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WELCOME TO THE CIEE MONTEVERDE BLOGS

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This blog serves all CIEE Monteverde programs:  Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation, and CIEE's program on Sustainability and the Environment.

 To filter content for each program, please select the appropriate category on the right.

Enjoy.  These blogs are designed to showcase how we learn and what you will do as a CIEE student in Monteverde, Costa Rica.  The CIEE Difference is clear:  we learn by doing and in amazing places. Join us!

07/17/2017

Santa Rosa National Park: a little bit of history, conservation and dry forest

After spending a few days in the wet and moist forests we made it to Santa Rosa to explore the dry forest. Santa Rosa is exceptional not only because the different habitats and ecosystems you find there, but also for the historical and conservation value this place have for Costa Rica.

Santa Rosa was an old cattle farm hacienda in which 2 important battles happened. First in March 20th, 1856 the Costa Rican forces fought against the forces of filibuster William Walker, the filibusters were housed in the main farm building, La Casona, the ensuing battle lasted 14 minutes with the Costa Rican militia victorious in ousting the invaders.  And in 1955 Costa Ricans fought intruders supporting a coup attempt against the government of Jose Figueres Ferrer.  For this reason La Casona became a Costa Rican Historical Monument and one of the reasons why the park was created.

Santa Rosa was the first National Park created in Costa Rica in 1971, with the idea of protecting the natural environment beyond the historical site, the unique habitats within the park include savannas, deciduous forest and mangroves.  Since the creation of the park the biggest battle has been fought to conserve the area, but mostly to restore the habitat from cattle farms to what the forest used to look dozens of years ago.

During a few days we got to explore the beauties of this dry forest in regeneration, see many new species of plants and animals and experience firsthand the changes that 35-40 years of regeneration can make in a forest.

 

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The Black Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) one of the most common animal inhabitants of Santa Rosa.

 

 

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The Summer 2017 Tropical Ecology & Conservation group enjoying the shade of a Strangler Fig (Ficus sp).  From left to right, top: Jimmy Webb (University of Arkansas), Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Christine Bradley (California Polytechnic State University), Drew Rosso (University of Notre Dame); bottom: Vikram Norton (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), Sarah Aitken (University of Pennsylvania) and Amanda Ogden (Utah State University).

 

 

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La Casona, Costa Rica's Historical Monument.

 

 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_31aStudents learning from Alan about the history of the battles at Santa Rosa right at the place where the action happened.

 

 

Part of the conservation efforts in Santa Rosa and adjacent areas has been to connect the lowlands with the top of the mountains of the Cordillera de Guanacaste, this forest corridor its a really important migratory way for most of the animal species who escape the harsh dry and hot conditions in the lowlands during the dry season.  Most of these mountain tops are volcanoes some of which are active.

 

 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_325While learning about the importance of preserving big patches of forest and having corridors connecting these areas, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano had an eruption (yes, that big white cloud on the back!) that we did not noticed until we checked our pictures.  Do not worry that eruption it was just gas and ashes and did not affect us at all.

 

 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_327Alan with the students after a good learning day in which we learned the natural history of some of the plant and animal species found in Santa Rosa, the history of the place, and the importance of conservation and restoration of habitat.

 

 


 

 

 

07/08/2017

Transition between Wet and Dry forest, Carara National Park

Time to move from the wet forest to the dry forest, but half way there we found Carara National Park. Carara is a moist forest in which you can see the transition between those two habitats, here you can find the best of both worlds but also encounter unique species. This was a only a morning stop, but a wonderful forest to visit and an interesting transition to see before getting to the dry forest.

 

IMG_3235Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) and Vikram Norton (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) really interested in learning about this new habitat and all the species found in there.

 

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A cup fungi (Cookeina speciosa), a really common fungi found in Carara.

 

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The Green and Black Poison Dart frog (Dendrobates auratus), this diurnal frogs has toxins that protects it against its predators, this common species of Carara forest feed mostly on ants where they get the compounds to produce their toxins.

 

The word Carara comes from the Costa Rican indigenous tribe Huetar and means crocodile. Right next to the National Park the Tarcoles River contain a really high density of crocodiles in a small area, this is an uncommon and unexplainable situation, but a good stop to see many of this incredible animals.

 

IMG_3242Important sign at the beginning of Tarcoles bridge.

 

IMG_3243What are they looking at?!

 

IMG_3244Ohh yeah, all those crocodiles.

 

IMG_3250Hungry or what?. The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is one of the biggest species of reptiles worldwide, as reptiles they are ectotherms who need to bask exposed to the sun to get warm, what we are seeing here is a common behavior shown by the crocodiles when they need to cool down a little.

 

 

07/04/2017

The Wet Forest of Corcovado National Park

After spending a brief time at the habitats of Paramo and Mangroves it was time to move to Corcovado, here we will be spending a few days exploring this amazing habitat full of life and many species of plants and animals to discover.  The first day we got to learn about beach ecology and explore the forest around Corcovado.

 

07Alan teaching the group about butterfly ecology with a live example of a Morpho butterfly.

 

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A pair of Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), here perched in the tree that is their favorite food item, the Beach Almond (Terminalia catappa), reason why they are usually seen along the coast line.

 

An important aspect of a tropical ecologist life is to create a baseline of how a tropical forest look; in a world in which a big part of the primary forest have disappear and most of the tropical forest is secondary growth, it is really important to experience with all of our senses an undisturbed tropical forest and get a point of comparison, this will give us a better idea of the importance on preserving untouched forest and to let disturbed forest to growth and regenerate.

With this idea we had a 16 km hike (about 10 miles) in which the biggest part of the hike was along a gorgeous patch of undisturbed primary forest, here you could see lots of animals (birds, lizards, frogs, insects, mammals) and trees that reach a hight of 50 or 60 meters tall.  The students get to walk at their own pace and experience this hike individually, getting immerse and feeling this forest in a unique way.

 

 

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A stream in the middle of the primary forest of Corcovado.

 

01Vikram Norton (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), Sarah Aitken (University of Pennsylvania), Amanda Ogden (Utah State University), Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Drew Rosso (University of Notre Dame), Jimmy Webb (University of Arkansas), and Christine Bradley (California Polytechnic State University) standing at the roots of a big tree at Corcovado.

 

IMG_2433View of the primary forest.

 

During our last night in Corcovado we went on a night hike and got to know some of the nocturnal fauna found in the area, several species of frogs, many species of spiders and insects and some mammals were our company during the time we went out in the dark, with our flashlights of course! 

 

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The Smokey Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus savagei), the second largest species of frog in Costa Rica.

 

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The Central American Woolly Opossum (Caluromys derbianus), one of the ten species of marsupials found in Costa Rica.

 

06/30/2017

Tropical Ecology & Conservation Summer 2017

The Summer 2017 Tropical Ecology & Conservation group has arrived, seven young enthusiasts looking to learn as much as possible about tropical ecosystems, and at the same time admire all the different habitats and scenic beauty that Costa Rica has to offer.

After one day exploring San José, the capital city, it was time to start our first field trip. First stop, the Paramo, this may not sound like the kind of habitat you expect when you talk about a Tropical area, but in a country with a lot of mountains like Costa Rica, this habitat is really important for many endemic species that lived at the top of the mountains, we learned about some of the common species found here and some adaptations these species have to survive the daily changes in temperature and weather conditions.

 

IMG_3111View of the Paramo at Cerro de la Muerte.

 

IMG_3104Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Jimmy Webb (University of Arkansas), Drew Rosso (University of Notre Dame), Sarah Aitken (University of Pennsylvania), and Vikram Norton (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) learning about Paramo characteristics and the plant and animal species found there.

 

IMG_3119 Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis), one of the common species of the Paramo in Costa Rica, this species is endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama. 

 

After spending a few hours at the cold Paramo it was time to go down to the hot and humid lowlands, we made it to the town of Sierpe about dinner time, at night we had a lecture about Mangrove Ecology to get us ready for the habitat we will be exploring the next morning. Early in the morning the next day we were ready to explore this important wetland, we learned about the different mangrove species found there, the plant and animals associated to them and we even go to walk through the roots of some mangroves.

 

IMG_3127Students and staff getting ready to explore the mangroves of Sierpe.

 

IMG_3128Sierpe river.

 

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Christine Bradley (California Polytechnic State University) walking through the roots of a red mangrove (Rizophora mangle).

 

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Amanda Ogden (Utah State University) finding her way through the roots of red mangrove (Rizophora mangle).

 

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Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) enjoying the view from the top of the roots of red mangrove (Rizophora mangle).




 

 

05/28/2017

More science!

Cristina Riani 

Question:Do different species of bryophytes have different water holding capacities and water absorption with same water input and does elevation affect the bryophytes water holding capacity and water absorption?

Major findings:

Cristina2

 

There is differences in the mass of moss between hanging and dehydration and the morphospecies in different weather conditions

Conclusions:There is differences in water absorption between morphospecies in wet weather condition due to elevation and morphology

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-Cristina Riani. Department of Environmental Science. Oregon State University.

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Grace Ditch

Purpose: Determine if there is a difference in bryophyte and lichen diversity between native and exotic windbreak tree species and how to protect the biodiversity with encroachment of exotics.

Major findings:

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There is no statistically difference between the species and the morphospecies of liquens and bryophytes

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There is higher diversity in the native species than the exotic

Conclusions:Only a subset of bryophytes and lichens form a positive relationship with exotic tree species, therefore to conserve biodiversity prioritize native species for windbreaks.

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-Grace Ditch.Department of Forest Resources.University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

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Emma Ordemanm

Question:Are the differences in bacterial growth among site and antibiotic treatments and do nutrient concentrations in the soil differ between sites?

Major findings: 

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There is differences in the antibiotic resistance at study sites

Conclusions:Antibiotic resistance is likely present in water and not soils.

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-Emma Odermann. University of Colorado Boulder.

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Abigale Enrici

Question:Are leaves more clean when they reach the nest compared to when foraged and do minima still know to clean leaves while leaves are in transit?

Major findings:

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leaves without minima are more clean than leaves with minima.

Conclusions: Atta cephalotes minima "hitchhike" on leaves to clean contaminants, but leaves are not completely clean before they reach the nest.

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-Abigale Enrici.Department of Biology. Augsburg College.

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Patrick Wallin

Purpose: To determine the effect of Eciton burchelli on arthropod diversity in the highlands.

Major findings:

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There is differences in the number of species of arthropods before and after swarms.

Conclusions: Arthropod dominance increases over time after an raid of Eciton burchellii

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-Patrick Wallin. Department of Biology.University of Puget Sound.

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Deborah Williamson

Question:How does habitat disturbance, seed size, seed color, palatability and predator presence affect foraging by agoutis?

Major findings:

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There was no differences in the palatability and color of the seeds by the agoutis.

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The presence of predators did not shown an effect in the seed predated by agoutis.

Conclusions: Agoutis are very tolerant to seed conditions and habitat disturbances.

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-Debora Williamson. Purdue University.

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Kay Garlick-Ott

Purpose: Estimate crab dispersion in pools throughout a freshwater cloud forest stream, explore spacing across different morphs and sizes and characterizing the optimal habitat.

Major findings:

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There was more crabs in deeper pools.

Conclusions: Monteverde freshwater crabs are territorial and optimal habitat has deeper water and is structurally complex.

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-Kay Garlick-Ott.Department of Biology.Pomona College.

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Kathrynn Ross

Question: What effect does mist have on the Caligo memnon?

Major findings:

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There was a difference in the emergence days of the butterflies according to the mist input in the system.

Conclusions: Emergence was overall impacted by mist.

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-Kat Ross. Eckerd College.

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Emily Ellison

Question: If Caligo memnon butterflies may get intoxicated by ethanol found in rotting fruits, at high concentrations will they be able to avoid predation, even with adaptations of predator avoidance?

Major findings:

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At higher etanol concentration, there was more trials of predation(pokes)

Conclusion:Behavior, flight pattern and reaction time was affected by ethanol consumption.

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 Emily Ellison.Department of Environmental Science. Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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Melisa Rodríguez

Purpose:Difference in the rate of calls types produced during stranger and neighbor calls in the Long tailed manakins.

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"Toledo" call present differences in the number or calls between neighbor and stranger responses.

Conclusions:Long-tailed manakins appear to discriminate against stranger playbacks

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-Melisa Rodríguez. Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. University of Minnesota.

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Cali Wilson

Question: Do captive Dermanura tolteca show evidence of personality and behavioral syndromes?

Major findings:

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There is significant variation between individuals in behavioral traits.

Conclusions:Some evidence for personality traits in captive D. tolteca bats and no evidence for behavioral syndromes .

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-Cali Wilson.Department of Biology. Bucknell University.

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Emma Didier

Question: How does ecotourism impacts the coati behavior?

Major findings:

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No effect of sex, sociality, reserve visitation, habitat or distance from the entrance on vigilance or foraging.

Conclusions:High potential for coatis to capitalize on food through ecotourism.

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 -Emma Didier. Department of Biology and Environmental Policy.University of Puget Sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

05/24/2017

Questions of science, science and progress

Part of our experience in Monteverde consist on independent projects that we develop during our home stays...the best part of it? It's totally ours! With our professors help we think in our own idea and what about our surroundings can we investigate.After some days we design our methodology and here we go!!! doing science by our own..

After one month of data collection, we will like to introduce you our projects:

 

Megan Kruse 

Question of the project: Does Momotus lessonii use the tail-wag display as a signal of territoriality?

Major findings:

 

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Conclusions:Lesson's Motmots are territorial

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Megan Kruse.Forest & Wildlife Ecology.UW-Madison.

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Colleen Egan

Question: What is the distribution of bryophyte-dwelling arthropods and are these effects of a decrease in moisture level during dry season?

Major findings:

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There was a statistically difference in arthropod abundance in the tree section.

Conclusion:Due to significant arthropod abundance in the canopy, but overall evenness of richness and significant diversity at the base, it can be concluded that height is not the driving factor in variation

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-Colleen Egan.University of Pittsburgh.

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Andrea Lukas

Purpose: Compare the strength of both public and private schools enviromental education curricula pertaining to climate change to evaluate their effectiveness in a location where climate change's impact are evident(Monteverde, Costa Rica).

Major findings:

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There was a difference of knowledge about climate change between the different classes in private and public schools

Conclusions:Highlights the need for further curricular reform

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-Andrea Lukas.School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Jeffrey Palm

Question:How is mammal diversity and abundance affected by the impacts of a forest edge?

Major findings:

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There was a difference in the diversity of mammals in the middle vs interior and interior vs edge.

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There was not a significant difference between edge, middle and interior in the number of individuals of mammals.

Conclusions:Forest edge has a negative impact on mammal diversity.

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-Jeffrey Palm. Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies.University of Wisconsin-Madison

05/10/2017

Science matters

"The good thing about SCIENCE is that it's true whether or not you believe in it". Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Here our students making science, learning about color and textures of soils in three different places like Monteverde, Santa Rosa and Corcovado...how important are soils and in which way do they determine the ecosystems diversity? IMG_7150

-Kat,Melisa, Grace and Emma O working on their soil samples.

 

Who said science is not fun? Thumb_IMG_2634_1024

-Patrick, Colleen and Emily playing with dirt and doing science at the same time! IMG_7154

-Jeff... really excited about data collection..that's the spirit! Thumb_IMG_2631_1024

-"Come on Deb! get your hands on the dirt!" We think she's not convinced about it, Emma and Grace enjoying their time with soils!

Did you know that our program offer two fieldtrips? this guys are ready to show you the CIEE experience

Expect to see more animals, forest, waterfalls, corals coming!! until next time:)

05/08/2017

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Sustainable Landscaping in Monteverde, Costa Rica, by Kendall Rauch, University of Colorado Boulder

For the past few weeks, I have been working with sustainable landscape designer Felipe Negrini in the ProNativas native plant garden, New Forest Park. ProNativas Monteverde is a local initiative whose mission is to “raise awareness about the importance, propagation, and use of native ornamental plants and their contribution in conservation, and the beauty and identity of Costa Rica.” ProNativas advances this mission through the New Forest Park native garden in Monteverde, which serves as a community meeting space, as well as a showcase and educational forum for native ornamental species. My goal in this internship was to design, construct, and implement a hardscaping project in order to enhance the park and promote community use. I built a table with seating, a trail leading to the area with the table, and an epiphyte arch at one of the entrances.

I wanted to participate in this internship because I was initially impressed with the work that ProNativas is doing to promote the use of native ornamental plant species and their role as a conservation tool. The impact that visiting New Forest Park had on me and my understanding of the capability of native ornamentals to both create a beautiful garden, and support native fauna and ecosystem services, was something that I wanted to participate in raising awareness about. I was drawn to the landscaping/hardscaping position because I enjoy thinking spatially and working with my hands, and wanted to develop both of those skills.

I started this internship by getting to know the Monteverde region and the native plants and local resources that are available here. In the first few days I spent a lot of time in New Forest Park creating a site analysis, which allowed me to get to know the space, and I interviewed frequent users of the park to get an idea of the needs of the park. I used these interviews and the site analysis as a guide to make a landscape proposal, and I developed three of my hardscaping ideas more fully before deciding to move forward with a table with benches and a laja (flagstone) trail. Felipe and I sourced all of the materials needed for the projects locally within Monteverde, including laja, wood, rocks, and sand. We built the table using a cut tree trunk that was sunk into the ground, with a large laja slab resting on top. The seats surrounding it are large rocks that were found near the park.

Participating in this internship was a great experience, and the lessons I learned and experiences I had with native plant gardening, sustainable landscaping and resource use, landscape design, and building useable furniture, are invaluable to me. After being given the opportunity to work outside and the tools to create something lasting and meaningful there, I am very interested in pursuing a career in sustainable building or development of some kind. The independence that Felipe allowed me to have throughout the development of my project strengthened my confidence, decision making and plan development skills, which I am sure I will take with me in future creative, academic, and professional ventures.

  Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.23.29 PMBefore and after of the clearing where the newly built table and chairs were installed

 

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Drafting the landscape proposal

05/05/2017

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Ecotourism Marketing for the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, by Kaylee Grunseth, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

For the month of March, I had an internship as part of the CIEE study abroad Sustainability and the Environment program in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I chose to work with the Children’s Eternal Rainforest or El Bosque Eterno de los Niños (BEN) as their ecotourism marketing intern. My intentions with the internship were to increase online visitation and to raise awareness of the reserve through social media including blog posts and photographs with captions for Facebook and Instagram. This would hopefully increase people’s desire to visit the BEN or donate, which would then contribute to their conservation efforts. The Monteverde Conservation League’s (MCL), the non-profit organization that owns the BEN, mission is “to conserve, preserve, and rehabilitate tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity.”

I was drawn to this internship because it dealt with social media and I have a lot of experience with this from my student groups and for the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I believe that some people can look at social media as a waste of time, but for others it can boost the knowledge of or interaction with a business or organization when used appropriately. I am also very interested in working for a non-profit related to sustainability or environmental efforts after I graduate college and wanted to get a taste of what it would be like.

 I have gained a lot of communication skills from this internship. I had to specifically take into consideration the rhetoric I was using for the blog posts and captions for the photos. I was able to appeal to the desired audience, which was essentially everyone in the world that can access the Internet, but especially those who are environmentally conscious and willing to learn more about conservation. I also improved on my Spanish speaking, listening, and writing skills. For three of the blogs I conducted three different interviews with employees of the BEN in Spanish. I listened to the interviewee during the interview and many times after by listening to the recordings. I then took this information and wrote three separate blog posts in Spanish.

I was able to provide the organization with five informative, engaging, and entertaining blog posts that will enhance their website and inform readers about content that they wouldn’t have learned without the blog posts, especially the one about poaching. The poaching habits that happen in the BEN are not widely known, especially on the Internet, but I have now provided a way for someone to educate themselves about this issue. I have provided the BEN with content for their first Facebook album solely dedicated to documenting the internships at the reserve. I documented another CIEE student, Rose, during her internship teaching environmental art related to the BEN to a local school’s 7th grade class. This can be used a template to future interns and can become a continuous feature that people look forward to seeing more of.

Kaylee 1Taking pictures of Rose's class for the Facebook album

Kaylee 2

Writing the biodiversity blog

05/01/2017

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Nature Interpretation for ProNativas, by Samantha Stovall, University of Colorado Boulder

Throughout the past month I worked alongside botanist, author, and illustrator, Willow Zuchowski to enhance the conservation of tropical forest biodiversity by supporting the activities of ProNativas, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation of native plant species. I mainly focused on increasing the educational potential of a local plant garden, New Forest Park, through interpretive signage. I also worked with the other ProNativas intern, Kendall Rauch, to assess the sustainability of past CIEE – ProNativas internship products, create maintenance plans for them, and refurbish an epiphyte display in the greenhouse at Bajo del Tigre. The main beneficiaries of my work are the students and locals that use New Forest Park, and also ProNativas. Increasing educational signage, expanding gardens, and addressing the sustainability of existing gardens are critical actions in helping to achieve the goals of ProNativas.

Sam 1Refurbishing the epiphyte display at Bajo del Tigre

This project sparked my interest because of its focus on native flora of Monteverde. Living at the Biological Station nestled in Monteverde’s unique cloud forest during the preceding semester, I fell in love with the incredible biodiversity it houses, and became incredibly passionate about its conservation. Having the chance to work with Willow Zuchowski gave me an incredible opportunity to expand my knowledge about plant taxonomy, interactions with fauna, as well as cultural uses of native plants. The internship was also appealing to me because it allowed me to work hands on with plant identification, challenge my artistry, and educate others about the value of native plants.  

During this past month, I have learned more about plants, thought about the longevity and sustainability of products, and challenged myself to expand my horizons. When creating the design for my signs, I chose to illustrate some of the plant specimens, which sparked a desire to explore an untapped side of my potential, and improve my artistic capacity. I also created a site analysis of all the existing plant species in New Forest Park, which further developed my ability to identify plants. This project also encouraged me to think about the importance of environmental education, and the best way to inform the public of the value of conservation through the use of native ornamentals. I am grateful for this internship opportunity because of the diverse set of skills it provided me with through my work with Willow and ProNativas’ other cofounder, Felipe Negrini.

Sam2Working on my site analysis of species at New Forest Park

My greatest accomplishment was increasing the educational capacity of New Forest Park through the implementation of my interpretive signage. This leaves a lasting impact on this native plant garden, which will hopefully spread the message of ProNativas about the value of natives, and urge people to be mindful about what the plant in their own gardens.