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Volunteer Blog Post: Jana Holler

Beautiful Streams – A Declaration of Love to Our Rivers

Imagine it is hot, very humid and hot, and you are trying to catch every breeze that is coming to you on the way through the camp or the jungle. Even if it is only 8 o’clock in the morning you will start to sweat and you cannot stop it, even if you try not to move at all.

Given that these circumstances occur here on the Osa Peninsula, there is nothing better than having your workplace not just in the shady jungle, but at the cool and beautiful rivers in the shady jungle. This is the place I go to sample the stream water for my water quality tests. For me, it is the perfect place to be. The second you enter the stream, a wave of freshness and calm silence sweeps over you, and the only sounds are your steps in the cold and refreshing water. The first time you may try to avoid letting the water stream into you rubber-boots, but soon you will give up and enjoy the rushes of cooling water running into your shoes.

Then you eventually stop, sit down on a riverbank and just listen to the movements and the sounds of the jungle. It is incredible what you can see and hear if you just wait. With enough patience you will see groups of the White Ibis or the big Tiger-heron stalking the river, fishing for food. Spider and Squirrel Monkeys will appear above you, watching you intently and you can hear the Howler Monkeys roar far-off. Right in front of you, the Green Kingfisher will flash by with its beautiful coat of green and white, not getting tired of greeting you with an angry yet cute sound.

If you take a closer look you will find traces of other animals that come to the river to drink, or those that come to feed on the drinking animals. So if you are lucky you will not only find the footprints of Peccary, Coati and Agouti, but you also find smaller cat tracks of the pretty Ocelot or bigger tracks of the soundless paws of the puma. We found fresh footprints of the puma one day and every turn of the river brought new excitement: Are we going to see the animal strolling on the riverbanks?!

There are certain species that only occur in rivers that are “healthy,” rivers with high water quality, like the sensitive and well-known river otter, whose traces I find frequently at our riverbanks. But also other smaller animals can only live in healthy rivers with a certain amount of canopy cover, a low temperature of water, and a high amount of oxygen. Animals that are not as pretty or famous as the big cats or the river otters, but are very important for the ecosystem and even more delicate than the others. I am speaking of nymphs and larvae of insects. Like the nymph of the mayfly and the stonefly, or the larvae of the caddisfly. They all live in the streams and are highly dependent on the quality of the water.

Each of them have their individual interesting story. Many species of the caddisfly for example, build cases around their bodies out of smallest pebbles, tiny sticks or leafs, cut in perfect oval pieces. They use these cases as ballast and protection from predators and they construct them by sticking the pieces together with silk produced by salivary glands near their mouth. So if you lift stones and look in piles of rotting leaves in the streams, you will for sure find one of these fascinating animals. No wonder that at some point people had the idea to let the caddisfly larvae build jewelry for them by providing them only pieces of gold and gems.

I am lucky to call this beautiful setting my workplace. And after a successful morning of sampling the water in the rivers and testing it in the lab, guess what I do!? I go back to where both of our rivers meet and sit down in the refreshing and precious water and enjoy the animals around me and the sun above my head.