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3 posts from July 2017

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.

 

02

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.

 

04

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