Written By: Tabea Zimmerman
On Friday and Saturday, December 11-12, Piro Station bustled with activities from the Ríos Saludables de Osa (RSO) year-end workshop. Fourteen community members from across the Osa Peninsula plus four staff members gathered for a time of sharing and reflection, re-training, and envisioning for what Ríos Saludables would like to achieve in 2016. Our workshop goals were for community volunteers and staff to get to know each other (we had several monitoring groups join us for the first time!), to provide training and practice with all monitoring protocols, and to create a space for these citizen scientists to reflect on the first year of the RSO program as well as to share ideas for expanding and strengthening this network of stream monitoring and community education.
We began the morning with introductions and then delved into learning the basics of bacteria testing and E. coli. Participants learned to plate and incubate water samples to later count and analyze bacteria colonies. Detecting the presence of E. coli colonies is especially important for streams and creeks that serve as sources of drinking water for surrounding communities. On Friday afternoon, we presented the theory and methods for our chemical monitoring. We put this knowledge into practice in nearby Río Piro, with the more experienced monitoring groups explaining and training our newer RSO members. Everyone loved watching the water samples change colors from chemical reactions during the pH and dissolved oxygen tests!
A two-day workshop meant participants had several opportunities to enjoy the beautiful life and sights surrounding Piro Station. We all walked to the beach on Friday afternoon to watch a fiery sunset over the Pejeperro rocks and Pacific Ocean. After a delicious dinner, some herpetologist volunteers (who study reptiles and amphibians) led a night walk through the stream. We found a giant shrimp, huge bull frog, several toads, frog eggs hanging on leaves and branches, a couple spiders and crabs, and even a poisonous terciopelo (Fer de lance) snake! For the early birds in the group came a pre-breakfast walk to Piro beach for a sparkling sunrise. While we definitely worked hard during this workshop, it was fun to also explore the ocean and rainforest surrounding us!
On Saturday morning Alejandro, a wonderful colleague from the Universidad de Costa Rica, introduced the biological monitoring aspect of Ríos Saludables to workshop participants. Using hand-held colanders, kick nets, and forceps, we practiced collecting and identifying over 20 species of macroinvertebrates in Río Coyunda. Among our favorite species were the mayflies, shrimp, water scorpions, and caddisflies (which can build their own homes out of leaves or pebbles!).
RSO participants then learned how to record and analyze data from the macro-invertebrate sampling. In addition, Tabea presented a new online database called CitSci, which will serve as a space for RSO members to access and analyze data from their monitoring efforts. This website provides tools for comparing data across sites and over time, which will prove useful when sharing this information with local audiences and using it in advocacy to protect aquatic resources.
We finished the workshop with a discussion about what monitoring groups find most important in their work with Ríos Saludables. A common interest is to expand stream monitoring and education into schools in local communities, with RSO participants serving as leaders and facilitators for these activities. In addition, Osa Conservation (OC) staff are excited to see several RSO members willing and capable of taking on more leadership within the Ríos Saludables program. They may serve as contacts to assist newer monitors with tests and protocols, communicate with community leaders or school teachers to involve local students in RSO monitoring and other activities, and provide a unifying force to the broader network of Ríos Saludables participants. OC staff look forward to transitioning RSO towards sustainably functioning and being managed within local communities.
No workshop is complete without distributing certificates of participation and beautiful new Ríos Saludables de Osa t-shirts! We are now an official united force for the conservation of and education about our Osa Peninsula streams. A big thanks to all the OC staff involved in the preparation of this workshop and to the community participants who are making this program a success!
Photo credits of: Alejandro Muñoz, Jim Palmer, Tabea Zimmermann