News + Stories

Miscellaneous / 24.07.2012

By Andrea Johnson [caption id="attachment_4002" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="A mango tree in the Osa"][/caption] Mango season arrived for Osa Conservation in June. The trees at Greg Gund Conservation Center have been dropping their luscious fruits for several weeks now in a display of bounty almost reckless to those of us from northern climes who grew up with scarce and pricey supermarket exemplars. Sometimes the mangoes drop unprompted, perhaps with a light push from the breeze. Often they fall half-eaten and accompanied by a telltale rustle of leaves as white-faced capuchins (Cebus capuchinus) take their pick of the crop, or flocks of red-lored parrots (Amazona autumnalis) and chestnut-mandibled toucans (Ramphastos swainsonii) descend for another feast. Best for those of us consigned to wait below, every new rainstorm (for the rainy season has arrived as well) also brings a rain of whole, perfect fruits.
Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Volunteers and Visitors / 20.07.2012

[caption id="attachment_3980" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="Chess in the Schools students holding hands on the beach"][/caption]

Last week, through the high school study abroad program AFS, a group of students from New York City visited our station on the Osa Peninsula with the support of Chess in the Schools, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to improving academic performance and building self-esteem among inner-city public school children.

“My favorite part was climbing the mango trees,” said one of the students. “I got to understand what nature is for the first time.”
Birds / 17.07.2012

[caption id="attachment_3961" align="alignleft" width="257" caption="A Black-cheeked Ant Tanager. Photo: Norbert Sayberer"][/caption] By: Carolyn Sedgwick Imagine being woken up each day by the sudden deep howl of a troop of howler monkeys and the positively curious sound of a singing Gray-necked Wood Rail. Time for work! This spring, I was lucky enough to spend a few months working at Piro Biological Station, Osa Conservation’s research center. My main objective was to get a better understanding of the habitat use of the Black-cheeked Ant-tanager (Habria atrimaxillaris), an endangered bird found only on the Osa Peninsula and the Golfo Dulce of Costa Rica. These birds have not been extensively studied and their population appears to be declining due to habitat loss. I set out to see how Black-cheeked Ant-tanagers used habitat around Piro—were they found in primary forests? Secondary forests? In transition zones? What were the characteristics of the zones they used during the time of year when I was there? I set about this by walking routine transects through different forest types around Piro each day and when I was lucky enough to encounter a Black-cheeked Ant-tanager, or even a small group of three or four, I took the opportunity to gather as many observations as possible and map where groups were found with my GPS.
Birds, Volunteers and Visitors / 03.07.2012

Spend this holiday season where the rainforest meets the sea, in the most spectacular and underbirded corner of Costa Rica. [caption id="attachment_3853" align="alignleft" width="204" caption="A Gartered Trogon sits perched atop a tree in the Osa Peninsula"][/caption] The Osa Peninsula harbors over 460 species of birds including the healthiest population of Scarlet Macaws in Central America, three species of leking Manakins, Yellow-billed and Turquoise Cotingas, King Vultures and the Osa endemic BCAT. Migrant birds that frequent the Osa Peninsula include the Golden-winged Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler and the Baltimore Oriole. Home to the largest remaining tract of tropical lowland rainforest and intact mangrove ecosystems along the tropical Pacific coast of Central America, the Osa Peninsula is the wildest and most magnificent region of Costa Rica. To get an idea, check out our 2011 Christmas Bird Count summary.
Marine Conservation, Science and Research / 19.06.2012

[caption id="attachment_3816" align="alignleft" width="315" caption="A video still of a Pseudorca, or false killer whale, in Golfo Dulce"][/caption] Brooke Bessesen conducted Marine research at the Osa in 2010 and 2011 as a recipient of the Greg Gund Memorial Fellowship. Check out her Golfo Dulce report on our website. Jorge and I were always thrilled to see dolphins, as they are icons of the sea. Luckily, sightings were relatively common (only sea turtles were seen more frequently) and these graceful cetaceans graced our bow almost every day we were on the water....

Miscellaneous / 03.05.2012

[caption id="attachment_2495" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Our new Land Conservation Manager, Max Villalobos"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2493" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Our new Stations Manager, Larry Villalobos"][/caption]
As with any well-oiled machine, Osa Conservation is nothing without its nuts and bolts. Our wonderful staff dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy to helping us protect the land and wildlife of the Osa Peninsula, and today we would like to introduce our newest team members: Larry and Max Villalobos. Born and raised in Costa Rica, Max and Larry have always been avid fans of nature. Prior to his position at Osa Conservation, Larry, a self-employed water-rappelling entrepreneur,  had been accustomed to moving around due to his work in hotels. Both Larry and Max feel a close emotional bond with the Osa Peninsula, having always known it's significance to Costa Rica and to the world.
Marine Conservation, Science and Research / 06.04.2012

[caption id="attachment_2471" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Side by side, you can begin to see the characteristics that visibly differentiate the three sea turtle species we documented inside Golfo Dulce."][/caption] When we began our research, nobody expected us to find very many sea turtles inside Golfo Dulce — most sea turtle activity was thought to occur on the Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula. It turned out that chelonids were the most frequently seen family of animals, accounting for 38 percent of our total sightings. Discovering such significant numbers of sea turtles was one of our most important findings. Sadly, fishermen with many years of experience in Golfo Dulce say the sea turtles there have declined at least 30 percent in recent years. Jorge and I documented three species: Pacific Black sea turtles, still commonly referred to as “Greens” (Chelonia mydas agassizii), Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). Locals also reported seeing near-extinct Pacific Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) inside Golfo Dulce. That’s four endangered species of sea turtles utilizing the embayment. Amazing! Our biseasonal data show Golfo Dulce to be a year-round feeding and breeding area for endangered Green sea turtles. We logged over a hundred sightings of them between both surveys. This species, by far the most common, was usually observed in the upper regions of the gulf resting at the sea surface. But we also documented Green sea turtles mating in all four quadrants of the inlet, so their use of the fiord waters appears widespread.
Marine Conservation, Science and Research / 23.03.2012

[caption id="attachment_2461" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dolphin B43 shown alongside a rendered outline of its dorsal fin. We saw this individual five times."][/caption] An unexpected but delightful result of our survey work in Golfo Dulce was the identification of about 80 individual Bottlenose dolphins (Turciops truncatus), some of which can be seen in the Appendix of my 2010 report. How does one go about identifying dolphins? Well, pioneering biologists studying various species discovered ingenious ways to distinguish individuals. Jaguars have unique spots. Gorillas have unique nose prints. Dolphins have unique dorsal fins. By examining the shape, natural markings, scars and trailing edge, a dorsal may appear as distinct as a fingerprint. Of course dolphins don’t sit quietly at the surface while you study the intricacies of their dorsal patterns, so ID work is best done through photos. Luckily, we managed to get photographs for almost 90 percent of our dolphin sightings.
Birds / 16.03.2012

As Published in The Leader-Telegram They have a saying in Costa Rica: "Pura vida." It literally translates as "pure life," but to Costa Ricans, it can be inserted into many contexts and applications: "Thank you," "You're welcome," "So it goes," "Wonderful." It is used so freely here I wouldn't be surprised if it meant, "Pass the papaya, por favor." I'd dreamed of visiting Costa Rica since I was 12, and recently for two glorious weeks I got to sample the "pure life" - visiting the southernmost quarter of this West Virginia-sized nation - from San Jose down nearly to Panama. My introduction to the Pacific rain forest lowlands began with Roy Orozco, a soft-spoken, gracious naturalist out of Quepos. First light for birding in the tropics is 5:30 a.m., so Roy picked me up at 4 a.m. at the Costa Verde II parking lot near Quepos to drive an hour and a half up the coast to Carara National Park, west of San Jose. Carara, one of Costa Rica's marquee ecotourism destinations, is a unique mix of "life zones," where the drier habitat of the north meets the wet lowlands of the south.
Science and Research / 08.03.2012

By Claire Standley [caption id="attachment_3942" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Our first sunset at the Greg Gund Conservation Center at Cerro Osa, January 2011 (© Claire Standley)"][/caption] Diseases aren’t supposed to be the first thing you think about when visiting a new place, especially one as beautiful as the Osa. However, when you’re a disease ecologist like my colleague Peter and me, it’s sometimes hard to keep parasites out of your head. Figuratively, that is! So, even before our first trip to Cerro Osa in January 2011, as part of a tropical ecology course with Princeton University, we had begun thinking of ways we could tie in the unique ecology of the Osa with our own research. Trawling through the wonderfully informative Osa Conservation website, we had eagerly devoured information on the landscape and ecosystem we would be exploring. We found out how Osa Conservation was working to create a biological corridor of rainforest habitat between Cabo Matapalo at one end of the peninsula and Corcovado National Park at the other. That intrigued us. Both of us also have conservation backgrounds, and so we were well aware of the positive benefits of connecting patches of habitat, such as giving predators larger areas to hunt in, and decreasing the chance of inbreeding, which can occur if animals are squished into too small an area. However, we also knew of some theoretical work that our boss, Professor Andy Dobson, had done looking at how corridors, by increasing connectivity between animal populations, might affect disease transmission. Could the Osa peninsula provide us with a natural laboratory for testing some of these ideas?