Last Days in Monteverde

Today was our last day in Monteverde at the University of Georgia Campus before we head out to Cabo Blanco. Yesterday, we collected data for our second group research projects.

Anna, Kristy, Ellen, and Sam hiked up the mountain, where they eventually got to the edge of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to collect leaves for their leaf litter research. Aubrey, Leah, Karlie, Jack, and Lucas spent their morning measuring the health of 250 coffee trees at the Finca La Bella coffee farm. Chris, Mark, and Kiersten headed to three streams where they collected data on macro invertebrates and water quality.

For my research project, Morgan, Cole, Mike, and I explored the growth of multiple species of trees in the premontane forest. We did this using the data collected by the University of Georgia personnel in 2012. Fabricio, a forester and the manager at UGACR hiked with us to the plots of land where we measured our trees. There, he demonstrated how to measure the diameter at breast height (DBH). We spent our morning hiking throughout the plots looking for marked trees and measuring their DBH. Some of the trees we needed to measure had large buttress roots that even Cole couldn’t reach, so we used a ladder and some teamwork!

Cole and Mike measuring the DBH

Cole and Mike measuring the DBH

Mike and Morgan collecting data

Mike and Morgan collecting data

We completed our data collection, and headed to lunch. After our short break at lunch, the research groups got back together to work on their data analysis and eventually their research paper. My group and I got to work on the beautiful porch at UGA. The view and weather were both so pleasant that at times it was difficult to work on our project without getting distracted! Eventually we remembered the motto for our research project; “Fun, effective, and efficient” (shout out to Aubrey from Team Peccary!) and we got a good bit of our work done before dinner.

After catching up with our classmates from different research groups (and drinking some yummy hot chocolate at dinner), we had the rest of the evening to continue with our schoolwork. Many of us headed to the biblioteca, which means library in Spanish, where we worked away on our individual research papers.

Today, the research groups came together again to finish up our research papers and to present our findings.

The stream group presenting their results

The stream group presenting their results

Aubrey, Leah, Luke, Karlie, and Jack found that all three of their hypotheses for their research were correct in their studies of the effects of Leaf Rust on the coffee farm at Finca La Bella. They concluded that shaded coffee plants, younger coffee plants, and the top of the plant would be healthier.

Anna, Kristy, Ellen, and Sam found that although the abundance of invertebrates in leaf litter did not show a strong correlation with elevation, they found that leaf litter had the highest mass at low and high elevations and least litter at middle elevations

Chris, Mark, and Kiersten studied hydrochemistry, macro invertebrates, and water quality indicators for their research project. They found that of the three locations they collected data, the Rio San Luis had the highest biodiversity of macro invertebrates.

As for the tree growth group, we found that the trees grew from 2012, and there were a high abundance of pioneer species and gap specialist tree species. We contributed our research on tree growth to a long-term study on the University of Georgia Costa Rica campus.

The sunset on our last night at Monteverde

The sunset on our last night at Monteverde

Many of us are now working on completing our individual research papers and packing our things before we head out to sunny Cabo Blanco for four days!

-Kristen Shruhan


Today was yet another early day for the group, with most of us up before six. We switched groups so that today we were able to do the activity we didn’t do yesterday – either milking cows or bird watching. As the previous post already focused on milking, I will focus on the well-seasoned and experienced bird watchers in my group. Although we may have previously thought we were skilled when it came to spotting birds, after seeing quetzals, crested guans, and black-mandibled toucans, we walked into breakfast after seeing only three birds. Our titles may need to be revoked. However, the birders from today were a bit more successful, still only seeing a few birds but at least they saw the beloved motmot.

Cole and Karly being pro bird watchers

Cole and Karly being pro bird watchers

Once we finished our breakfast of rice, beans, eggs, and pancakes (!!!) we left for town where we went to a women’s cooperative, CASEM. It is a local artisan cooperative that emphasizes the importance of the social and economic well being of local women artists. Here we listened to a talk from Patricia, one of the founding members of this cooperative, and she told us about her personal history and the history of CASEM. It was geared towards the social aspects of women throughout Monteverde’s history instead of ecology like most of our other talks, but it was a welcomed change. It was interesting to hear how this cooperative helped women gain self-esteem and respect for themselves by allowing them to live other lives outside of their own homes. She emphasized how allowing these women to be able to create and sell their arts and crafts helped them find themselves, as well as in some cases, manage mental health issues. This cooperative began with eight artisans, and today has 85 members with beautiful art for sale at the co-op. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll receive a unique piece when we return!

COSEM Cooperative

COSEM Cooperative

After lunch, we enjoyed some time relaxing and playing Ninja outside before heading over to the Monteverde Cheese Factory where we enjoyed not cheese, but rich ice cream that was made on site. When we were finished with our cones and shakes, we headed back to the UGA campus where we began work on the second round of research projects. This time our four research categories are: coffee fungus, leaf litter, streams, and tree growth rates. We all have made our proposals and will begin collecting data tomorrow morning.

The afternoon was a lazy one for most, with some people working on their larger research papers and others catching up on sleep they lost from milking and birding this morning. Some of us got too antsy on this beautiful day and decided to make the trek up the mountain in order to take in some views of the Costa Rican mountainside. From the top of our climb we were able to see the Pacific Ocean, something we weren’t to see when we were at the continental divide at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve because we were basically standing in a cloud. But since today was a clear day, we were able to see miles and miles of lush Costa Rican terrain.

Ellen, Kristy, and the Pacific Ocean

Ellen, Kristy, and the Pacific Ocean

When we were done with dinner we all gathered to enjoy our last discussion based on our book for the trip, A Neotropical Companion. Congrats guys – we survived all of Kricher’s lengthy descriptions of anything and everything tropical! The discussion followed the theme of being interesting and full of conversation about book and the relationships it had with what we have been seeing day to day. However, even though the book was very informative and interesting, I think everyone agrees that it’ll be nice to not have to carry it in our backpacks anymore.

But as for now, we are scattered throughout campus working on our larger research projects, with topics varying from bird conservation to cattle ranching. Yes, parents, we are still able to do our homework while in the tropics!

Hope everyone is staying warm up north – we sure are down here!




Farm and dance.

The day started out earlier than usual today. We all were up and ready for bird watching or cow milking at 6:15am. Seven others in our group and I went milking and it was a blast. Leah, Mike, and I had already milked when we went to La Florita cheese farm previously, so we were pretty much veterans. But our skills were nothing compared to Morgan (who grew up on a dairy farm). That girl could really milk!


Leah and Morgan milking one of the three milking cows at the University of Georgia campus in Monteverde.

Shea milkin

Professor Shea milking this beautiful cow. I think she was having a great time!

Teat milk

After this cow was milked, her super cute baby calf took her turn.

After milking, we had another tasty breakfast at the University of Georgia campus – there were eggs AND bread! I think I speak for many of us when I say I’ve nearly hit my limit for rice and beans consumption (hence my excitement about the eggs and bread), but at the same time I can’t complain because they are often cooked with different meats and flavorings. Many cups of coffee and hot chocolate later, we had a short break before heading off to a guided walk through a dry forest area. We focused on the three-wattled bellbird, a very interesting bird that has an incredibly distinct call. Our walk was through part of a biological corridor, which is an area of forest that connects other areas of forest to provide a continuous region of habitat for wild animals.


Check out those wattles!

Also, Vanessa and Martín, our guide and driver from Catie have been keeping the energy up when we’re all ready for our mid-morning nap after waking up extra early. Shout out to them for being so much fun this whole trip!

Vanessa and Martin

I apologize my only picture of them is a selfie, but aren’t they great?

After this tour, we had a delicious lunch and spent the next four or so hours in town. This was a really nice break from our usually very structured schedule, and we all enjoyed our time exploring the different shops and cafés in town. When we returned to campus, we were greeted by yet another rainbow. The wonder of a rainbow never wears off for me.


One of our cabins is at the front, followed by the amazing montane forest with clouds tumbling over the treetops.

We then had another great dinner at UGA and headed over to an exciting night of salsa dancing! It was so much fun to let loose and dance with all of these people we’ve started to become really close to. We learned salsa and caramba dance, which was both challenging and quite the workout! I’m so thankful to be here in Costa Rica with such a great group of people, learning so much about a variety of topics and enjoying every minute.


The dance moves were surprisingly complex for our primarily beginner abilities.


Smiles all around as the night closed with high energy. We have another early morning tomorrow so we all left and got ready for bed pretty quickly.


I just want to close this post with a picture of some peccaries from La Selva. I recognize this was nearly a week ago now, but I just really miss the peccaries!! They are just so friendly and I think their smell is endearing. Until tomorrow, Costa Rica!

Coffee and Biodigesters and Tarantulas! Oh My!

Today was a bit slower paced than many of our previous days, but we still had plenty of interesting activities to fill our time and got some much-appreciated catch up time for classwork. We started off the day with a tour of Finca La Bella, a farm close to the UGA campus where we are staying. It is a large farm that sells land to individual families to farm with whatever crops they choose, but none of the farmers are allowed to use chemicals on their land except in extreme circumstances. We visited two of the farms that mainly produced coffee. The first farm grew coffee along with other subsistence crops. By diversifying their farm, they are able to both put more nutrients into the soil and produce more of the food they need for their family. We learned about diseases affecting the coffee crop, how the coffee is harvested, and at the end of the tour some of us got a chance to try extracting the juice from sugarcane! The juice was very sweet, as you might expect, but many people enjoyed snacking on the sweet stalks as well.

Carly, Leah and Kiersten juicing the sugarcane

Karly, Leah and Kiersten expertly juicing the sugarcane

The second farm we visited in Finca La Bella both grew coffee plants and produced their own brand of organic coffee, La Bella Tica. We found out that this is one of the brands of coffee that the UGA cafeteria buys (definitely one of my favorite perks of being in Costa Rica—great coffee!). By completing the entire process of coffee production themselves, from growing the plant to packaging the roasted beans, they are able to make more money for their final product than they would if they only sold the unprocessed beans. We’ve been to a lot of coffee farms, but no two have been the same. Each farmer has to make choices in order to both preserve the environment and provide for their family, and it’s impressive the commitment many of these farmers make to sustainability, such as growing polycultures and avoiding chemicals. One of the main themes that has arisen in our class discussions is how education is key—and in this case, it’s only education of the consumer that will encourage farmers to continue investing in these sustainable practices! After our tour we ate lunch on the farm, which was delicious and a nice change of pace from the cafeteria lunches, even if it was mostly the same three basic food groups—rice, beans, and fruit.

Martin, our awesome bus driver, trying his hand at the old-time coffee grinder

Martín, our awesome bus driver, trying his hand at the old-time coffee grinder

Eating lunch at Finca La Bella

Eating lunch at Finca La Bella

After lunch we had an unexpected break, during which many of us went for runs on one of several scenic roads around the UGA campus, while others of us caught up on classwork (or sleep). Mid-afternoon we went on a guided walk around the campus to hear about the different sustainability initiatives. One thing they really emphasized was eating local, which St. Olaf also promotes but is much easier here with year-long growing seasons. The UGA cafeteria produces 13% of the food consumed in the cafeteria, and around 50% more is bought from local farms. They also recently installed a biodigester (which turns organic material and waste into biogas and fertilizer) that they hope will provide up to 30% of their cooking energy. We’ve seen several biodigesters at small farms, but this was the most complex, filtering all the water used on campus!

The UGA Biodigester

The UGA Biodigester

After dinner and a class discussion on montane, dry forest and savanna ecosystems, we went on a night hike around the UGA campus. It’s a very different feeling walking the trails at night than during the day—you aren’t able to see much around you, but you hear many more sounds and also focus in on things more closely under the beam of your flashlight. My group was able to see two tarantulas, a sleeping bird, a kinkajou way up in a tree, and several interesting insects. It was a very fun experience, but I think we were all a little relieved to get back in the light and be able to see what was under our feet!

Ready for a night hike!

Ready for a night hike!

We will be waking up early the next two days to go birdwatching and milking, so it’s time for a good night’s sleep!

¡Pura Vida!



A Walk in the Clouds

Today was our first full day spent in the Monteverde Cloud Forest! After breakfast, we trekked up the steep Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for a guided walk and lecture.

-view from the bus!

-view from the bus!

Monteverde is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful natural attractions. Along with amazing wildlife and vegetation, the forest is literally immersed in clouds. The reserve is situated on BOTH the Pacific and Atlantic slopes of the Continental Divide (on clear days, the Pacific Ocean can be seen from its highest viewpoint). The trade winds from the Caribbean side blow moisture up the eastern side of the mountain and gravity pulls the clouds down, causing the moisture to envelop Monteverde.
Because of the ever-present moisture in the air, the trees are covered with ferns, mosses, and bromeliads.

-life is everywhere in the Cloud Forest!

-life is everywhere in the Cloud Forest!

We started off our tour with a sighting of the Resplendent Quetzal, the symbol of the Mid-American Cloud Forest and Guatamala’s national bird. Many people come from all over the world to see this majestic bird, and we saw it in the first five minutes on trail!

-a female Resplendid Quetzal

-a female Resplendid Quetzal

We also spotted a walking stick with two missing legs, an emerald toucan, spiny palm, cow’s tongue, monkey tail fern tree, a coati, and a waterfall!

-Half the group at the waterfall

-Half the group at the waterfall

Our guided tour finished early, so we all went out on a quick hike up to the Continental Divide. Unfortunately, it was cloudy so we couldn’t see very far, but the winds were incredibly strong! After a good shower of rain and wind, we hiked back for lunch and a lecture given by Dr. Alan Pounds. He came to Costa Rica in 1981 for his thesis and decided to stay here and study amphibians. For the past three decades, he has devoted his life to studying the effects of climate change on amphibian declines, including the infamous Monteverde Golden Toad.


After the lecture, we drove back down to UGA for a guided tour through their property, dinner and a video about the history and wildlife of Monteverde. It was a busy day; I believe we walked a little over 9 miles! Now to rest and recuperate for a busy week! ¡Pura vida, y buenos noches!

-Kristy Rudberg

The Journey to Monteverde

After a work-filled stay at Tirimbina and La Selva, we got up bright and early to move on to Monteverde.  We knew ahead of time that the ride was going to be a long one so we made sure to buy plenty of snacks for the road. Since we started so early, some people got a little extra shut-eye to make up for lost time. Others stayed awake, listening to music or socializing with good friends we’ve made during our time in Costa Rica.

Everybody ready bright and early to go to Monteverde.

Everybody ready bright and early to go to Monteverde.

An hour and a half or so into the drive, we stopped in a really nice little town for a break. We parked right along side a beautifully green park that was filled with flowers, stone benches, and a fountain. During our stop, Martín, our driver, told us that the Volcán Arenal, a volcano with a perfect conic shape, was dead ahead of us. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day so we were unable to see it. Driving out from the town, plenty of pedestrians waved at our bus. A little kid even shot a toy arrow at us! All of us have noticed a cultural difference where strangers in Costa Rica, even on the road, usually greet one another. It’s a nice little custom.

Our bus parked in the town next to the Volcán Arenal.

Our bus parked in the town next to the Volcán Arenal.

The road after lunch was a little bit more adventurous; we moved off of paved roads and on to gravel. The road was bumpy but nothing we couldn’t handle (except for when another car passed by us on the left and accidentally splashed water into my open window). We continued down the road and started to go up inclined, winding roads. Moving higher into the mountain, clouds started to visibly cover the landscape around us. At one point, we couldn’t see more than 25 feet.

We stopped for a couple hours at Life Farm, a sustainable farm growing mainly cacao along with some livestock and other subsistence farming. Though not a traditional organic farm, they made a commitment to sustainability, using very little chemicals compared to other farms, having natural windbreaks, a biodigester, and organic compost. This is the third coffee farm we have been to, so it has been very interesting to compare the different practices in each of the very different farms. For most farmers, it’s a struggle to both use the land responsibly and make a profit, but many farmers are making a commitment to more sustainable farming and working for consumer education, such as the farm we visited today. The guide also told us a little bit about the history of Monteverde—how it was originally settled by farmers and gold miners, but since the 1980s its primary industry has been tourism. Ecotourists from all over the world come here for the beautiful cloud forest preserves, farm tours, and other fun tourist activities. We are very excited to experience the cloud forest personally tomorrow!

Guillermo Vargas Leiton showing us one of his plots on his farm.

Guillermo Vargas Leiton showing us one of his plots on his farm.

After leaving Life, we had a short (but steep) twenty minute drive to the University of Georgia campus, where we’ll be for about a week. Martín was able to safely navigate the road until the clouds broke a bit, and we saw possibly the most beautiful sight of the trip so far. A clear rainbow and barely visible second rainbow arched over the mountain and down into the valley below us where the town we were going to laid. Everyone on the bus scrambled to take pictures as we winded down the mountain, transferring the rainbow from the left side of the bus to the right. By the time we arrived at the campus, everyone had managed to get a blurry picture or two.

One of the many rainbows we've seen since arriving at Monteverde.

One of the many rainbows we’ve seen since arriving at Monteverde.

The rooms on campus offer the most space since we stayed at CATIE. After unpacking a little (which I had yet to do, since we moved around so frequently), I and a couple other people went outside to find a small soccer field and a ball to play with. I could go into how much I’ve missed soccer, but I’d be writing for another hour. Basically, I was very happy to kick around. At 6:00, we went up the road a short ways to the dining hall where we had the usual beans and rice, chicken, a salad, and some delicious juice.  After dinner, we went to a short orientation for the UGA, which told us all about the purpose of the campus and general guidelines.

When that was done, a few others and I went to join a salsa dance lesson. We laughed and danced the next hour away, learning how to step and spin just like the pros. Well, almost like the pros.

A beautiful view of the sunset from the UGA campus in Monteverde.

A beautiful view of the sunset from the UGA campus in Monteverde.

In short, it was a long road getting here, but anything can be fun when you’re in good company. ¡Pura vida!


¡Aquí viene el sol! Finishing up at La Selva.

The sky cleared up after some morning showers, and we were FINALLY able to experience a sunnier and warmer version of La Selva! We were even able to fit in a short field quiz. This served as a useful review of the plant and animal species that we encountered in the rainforest, as well as touching on some aspects of how they contribute to and interact with the ecosystem. The rest of the day was spent wrapping up our research projects, looking ahead to future work, and enjoying our last day in the rainforest.

It was a beautiful final day at La Selva! 

After dinner we all migrated to the classroom onthe other side of the campus, where the different research groups took turns presenting their findings. My group (Morgan, Aubrey, Kristen, and myself) used our data to defend our original hypothesis that the collared peccary is more often found around human altered environment due to their highly social nature. We counted peccary tracks in different types of forest (primary or secondary) and alongside the different types of trails (dirt or paved) to find our data.

A particularly friendly looking peccary that visited the field station

For the second presentation, Chris, Karly, Jack, and Leah presented their findings on the occurrence, location, and size of leaf-cutter ant populations in primary, secondary, and agriculturally utilized forest. Their data conflicted with their original hypothesis, and they found that the ants have a greater population density in primary forest. It seems as though the rainy weather hurt their project the most, as it made observing the ants nearly impossible.

Next, Kiersten, Mike, Mark, and Sam offered their research on the streams within La Selva and how the water quality may be affecting macroinvertebrates. They discovered that although the two streams they monitored (the Surá and Toconazo) had different pH levels and drastically different conductivity measurements, they had a very similar level of biodiversity with regard to macroinvertebrates.

One group braved the Surá river to conduct their field research.

Anna, Ellen, Kristy, and Lucas wrapped up the evening with their presentation on arboreal termite nests within La Selva. After visiting the three types of forest and viewing termite colonies, they found marked differences between termite nest size and abundance between the different forests, something they chalked up to the greater presence of epiphytes in secondary growth forest. All in all, it was rewarding for everyone to share their research, and it was a fun way to end our stay here.

In the morning we embark for the San Luis Research Station near Monteverde, owned and operated by the University of Georgia. Although we will miss La Selva, we are excited to move on to a new place and the adventures that we will experience there! We are also thankful that we were all able to do some laundry while at La Selva, something that will be much appreciated for our long drive to Monteverde!

-Cole Swanson


Workin’ in the Rain

Today was special… We got to sleep in a bit and didn’t leave La Tirimbina until 8 o’clock! We were fairly excited about that and even stopped at a supermarket on the way to La Selva. The two most common purchases were cookies and panditas (the Costa Rican equivalent to gummy bears). After our quick stop, we finished our short trek to La Selva.

As Karly said, it rained all day yesterday and continued to rain for most of the night. The morning was fairly peaceful with the beautiful calling of tropical birds and the occasional bellow of the howler monkey. Upon arriving to La Selva it began to rain AGAIN, light at first and continually picking up force as the morning progressed. As we walked across the suspension bridge I noticed that the river had raised substantially. My research team is working on testing water chemistry and sampling macro invertebrates in the streams within La Selva, and we new with the extreme water level of the river that the streams would be swollen as well.

The Puerto Viejo River when we first arrived at La Selva.

The Puerto Viejo River when we arrived to La Selva on Friday morning.

The rain persisted for the remainder of the day but occasionally stopped to give the weary researchers in the field a break. Most group’s battle with the rain carried on with the Stream Team doing what we could along the side of a severely backed up tributary, known as the Sura, to the now bloated and murky Puerto Viejo river. The small stream had raised a minimum of 1 meter at our first sampling site due to backflow from the Puerto Viejo, and the river itself had raised several meters over night. The Puerto Viejo was so treacherous and turbid that even the large school of machaca (a relative of the piranha that eats fruit and seeds that are dropped into the river) moved up the Sura to seek refuge.

A school of machaca in the Sura stream escaping the treacherous waters of the Puerto Viejo.

Team Leaf Cutter Ants finally got their project underway after a rain delay. With some minor adjustments to the project plan field research was conducted and data collected. The Termite Team finished up their project in the early morning and worked most of the day on preparing their research paper and presentation for tomorrow. The luckiest group was Team Peccary. With a lot of hard work and quick hiking they finished the leg work for their project yesterday and was able to work on their paper and presentation all day today.

We finished our day with our last group discussion here at La Selva, this evening. The topic of discussion was the animals of the rainforest, many of which we have been fortunate enough to see. Team Peccary brought there animal friends along, who took shelter from the relentless rain underneath the overhang of our classroom’s roof. Our honored guests’ smell was extremely overwhelming, but we managed to get through our class discussion reasonably well. To wrap up our stay at La Selva we will be finishing up our research papers and presentations, taking a field quiz, and then finally presenting our projects to the class tomorrow evening. Although the last couple days have been long and wet, we have found that bad weather and bad days can sometimes make for the best stories. It will continue to be a packed schedule going forward, but we will still manage to sneak in some fun time along the way.

Mark and Kristy leading our last discussion at La Selva.

Our smelly honored guests.

This potent little fellow is loving our wet weather.

¡Pura Vida!

Michael Thai

Rain, Rain, Go Away, We Need to Do Our Research Today!

Today, we ate our breakfast bright and early in anticipation of our first really “free” day: research. We would get to manage our own schedules, eat when we wanted, and most importantly, create our own research projects. Leah, Chris, Jack, and myself were planning our research around the ever-abundant leaf-cutter ants, while another group was in hot pursuit of the smelly, pig-like peccaries (Morgan, Kristen, Cole, and Aubrey). Kristy, Anna, Ellen, and Luke were planning to record data about the large, arboreal termite nests around the station, and Mike, Mark, Sam, and Kiersten were mapping out the streams of the area to prepare for studying the bodies of water at La Selva.

We filed on to the bus for the short 20-minute ride to La Selva when, lo and behold, the skies unleashed. And continued to unleash. All day. What else did we expect, I suppose, we are in a RAINforest. Most of the other groups’ progress was only slightly dampened by the weather (pun certainly intended), but my group watched in despair as our project came to a screeching halt. We had learned yesterday that at the first sign of rain leaf-cutter ants toss their leaves aside and scamper to their massive colonies to await the end of the storm which, unfortunately for us, never came. Thankfully, we found the day actually to be quite helpful as we caught up on reading, journaling, other research, and even sleep. We even managed to find a few leaf-cutter anthills (or rather, mountains) deep enough in the forest that the rain hardly reached them and were able to observe their colonies. We also have all of tomorrow and Saturday morning to continue our research.

As for the other groups, they all had their fair share of adventures! I know that Mike and Mark found out the hard way that what may look like a rocky river bank may actually be several feet deep of soft mud that can fill up even the tallest of rubber boots. Morgan discovered the magical, slippery properties of a wet rainforest hill; her muddy pants told that story wordlessly for the rest of the day. Whatever the adventure, spirits were high and much was learned about the curious wildlife of the tropical rainforest. Furthermore, we witnessed the amazing territorial display of two male Greater Curassows; large, black, tropical birds with vibrant yellow beaks. They are rather rare, and I would assume seeing this competition between two beautiful males is even rarer, so we felt privileged to be able to see (and even record) this event.

Great Curassows

Great Curassows

Overall, I would have to say the weather was a blessing in disguise. I got the chance to catch up on my coursework, giggle with my friends, watch the serene rain fall, and had I been on the trails with my eyes trained on leaf-cutter ants, I would have never witnessed the Curassows battling for territory. Perhaps the rainforest was giving us an important reminder to keep our eyes and minds open to the wonderful environment around us, even when things don’t go as planned.

-Karly Boll

A few other animals we have seen so far:




Black Mandibled Toucan

Black Mandibled Toucan

Black Mandibled Toucan

Black Mandibled Toucan





In the Jungle the Mighty Jungle

¡Hola de Costa Rica! We have moved again and are now spending our time in Sarapiqui. This is a city in northern Costa Rica. We started the day nice and early (on the bus at 7:30) and headed to La Selva Biological Field Station where we will be spending the next few days doing research projects. Today, we went on two nature walks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We all saw so many different species! Some of the most incredible were a poison dart frogs, snakes, and monkeys.

_MG_5107 Black and Green Poison Dart Frog Biodiversity

We split into two groups and one group went with Ivan and the other group with Geiner both of which were amazing guides.

Geiner the Guide

We had one walk prior to lunch and had to prepare ourselves.


Then we were ready to start our walks and see some things. We saw a crested guan, which is like a turkey and we saw a green palm snake which is not poisonous.

Green Palm Snake
Crested Guan

We then ate a lunch of… YOU GUESSED IT! Rice and beans with chicken. It never gets old here. After lunch with had another walk through a deeper part of the forest. We stayed in the darker more shaded parts because our Minnesota bodies were not ready for the heat we encountered. Thankfully, it was a tad cooler and more shaded so we all survived. Also, we ran into a troop of howler monkeys yelling, which is how they protect their territory. It was so incredibly loud and exhilarating to be standing directly below the troop while they howled. We even achieved at making one of the monkeys wave at us.


A little further up the path we found a troop of spider monkeys. They were more than willing to sit around while we took photos of them. A playful youngster grabbed a branch of leaves and ate a snack while we took photos.

Spider Monkey

Soon after that we found something that strikes fear into the hearts of many, a eyelash pit viper, which is one of the most poisonous snakes in Costa Rica. Thankfully it just stayed curled up in it’s tree while we took photos because there would have been a lot of screaming if it had moved!


As our walk ended Anna and Kristie wrote a song to commemorate all the things we had seen on our walk. It is sung to the tune of “The 12 days of Christmas” and goes like this:

On the first day of J-Term La Selva gave to me…..
12 big trees
11 peccaries smelling
10 rubber trees
9 Jesus lizards
8 cutters cutting
7 Montezumas
6 smooth skinned toads
5 eyelash vipers
4 bullet ants
3-toed sloth
2-toed sloth
and a howler monkey in a palm tree

Right now, I am sitting in the dinning hall finishing this post while the rest of my classmates finish dinner. We are about to have discussion on coevolution and figure out what our research projects will be so that we can start nice and early tomorrow. ¡Pura Vida a todos!