Tuesday, September 30, 2008


After spending two weeks at Las Cruces biological station, we spent the week between September 8 and 15 at a site called Cuerici. Cuerici is a farm at an altitude of about 2700 m, and the farmer, Don Carlos, raises trout as well as a few species of trees. On our second day there, we drove up another few hundred meters to a type of high-altitude forest called Páramo. The vegetation there was uniquely adapted to drastic temperature changes and high UV exposure - most plants were hairy and all were short and shrub-like. We also took an all-day hike one day to see a 2000-year-old oak tree and a really neat waterfall. During the hike, we crossed a wide-ish river on a not-quite-wide-enough tree that had fallen over it, which was slightly terrifying but really fun. Our environment classes while we were at Cuerici focused a lot on sustainable conservation, using Don Carlos's farm as an example to analyze critically.

Although it was pretty cold at Cuerici (especially at night), we were kept pretty cozy by multiple fires/stoves, hot chocolate, and lots of blankets. The 22 of us slept in one giant bunk room and shared a big bathroom, making for another fun bonding experience. We spent a lot of time hiking through the oak forest surrounding the farm, and learned a good deal about trout farming. The views were absolutely gorgeous at Cuerici, and we spent a lot of time walking around inside of clouds. At the end of our stay at Cuerici, we drove to La Selva research station (lowland tropical wet forest), which is where we've been for the past two weeks - more on that to come soon!

View from a high point in the oak forest.

Marshmallow-roasting party one night after class :)

The log bridge - I'm second from the right (and although you can't tell, I'm terrified in this picture...)

Páramo again... there was lots of climbing involved.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Estoy en Costa Rica!

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to post about Costa Rica! Now that I'm back in an academic setting, it's gotten much more difficult to find time to blog.

First, some quick information. My study abroad program is the Organization for Tropical Studies undergraduate semester-long program. We will spend one to two weeks at something like six different biological research stations in different parts of Costa Rica (and one in Nicaragua). In addition, we have a three-week homestay in San Jose, during which we will take intensive Spanish classes. Besides Spanish, our courses consist of two tropical biology courses and an environmental policy course. Each day, we eat breakfast at 6:30 and usually head out into the field. We normally have about three classes per day, with everything wrapping up at about 8:30 PM. The days are extremely long but fun, since much of our learning takes place outside. There are 22 students in my program, and we travel with three professors and a TA.

For the last two weeks, we've been staying at the Las Cruces biological station (and Wilson Botanical Garden) in southern Costa Rica. Among other topics, we've studied plant and insect taxonomy, the history and economy of Costa Rica, and forest fragmentation and restoration. One of our projects consisted of finding and identifying ten insects to family, and this morning we had a test in which we identified plants while walking through the forest.

So far, I've had an amazing time here. Our days are filled with hilarious falls in the mud, random sing-a-longs, "treacherous" river crossings (not), and a group cohesiveness that can only result from spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together.