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Volunteer Blog Post: Erin Engbeck

My name is Erin Engbeck, I have been volunteering at Osa Conservation for 4 ½ months as a Research Field Assistant for the Ríos Saludables de Osa program. During my time here, I have collected baseline data throughout the Osa Peninsula and had the wonderful opportunity to work directly with community members through workshops and community events.   Our workshops are aimed at educating the community and getting their involvement for future monitoring efforts. In February, we took Ríos Saludables on the road to San Josecito, a small community near Uvita, Costa Rica. The community was very receptive and happy to join in on our workshop because they have had concerns that some individuals have been poisoning their streams in order to collect river shrimp, this in turn will affect their own drinking water and health. During our first stay, we engaged the community in techniques and methods for water sampling and in the end left them a backpack of supplies so they could continue the monitoring independently.   On March 28th, Ríos Saludables returned to San Josecito with the help of Alejandro Muñoz and Ronny Araya from the University of Costa Rica for a follow-up workshop, in which we were able to check-in on community members and see how their testing was coming along.

This time around was just as engaging as the first, all the citizens were extremely interested in testing their water quality, especially since some individuals were recently seen shrimp “fishing” in one of the streams. Our day started around noon on the Morete River going over all the different methods of testing for the river. The community members led the way as we went through the steps for visual, chemical, bacterial, and macrobiological surveys. For the first half of the workshop we broke-up into groups of two and collected data for chemical and bacterial testing. This included testing for nitrates/nitrites, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, alkalinity, pH, temperature, conductivity, and E.coli. After chemical and bacterial sampling, we moved on to macroinvertebrates. This by far, is everyone’s favorite activity. I mean what could be more fun than to play in the water while sampling for aquatic insects? Macroinvertebrates are not only fun to sample but are important indicators for water quality, this is because only some can survive in certain water temperatures and chemistries and are very sensitive to changes in these. The San Josecito community was very happy to find that they have great water quality based on the Biological Monitoring Working Party Costa Rica Index (BMWP-CR). This index assigns scores for the different macroinvertebrates families and allows the user to tally said scores and categorize the stream based on the total presence of the different families. In the future Ríos Saludables plans to revisit San Josecito to check-in on their monitoring progress and to work more directly with the schools in hopes of engaging and educating the next generation.