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Buzzing about Stingless Bees

Blogpost written by Sydney Denham, Conservation Volunteer

Sydney's favorite stingless bee nest

Sydney’s favorite stingless bee nest.

Studying bees can be tedious work, but not because of needing to carefully avoid the stingers. The bees I’ve been observing (thankfully) lack them, making it easy to get up close and personal with my little buzzing friends. Rather than getting stung, this work is difficult because the nests are very challenging to find.

I’ve learned that field biology is not just recording data vast quantities of data all day. First, the subject must be found to be analyzed, which is easier said than done. In the case of the stingless bees, romping through the thick jungle searching every nook and cranny for the small tube-like hives is the real challenge. The study is an exploration of the relationship between stingless bees and their local ecosystems and their role in pollinating native plant species, particularly vanilla. More knowledge about these bees could potentially lead to the harvesting of their medicinal honey by local farmers and conservationists.

Johan and Luis point out a bees nest.

Johan and Luis point out a bees nest.

It is as exciting as finding buried treasure when we spot one of the hives. My pencil glides across my field notebook to record the finding, and I get to work observing any behavioral patterns that could be significant to the study. I craftily set up a log bench at the base of a tree and observe a hive to really get to know the bees. Not knowing what might turn out to be important, I jot down any activity that could come across as useful information.

I really feel like a scientist, designing timed experiments and collecting a few small samples to take back to the lab for identification and further investigation. The study is in its early stages, making it very open-ended. Hilary Brumberg (Rios Saludables program coordinator and the leader of our bee expeditions), a few other Costa Rican and international volunteers, and I brainstorm methods to make the study as logical and effective as possible. Having a say in the study design makes me feel involved on a whole new level with the team here at Osa Conservation.

Equipped with my waterproof notebook, sample collection supplies, and hiking gear, the budding biologist in me is ready to take on the jungle and all its buzzing little critters.

Bee team volunteers Sydney, Rachel, Luis, and Johan during an expedition.

Bee team volunteers Sydney, Rachel, Luis, and Johan during an expedition.

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Gliding Tree Frog Frenzy

Blogpost written by Manuel Sánchez, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator and Wildlife Photographer

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The first rains.

After six long months of the dry season, strong downpours have returned at last to wake the forest once more, and with them return the creatures that hid away from the rainless weather. The first glass frogs (Neobatrachia centrolenidae) begin to sing in the creeks and rivers, the water level gradually rising with the first floods of the year. The rainy season advances across in a roaring song, and various amphibian species begin to search for water pools or swamps in which to lay their eggs. Throughout my whole time in the Osa, I most anxiously await the opportunity to watch the reproductive explosion of a species of red-eyed frog, the gliding tree frog (Agalychnis spurrelli). It’s an event that leaves me speechless: thousands of frogs congregate to lay their eggs. The first time I saw the spectacle, I stayed for the entire day, along with other animals that mirrored my interest; predators stayed day and night as I watched. For the past three years, I’ve visited this place annually and every time I stay for hours on end to see these frogs and contemplate the incredible species which we have in our forest.

The rainy season will always be my favorite. And even though the water might be a little much, that’s how our rainforest is sustained!

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Young Citizen Scientist: From Butterflies to Pumas

Blogpost written by Eli Boreth,  9 years old Conservation Volunteer

This Butterfly Isn’t Blue

Courtesy of Active Wild

Credit: Active Wild

 

This is a Blue Morpho Butterfly. This butterfly lives in tropical and neotropical (which are slightly drier) rainforests in Mexico and Central America, and throughout South America.

Although this butterfly looks blue, it has no blue pigment. It appears blue because of how its wing scales are structured. The wing scales are made up of cells that are shaped like Christmas trees. When light bounces off the “branches” of these cells, some of it bounces off the top and some off the bottom of each branch. The colors within the light waves then intersect and cancel out so they don’t reach your eye, except for blue light.  

The wavelength of blue light is the perfect size so that when it bounces off the “branches” the waves travel parallel to each other and reach your eye.

But that doesn’t give them their incandescent blue. That’s because the scales also have cells that absorb green and red light to make it even more blue.

I Built a Cat at Osa Conservation

Puma skeleton

While my family and I were with Osa Conservation, we built a puma skeleton that was found in a tree. The puma was a juvenile. The people who found it think that maybe this puma was hunting a bird or monkey, then it slipped and caught its neck in a “V” of the tree where it died.

When we got to Osa Conservation, the puma bones were in a box. The “wild cat guy” with Osa Conservation, Juan Carlos, helped us start  building the skeleton and was excited for us to finish it on our own. We started the second week that we were volunteering with Osa Conservation, and finished it a few weeks later.

While we were building the skeleton, we learned a lot about the anatomy of cats and how perfectly all of a cat’s bones fit together. We also saw that the front foot was larger than the back foot. Also, behind the rib cage and ALL the way to the pelvis there are no bones! It was also really cool that because the puma was climbing when it died, I could see the retractable claws!

The following week, we were going to construct a Tamandua Anteater skeleton that Juan Carlos had buried a couple years ago, but we couldn’t find where he had buried the bones or perhaps something had moved them!

 

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Happy World Wetlands Day!

Blogpost written by Luis Carlos Solis, Asistencia Técnica

 

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 of each year, the date on which the Convention on Wetlands was adopted. Wetland is all those areas that remain flooded or at least, with soils saturated with water for long periods of time – thus, water defines its structure and ecological functions. Wetlands are vital for human survival. As one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, they harbor a biological diversity and water sources on which countless species of plants and animals depend for subsistence. However, the surface and quality of wetlands continue to decline worldwide, so the benefits that wetlands provide to human beings are in danger.

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Mangroves in the wetlands along Rio Esquinas, Costa Rica

Due to the endangered condition of wetlands worldwide, on February 2, 1971, the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the town of Ramsar, Iran. This convention is the first intergovernmental treaty that serves as a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The convention includes lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and low tides, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and artificial sites such as fish ponds, rice fields, reservoirs and saltworks. To date, the list includes 2,200 designated “Ramsar sites” covering an area of more than 2.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Mexico.

 

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The Térraba Sierpe wetlands in Costa Rica from above

 

In the case of Costa Rica, about 350 wetlands are reported, which cover 7% of the national territory; 12 of them are considered of global importance and therefore were declared as Ramsar Sites. One of these sites is the Térraba Sierpe National Wetland, located in the south of the country, which with an area of 32,000 hectares (79,073 acres) corresponds to the largest mangrove area in the country. Mangroves are one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, offering a variety of services such as recreation, tourism, carbon capture, water purification, shelter for living beings and coastal protection.

 

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Osa Conservation staff assessing wetlands by boat.

Osa Conservation is dedicated to protecting these vital habitats. Currently, we are working in the Térraba Sierpe National Wetlands  on a project to  “strengthen the mangrove ecosystems and improve the quality of life of the coastal populations.” This project will help to actively restore 50 hectares of mangroves, working in conjunction with the Association of Fishermen and Marine Resources of Ajuntaderas y Afines (APREMAA), a local organization that is in charge of establishing mangrove nurseries and preparing the land. In addtion, the project  promotes sustainable practices regarding the extraction, processing and commercialization of mollusks in the wetlands. Efforts of this nature seek to preserve the services offered by wetlands through the sustainable use of their resources for the benefit of coastal marine communities.

 

 

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