Volunteers and Visitors

A Visit to Conservation Osa – A Guest Blog by Jatin

By Jatin D.

My family was given the opportunity to visit Osa Conservation in Costa Rica by one of my mother’s former students. At first we didn’t really know what to expect. We flew to the Piro Biological Station from San Jose in a very small plane that made me very nervous at first; the first of our unique experiences before we even arrived at the research center. While we were driving towards the research center, we saw our first wild animal, a mammal running across the bushes adjacent to the road. My family was unsure what exactly it was since we saw it so briefly, but some guessed it was a capybara.

Arriving at the research center, we were greeted and shown where we would be staying. The research center was not like I expected. Three red-roofed cabins stood near the edge of the rainforest, all connected by a small dirt path which led to a similar but slightly larger red-roofed building, the dining hall.  I immediately noticed a large hole in the ground bordered by stone, and asked the friendly man who greeted us what the purpose of the pit was. He answered that the station’s staff themselves were unsure of the purpose, although many ideas had apparently been suggested and debated. After we saw our rooms and put down our luggage, I ran to the edge of the research center’s grounds, the border of the rainforest, with my binoculars, excited to see some wild animals. I only saw some lizards in the first twenty minutes or so. As I began to settle back down in my room, someone told me that there were monkeys spotted in the nearby trees. I was very excited. There was already a group of people on the other side of the research center’s ground looking up at the trees with binoculars. I ran to join them. They were hard to see at first, but I could make out the rustling in the branches and saw some spider monkeys jumping through the trees. It was amazing to see wild animals so close to where we were staying. After lunch, we were treated to more monkeys, several capuchins this time, all over the tree near the research center’s entrance, helping themselves to a fruit that grew from the tree.

Speaking of lunch, at first I was worried about the limited food options since I am a very picky eater and was unfamiliar with Costa Rican cuisine. The food was a very pleasant surprise for me. I liked the unfamiliar Costa Rican food they served, and they also had options like cereal and fruit with the meals.

Later on went on a trail towards the beach with Manuel Sanchez guiding us. I had brought night vision goggles in hopes of seeing some animal activity in the dark, but I didn’t get many chances to use them on the trail. We were not prepared for the amount of mud and water we would have to trek through. Thankfully, there was a large set of boots the staff provided and advised us to use whenever we went out in the wild. Part of the trail required us to walk through a river around a foot deep in the dark. We were hoping to see some sea turtle tracks on the beach, but we had to head back soon.

Throughout our visit, we had many amazing experiences. We explored a part of the beach where we saw many rare scarlet macaws, explored rock formations caused by volcanic eruptions, and saw many animals in the rainforest. We went on a pretty unforgettable horse ride where a tiny dog managed to follow us the entire time, happily running alongside the horses even through wet swamps and a beach with waves that seemed to envelop the dog whole. The dogs in Costa Rica are really something else. We also went on a water buffalo-driven cart to a part of the river which we would explore in kayaks. Another amazing dog not only followed the water buffalo all the way to the river, but also got in the river to follow us on the boats!

Overall, we had a lot of fun at the Piro Biological Station. The people there were very hospitable and friendly. We learned a lot about the local environment and what was being done to help it. I recommend a visit to Piro Biological Station to anyone interested in experiencing nature up close, especially the rainforest. Just be prepared for some cold showers.

My family was so impressed by our visit to Costa Rica that when we started looking for summer activities, my mother found out that I could actually work for the same company that hosted us at the Piro Station here in DC! I was interested in the internship position because I wondered what working in an office would be like, and I looked forward to helping out the company that made our amazing visit to Osa possible. It was very enlightening to see both sides of the operation, both in the field and behind a desk.

 

***We here at Osa Conservation would like to thank Jatin for his vivid account of his journey with us into the Osa. He graciously wrote us this blog while interning with us here in our Washington DC office so he could share his experience with others in the hopes of promoting awareness to the beauty of the Osa and to highlight on the importance of it’s conservation.***

Environmental Education, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research

Agalychnis spurelli : A personal excerpt by Andres Jimenez

This blog piece was taken and translated directly from Osa Conservation’s Wetland Program Coordinator, Andres Jimenez, and his very own personal blog.

***

While I wait here for the fog on my camera to evaporate, and while the few clean clothes I have left are drying, and while none of my shoes are fully covered in mud, here I am dedicating myself to editing photos and writing this blog! Little did I imagine (although one always has hopes) that on a rainy night…wait…let me correct myself – during the deluge, where for a few moments I envisioned myself constructing a small boat in order to begin having to collect two of each kinds of species like Noah himself – I would come across an explosive reproductive session of these wondrous red-eyed frogs in the middle of the day!

Agalychnis spurelli - the gliding tree frog.

Agalychnis spurelli – the gliding tree frog.

The previous night I walked something like 6 hours with a great report of local creatures including: two vipers, one anteater, an armadillo, and countless horned spiders, but then again this experience also left me (as my misfortune would have it) with a camera lens completely and utterly fogged – an issue that will become ever so relevant when I later arrive to the focal point of the swamp in this mentioned tale. Anyways, I don’t want to distract you all with the tales of my night-time adventures, lets get directly to the frog; or better said, the avalanche of frogs. Agalychnis spurrelli, also known as the gliding tree frog, is a beautiful and rare frog that, prior to this tale, I had only managed to see in the wild twice in my life. This particular tree frog is about 40 mm by 70 mm, that is to say it has some 7 cm from its mouth to its anus, which in reality is quite large for a frog species. For those who are not so familiar in the ways of amphibians, that measurement is for this frog’s body size, the legs, that are often rather much larger and longer, are not included in this measurement. This frog species tends to live on the canopy of a tree, and it often moves as though walking on a tightrope, placing one hand in front of itself, followed closely by his feet: a feature I would like to add this is very popular on all TV channels.

It’s very likely that you have before seen, or perhaps are aware of, some of the cousins to this wondrous frog – maybe you have even caught glimpses of them on TV. Agalychnis spurrelli cousin frog has a red body, red eyes and specks of colors running around it side. Clearly our Agalychnis spurrelli and its cousin are very spectacular creatures, and I would imagine that this often results in people  wondering what the thought process behind their given common names is, being that the names are so unique as the frog themselves. According to many biologist, and as it was reported by Savage 2002, this “gliding tree frog” has the capacity to jump in a “parachute” style giving rise to it’s common name. You see, after the frog jumps, it positions it’s body with a 45 degree angle, maintains both it’s legs straight, outwards and parallel to the ground, and this enables the frog during it’s descent, (or in some cases ascent) to use it’s suckers, more commonly referred to as it’s digits (that are extremely sticky) and anchor itself to the vegetation in one spectacular and graceful jump; it goes without saying that the jumps can be very wide, and inclusively the frog is furthermore capable in using it’s webbed digits to execute large spins in the air.

Enough with side notes and distractions – back to the main story at hand: at my arrival to the earlier mentioned swamp, where my colleagues already prepared their photography equipment for shots of the area, what called my attention at that movement was the strange movement in the trees that was on the other side of a marshy swamp. Sheer curiosity willed me to pull my binoculars expecting to observe a bird, but to my great fortune (finally!) I couldn’t have been more wrong. The movement in the branches continued, and it was low and high, far and wide, it was thousands and thousands of frogs that were jumping from tree to tree, branch to branch, in a spectacular display that made this self-proclaimed amphibian lover go running through a swamp with little precaution for the vipers near my feet…I know what you’re thinking…I’m not exaggerating.

An explosive reproductive session.

An explosive reproductive session.

At this point I took out my camera, prepared the camera lens, hung the camera strap around my person, and jumped into the swamp. A swamp -like the majorities of open water – is stagnant water covered in vegetation…so sometimes they are deep…and other times they are not…the point is it can often be hard to tell. But in any case, here I was in the water, and I begun to approach the frogs little by little, inch by inch, I was more nervous than I thought I would be, that’s for sure. With one wrong movement, I could jeopardize my hopes of this anticipated photo. I approached a little bite more, and at this point the water was creeping into my boots, and starting to rise quickly (at this moment I had to remind myself that this was my last clean pair of pants….err…my last cleanest pair of pants….). With the water officially up to my waist I suddenly recalled… my camera lenses I realized was completely fogged up! Clearly the previous nights adventure had cost me dearly! Only some 20 photos after initiating my photographic campaign came through, and my camera decided to not recuperate from the previous nights tryst. The irony! One photo would be produced foggy, I’d clean the lenses, take anther photo, and it would be foggier than the first! I’d change to another lens I had, still foggy. I’d clean the lens once more, everything seemingly according to plan…and then the inner camera would fog up…it was a nightmare ! I wasn’t able to capture a single worthwhile photo during the whole moment.

When I had given up on everything a ray of sun emerged; and I’m not being metaphorical. There was a sliver of light permeating through the forest – I was swift to head in it’s direction and there, finally, I was able to detach the len and allow them to dry in the light. After a few long, torturous, and endless few minutes (that I of course spent enviously looking on to the frogs jumping in bliss) one of the lenses finally decided to cooperate – my hopes were answered…. or were they? The sun quickly disappeared once more and now the problem was another: there was no light; it was totally dark, and how was I to capture this moment without the right amount of light? Those of us who have taken photos within the forest without sun know that pictures will come out totally dark. But I was fortunate in one thing, there was a bat biologist, Melkin, who offered to let me borrow his flash and once readied onto my camera I once more jumped into the swamp.

In the process of being lugged around - a lazy male is carried by a female to the site of her choosing to deposit her eggs.

In the process of being lugged around – a lazy male is carried by a female to the site of her choosing to deposit her eggs.

We return then to the swamp: behind the lenses of my camera an Agalychnis spurelli walks through the leaves carrying a male on her back. These frogs prefer to reproduce at night in ephemeral puddles off water, like swamps, that have some foliage to cover the water. They only reproduce during the rainy season, where the males look for a perch to call out to the females on. In the majority of the cases the swamps tend to have several couples, that after their initial courtships ritual, will situation themselves on a leaf. Following the females deposit of egg on said leaf, a male will then fertilize said eggs. What is particular about these frogs is that, generally speaking, before they deposit their eggs on to the leaf, the male will embrace the female, (the male is about twice her size) and then the female will carry her partner to the site of her choosing for depositing her eggs. As you will see from my photos, the loafer males are so huge that they even apparel to be asleep while the poor female lugs him around doing all the work! Well then, now that we are clear on the basic of reproduction of this species we ask: what set apart this morning from all the others? The serious response: thousands of frogs reproducing at once in the same place at the same time, in the day. What many will deem “and explosive reproductive session” that occurred in the middle of the day! Imagine how much it must have rained for these creatures, who primarily reproduce at night, would willingly decide to reproduce during the plain light of the day! A great moment to have to pulls one’s camera and take an image that is worthwhile, right? The previous night it had rained so much that the ambient condition for these frogs was so perfect that the previous nights frog orgy lasted well into the morning of the following day. We biologist arrived, as my mother would have said, with milk and bread, just in time to take a few photos of the previous nights partners. I leave you with photos and history. Now you know: next time that you are in the low parts of the Caribbean or the Pacific and you should have rainfall to rival that of the deluge, take a camera, and looks for a swamp in which to enjoy the great reproductive explosion of amphibians (if you’re lucky).

***

“If you would like to see more of Andre’s photos please click on the following link to check out his personal blog about his wondrous adventures with the Agalychnis spurelli .”

Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Marine Conservation, Sea Turtles

Educational Workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation

Written by: Pilar Bernal

Edited & Translated by: Florencia Franzini

On the 28th of July we received a visit at Piro Biological Station from 9 educators who are currently working throughout the Osa Peninsula and the Golfito region.

A photo of the workshop participants and Osa staff.

A photo of the workshop participants and Osa staff.

Thanks to the help and directive from SEE Turtles, we managed to organize an successful and informative educational workshop on marine sea turtle conservation. During the day professors learned about sea turtle species biology, while also learning techniques to help motivate their students and to help the professors achieve a more dynamic and interactive learning environment in their classrooms.

A workshop presentation being given by participants.

A workshop presentation being given by participants.

At night the workshop participants accompanied Manuel Sanchez, Osa Conservation’s Marine Sea Turtle Program Manager, through his nighttime patrols of the Piro region. During these nocturnal patrols recordings of sea turtle activities are monitored – such as egg laying, nest counting, and sea turtle tracks. After a 30 minutes night-time patrol we managed to observe from afar a dark line in the beach which had been made as a result of tracks from an Olive Ridley sea turtle. Once we reached the high-tide line we discovered a half prepared nest in the roots of a palm tree that lead us to believe the sea turtle had been unable to excavate the incubation chamber and returned to the sea to find another nearby location that might merit better results at a later time. We also visited Osa Conservations sea turtle nursery where currently 25 nests are being housed, one of the nests being that of a Hawksbill sea turtle, one of the most endangered species in the world.

Sharing a game which might be used as a method for further engaging students.

Sharing a game which might be used as a method for further engaging students.

Although the workshop was unable to observe an actual nesting process, the professors did have the experience of being able to participate in the arduous work implemented every night on the nest-patrol throughout Osa beaches, which will in the long run help with the conservation of these beautiful and enigmatic creatures.