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Bird Acoustic Project: Changing their tune

Photos and Blog Post by Thomas Meinzen, Restoration and Rewilding Intern and Birder

At the Osa Conservation Biological Station, mornings in the rainforest are full of sound—birds, frogs, insects, and monkeys all chirping, singing, buzzing and howling in a unique concert. But not far away, where staff and volunteers are working to restore and rewild deforested pasture lands, the dawn chorus strikes a different tune. Many of the low whistles, creaks, and croaks of the forest are being replaced by new, often higher-pitched sounds. As a researcher and intern with Osa Conservation, I’m studying how changes in forest structure (both deforestation and regeneration) are affecting animal sounds, focusing particularly on bird acoustic communication.

Birds play important roles in forest regeneration by pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds, helping rainforest plants to colonize disturbed areas. At the Biological Station, the White-necked Jacobin (left) is a key pollinator, and the Scarlet Macaw is an important seed disperser.

Birds have key roles in pollinating and dispersing the seeds of rainforest trees, and so are an especially important group for understanding the effects of forest loss and promoting forest recovery. Deforestation can alter bird communities in surprising ways. My research tests a theory called the “acoustic adaptation hypothesis,” which proposes that birds evolve their songs with characteristics that help them travel most efficiently through particular habitats. Because low pitches, which have longer wavelengths, can bend more easily around obstructions like trees, bird species adapted to forest loss may sing higher pitches in open pastureland than birds living in intact forests.

Birds of intact forests tend to have lower-pitched vocalizations with a narrower range of pitches, which can transmit better through forest understory vegetation. Here we can see this exemplified in the spectrograms (song pictures) of two species of tanagers common on the Osa. The Gray-headed Tanager, a forest understory species, has lower-pitched calls than the Cherrie’s Tanager, a species adapted to open habitats and edge.

To test this, I will head out into the beautiful primary forest to record the wide variety of birds that live there. I will be comparing their vocalizations with those of the birds living in the neighboring grasslands, where Osa Conservation is planting trees to restore these abandoned pasturelands. This research will help show how birds may adapt acoustically to changes in habitat, examining one way in which humans are impacting the sounds of the forest. Recording natural sounds and studying bird bioacoustics offers an exciting new way to assess wildlife populations for conservation on the global biodiversity hotspot, the Osa Peninsula.

Intern Thomas Meinzen in the field

 

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Rare Encounters: Finding the Wrinkle-face Bat

Blogpost by Manuel Sanchez, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator and Wildlife Photographer

There are more than 114 species of bats, and around 80 of these can be found in the Osa Peninsula. Some are so common that they practically live in our houses, while others are so difficult to spot that when you encounter one, you are caught off guard and can’t help but think that no animal more incredible exists. It is said that the Osa contains more species of bats than the rest of Costa Rica, and I believe it to be true, because it has the best sites and resources. If I were a bat, I would of course choose to stay in the Osa.

I have had the opportunity to hold a bat in my hands, and to have helped on many investigations to identify bats and attempt to understand their ecology. I have been familiar with bats since I was a kid, ever since I had an encounter with a vampire bat. In reality, my mother was more scared than I was at the time…

A close up of a wrinkle-face bat; Photo by Manuel Snachez

But the bat that has always had my attention is called the wrinkle-face bat, or the “old bat.” One night I was working late at Osa Conservation Biological Station. It had rained for the first two hours of the night, and typically after such a rain many animals come out, especially the bats. Walking the coyunda river toward my house, there is a guava branch about three meters above the water. While searching for snakes and frogs there with my flashlight, I saw two eyes that didn’t belong to a frog, much less a snake. I approached very slowly as to not scare the animal, but in truth I was more scared of it than it was of me. I stayed with the bat for what felt like hours, watching how it ate a fichus fruit. It was a truly incredible experience: to think we have such beautiful and surprising animals in the Osa! I couldn’t wait for the excitement of successfully identifying the species, and I returned to the station to ask bat researcher Gloriana Chaverri, who happened to be staying with us at the time. Of course, she already knew the species from her years of work with bats. That was the only night I have seen the wrinkle-face bat in this giant forest, but the Osa continues to surprise me every day!

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National Jaguar Initiative

Blog Post by Juan Carlos Cruz Díaz, Feline Program Coordinator

When we talk about the jaguar, it is difficult to distinguish the many vital roles this iconic species plays. All throughout Latin America, the jaguar is deeply rooted in the indigenous culture. From a cultural point of view, it has been part of many artistic and cinematic works. From a conservationist point of view, it has been considered everything that a species can be: an umbrella species, a flagship species, a keystone species, an indicator species, and an apex predator.

In spite of its huge importance, however, we know very little about the species’ ecology and what is necessary for its conservation.

Due to the jaguar’s biological characteristics, research techniques necessitate much physical, economic, and logistical effort, and thus, it is no easy task to study them. However, when these efforts are realized, every result is significant and further augments our knowledge of biology and ecology.

This year in Costa Rica, Osa Conservation worked with partners to analyze the results of the first national jaguar initiative, which brought together jaguar researchers and studies throughout the country to synthesize what we know about this important species at the national level.

The larger initiative is called: “Jaguar conservation in Costa Rica throughout the integration of species registration data and habitat modeling.” It is a product of the Promotion of Participative Management for Biodiversity Project, led by the National System of Conservation Areas and the Japanese Agency of International Cooperation with the collaboration of Costa Rican jaguar researchers.

In over a year of gathering information from diverse jaguar studies (including research from camera traps, excrement studies, road presence, sightings, records of predation of cattle and sea turtles, tracking collars, and genetic material provided through excrement), meetings, seminars, map creations, and expert consultations, the initiative obtained results that widen our knowledge of the state of jaguar conservation.

An essential part of this initiative was being able to describe the current distribution of the species and modeling ideal habitat conditions, which established guidelines for determining conservation priorities for this endangered species going forward.

Utilizing current species distribution registries and variables (habitat, human impact, and climate) chosen by experts, the initiative predicted suitable habitats for the species throughout the continental territory of Costa Rica.

Map predicting suitable habitats for jaguars in Costa Rica.

Zones were identified with the best habitat conditions for the jaguar. They were delineated as focal areas with the principal objective being to evaluate the availability and characteristics of existing biological corridors at the national level in order to connect these areas.

The focal areas identified are located largely in the Talamanca Caribe and Amistad-Pacifico region, the Caribe-Norte, the Osa, and the Cuanacasta and Volcanic Mountain Ranges.

The findings of this study represent recent knowledge about the distribution of the species and its ideal habitats, based on registries of presence/absence, relying on the participation and evaluation of national and international experts studying the species. Bringing together this diverse array of studies and researchers is unprecedented in Costa Rica. It constitutes the starting point for developing a strategy that prioritizes medium-term conservation efforts for the sake of obtaining a better and more efficient response to the conservation needs of the species, based on biologically and scientifically supported information.

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Restoring Mangroves & Managing the Mangrove Fern

Blogpost written by Luis Carlos Solis, Technical Assistant


The mangrove fern, an opportunist in disturbed environments

Mangroves are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Unfortunately, mangroves in Costa Rica are no exception –  every day, mangroves around the country are devastated due to human activity, despite being declared protected areas . There are more than 80 protected mangroves identified in Costa Rica, representing approximately 41,002 hectares (101 318 acres), of which 99% are located in the Pacific. Just north of the Osa,  Térraba Sierpe National Wetland stands out as the most extensive mangrove in the country, with an area greater than 16,000 hectares (39 537 acres) – representing almost 40% of the mangroves reported for the entire country!

Terraba- Sierpe Wetland

Terraba- Sierpe Wetland from above by Frank Uhlig

 

The Térraba Sierpe National Wetland was declared internationally important  in 1995 by the International Convention on Ramsar Wetlands and through the Costa Rican Forestry Law. Through this designation, it became prohibited to cut or exploit the timber resources of this ecosystem. Prior to this in the 1970’s, timber was legally extracted in this area for the production of coal, firewood and construction materials, as well as bark for tannins and molluscs. This, combined with a large illegal extraction decimated much of this valuable mangrove forest.

In the 1980’s, the extraction and use of wood products from Térraba Sierpe Wetland led to a massive establishment of the mangrove fern Acrostichum aureum –  a native species that has a tendency to become overabundant with lots of light. In a healthy mangrove ecosystem, this mangrove fern coexists and is regulated by the shade of the large mangrove trees.  However, once mangrove trees are cut, the fern takes advantage of the light and space and becomes difficult to eradicate. High densities of this fern then prevent smaller mangrove saplings to grow and to establish healthy mangrove trees. Thus, in order to restore the mangrove ecosystem back to a more natural state, active restoration strategies must include removal of this aggressive fern.

 

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Mangrove fern is regulated by mangrove trees. In a healthy ecosystem, the fern is more easily managed and lives in balance.

 

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Without the presence of mangrove trees, the mangrove fern takes over. As an opportunistic species, this fern becomes overly abundant and grows very tall.

 

As Osa Conservation has been committed to protecting and restoring the Térraba Sierpe National Wetland, we plan to restore 50 hectares (20 acres) of mangroves that are currently occupied by the Acrostichum fern. As part of our new project called “Effective Strengthening of Mangrove Ecosystems in Costa Rica (Terraba Sierpe) and Improvement of the Quality of Life of the Local Coastal Population,” we aim to restore the structure and functions of this important mangrove ecosystem and help empower local communities  to responsibly manage the non-timber resources offered by the mangrove.

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We had a wonderful time recently celebrating this project. Working a with a wonderful group of partners, we are grateful to all of the participants who came out to support the project and we look forward to continuing to collaborate on this important effort to protect and restore this vital ecosystem.

 

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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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An Underappreciated Ally

Blog Post by Lawrence Whittaker, Osa Conservation Field Researcher

A Spider Monkey Observing the Osa Canopy

A Spider Monkey Observing the Osa Canopy; Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Elusive Subjects of Study

The Osa Peninsula is a stronghold for the Central American spider monkey, an arboreal acrobat adapt to navigating the rainforest canopy. Studying these dynamic mammals can be a challenge, as they don’t give up their secrets easily.

To study spider monkeys, one must track them from the moment they wake to the moment they fall asleep. With the closed canopy that blocks out fading daylight from those on the ground, the arduous adventure must start the day in the dark and end it in the dark.  However, the spider monkeys have a  few extra precious moments of sunlight in the treetops, which ensures their escape from the prying eyes below before settling in for the night.

The Spider Monkeys and the Trees

Spider monkeys love fruit.  In fact, 83% of their nourishment comes from a multiplicity of jungle fruit trees. Furthermore, the future of these trees depends on the spider monkey. Unlike mammals, trees in the tropics must grow far away from their parents. Because of the spider monkey, their seeds are spread over hundreds of kilometers.  This co-dependency feeds the spider monkey’s appetite and ensures that the fruiting trees are able to flourish.

Spider monkeys have a particularly dependent genus of tree called Dialium. The Dialium grows slowly, and meticulously intakes atmospheric carbon into its broad trunk, resulting in the hardiest of hardwoods.  But the Dialium seeds can only hope to start their voyage of growth if they pass through the turbulent acidity of a spider monkey’s stomach.

A Dialium Tree

A Dialium Tree

Findings and Tracking

After spending a great amount of time tracking the elusive spider monkeys, we found their secret sleeping spots.  So what happens when the spider monkey settles down on a buttressed branch for the night after filling their bellies with fruit?  The result is not the prettiest, but completely natural: a heap of feces and seeds are scattered sporadically over the rainforest floor and understory.  Though to the eye the spots where a spider monkey sleeps may be subtle, the smell won’t be.

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Seeds in Monkey Droppings that will Eventually Sprout on the Forest Floor

Determining the sleeping sites of spider monkeys is part one of mission ecology accomplished; part two begins the strenuous journey of climbing the trees. Unfortunately for the climber exploring the spider monkey’s domain, these monkeys call the tallest trees in Central America’s rainforests home.  In these trees, the climbers place camera traps, our artificial forest eyes, to record the spider monkey’s activity at all hours. By doing this, we no longer solely rely on the human observer to track these important primates.  

Flourishing Tree Growth on Osa's Forest Floor

Flourishing Tree Growth on Osa’s Forest Floor

Though the nature of spying on spider monkeys can sound a little creepy, we must consider their endangerment.  By learning more about their behavior, we can further work towards their preservation.  In fact, spider monkeys are our allies in the fight against ecosystem degradation and climate change.

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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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