Adapted from the Field Study Journal of Ariana Fornes-Neuharth
When we got to Costa Rica, we kicked off our field study in San Jose, where we drove through the city, the cloud forest and crossed the continental divide to get to La Selva. We stayed at the research center, where we could hear the wildlife surrounding us when we stepped off the bus. That night, we went to La Tirimbina and had an informative lesson on bats, where we were fortunate enough to get introduced to five different species of bats.
On day two, those of us who are early birds woke up an hour early to fit some bird watching into our busy schedule. After breakfast, the rest of us met up to walk through the grounds at La Selva. We walked the trails, looking through the newly formed growth that has only been around for about 33 years. Even though the vegetation was new, our guides helped us spot Olive-Backed Euphonia, Vermiculated Screech-Owls, and Collared Aracari, just to name a few.
After walking through the forest trails, we crossed a suspension bridge leading to even older growth. The oldest tree found on the other side of the suspension bridge was 300 years old. On this side we got to see bullet ants, walking palms, howler monkeys, and more. There, we learned that the Great Curassow (a pheasant-like bird) is a symbol of conservation success in Costa Rica.
We went back to La Tirimbina and crossed yet another suspension bridge, where a chocolate tour was waiting for us on the other side. On our chocolate tour, we learned about how the natives used to extract the cocoa bean and ferment it to create a hot chocolate-like drink – which for the record, tastes great.
Looking for wildlife was an important part of our field study, including two-toed sloths; the Resplendent Quetzal, many reptiles and amphibians common in the many ecosystems of Costa Rica; many different fish, an octopus, some urchins and a few anemones in the Gulf of Papagayo; crocodiles on the Tarcoles River, as well as Bare-throated Tiger Herons, Green Kingfishers, and plenty of cows grazing on the banks of the water.
Among other highlights of the trip: We got to see how a banana picker hauls a bunch of bananas across the plantation. We traveled by plane and bus to Monteverde, where we climbed from a dry montane forest into a cloud forest and ziplined over the canopy of the cloud forest at Selvatura. Later in the trip, we hiked to the continental divide (where if you stood on one side, the winds from the Pacific Ocean were a bit chilly compared to the warmer, less windy Caribbean side). Our group also visited a waterfall called Llanos del Cortez, where we had lunch and went for a swim. We also enjoyed plenty of beautiful sunsets.
We had a lot of fun on this field study and feel privileged to have had such an amazing opportunity to observe such a variety of animal and plant life in six different ecosystems, and participate in a study that emphasizes the way the Costa Rican people have embraced a lifestyle of conservation that we should be modeling in our own country.