Environmental Education, Science and Research

OC and Creek Connections take a snapshot of stream health

by Jim Palmer, PhD

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Osa Conservation staff members Pilar Bernal, Juan Carlos Cruz Diaz and Manuel Sanchez add reagents to a dissolved oxygen test.

 

Osa Conservation staff and volunteers ‘kicked around’ in Rio Piro to get a quick snapshot of stream health during a field workshop in the Osa Peninsula in June 2013.  The workshop was led by biologist Jim Palmer, Director of Creek Connections, a watershed education program based at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA.

 

Staff and volunteers used field water chemical tests and macro-invertebrate kick-net samples as simple indicators of stream health.  Chemical tests of the water revealed low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, consistent with those of clean streams that have minimal impact from agriculture or human habitation. Workshop participants observed moderate alkalinity values, reflecting the local surface and groundwater geology contributing to stream flow.  Participants also collected samples of macro-invertebrates (invertebrates large enough to be seen without a microscope), including larvae of stoneflies, caddisflies, mayflies, and riffle beetles – all indicators of very good water quality.

 

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Staff and volunteers perform a colorimetric test for phosphate.

 

Baseline studies of stream health in Osa watersheds are another important tool for assessing success of conservation and restoration efforts on the peninsula.  In addition to informing conservation and management decisions, these studies provide an excellent opportunity to engage local students in citizen science. Pilar Bernal, Osa Conservation’s Education Outreach Coordinator, hopes to continue collaborations with Creek Connections, the Stroud Water Research Center, and others to establish school-based stream monitoring on the Osa Peninsula.

 

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Staff uses kick-nets to collect macro-invertebrate samples in Rio Piro.

 

Founded by Dr. Palmer in 1995, Creek Connections coordinates a network of school-based stream monitoring programs throughout western Pennsylvania, with additional schools in Ohio, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maryland.  Since 2007, Green Valley School in Atenas, Costa Rica has participated in Creek Connections symposia, summer camps and stream field studies in Atenas.  In addition to Osa Conservation, new Costa Rican collaborators with Creek Connections include La Paz Community School in Flamingo, New Summit Academy in Atenas, and Universidad Tecnica Nacional in Balsa.

 

Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Uncategorized, Wildcats

OC Partners with Local Ecolodges to Promote Environmental Education

by Juan Carlos Cruz Díaz, Science Manager, and Brigid Prouse, Science Program Assistant

Brigid Prouse

Brigid Prouse, Science Program Assistant

Environmental education is a crucial element for promoting and teaching the importance of conservation to communities and individuals. By having a solid environmental education and outreach program, we can promote long term appreciation, awareness and respect for our environment. For this reason, a few months ago, as part of the Science Program at Osa Conservation, we started delivering a series of talks to locals, schools and tourists in The Osa National Wildlife Refuge and its surroundings.

Several partner ecolodges have hosted these talks, including El Ramanso, Bosque del Cabo, and Lapa Ríos. Bosque del Cabo, El Remanso and Osa Conservation properties form the Osa National Wildlife Refuge, an area that covers around 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres) of mature and secondary forest in the peninsula.

The presentations range from giving an overview of the biological characteristics of the Osa Peninsula, (richness of habitat, species and mosaic of landscapes) to the abundance and distribution of the species of terrestrial mammals from our current surveys in the ONWR.

Our monitoring program is based on photographs from camera trap stations located in the ONWR, enabling us to determine the richness, density, distribution and behavior of local wildcats and their prey.

Over 150 tourists have learned about our research and the characteristics of the Osa peninsula since we started our talks over two months ago. Our audiences really enjoy the presentations and are enthusiastic about the research we are conducting. As an important part of educating tourists on how they can help, these talks give us a chance to gain feedback and spread the word about our research and Osa Conservation as an organization.

Juan Carlos

Juan Carlos Cruz Díaz, Science Manager

Additionally, we have started to establish a network of camera traps in the surroundings of Corcovado National Park, one of the most important places for wildcat conservation in the Peninsula. These traps are an essential for monitoring the movement of wildcats outside the park but also for determining the best candidate areas for biological corridors, which would connect the animal populations of the park to those on the outside. This initiative intends to manage the camera traps located in different properties in the buffer zone of Corcovado National Park that present high importance for conservation. By sharing this information with all the network members, we will achieve a better appreciation of the conservation status of these species in the peninsula and have a large scale view of the situation.

Ecolodges like our hosts were the first ones to be included in the initiative since they have been actively involved in conservation for a long time. However, some other lodges, private owners and reserves are eager to contribute and join this monitoring program as well.

By having research accompanied by environmental education and outreach, we are able to deliver a strong message on the importance of conservation to people not only from the scientific community but also the public, which promotes awareness and appreciation for our natural world.

Aves, Birds, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Uncategorized, Volunteers and Visitors

Join a Conservation Birding Trip this winter!

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A pair of Vermiculated Screech Owls. Photo by Alan Dahl

 

Fall is fast approaching, and the change of seasons signals something particularly exciting for the Osa Peninsula – the return of migrating birds! The Osa is home to almost 500 resident bird species and many more who migrate to the peninsula from boreal forests in the US and Canada. Now in the middle of September, the migratory bird season is well under way, with species such as the Golden-winged warbler, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, and the Baltimore Oriole making their long journey to Central America.

Besides the many species that winter in the Osa, the peninsula is a year-round home to an astonishing diversity of tropical birds. When the continents of North and South America merged some 3 million years ago, birds living on either side of the divide poured into the newly-formed land bridge, creating a wealth of avian diversity seen few other places in the world. Protecting these birds’ habitats has become a top priority for conservationists as their territories face increasing threats from deforestation, farming and climate change.

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A pair of Scarlet Macaws. Photo by Alan Dahl

Fortunately, you can help protect these birds and their nesting grounds by joining one of our Conservation Birding Expeditions this winter! These amazing adventures, taking place from January 18 – 26 and February 9 – 16, 2014, include extensive birding, hikes through old-growth rainforest and mangrove patches, ogling of sloths and howler monkeys, and general frolicking throughout the jungle. You’ll also hear nightly presentations from Osa Conservation staff on the conservation efforts currently underway at our research stations,  including sea turtle nesting, reforestation efforts, environmental education, and large cat conservation. All birding tours and hikes are led by local naturalist guides with plenty of experience in flushing out the most elusive nesters.

The first five nights will be spent at Piro Biological Station, where you’ll bird along the Rio Piro, Cerro Osa and other spots local spots while witnessing biological research and conservation in action. The remaining nights will be spent at Bosque del Rio Tigre, an intimate ecolodge on a 31-acre private wildlife reserve, where you can spot up to 60 different bird species in the morning and fall asleep to the sounds of cascading waterfalls in the evening!

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Guest house at Piro Biological Station

This is an amazing opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Osa Peninsula and its globally-significant biodiversity, and to revel in the wonders of the animal kingdom. All adults, ages 18 and over, are welcome to join a trip. For more information, including a detailed itinerary, costs and accommodations, please email info@osaconservation.org or visit our Conservation Birding page. We hope to see you there!

**Note: listening to excessive birdsong may cause giddiness, lightheadedness, and uncontrollable gaiety. Please take proper precautions, such as drinking plenty of water, eating regularly, and bringing a change of shorts.**