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120 posts categorized "Semester Tropical Ecology and Conservation"


Celebrating the Independence of Costa Rica

On Friday September 15th Costa Rica celebrated 196 years of Independent life.  In a country with no army and a great education system this holiday means a big celebration for people of all ages.  

Every single town in the country has a traditional parade with school kids demonstrating their patriotism and their artistic skills in front of the communities where people leave their houses to be part of this important celebration. The parade is full of music, color, tradition and happiness and our Tropical Ecology & Conservation Fall 2017 students wanted to be  part of this cultural experience.


IMG_3397School kids marching with Costa Rican flags, one of the most common scenes during the parade.


IMG_3370Many different schools have their own bands playing music during the parade.


IMG_3381From left to right: Stevie Lennartson (Occidental College), Rachel Blood (Oregon State University), Anika Lindsey (Oberlin College), Raquel Peterson (Whitman College), Lexie Codd (Seattle University), and Cait Barnes (Belmont University) enjoying the parade.


IMG_3386Lots of color in the traditional Costa Rican vestment from the Independence period.


IMG_3389Even the little kids enjoy being part of the traditional parade.


IMG_3391Nick Siebert (Saint John Fisher College) amazed by the Costa Rican Independence parade.


IMG_3400High school students dressed with clothing from different provinces and used for different social activities during the 1820's.



Nora Lazerus (University of Colorado - Boulder), and Maddie Tilyou (University of Pennsylvania) joining the parade and dancing with the traditional Costa Rican mascaradas. 







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:



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


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


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:


















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

. Grace3

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.


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


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: 


There is differences in the antibiotic resistance at study sites

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


-Emma Odermann. University of Colorado Boulder.


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:


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.


-Abigale Enrici.Department of Biology. Augsburg College.


Patrick Wallin

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

Major findings:


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


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


Deborah Williamson

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

Major findings:

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 5.57.04 PM

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

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 5.57.20 PM

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.


-Debora Williamson. Purdue University.


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:


There was more crabs in deeper pools.

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


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


Kathrynn Ross

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

Major findings:


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.


-Kat Ross. Eckerd College.


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:


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

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


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


Melisa Rodríguez

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


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

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

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 6.51.54 PM

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


Cali Wilson

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

Major findings:


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 .


-Cali Wilson.Department of Biology. Bucknell University.


Emma Didier

Question: How does ecotourism impacts the coati behavior?

Major findings:


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.


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












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:



Conclusions:Lesson's Motmots are territorial


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


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:


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

Slide1 (1)

-Colleen Egan.University of Pittsburgh.


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:


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

Slide1 (3)

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


Jeffrey Palm

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

Major findings:


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


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.


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


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 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:)


The Pacific II


This is Puma of the biggest cats that you can find in Costa Rica, known as "Leon de montaña"(Mountain lion) as costaricans call them this young puma was a nice surprise during our hike to the old growth forest of the Corcovado National Park.

With the largest terrestrial range that an animal has in the continent, pumas are unfortunately threatened  by poaching since they kill  livestock, so usually farmers hunt them in a way to get revenge. Also habitat loss is a big cause of their rapid population decrease since they need a wide fragment of forest. IMG_2461

Because of that costarican puma's population have decrease their size, there's less genetic diversity in consequence. This could lead to a poor resistance of diseases and of course higher risk of extintion.

Although the sadly situation of the costarican puma, we definitely enjoy our time with our friend.


The Pacific

Ok well we enjoy San José, but it was time to see what we want it to see: N A T U R E!

So we start our journey, we put our stuff in the bus and we had our first stop in the highlands of Costa Rica: the Talamancas mountains..our first ecosystem!DSCN8393
-Here at 3200 m in elevation.Alan explaining what makes Costa Rica so diverse in ecosystems!what a view!


-Johel teaching about the Fiery throated hummingbird and how this bird disappeared from some mountains like Monteverde caused by climate change  DSCN8411

We found this puppy in the restaurant.....Megan is in love!


We keep our journey, we take off our sweaters and  3 hours later we were in the pacific coast: humid and hot!


San Jose part II...chansing ticos

In our second day we had Humans in the tropics class.

Gisella(our instructor) introduced to us the relationship between humanity and nature, and how we do impact ecosystems.

Trusting in our social skills,Gisella sent us to San Jose downtown to answer an important question: How is our footprint as american students compared with ticos in out age? how many planet Earth do we need to survive?...

Oh man, this time was a little harder than the fruit mission.. DSCN8377


-"Hey!!! Can I have 10 minutes of your time?" Kath and Grace chasing a costarican guy in La Sabana Park...he was really nice and gave them the interview after all!!

We also made friends and costaricans were nice and friendly with us, even for a picture!


-Deborah and her new tica friend in the Plaza de la Cultura, right in the heart of San José!



-Abby, Jeff, Patrick, Deb and Melissa with the National theater of Costa Rica in the back.


At the end of the day we learn that we are making an huge impact in our planet, but we can definitely change our habits to improve our lifestyle and be more eco-friendly, after all  we only have one planet...right?

....are you ready to see how's the Pacific slope of Costa Rica? because we are!


San José....oh San José!

After long hours of flights, some snowstorms and crazy costarican traffic we got to sleep for some hours..our first night in Costa Rica!

The next morning the sixteen of us got to know each other and our staff, Alan(our director and instructor) gave us a orientation talk about Costa Rica...Do you know that costaricans call themselves as "ticos"?, that more than half of costarican population are europeans descendants? that almost 99% of their energy comes from renewable sources? Do you know that EVERYBODY in Costa Rica loves soccer?

So since we didn't knew that much of our host country Alan said:"If you want to know Costa Rica, you need to know San José!"...

so our TA Moncho gave us an special assignment:"Go to the central market and find the weirdest fruit that you can find" be honest, it wasn't that hard, Costa Rica has so many types of tropical fruits!, we only recognise like 5 of them! Thumb_IMG_2545_1024

-Colleen from University of Pittsburgh and Megan from University of Wisconsin-Madison amaze by the variety of fruits that they found.



-"Can I have your number?" Cristina from Oregon State University trying to get the number of the fruit vendor, just in case she missed some information!


We came back to our hotel and we learn about flowers and fruits, then the time of try them finally happen...that was not mention on the assignment Moncho! Thumb_IMG_2556_1024

-Melissa killing a sunflower to learn about types of inflorescence


-"Guys, I think I hate CAS!", Deborah from Purdue University explaining the flavour of the exotic Cas, a sour fruit related to Guava.

Other people was not that adventurous...come on guys! Seriously bananas? 


-Cali, Kath, Kay and Patrick made a safe choice: the sweet bananas of Costa Rica..yummie! day we have our first day of Human in the Tropics class.

More of San José coming!


And so the adventure begin!

Welcome to our journey!!!

We are 16 students from all over the United States that decide to skip the winter and join the program Tropical Ecology and Conservation.

Well besides the beach, sloths, pumas, waterfalls, monkeys; we came to understand how tropical ecosystems works(did a mention beach?)...And here we are!


(This is people is not weird,not..not at all..well a little bit!)

-Here we are:

At the top of the picture, left to right:

Patrick from Puget Sound(also call by the staff as Patricio)

Emma D also from Puget Sound(promise she's happy in Costa Rica!)

Cristina from Oregon State University(not sure if she's doing yoga poses at the picture or is just that she love the tree!)

Megan from University of Wisconsin Madison(we are pretty sure she's trying to communicate with some howler monkeys..nice try Megan!)

-At the bottom of the picture, left to right...

Kay from Pomona College(looking a little bit confused by her crazy classmates)

Melissa from University of Minnesota(We wonder what's she looking?)

Andrea from University of Wisconsin Madison

Deborah from Purdue University(Andrea and Deb didn't agree how to pose for the pic)

....Behind Andrea and Deb

Grace from University of Minnesota( we told her that we would have pizza lunch, she got super excited!)

Emma O from Colorado Boulder giving her biggest smile!

Emily from Ramapo College of New Jersey(ok Em...we love you but that's rude)

Colleen from University of Pittsburgh

Abigale from Augsburg College( she's so happy with her study books, right Abby?)

Jeffrey from University of Wisconsin Madison(no caption needed)

Cali from Bucknell University doing the classic bunny ears to Jeff.

Kathryn from Eckerd College(joining Em in the tongue out display)


We got to Costa Rica straight to the city...How's San Jose?Are Costa Rican's fruits as good as we imagine? How easy is to convince a costa rican to give us their time for an interview in the middle of a busy city?

Figure it out in our next post! 

Hiking,studying, nap..hiking,studying, snorkeling,nap....and repeat!!!

How's studying abroad with CIEE?

Rebecca's video(former student of Fall 2016) describe in 15 minutes her experience with the program Tropical Ecology and Conservation.

A semester full of wilderness, snorkeling, waterfalls, studying, hiking and of!

-Thank you Rebecca for such a good video!