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From the field: Insights into the Rios Saludables Program

Blogpost by Rachael Eplee, Rios Saludables Program Coordinator

Hello all!

My name is Rachael Eplee, and I am the coordinator for Osa Conservation’s Rios Saludables (Healthy Rivers) Program. I graduated in 2016 from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning and a Bachelor of Arts in International Development.  In my first step into the professional world, I started working with Osa Conservation in July 2016 and have had the great pleasure of living in this rich and diverse environment ever since!

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My area of interest lies in human and natural system interaction and how that can be applied to development practices. Thus, the Rios Saludables Program, a community-based watershed monitoring program, is a natural fit!  We seek to engage international students, local actors, and local communities in education, research, and evidence-based decision making in order to contribute to the greater conservation efforts in the Osa region.  In Costa Rica, the greatest risk to water systems is not quantity, but quality.  The Osa Peninsula has 46 individual watersheds, which means there are 46 major river mouths entering the Gulfo Dulce and Pacific Ocean.  Each of these watersheds offer a picture into the composition of the land around it and can allow us to see the impact of land use, human interaction, and conserved lands around the river.  We use chemical, macro-invertebrate, and bacterial testing to measure the quality of rivers that impact Osa’s communities.  Through engaging citizen scientists in the Osa, we collect quality data while simultaneously using nature as a classroom to educate students of all ages and academic levels.

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The goal of the program is to create quality long term data in this region which is home to many farms and is in constant threat of rapid development.  Long term data allows communities and conservationists in the area to advocate to municipalities and people making land-use decisions.  The robust ecosystem has capacity to protect its natural systems internally, but only with the help of dedicated reforestation and wildlife conservation efforts.  Rios Saludables has engaged over 60 individuals in 10 regions throughout the peninsula in education and data collection.  We are excited to expand our impact by creating strategic plans with our local partners, including nearby eco-lodges and biological stations.

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From a personal standpoint, I see the success of this program lying in the hands of the incredible people of this region.  Anyone who has had the opportunity to spend time in this place knows the importance of all conservation efforts in the region and knows that the best way to understand its true beauty is to take the time to see it through the eyes of the people who call it home.  In the Osa, there is a deep understanding of the power and importance of nature – the opportunity to work in this place has given me a perspective that only the Osa can! Rios Saludables is a young program and is the culmination of the hard work of many people.  As it gains strength and grows, this program will undoubtedly be impacted by many incredible scientists and nature lovers from all over the world.  For me, spending the past year with this program has been a great pleasure and I will take the lessons it has taught me everywhere I go.

As far as first professional jobs go, I think I hit the jackpot! 😊

 

 

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Working where the rainforest meets the sea

Blogpost by Alejandra Rojas, Naturalist Guide and Avian Program Coordinator

In a remote corner of southern Costa Rica, Osa Conservation runs a biological station that receives researchers from all over the world, as well as students and visitors who share a passion for conservation.  At this station, there is a complete team working on-site: A group of scientists, naturalists and environmentalists doing our very best to apply our knowledge to make conservation possible. I am excited to have recently joined Osa Conservation as their Naturalist Guide and Avian Program Coordinator.

The day I learned about Osa Conservation (OC) was in 2012, writing a monograph about the endemic Black-cheeked Ant-tanager (Habia atrimaxillaris), while I was still studying in the university. I read about the efforts OC was doing to buy lands in order to protect the habitat for the many endangered birds of the Osa Peninsula.

I am a ale-imagetropical biologist who graduated from National University (UNA), Costa Rica. After  learning the reality of conservation biology in Costa Rica, I chose a path that I consider fundamental in the work towards conservation: coupling science with people, and understanding that the social backgrounds of communities are the lines between preserving or declining the ecosystem’s health. And this is precisely one of the basis of the organization I work for, and the main reason why I decided to join this experience in the Osa, where I work as a naturalist guide, birder and station assistant.

I grew up surrounded by the rainforest and the sea and I developed a passion for wildlife, which I later turned into my profession. Before graduating, I got trained as a naturalist guide and started working in a nature theme park, the place where I learned the importance of citizen science and environmental education. I have a lot to acknowledge to this place, because I was not really planning to keep working as a guide, but without it, I would have never been able to do what I am doing today.

In 2014, I started doing some freelance work involving teaching people about nature and raising awareness about conservation problems. At the same time, I began birding and I settled tale-blog-imagehe first Christmas Bird Count in Golfito (a small town in the southeast region of Golfo Dulce), where I still manage and coordinate it with a close friend that works in tourism. Afterwards, I got involved in the tourism business by working in an ecolodge as a resident biologist and guest services manager, which of course was a great experience! While working there, I became acquainted with OC through collecting camera trap data of wildcats and their prey as part of their camera trap network program. We even got our work together featured in The New York Times.

I really enjoy working in the Osa! It is a paradise for a biologist: hiking in the forest includes following a mixed flock of birds in the understory, finding a jaguar print, watching the spider monkeys swing through the canopy, followed by the enjoying the sunset on the beach.

My job with Osa Conservation  allows me to do what I love, but also share what I love  with our visitors. When I am not in the field birding or collecting information on natural history,  I am in charge of the details that help our station work properly. I  help maintain contact with researchers and visitors before they arrive, visit near-by lodges and partners to raise awareness about the mission of our organization,  and work hard to make sure that our conservation efforts reach the local communities.

ale-blog-2I am responsible for receiving people from the first moment they step into our place. When you come to visit Osa Conservation, I will always be around to help you when needed and ask you how everything is going –  Have you visited the beach to see the sunset? Did you see the Scarlet macaws along the way? Did you enjoy waking up to the howler monkeys in the morning? Or, I will invite you to go birding with me! We will make a connection here; we will shake hands to say hi and we will hug to say bye. If you have not yet been to the Osa, I encourage you to come and adventure in this mesmerizing paradise!

Take a look at this link and  learn more about what Osa Conservation is doing in the Osa Peninsula.

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Why I learned to use a machete over winter break

Blogpost by Revée Needham

¡Buenos dias! My name is Revée Needham and I spent 4 weeks working in the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica with Osa Conservation from December 2016 to January 2017. I came to the Osa to complete my Alumni Memorial Scholar’s project through Colgate University. Majoring in Environmental Studies and Geography, I started my interest in agriculture after debating in class the ethics of eating meat. Since then, I have developed a passion for learning more about the food I eat and how to reform industrial agriculture in the US. I applied to volunteer at Osa Conservation with their sustainable ecological farm, packed my bags, and made my way to Costa Rica for the first time!

img_2692As I thought about the role of this  farm, I became more aware of the mission and importance of Osa Conservation. Options for organic food are limited throughout much of Costa Rica, and relying upon on traditional farming techniques would mean pollution with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. However, Osa Conservation’s sustainable farm uses all natural techniques and serves as a model for other farmers. Techniques and methods are tried and tested to determine what is best suited for that environment. Then, other farmers can come and learn how to work with the forested land in the Osa peninsula instead of against it. Another unique feature of the farm is that most of the farm acreage is reforested land. The land was previously a cattle ranch, but has now been reforested with native species. Although it is currently in the beginning stages, I can’t wait to follow the farm’s journey into the future.

img_2663After a delicious homemade breakfast by my favorite cooks, Rob, Emilia, and Annia, I slathered on sunscreen to begin my day. Then I walked or biked to the farm, usually accompanied by multiple blue morpho butterflies. At the farm, I followed the direction of Paola, the farm manager, for our daily tasks. I spent most of my time weeding, with the use of a machete, or planting seeds. While I wasn’t at Osa Conservation long enough to plant a seed and harvest the fruit, I was able to see incredibly fast growth while I was away over holidays and even over a long weekend! One satisfying part of staying for an extended period of time was that I could see the progress at the farm. When I arrived, the greenhouse was empty but throughout my stay, the beds were built and filled with soil; we built and installed an irrigation system, and we planted seeds and seedlings!

One main observation I gathered right away from my work is how labor and time-intensive the work is. I could spend the whole morning weeding, or clearing a plot to be planted, then look out and see how much more there was left to do. If anything, I’m so glad to be making a difference, simply by providing the womanpower. I learned of the devastation to the crops from the hurricane that ended shortly before I arrived. While I wasn’t affected, the impact of the hurricane could be felt throughout many farms in Costa Rica.

revee-and-goatAnother highlight from my time was befriending the baby goat, who was born shortly before my arrival. This cabrita acted very similar to a human child or puppy and loves to follow her favorite people around! In addition, I was able to help release baby sea turtles. I’m so glad I chose to visit Osa Conservation, where I could partake in many different types of conservation efforts.

  Muchas gracias to my fellow farmers- Paola, Juansito, Christian, and Chonga, and those at the station- Manuel, Rachael, Alejandra, and Rob for helping me make a home in Costa Rica. ¡Pura Vida!

 

 

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Introducing our new field staff!

We are pleased to welcome new field staff to Osa Conservation! We are excited to have these wonderful new additions be a part of our team in the Osa Peninsula and we look forward to building on their expertise, knowledge and excellent enthusiasm to help us conserve “the most biologically intense place on earth.” Please join us in welcoming Andy, Karla and Alejandra!

 

 

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Dr. Andy Whitworth, Director of Ecological Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation

  • He is originally from the UK;
  • He lived and worked in Manu, Peru for the past 6 years, including as the Biodiversity and Conservation Coordinator for the “Sustainable Manu Project” and as a Research Manager for The Crees Foundation;
  • His PhD thesis is from The University of Glasgow in Scotland and  entitled “Conservation Value, Biodiversity, and Methods of Assessment in Regenerating Human Disturbed Tropical Forests;”
  • He started keeping pet snakes when he was 7 years old, including venomous ones by the time he was 11 years old (unbeknownst to his mother);
  • He is most excited to finally see the silky pygmy anteater, which is one of his favorite animals and is what brought him to the rainforest.

 

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Karla Funes, Conservation Experience Manager

  • She is from Golfito, Costa Rica;
  • Previously, she worked as the Operations Director of Osa Green Travel Agency and as Administrative Coordinator at Lapa Rios Lodge;
  • She holds an International Master in Auditing and Business Management, FUNIVER, Costa Rica; Bachelor of Business Administration, Tourism, Metropolitan University Castro Caraz, Costa Rica;
  • She received her Certified Tour Guided License by National Institute of Tourism;
  • She loves to run and to be in nature; She enjoys traveling and aims to visit a new country every year.

 

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Alejandra Rojas, Naturalist Guide and Avian Program Coordinator

  • She is from Costa Rica
  • She holds a BSc in Tropical Biology from National University in Costa Rica;
  • She grew up surrounded by the sea and the rainforest, which is where she developed a passion for wildlife;
  • Previously, she worked at an ecolodge near the Esquinas River estuary, where she had the chance to learn all about the biodiversity of Golfo Dulce;
  • She started working as a freelance Bird Guide in 2015;
  • Her favorite bird is the Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans), but she also enjoys watching the understory mixed flocks that follow the army-ant swarms.

Uncategorized, Volunteers and Visitors

Cornell to Costa Rica

A blog by: Cody Stockert

Taking the opportunity to study for a block in Costa Rica is the best decision I have made in my four years at Cornell College.

This beach is located on the Osa peninsula of Costa Rica. My classmates and I accessed it using Osa conservation’s trails.

                       

Why did I go to Costa Rica for class?

Cornell College is unique because we have a block plan schedule, which means we take one course at a time. Right now I am taking Biology 485 which at Cornell is the biology’s department’s senior research block. We do not have to leave the United States to fulfill this requirement, but I paid for the course by dedicating a portion of the income from my summer job. I think you would be a fool to stay on campus when you can have other choices. So while I am enjoying almost a full month in Costa Rica, I am not missing any class, just softball workouts.

My research project is looking at the relationship between the number of fungi and the state of decay of fallen tropical trees. You might think looking at dead trees on the forest floor would be really boring, but it has allowed us to go to the edge of the forest and see many things that we wouldn’t by just hiking a trail. For instance, today as Laurel and I were approaching a tree fall, Kaci gasped and when we looked up we saw a wild cat looking back at us! It was pretty incredible. We stood on the trail astonished it didn’t run away from us, but a couple minutes later saw a little spotted kitten trembling on the log.

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The “wild cat” is known as an Ocelot. Seeing one in the wild is rare; their populations have been depleted because of human demand for their spotted coats. Ocelots are nocturnal, so we probably only saw it during the day because it had a kitten.

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Sea Turtles

My personal favorite thing we have done on this trip is release baby sea turtles. Osa conservation has committed to restoring sea turtle populations by digging up their nests and moving them to their hatchery. The hatchery protects the sea turtle’s eggs from predation and habitat destruction. When hatched, the hatchlings are relocated to the beach and allowed to walk to the ocean. The female sea turtles, will return to their home beach in about 15-20 years to lay their nests. The largest nest we found was 54 cm deep and 31 cm across, with 111 eggs in it. I was amazed by the size of the nests created by animals that are typically half a meter in size!

Snake Encounter

On our first day in the field we were collecting tree fall data. I was climbing across a down tree with the measuring tape to get the height. The log was very decayed so as I was walking to the far end away from my class, the log collapsed and my foot went straight through the log. At the same time a brown coiled snake popped its head out of the log. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever moved faster. I jumped off the log cursing, heart beating, and shouting “SNAKE!” Professor McCollum then went to check it out, and informed me the snake was a fer de lance, also known as a tericopelo in Costa Rica. Fer de lance’s are a species of viper and also the most venomous snakes in Costa Rica. Once bitten, their venom solidifies your blood. Fortunately, I saw it before it saw me.

Small things Matter too!

Studying fungi has given me the chance to see how unique the rain forest is and to take a close look at some of the forest’s smaller organisms.

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For Osa it is a big pleasure to hear back from all the experiences our visitors have! A big thank you to Cody for sharing his own.

 

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The Great Hummingbird War of outside our cabin

Written by Jeremy Novak (Cornell University Student)

In all honesty The Great Hummingbird War is a tad misleading for three very important reasons: 1) it is really more of a series of fights; 2) it wasn’t that great, more or less as entertaining as the morning news; and 3) the most recent fight had nothing to do with a hummingbird, but rather a moth. The Great Hummingbird War does have one big thing going for it, it sounds a lot more exciting than The Just as Entertaining as the Morning News Series of Fights That Were Only Partially Fought Between Hummingbirds of outside our cabin. It also rolls of the tongue just a little bit better.

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The best place to start when talking about any war is the beginning: Many moons ago, long before I arrived at the Osa peninsula, someone planted two clumps of Rabo de Zorros (Stachytarpheta cayennensis) outside the cabin we are staying in. The only way to describe this battlefield is… lovely, as the two plants are wonderful and provide a nice purple contrast to the landscape. They also serve as a food source for the local hummingbirds, and here is where the conflict begins because hummingbirds are by nature are territorial. And Hummingbirds that feed off of these two plants are very territorial, thus every morning when we woke up for breakfast we would witness a spectacle that can only be described, with complete honesty, as an overly aggressive dance with juice breaks. When one hummingbird spotted another hummingbird in its territory it would fly aggressively towards this new rival. Then the rival would zip away to find a new spot just out of view of the first hummingbird and enjoy the nectar from the flowers. But our fierce battle is not over as this “juice break” is often short lived, when the hummingbirds encounter each other again they repeat this dance darting around the plant flying quickly and gracefully between flowers and stems in their rivalry over this one plant. But we must not forget the second Rabo de Zorro across the path from the first, for it is host to the same type combat each morning, featuring smaller but no less persistent and territorial hummingbirds. All wars must at some point come to an end, and the larger hummingbirds do so in a spectacular fashion. When their dance comes to an end both rivals fly straight up above the roof of our cabin where the sunlight makes this spectacle almost impossible to see, what happens up there I can only imagine, because when they are done, both hummingbirds return to the Rabo de Zorro then one of them leaves.

Now if this were a children’s story and not an overly dramatic rendition of one person’s morning observations, we’d have to end the story with “…one of them leaves never to be seen again” but it’s not because I’m pretty sure that the same hummingbird comes back to try again the next day.

As far as the issue of the moth is concerned one would think being able to tell the difference a hummingbird and a moth would be easy, but it is surprisingly hard when they are about the same size and both hovering about looking for nectar.  Our first morning here my professor, Andy, and I were watching the hummingbirds darting around the flowers when I saw a hummingbird smaller than size of your thumb, and pointed it out to Andy. He saw only a glimpse of it and told me that it was too small to be a hummingbird and that it must have been a moth, thus a week long argument began. Each morning that first week we would stand out by the Rabo de Zorro watching for the bird/moth to return. Latter during this week Manuel returned to the station and we got him to weigh in on our argument. He confirmed that some very tiny hummingbirds do visit the Osa on their migrations. A quick internet search reveals the same thing but where’s the fun in that? With new resolution that we could have seen a hummingbird that small, we continued our search. That is until the fateful day, when Andy managed to get a blurry, but convincing photo (below) of our little hummingbird, or should I say moth. Andy had been correct that the hummingbird we had seen the first day on the Osa peninsula was a moth.

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Thus ends The Great Hummingbird War of outside our cabin, while the daily conflict of the local hummingbirds is not going to end anytime soon, we can rest easy knowing that the biggest conflict in this long great war has been put to rest.

Thank you Jeremy for sharing your experience !

 

 

Marine Conservation

This Halloween’s Coolest Claws: Halloween Crabs

Why the name?

Vibrant, showy, and brilliantly bold, Halloween Crabs are named, and famed, for their colorful costumes. They have a dark brown uppercase that is often confused for black, a bright orange body and purple claws and limbs. Their eyes are a vibrant yellow, complemented by two white spots at the rear part of their carapace. Many people are taken with the crabs’ appearance and choose to make these lively creatures their pets. They are amazingly easy to handle and care for. Proper enclosure and careful measures of temperature and humidity will keep these crabs living a happy lifespan of up to ten years!halloween-crab-forblog

What are Halloween Crabs?

Crabs are unique species that can be found throughout the world’s tropical and semi-tropical regions. There are three principal groups distinguished by habitat: freshwater, semi-terrestrial and terrestrial (land).  Halloween Crabs are land crabs belonging to the Gecarcinidae family. Although they lead a terrestrial existence, at some time during adulthood, the crabs visit the sea for reproduction.

Distribution:

Halloween Crabs are found along river banks, mangroves, and rainforests from the Gulf of California in Mexico as far south as Colombia. Humid habitats like these provide the water sources the crabs depend on to prevent lung desiccation. As more water becomes available towards the interior of a country, the more common it is to find these crabs significantly away from the coast. For example, in Southern Costa Rica, the crab can be found up to 600 meters inland.halloween-crab-forblog2

The unique diet and behavior of Halloween Crabs is fitting of the name. Largely nocturnal, the crabs spend their nights climbing trees and burrowing in underground holes. These holes function mainly as the crabs’ store houses. The leaves and seeds of the next day’s meal are hoarded away to be kept safe and dry for these hungry Halloween crabs. While the crabs are mainly herbivorous, they can also eat fish, insects, worms, apples and other fruits and animals.

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Feeling Froggy- When a professor and his favorite amphibians meet

This blog and all photos were provided by:

Steve Ressel|Professor at College of the Atlantic

This past August, I had the good fortune to visit Piro Biological Station for a few days. Piro was one stop on a seven-day scouting trip with another colleague where we explored different areas in the Osa for a future tropical ecology course. My days at Piro BioStation were few in number and mostly filled with logistical considerations associated with bringing students down to the Osa. However, I still left overwhelmed by the amount of biodiversity I saw during my brief, busy stay. I did have one thing in my favor, it was the rainy season and amphibians are my thing; the frogs did not disappoint.

 

TadpolesMy last day and night at the field station stands out in particular, because of the torrential rain the night before made all of the surrounding forest dripping wet for the next 24 hours . As the rain poured down, Manuel started thinking that it may be enough to prompt another round of explosive breeding in Agalynchis spurrelli (The Gliding Tree Frog) and he suggested that we head out early in the morning to see if that indeed was the case. It wasn’t, but I was blown away by the number of egg masses clinging to vegetation from previous mating bouts. Upon close inspection, I saw that many of the eggs contained well developed, squirming tadpoles.

 

TreeI am an avid photographer of nature and in the aftermath of the previous night’s storm, I was mesmerized all day long by the intense colors of the forest, which were hyper-saturated by the diffuse sunlight created by lingering cloud cover and a film of water on everything terrestrial. Please take me on my word that the color of these tree buttresses (Tachigali versicolor) and that of this male anole’s dewlap (Norops polylepis) were not enhanced with software.

 

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Back at the dining area at dinnertime, I heard frogs calling at an intensity level that wasn’t evident on the previous nights of my visit. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore with my ears and eyes. So, with some suggested field sites from Manuel and Renee, I set out into the night with my camera and headlamp. The first stop was along the banks of Piro River to look for glass frogs. I heard them calling in the overhead foliage but the tadpolespersistent wet conditions did not stimulate them to descend within reach of my camera’s lens. However, I could see that there were numerous egg masses of Cochranella granulosa (Grainy Cochran Frog) that were deposited some time before my arrival. Like The Gliding Tree Frog eggs I saw during the day, many of these masses, like the one pictured below, were “ripe” with very active tadpoles.

 

 

 

 

I was then drawn to standing water, by the call of a frog that I was hearing for the first time during my visit. After a little searching, I discovered it was Scinax elaeochroa (Sipurio Snouted Tree Frog) that I was hearing and now seeing for the first time ever. 

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Look at those coppery eyes!

 

 

 

 

There was another species calling alongside S. elaeochroa and I knew it well. It was Dendropsophus ebraccata (The Hourglass Treefrog), that I studied in Panama while in graduate school, and their abundance that night was staggering. My mind flashed back to 1992 when I spent many wet, warm nights studying the biology of this frog because of its impressive capacity for calling. Fast-forward to the present, I was now focusing on the multitude of D. ebraccata around me because they are just so damn photogenic.

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The Hourglass Treefrog

 

I went to bed that night – or rather, early the next morning – reluctantly because, for the frogs, the night was still young. My hope is that in the near future, I can share these amphibian experiences with students. Although, I must confess that as I drifted off to sleep, I relished the fact that I had the frogs to myself that night.

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for 2017 courses with Professor Ressel!

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Sea Turtle Patrol on Pejeperro Beach

A blog entry by Vedant Jain (University of California Berkeley)

Hi folks or should I say Pura Vida! Here is a little snippet of one of the adventures we had here. On Wednesday morning, after a nice late start we headed to the Piro station where we met with Manuel Sanchez who gave us an introduction to the four species of local sea turtles and the sea turtle conservation efforts on the Osa Peninsula. Turtle conservation is especially important because sea turtle eggs face dangers from factors such as predators, tidal changes, and especially egg poachers. Manuel explained how different turtles come to Costa Rica at different times to lay eggs. July it turns out is an ideal time for both Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and Green Sea Turtles. We returned to camp ready for our first turtle patrol!

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Osa Conservation does turtle patrols at night and in the early morning, relocating nests of turtles laid in dangerous conditions to their 2016 hatchery, or vivero in Spanish (photo by Lara Bogdanovich)

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Relocated Olive Ridley nests in the sea turtle hatchery (photo by Ross Kamimoto)

At 8 pm we joined Manuel and hiked to the Pejeperro beach for our night patrol. Manuel explained that the best way of seeing animals at night is to look for eye glow. This is the light reflected when you shine a flashlight into an eye. With this knowledge Manuel helped us spot birds, frogs and crown jewel of them all an ocelot!

 

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Manuel (right) wraps headlamps in red cellophane before beginning our night patrol (photo by Fernando Iglesias)

When we finally arrived on the beach it was honestly like a dream. The clouds had cleared up and the sky was cascaded with stars. Each one glowing with the bright illumination that you can only get without light pollution. When you took a step on the sand it would spring to life with its own vivid color, the bioluminescence complementing the light of the skies. In the background the waves crashed with perfect rhythm, a symphony of their own. It was a beautiful juxtaposition of earth, sea, and sky.

We began walking down the beach. We covered our flashlights with red cellophane because white light can scare the turtles into leaving without laying eggs. Eventually we turned off our flashlights completely, the stars providing more than enough light.

Finally, Manuel tells us to stop and he walks on ahead, he says he saw something. He gestures to come over. There hidden just below sand level is a 65 cm long female Olive Ridley laying her eggs. They say that when a turtle is laying eggs she enters almost a lucid dreaming state, whereby she never realizes that we have seen her. Manuel explains how he puts tags on every turtle they find to keep track of them. We watch as he gets the turtle ready but is unable to put the tag on because the tagging mechanism had a broken part.

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The nesting turtle returning to the sea (photo by Ross Kamimoto)

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Aluminum tag used to mark nesting sea turtles by Osa Conservation (photo by Ross Kamimoto)

Sitting there next to the turtle I feel like I am witnessing an ancient ritual. Turtles are some of the oldest species dating back almost 125 million years. In that moment I felt so small and insignificant to the enormity of life.

 

A poem by student Lara Bogdanovich about the night patrol

 

It’s true we carry the world inside us,

Always present like light

Or instead fleeting like galaxies in the grain

Stirred and strong by inertia

 

There is a narrowing absorption of the sky

So saturated it can yield no more

It shivers as eyes move across it

Like a flexible blade.

Then end circulates in the wide space of summer

Here we have what lasts;

And the soft perishable mind which doesn’t.

The end circulates in the wide space of summer

Where everything began

And goes on beginning.

 

A big thank you to Round River for the opportunity given to these small groups of students from study abroad programs who have the chance to experience and learn by participating in awesome field trips.

 

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Breadfuit as Food

What is breadfruit?

As its name suggests, breadfruit is a fruit that has the same texture as baked bread and it has what many call a potato-like flavor. Part of the Mulberry Tree family that originated in the South Pacific region, almost 300 years ago, this overlooked flowering tree has recently become a hot topic in discussing hunger, poverty and nutrition. With multiple health benefits and the nutritional value this fruit provides, breadfruit could be the next super food and staple.

History of Breadfruit

Originally from present-day New Guinea, breadfruit has been cultivated for over 300,000 years and was introduced to the Western world by British explorers like Captain James Cook and William Bligh. Each of them, on their respective voyages, began to transport and spread the breadfruit tree to tropical regions like the Caribbean. Once there, the trees were successfully introduced and planted, being able to produce the so desired fruit. In fact, there are places where you can still find some of the original trees cultivated over 200 years ago.

 

Where Breadfruit Grows?

Breadfruit has a wide range of adaptability to various environmental conditions within the tropics. The best conditions for growth is found in the tropics, where the temperature stays between a warm 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit year round. For example, in Costa Rica the fruit is commonly found along its Caribbean coast, from Tortuguero south through Limon, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo which are all places that provide the best conditions for its growth. Also, it is locally known as “fruta de pan”. Breadfruit flourishes in areas where there is an annual rainfall of 59-118 inches and soil needs to be fertile, well-drained, and deep enough for optimal growth. However, some breadfruit plants somehow manage to adapt to the shallow, sandy soils of the Pacific. They have even been seen to grow on rocky, volcanic soils in Hawaii.

 

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Nutritional Value

Breadfruit has many health benefits and holds more nutritional value than assumed. Eating this plant you get 102 calories. Within the flesh of the fruit it holds a decent amount of fiber, Vitamin-C, carbohydrates, is an excellent source of potassium, and even contains small amounts of flavonoid anti-oxidants.

Snacking on breadfruit can help reduce blood cholesterol, obesity, blood pressure, and helps regulate heart rate. When preparing ripe, or mature, breadfruit for consumption, it is recommended for the plant to be either roasted, baked, fried, or boiled! This is just to bring out the abundant flavors the plant provides. But, you don’t have to wait until the breadfruit has ripened to eat it. Immature fruits can also be cooked, pickled, or marinated, imparting a flavor similarly to that of artichoke hearts. Thinly slicing these fruits can even be fried or baked to make homemade chips. Yum!

As for the conservation context, the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) states that breadfruit also contributes to diversified sustainable agriculture and agroforestry, improved soil conditions and watersheds, and valuable environmental benefits including the reduction of CO2.

Will Breadfruit End Global Hunger?

According to the NTBG, more than 80% of the world’s hunger-stricken communities live in tropical, or subtropical, regions — the type of environment that is perfect for growing breadfruit trees. Organizations like Global Breadfruit and NTBG Breadfruit Institute are dedicated to promoting the super food and spreading it to areas of the world that need it most.

“Every time we plant one of these trees, we’re reducing the susceptibility to famine and starvation in the country where the tree is going,” said Josh Schneider a horticulturist and partner to Global Breadfruit.

Schneider has been working with the botanical scientists and the Breadfruit Institute in Hawaii to reproduce breadfruit trees and transport them to the areas that need the most help. The Trees That Feed Foundation, for example, is planting more breadfruit trees in Haiti in effort to feed at least 1,000 orphans every day. These trees are very easy to maintain and can bear an abundance of fruit for decades. Horticultural partnerships like these help with the outstanding and healthy shipping of young plants that within time will grow into productive trees. Altogether, these alliances surely contribute to the alleviation of hunger issues but also, and not less importantly, they make widespread cultivation and reforestation feasible.

It sounds like there is a hunger, environmental and conservation hero in our midst; so let’s start planting!