Wednesday, October 1, 2008

La Selva: Flora & Fauna

On September 15, we drove by bus for five hours from Cuerici (altitude 2700 m) to La Selva Biological Research Station in northeastern Costa Rica (altitude 500 m). La Selva is owned by OTS, and is a very well-known and productive research station. I've been amazed by what a large proportion of tropical biological research has been performed at La Selva as I've been searching the literature for various assignments since we've been here. Many researchers live long-term on-station, and there are even a couple of famous British photographers currently living here and working on a book.

^The bridge we cross to get to and from class and the forest. Sweet, right?

Here's a blurb about La Selva from the OTS website, since I'm too lazy to come up with one myself:

"At the confluence of two major rivers in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Costa Rica, La Selva comprises 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests and disturbed lands. It averages 4 m (over 13 feet!) of rainfall that is spread rather evenly throughout the year.
La Selva was originally established in 1954 by Dr. Leslie Holdridge, as a farm dedicated to experimentation on mixed plantations for the improvement of natural resources management. It was purchased in 1968 by the Organization for Tropical Studies and declared a private biological reserve and station. Since then, it has become one of the most important sites in the world for research on tropical rain forest. Over 240 scientific papers are published yearly from research conducted at the site."

Our accomodations at La Selva are 6-person bunk rooms, and we are lucky in that we have five of them for 22 people (yay!). There are only three showers & toilets, so every time we have an afternoon soccer game there is a mad (and hilarious) rush to get to the showers first. La Selva is definitely the most hot and humid place I have ever been - most of the time you feel like you're walking around in soup, and we all sleep with very few clothes on and usually no covers. If there was any doubt that we were in the rainforest at Las Cruces, it's certainly gone now.

Our first week at La Selva involved a lot of lectures, hikes around the forest, and general marveling at our surroundings. Since it's looking like I'm going to end up posting a mildly ridiculous number of pictures of La Selva, I'm going to keep this one to flora and fauna and save the adventures for the next few posts....

^Peccaries. They are literally everywhere, and they smell terrible.

^Leaf-cutter ants. They are also literally everywhere, and I'm convinced they're going to take over the world, one little slice of leaf at a time.

^Really awesome bug I stumbled upon (mantidae).

^Camoflauge, anyone? Pupa.

^I doubt any of you are going to believe me, but this is actually an insect we found. Species is Fulgora laternana. I think it looks like a dinosaur.

^Millipedes. Also everywhere, and about 90% of the ones I've seen have been mating. As a result, most of the guys have declared their intentions to become millipedes in their next lives (what'd you expect?)

^Howler monkey! This one was randomly climbing on the bridge cables, but we see them a lot around the forest. The most interesting thing about them is the intensely creepy howling sounds they make.

^Extremely large stick bug... the finger is the same distance from the camera as the bug.

^Leeeee-zard! (Jessie, that was for you.)

^Cayman (see it?). A few of my friends went swimming in the river with them, but unfortunately (luckily?) I was working at the time and missed out.


^Stilt roots - I have no idea how some of these things remain standing.

^Strangely pretty fungus.

^Bats! Bats, also, are everywhere, and when I go running on the trails in the evening I often shield my face with my hand for fear that one will fly directly into my face. Of the 210 mammal species in Costa Rica, 110 are bats.

^Sloth! I saw it last night hanging from a bridge cable on my way back to the cabin to go to bed (at 9:30... haha.) That brings my lifetime total sloth sighting count to two - the first being last summer in Brazil.

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