but fip1 (the paper i’m writing tonight) is on acacia ants or Pseudomyrmex spinicola, which live in acacia trees or Acacia collinsii.
acacia ants live in mutualisms with the trees, attacking herbivores in exchange for food and shelter, so we tested the effect of both physical and chemical disturbances on ant activity, as well as the effect of a combination of the two. we thought that ants would conserve energy much like multiple burglar alarm systems do, and respond to the combination of two different signals in greater force than any of the ‘alarms’ alone, or in greater force than just a sum of the two. so we spent a day in the sun making these ants angry, and i took a lot of pictures.
things are going to get pretty busy with our first sip or student initiated project or independent project, but i hope i can keep writing, if only to keep recording the little things that happen along the way.
by the way, here’s a few of those little things:
-prof r asking why there are vegetable meats (like veggie burgers) but no meat vegetables
-j.b. finding a scorpion in her bed and j.d. being completely unhelpful. “some species sling venom into your eyes!”
-more than 10 coatis casually coming to drink from the watering hole right next to our field station:
good night, everyone!
hi all. we’ve literally been in palo verde national park for a day and already we’ve literally seen so much wildlife it makes me want to cry (no, really, i teared up a little on our way back from our orientation hike). the fun stuff started even when we got off the bus and were just hanging around waiting for our room assignments - we kept seeing Ctenosaurs, or spinytail iguanas. they’d do their head bobbing thing and run around (they have a really funny run!) and hide under the cars parked at the field station.
after lunch we had our orientation walk into the dry forest for the first time, and it was amazing - it took around 15 minutes before one of us (e.s.) spotted this big beautiful owl. professor r was leading us through and talking about important things like acacia tree - ant mutualisms (a reminder to myself to not brush up against one!) but we kept getting sidetracked because we saw so much! we must have seen monkeys at least 5 times, mostly capuchins and howler monkeys (which make such hilarious noises) but once we saw a spider monkey and her baby which was ridiculously cute. we also had a run in with a Norops or anole lizard, which prof. r picked up for us, and which is also s.d.’s assigned “spirit animal” (we all have assigned animals that we’re supposed to yell out in alphabetical order when we get on the bus so that we know that everyone’s on the bus. mine is a gallinule which is a beautiful bird - google it). prof. r also picked up a boa constrictor for us, which we petted and cooed over for a while until s/he got a little pissy (but we did get to see his/her vestigial hind limbs - too cool!).
there was a little clearing where the trail met the road again and prof. r told us that monkeys always hang out there, so that means i’ll be back all the time, naturally. best of all, the road led us to the wetland part of palo verde, and we got to walk out on this dock in the middle of the marsh, where migratory birds were just flocking and being really loud and beautiful and awesome. that was my favorite part of the trip - suddenly being surrounded by all this amazing open space, with marshland stretching out in front of you and mountains in the background and all these birds like jacanas and egrets just landing a few feet away and crocodiles sunning themselves - it was incredible. i am definitely going back out there in my free time, maybe even alone.
we had dinner and a lecture tonight - this is going to be one of our most relaxed nights, so i’m getting as much casual internet time in as i can. we don’t start projects tomorrow yet, but we have more lectures and another hike. we’re going to get into more of a routine now. today was just such an incredible introduction to all the wildlife we were going to see that i felt i had to write a post about it while i had free time!
here’s a photoset for you all - till next time!
First day of lab was awesome (but rainy). All piled into the car and went electrofishing. No, we didn’t kill the fish, we stunned them and then netted them and put them into buckets for identification. We caught a bunch of slimy sculpins, brook trout, longnose and blacknose dace, crayfish, salamanders, and even a rainbow trout. We also measured temperature, depth, flow rate etc. at different transects of the stream.
Our research questions are all looking at the effects of some alterations the Norwich, VT community made to a stream (compacting the bottom, banking the sides, clearing the riparian foliage) after it flooded during Hurricane Irene, in terms of the fish populations in that stream. I want to look at species richness (# of species) and how this was affected by alterations, but I don’t know if we have good data for it since we could only analyze as many fish as we caught!
All in all I felt very much like a field ecologist and I really love when labs get me outside doing fun research like this. There was a point when I got pretty into the zone just recording data and standing in the water and I didn’t even need to make conversation to feel pretty content.
Lab research really isn’t for me, I think, but working outside like this is the best.
I think I’m going to cry I’m so excited