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Rewilding Ants: Conserving Endangered Interactions

Blog by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, Botanical Projects Coordinator
(Translated by Amaris Norwood, DC office intern)  


One of Osa Conservation’s objectives is to support the conservation of at-risk trees through the conservation ex-situ program  (such as the creation of a botanical garden) which is a supplement of the in-situ ecological restoration and rewilding program that we continue to pursue.

About the Cornizuelo

It has been more than a year since we planted the seeds of a Vachellia allenii tree, locally known as a cornizuelo (the tree of the horns).  This tree can be found growing abundantly in both primary and secondary forests and can reach heights of 25 meters. The cornizuelo, characterized by spines that grow in twos, looks like a pair of horns. This species is endemic to Costa Rica and is categorized as endangered (EN) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its greatest risk is the loss of habitat, which is a common consequence of deforestation.  

 Arbol de cornizuelo (Vachellia allenii) creciendo en un bosque protegido (Saladero Ecolodge)

Cornizuelo tree (Vachellia allenii) growing in a protected forest (Saladero Ecolodge)

The Relationship Between The Tree and Ants

The tree coexists with a specific species of ant, the Pseudomyrmex sp., with whom it has established a very special relationship.  In this case, the cornizuelo brings refuge and food to the ants and their offspring. The large, hollow spines grow to become an ideal site for the ants to live, reproduce, and feed. The plant produces small, yellow bodies containing sugar and proteins that serve as abundant and delicious food sources.   

Hoja de un cornizuelo mostrando los cuerpos alimenticios que produce ara alimentar a sus hormigas (foliolulos modificados de color amarillo)

Cornizuelo leaves showing the alimentary bodies that produces ara to feed ants (modified yellow leaflets)


The ant by its part protects its host plant against the attack of herbivores, particularly insects, and further prevents other plants from becoming its competitors for sunlight, space, and nutrients.  When something touches the plant, hundreds of furious ants appear, dispersing to protect the plant from intruders. The
 furious ants produce a free space of vegetation around the cornizuelo by using their jaws to cut vines and eating seeds and seedlings that attempt to grow around them.  Living together has become a matter of survival as much for the plant as for the ants.

Our Rewilding Efforts

Over the course of 9 months, we noticed that our cornizuelos did not develop. They hadn’t been colonized by ants, and possibly, were never colonized. Such was the case with a cornizuelo we planted in the station after throwing away the previous flowers. We then undertook a trip through Saladeros Ecolodge in the National Park of Piedras Blancas, where we found an area with many cornizuelos. As a first attempt, we decided to bring a sample of a seedling with all of its ants.

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Newly colonized cornice seedling. The horn-shaped spines show a hole recently made by an ant (Pseudomyrmex sp.).

 

One time in the nursery, we collected the plant with ants besides our cornizuelos. The ants immediately started to explore and eat from the yellow bodies.  After a few hours, they started to make holes in the thorns, and on the following day, all of the thorns had holes. Our cornizuelos started to grow rapidly, looking vigorous and filled with life.  However, the ants disappeared in a month, probably due to the absence of a queen ant, or because the ants got lost while leaving to explore.

When you destroy a forest, you also destroy the mutualistic interactions between plants and animals that have spent hundreds of years developing. These interactions are very delicate and are difficult to recuperate and restore.  Though our first attempt at rewilding this interaction did not do as well as we hoped, we continue to do more research so that the cornizuelos and their ants stay together.

 

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Ruth monitoring the newly colonized Cornizuelo seedlings

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BREAKFAST AT AGUSTIN’S HOUSE

Blog Post by Marina Garrido, Restoration Research Field Assistant

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Growing Trees in the Osa’s Forest Floor. Photo by Frank Uhlig

Recent Restoration Success at Osa Conservation

Over the past months, the Osa Verde Restoration Plots have been the liveliest place on our property. Wondering why? During this time, we have worked and successfully planted 14,000 trees! A large hard-working team is behind this incredible project. But one of the main pillars of our restoration success is Agustin Mendoza.  

Saplings in our Tree Nursery. Photo by Frank Uhlig

Agustin Mendoza has worked for Osa Conservation for 8 years as our reforestation manager. One of his roles is to collect the seeds that will make up our future forests. But this is not always an easy task. To collect a biodiverse range of seeds, he must gather them from all levels of the tropical rainforest.  This requires climbing trees to collect those hard to find seeds. Once gathered, he plants the seeds and cares for them until the saplings are strong and healthy.

A Conversation with Agustin Mendoza

Early Experiences with Forest Restoration

Variety of Trees, in Age and Size. Photo by Frank Uhlig

Agustin is someone I  have been amazed by since I joined the Osa Conservation family. Every time I talk with him, I learn something new about Osa’s forests. Thus, I couldn’t resist joining him for a cup of coffee:

  • When did you become interested in reforestation?

I was very young, when I was just seven years old. My father taught me how to plant and take care of trees. I used to plant different native fruiting tree species on my family’s farm. This is when I realized how beautiful and rewarding it was to plant a tree and watch it grow.

  • Your passion for reforestation started at a very young age: How did you come to join the Osa Conservation team?

Before Osa Conservation, I worked on reforesting Cerro Osa for the founder of Osa Conservation; Adrian Forsyth. Then I started working on every reforestation project I could, planting different native tree species across the Osa. One project took to another and then I began to lead the reforestation efforts at Osa Conservation. The first trees I planted for Osa Conservation are currently 30-40 meters tall.

Looking Forward

Diverse Species of Trees in the Osa. Photo by Frank Uhlig

Diverse Species Growing to Build the Canopy. Photo by Frank Uhlig

 

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  • This year, the reforestation project has taken on an innovative project with the balsa experiment. What do you think about this project? Do you like the idea of focusing restoration efforts on an experiment in hopes of future reforestation successes? 

    Augustin Mendoza with a Balsa Sapling.

    Augustin Mendoza with a Balsa Sapling.

I like it a lot.  I love the idea of trying new ways to speed up forest recovery and bringing back the ecological interactions you would normally find in a healthy forest. Also, with the species we have planted, they will require more care, and there is nothing I would love more than to help these little trees grow.

  • Do you have a particular project you would like to accomplish in the future?

I would love to share my knowledge with more local people. Give them seeds and show them how to grow them so they can reforest their farms.                                                                Then, everyone will see how beautiful reforestation is.

  • Would you like to send a message to everyone who is reading this?

Take care of the forest, it is our responsibility to protect it. The forest gives us everything we need without us asking; in exchange, we have to help, for nature’s well-being and our own. It’s easy, we just need to take the step and be conscious of our actions.

A Young Spider Monkey Exploring the Dense Forest of the Osa; Photo by Frank Uhlig

A Young Spider Monkey Exploring the Dense Forest of the Osa; Photo by Frank Uhlig

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Our New Collaboration with NASA DEVELOP

Blog Post by Hilary Brumberg, Rios Saludables Program Coordinator

Osa Land Cover Maps from 1987 to 2017.

Osa Land Cover Maps from 1987 to 2017.

 

Good news for Osa’s forests and wildlife! Over the past 30 years, the Osa has seen an 11% increase in vegetation and a decrease in grassland.

This year, Osa Conservation started an exciting new partnership with NASA DEVELOP and the University of Georgia (UGA). NASA DEVELOP partners with local organizations to apply NASA Earth observations to address environmental issues around the globe. Through this partnership, we gained insight regarding land use and vegetation changes and threats to watershed health in the Osa between 1987-2017. 

The results from this collaboration indicate policy and conservation efforts over the past few decades have had tangible impacts on Osa’s landscape and wildlife. From 1987-1999, Osa’s forest cover decreased 11%. However, from 1999-2017, forest cover increased 24%, which coincides with the installment of the national Payment for Environmental Services program. 

Nearly all of this new forest was originally palm and grassland.  Of the land covered in palm in 1987, 37% was converted into forests by 2017, and 49% of grassland in 1987 became forest by 2017.  High rates of conversion of grassland to forest also coincide with economic and consumption trends, relating to the fall of the economic value of beef in the 1990s. While natural palm and oil palm plantations are not distinguished in these analyses, we will be further investigating them in upcoming projects to discern trends in oil palm agriculture.

Preliminary Results of the Normalized Difference in the Vegetation Index (NDVI) - NASA-DEVELOP

Preliminary Results of the Normalized Difference in the Vegetation Index (NDVI) – NASA-DEVELOP

 

Time series analysis also indicates that the northern Osa is the most degraded area of the region and has seen the largest land use change. This northern corridor isolates the Osa from mainland Costa Rica, thus reducing ecosystem connectivity and wildlife ability to travel across the country. These maps will help Osa Conservation investigate potential biological corridors in the region, through the Osa Camera Trap Network and our Restoration and Rewilding projects.

Osa Conservation’s programs each tackle a different angle to conserve Osa’s incredible ecosystems and wildlife, which are threatened by deforestation, agricultural pollution, resource extraction, and human settlement. This is no small task and requires many boots on the ground.  Thanks to NASA Earth observations, we now have forest eyes from above, helping us address conservation issues on a larger scale across the Osa.  We can use these results to target and amplify the impact of our conservation efforts in the field, such as our Rios Saludables water quality monitoring, tracking mammal diversity with the Camera Trap Network, and identifying suitable habitat for birds and amphibians.  

I’m looking forward to launching into a second term working with NASA DEVELOP and UGA to highlight the rivers at risk and determine the health of Osa’s mangroves. Stay tuned over the summer to learn what we find out!

Learn more here!

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In Light of Earth Day

Blog Post by Amaris Norwood, Intern in our DC Office

A Couple of Purple Passion Flowers; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

A Couple of Purple Passion Flowers; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

It’s Almost Earth Day!

As Earth Day approaches, we can take this time to reflect on the current environmental state of the planet.  From habitat loss to climate change, from poaching to illegal animal trade. Over recent years, we have seen species decline.  At the same time, we’ve seen habitats and species regenerate. Marine restoration, reforestation, and other conservation and preservation efforts are to thank for this.  At times, we’ve even been fortunate enough to discover new species.  

A Serene Sloth Sleeping in a Tree; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

A Serene Sloth Sleeping in a Tree; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

In knowing that the natural world experiences both regression and progression, we can examine the current threats that the planet is facing while learning how and why certain areas have recovered or remained successful.  By staying in tune with current environmental events, whether positive or negative, we can strategize for the future. While understanding how and why certain areas experience success, we can apply this knowledge when finding solutions for struggling areas.

What Can We Do?

There are several approaches individuals, communities, institutions, and governments take when celebrating successes and managing environmental issues.  Some choose more focused, local approaches, where others expand their mission across borders.  When choosing an approach, we must decide how to pave our courses of action.  In my studies, I’ve repeatedly found how the most successful projects incorporate well-rounded knowledge of the issue at hand.  The question that remains is how can we, or a group or an institution of some sort, expand our knowledge on specific ecological issues?

A Puma Gazing Towards the Tree Tops

A Puma Gazing Towards the Tree Tops; Photo taken by Manuel Sanchez

A simple way is staying updated with news reports and further comparing the current environmental state with that of the past.  Other ways include becoming involved in conservation or other environmental quality projects.  Volunteering or other hands-on learning opportunities, for example, provide more immersive educational experiences.  Furthermore, hearing and learning about the perspectives of people living in areas that face or have faced environmental threats is invaluable.  First-hand accounts are crucial for a well-rounded understanding of the current state of the environment.

What’s Happening at Osa Conservation?

In my time at Osa Conservation (OC), I’ve learned how the organization works to educate people, whether through on-site volunteering opportunities or through updating social media followers and subscribers on various environmental successes and projects.  But something I consistently see as a factor in all of OC’s projects is a collaboration with different fields and groups of people.  

A Released Baby Sea Turtle Reaching the Shore; Photo by Frank Uhlig

A Released Baby Sea Turtle Reaching the Shore; Photo by Frank Uhlig

Osa Conservation works with local communities to increase the organization’s understanding of issues the Osa Peninsula faces, as well to properly educate people about these issues.  Furthermore, the organization wouldn’t be able to achieve its conservation successes without its volunteers.  OC’s volunteers, visitors, and research assistants help carry out the organization’s mission and goals by working with projects at the biological station. 

A Green Lizard Lurking on a Branch; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

A Green Lizard Lurking on a Plant; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Because of these efforts, Osa Conservation can say that within the last year, they’ve planted over 40,000 native trees, helped release 14,700 baby sea turtles, dedicated 46,000 hours towards river education, and are leading one of the largest camera trap networks in Central America.   Though combatting environmental issues can seem intimidating, especially for an individual, we must remember how success cases have triumphed over threats.  As seen above, staying educated on environmental issues, spreading knowledge about these issues, and collaborating with others are the key factors in environmental accomplishments.  If we keep this in mind this Earth Day, and for the rest of the year, we can continue moving forward toward a more environmentally-conscious and preserved world. 

If you feel like getting involved now, consider donating to OC’s causes or joining our workers and volunteers down in the Osa Peninsula!

A Beach in the Osa during Sunset; Photo by Frank Uhlig

A Beach in the Osa during Sunset; Photo by Frank Uhlig

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Journals from Sea Turtle Volunteering

Blog Post by Yoshinari Fukuzawa from Middlebury College

Sunny day on the beach at Osa; Photo by Frank Uhlig

Sunny Day on the Beach at Osa; Photo by Frank Uhlig

Journal 1: The sea turtle eggs were so soft, so delicate.  While we knelt on the warm sand and reached deep into the hole we dug, our hands gently searched for the surface of the eggs.  Once found, we took each out, one by one, clasping the soft shells that individually held a life inside.  Although frightened we might break an egg, we felt thrilled once our fingers came upon the smooth surfaces.  “Mother’s touch,” one of us spoke out, which referenced our roles as a group.  That morning on the beach, we were the mothers of the baby sea turtles.  We were removing them from danger and relocating them to safety.  We were their caregivers.

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Volunteers Searching for Sea Turtle Eggs

However, as we looked east, we saw a coati breaking into another sea turtle nest and eating the eggs inside.  Seeing the animal, our guide told us that we unfortunately couldn’t save the nest.  Even as caregivers, we have our limits.  We could not fend off every animal that preys on sea turtle eggs. Regardless, that experience gave us motivation to do better and try harder while working with Osa.

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Cluster of Baby Sea Turtles Before Venturing into the Ocean

Journal 2: On Friday, we rolled out of the bed at five in the morning and slowly made our way to the beach with our guide and another group.  Taking off our boots and flip flops, we entered the hatchery and walked toward the protected nests containing baby sea turtles. “Olive Ridley species,” our guide told us.  After this brief introduction to the species, we got down to business.  Taking turns, we took the sea turtles out of their nests and placed them into a bucket.

Throughout this process, the sea turtles were scrambling and climbing on top of each other and faced toward the ocean, eager to start their journey into the crashing waves.  Once we placed the last turtle in the bucket, we left the hatchery and headed toward the shore.  A bird cawed above us on a tree.  We took the baby turtles out one by one, hoping that predators would not come swooping down.  Once we placed them on the warm sand, the energetic turtles started making a beeline into the blue water.

The ocean started to tease them by engulfing them but not carrying them along with the tide.  After the sea turtles stroked their flippers a few more times, the waves crashed and covered them once again.  However, this time, the turtles were taken into the water.  We stood behind the crawling little creatures, keeping watch until the last one was finally welcomed by the blue-green sea.  We could then say that we safely sent the sea turtles on their way to their home, the ocean.  I wonder how many of them will survive into adulthood and create more sea turtles to continue the cycle.

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A Baby Sea Turtle About to Begin Its Great Adventure

The sun was shining brightly in the sky and the waves crashed loudly onto the soft sands of the beach.  From there I, along with my group, walked back to the station with the sound of the ocean following us.  I hope for the best for the baby sea turtles as they embark on their new adventure.

 

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Immersion

Blog Post by Sarah Karerat from Middlebury College

The beach during sunset at Osa; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

The beach during sunset at Osa; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

While spending our first night in our cabina at Osa, I awoke in the middle of the night to the noises that surrounded us.  The howler monkeys were screeching, rain was pouring, and I could hear insects and the Pacific Ocean crashing against the coast. I remember thinking that I may as well be sleeping outside.  During my stay, I truly felt like there was no barrier between me and the outdoors.  It felt incredible. What I experienced that night and every other night was total immersion, a term that I think applies to every moment I spent in the Osa.

On our very first day, we put on our rubber boots and ventured out to the trails. With staff member Rachel, we learned about the biodiversity that surrounded us.  On another day, we walked in the humid heat through the fields of balsa trees.  Here, we identified birds in the area for rewilding research.  Then on Monday and Thursday, we helped out at Osa’s sustainable farm with tasks like husking corn for the animals and flipping the soil.  Our work was a small way we contributed to its massive conservation efforts.

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Hummingbird overlooking the dense forest of the Osa; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

 

One of Osa's nature trails through the forest; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

One of Osa’s nature trails; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

None of this was immersion without a purpose.  With every activity came a dedicated, in-depth explanation from a staff member of why these tasks and projects mattered.  We were aware of how every action carried the weight of impact, specifically on conservation efforts.  I am grateful for the patience and care of the staff members who took the time to explain their work to nine college students from various walks of life.

Though we had only a week at Osa Conservation, it was enough time to feel immersed in the heart of the organization.  Our knowledge expanded exponentially in so many directions.  We learned about biodiversity, conservation, ethical community service models, the inner workings of a nonprofit, Costa Rican culture, and more. Not only did we learn, but we also lived immersed in the pura vida lifestyle. We swam in the river during breaks, experienced the patience and flexibility of the staff, and ate delicious central American food for each meal.

When arriving at the remote Osa Peninsula, I was unsure of what to expect.  What could the team and I even achieve in one week?  Luckily, Osa Conservation threw us into the thick of the organization, culture, and environment, which pushed me intellectually and physically.  I will continue to think about the unique ways in which it challenged me to grow.

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Dutchman’s Pipes: Velvet Traps and their Pollinators

Blogpost written by Marvin López, Botanical Specialist

Flowers of Aristolochia goudotii, commonly called pipevine, in its natural habitat. It is a woody, evergreen, twining vine of the birthwort family that produces unusual apetulous flowers, each of which features a calyx resembling a dutchman’s pipe.

Flowers of Aristolochia goudotii, a plant commonly called pipevine, in its natural habitat. It is a woody, evergreen, twining vine of the birthwort family that produces unusual apetulous flowers, each of which features a calyx resembling a dutchman’s pipe.

I have lived most of my life here, in the Osa Peninsula, one of the places with the most extensive forest cover of my country, Costa Rica. It holds a vast diversity of plant species, some of which are still unknown to the scientific world. There have been many changes in the region but, unfortunately, some of them like the population growth and soil degradation have not been good for the local flora and fauna.

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Aristolochia leuconeura, growing in the nursery. This plant is characterized by its pretty glabrous cordate leaves with leaf veins in white.

I started working in the forest almost 9 years ago and since my first day, I have not stopped learning about the flora of the region; every day I learn something new. Last year, I had the honor of joining the staff of Osa Conservation to work on the conservation of plants and their ecological processes. I have spent every New Year’s Eve in this unique place, in the middle of the rainforest, because I like to give myself lots of time to admire the vast diversity of plants. One of them is a vine full of flowers, the genus Aristolochia, commonly known as Dutchman’s pipes.  The species in this genus are characterized by a stunning pollination process. It is also said that these plants are carnivorous, but they only trap flies and other insects for a day then release them.

Birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae) section in the nursery.

Birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae) section in the nursery.

Their flowers have a tubular shape with a wide base that allows them to capture insects. The first flowering day, the flowers emit an intense perfume that smells like rotten meat to attract their pollinators. The flies then travel down the flower tube to where the receptive female part is located. The flies will get trapped inside of the flower, unable to escape due to the hairs that cover the inside. The second day, only when the flower have been pollinated, the smell disappears and the hairs wither as the floral tube widens, freeing the flies that get covered in pollen on their way out. Then, the flies will go inside another flower with fertile female organs, get trapped and pollinate the flower thanks to the pollen they were carrying. Finally, they escape the next day to start the process from the beginning.

Marvin labeling Aristolochia goudotii, in the nursery.

Marvin labeling Aristolochia goudotii, in the nursery.

In the Osa Peninsula, there are approximately 6 species of Aristolochia. We have been able to collect 3 species and plant them in the greenhouse. We will keep looking for more species in order to learn more about this wonderful plant and its ecological interaction with flies.

I would also like to encourage all of you to come and visit the Osa Peninsula during this season because, like this plant, many others develop flowers with beautiful and striking colors. It is a present that nature gives to our eyes. During these hot months, there is nothing better than finding a tree with good shade to lay down under, rest and enjoy the beautiful landscapes and sunsets of the Osa.

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Why Everyone Should Care About Rainforests

Post by Philip Przybyszewski, DC Office Intern.

A view of the far-reaching canopy and the Pacific Ocean from up above.

A view of the far-reaching canopy and the Pacific Ocean from up above.

No, this isn’t just an issue for raving environmentalists. This is a big deal for everyone. Even though they only cover 2% of the Earth’s surface, they are of utmost importance to all species, particularly humans.

Tropical rainforests are the wettest, most vegetation-intense biomes in the world, so densely-grown that a canopy is formed that weaves together the ecosystem into a far-spanning green landscape. Incredibly, this ecosystem is said to sustain over 50% of the world’s species. Often, these species are endemic, meaning they only inhabit these specific regions covered by rainforest. The diversity in the kinds of species present is unbelievable: from primates to felines, amphibians to insects.

A Capuchin monkey scours the tall trees and swing through its habitat in the canopy. Photo by Manuel Sánchez.

A Capuchin monkey scours the tall trees and swings through its habitat in the canopy. Photo by Manuel Sánchez.

For humans, rainforests are vital in diminishing the impact of climate change, as the dense vegetation absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen. Rainforest plants store the carbon emitted from human economic activity and offset the key negative impact of fossil fuels on the environment. Despite the clear service provided by this ecosystem to all species on Earth, their presence is dwindling, with an estimated 78 million acres lost every year, deforested to make room for hydroelectric dams, agricultural development, and mining operations. In the process of these globally-significant economic activities, humans destroy carbon-holding vegetation and simultaneously release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while eliminating one of the Earth’s best ways of storing it away.

The tropical wet forest of the Osa Peninsula is incredibly rich in vegetation. Here is just one angle covered by a camera trap.

The tropical wet forest of the Osa Peninsula is incredibly rich in green vegetation. Here is just one angle covered by a camera trap.

The Osa Peninsula is predominantly classified as a tropical wet forest, the biome most conducive to the flourishing of a rainforest. This small part of Costa Rica, alone, has over 300 species found nowhere else in the world and has the most intact system of mangrove forests and wetlands in all of Central America. Protecting tropical rainforests has been a local priority with global significance: rainforest health not only preserves the habitat of thousands of species, but also mitigates the negative impacts of unsustainable human economic development. The decisions of a geographically-limited few affect everyone, in the sense that Osa Conservation’s mission to preserve and protect the tropical rainforest of the Osa plays a small, but important part in the reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Massive, rain-carrying clouds form and unleash torrents of water daily in this topical environment. The intensive growth of the rainforest would be impossible without the sustenance provided by the beautiful thunderheads in the distance.

Massive, rain-carrying clouds form and unleash torrents of water daily in this tropical environment. The intensive growth of the rainforest would be impossible without the sustenance provided by the beautiful thunderheads in the distance.

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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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