Friday, June 15, 2018

Day 10: Sailing to Turtles and Coming back to a Barbeque

The day started with breakfast, back at Kembli's.  Apparently 6:30 is too early for us, so most of the fried plantains were left.  However, the fresh fruit juice was great, and the local eggs and Gallo Pinto will be missed.  After some strategy it was off to the boat, where we met our skipper, a rather cantankerous ex-pat.  It turned out he was a great guy, just he had overslept.

A 40 kg Indo- Pacific green sea turtle.
The snorkeling was awesome.  We spent two hours drifting around a pristine bay.  We are within swimming distance of Nicaragua since it's just the other side of the bay.  Ani spotted the first big find, a nurse shark.  Later it was lots of puffer fish, parrot fish, sea urchins and thousands of sergeant majors.  At that point it was time to bring in the turtles: two hawksbills and an Indo-pacific green sea turtle.  The latter swam all the way to our beach and no-one knows why.  But then again,  that's why we're here.
Connor and Tony measuring a Hawksbill.

There's a lot to do after catching a big turtle!

Two Dragons at the ready!
Sometimes you get lucky and you know it.  We have had an amazing adventure in Costa Rica!

Mika and Sebastien join us for one more picture.  They are wonderful scientists that are making a big difference in the lives of so many local people.
After a wonderful trip we all want to thank everyone that helped make it Possible.  It has genuinely been incredible.
PURA VIDA!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Day 9: Off To The Coast

It's truly an amazing country.  Today we left the wonderful Finca la Anita.  Pablo and Ana were amazing hosts, and we will miss their warmth, delicious food, and beautiful home, not to mention their omnipresent dog, Vito Corleone.  Adios to our friends!
Eddie, our driver, and Beth Hunt '83 (both in back), will take us to our next location.

After about 90 minutes we can still see Ricon de la Vieja, now from the south.  On the right is a thermal vent, and in front is a major product of Guanacaste: Sugar Cane

Our new hotel has very, v  e    r      y   slow Wifi.  So more pictures in a awhile.  But today we ended at Playa Jobo, catching, measuring, and tagging rays.
This was our first catch.  Careful of the tail!

We had our first meal at El Jobo at the home of Kembli.  Her cooking was excellent local cuisine, but more importantly is one of the local businesses that are supported by the turtle research project: Equipo Tora Carey.  It is so nice to see visiting researchers care so much about the local community.  A number of the assistants are drawn from the village.

The kids dove right in.  The water was warm, the beach as warn stones, and everyone strapped on flippers and a snorkel.  By the end we had caught, measured, tagged, photographed and released 5 rays.  Not bad for a first day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Day 8: Final Presentations and Community Service.

Today's Blog By: Katherine Wetzel and Ben Wilkinson

We started our day practicing our presentations with Adrian Pinto. At eleven we start our final presentations and finished them at noon. Soon, next fall each group will present their independent research project. We then had our final lunch and said goodbye to Pinto.

Team A.N.T. (presentation: leaf preference for leaf cutter ants).

Team C.A.K.E. (presentation: the power of ant extracts).

Team Fantastic Four (presentation on Escovopsis differentiation)  

Goodbye picture with Adrian Pinto

After lunch, we headed into town to do community service for the local butterfly garden. This involved us cutting particular "weeds" and planting them for the women running the butterfly garden.It was truly nice to help out the friendly community we have been living in. When our work was completed we bought beaded bracelets that the women made.

Tony in action
Carrying the Lantana
Ethan has a future as a gardener
At the end of the day we need to remember that St George's School prepares its graduates to live lives of service to God and the world. Estaban Daniel is the son of Carlos, a local village resident who works at Finca La Anita that helped us find ant colonies this week, cleared paths with his machete and drove the tractor so that we didn't need to carry the plants today.  Daniel will have more resources in his community growing up because of the mariposario (butterfly farm) that needed the plants we found and transplanted today.

Last dinner spent at Finca La Anita 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Day 7: All Science All day..... except for coffee!

It was another all science day, and now that the groups are on a roll, the presentations are taking shape, and the research projects are being finalized. Each group finished up with their experiments and are hard at work preparing their presentations for tomorrow morning. We also met with the lead scientist Dr. Pinto to discuss and analyze our data and results.
The A.N.T. team conducted a field experiment today. Here you can see the leaf cutter ants transporting their freshly cut leaves including some of our bait Citronella on the far right. This is only one foot of an 100 yard trail.

 Toucans really are everywhere, once you know where to look!
Above is team Fantastic Four including Dr. Pinto 
Here is team A.N.T.
Finally team C.A.K.E.         
By Cate and Louisa

Monday, June 11, 2018

Day 6: Early Volcanic Hike and Evening Science

Day 6! We woke up bright and early for a 6:15 am breakfast, and when we arrived at the classroom, we saw lots of ants with wings in front of the barn. These ants were from a nuptial flight over the night. 
After a delicious breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes we headed on a 45 minute drive to Rincon De La Vieja National park. The huge park encompasses a wide variety of natural wonders which we explored through our three hour hike in the forest. 
We stumbled through roots, rocks, and trees, but were able to relax in the natural hot pools. The beautiful waters were a cloudy blue as a result of minerals and smelled of sulfur. 
After swimming our hearts out we hiked back, quickly visiting a water fall, all to arrive at the base, to a wonderful lunch of sandwiches, chips and cookies! 

Breakfast view
Leat-cutter ant queens from the nuptial flight
Hiking in the national park.  Freddie is an amazing guide!

Volcanic Hot-Spring!
An interesting moth that crossed our path
We arrived back at Finca La Anita at 2 and continued with our day of science, exhausted.
In the afternoon, we continued with our experiments, which we have planned and prepared for the past two days.
From 2 to 6, we worked with our experiments.  Success was rare, and the three groups were not receiving expected results. Nevertheless, occasional mistakes is also part of the experience.
After finishing a day's work, we were rewarded with a delightful dinner, which is always a highlight of the day. After supper we all agreed it is time to rest after a long day packed with activities, and went back to the cabin instead of continuing with science.

-Alex and Toni-

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Day 5: Horses, Group Research, and Cafe Campesino

It's hard to believe how beautiful Costa Rica is.  What is even more amazing are the people we have met.  From the tour drivers to the Cabellaros  that led us on our ride up the volcano, everyone is genuinely warm and friendly.  The National motto, Pura Vida (Happy Life) is more than an expression, its a way of life.

The horses were wonderful and chosen for the experience of the riders.  It was a great ride (no one fell off!) topped off by an amazing view of our research site, Finca la Anita.  We made it all the way up to the top of Santa Maria.
Warming up on our new best friends

We had the chance to walk through an avenue of Eucalyptus trees that must have been at least one hundred years old.  So beautiful!
Our two caballeros were very patient with us.  We needed all the help we could get, since most of the troupe had not ridden before.  In the distance was the ranch, Finca la Anita.  We are told that on a clear day you can see Nicaragua, but today there were too many clouds.
After a ride back down the mountain, we were all pretty pleased.... and sore,
but it was a well worth it!
In the afternoon, we were back to our group projects.  All of the work is now in the hands of the young scientists.  We have to admit, there's a renewed enthusiasm that's nice to see.  Even on this first day of the projects the ideas are impressive.

On to Dinner
After the afternoon of research we had the opportunity to make our own dinner at Cafe Campesino.  Our chef, teacher, and hostess Aracelly, was  welcoming, patient and brave as she invited 11 students into her kitchen to make an authentic Costa Rican meal.

Louisa Fiertz flips tortillas over a wood burning stove.
Tony Wang and Ben Wilkinson assemble a salad, including locally grown flowers.
Katherine Wetzel smells spices for the rice and beans.
Connor Ryan sautees vegetables.

Maizy Nunes and Alex O'Loughlin make queso fresco.  Feels great!
The whole gang thought the meal was a success. 
What a night.  We all enjoyed the local culture, including music and an impromptu salsa lesson from Eddie, our driver.  Buenos Noches, from Finca la Anita, From Holly and Bob.  Pura Vida!!!!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Day 4 Storms and Science

The forest is immersive.  It swallows us.  The dawn air is pungent, thick with nectar.  It can be so beautiful here that you forget you are in the RAINforest.  Until last night.  The next time we are watching the weather forecast at home and the meteorologists say "tropical downpour" we will laugh, even scoff, at what we call a downpour in the states.  Think Noah! Need an ark, I know a guy!
SO, it was with a new sense of location, and less sleep, that we started Day 4, our first day of all science.  And then the power and WiFi went out......
For breakfast, we had delicious waffles, eggs, fresh pineapple and water melon, and of course  nutritious rice and beans (Pinto Gallo)!
Working with Escovopsis
Then, we split into groups for a day full of science! In the morning science session, we did an experiment with the Escovopsis in the ant colonies.
Observing our lab colonies
  We then worked on questions for our own experiments, and later went to lunch. For lunch we had delicious fried plantains. Our afternoon was filled with working on our own science projects that we designed completely by ourselves, and after dinner, we presented our proposals of our projects to the everyone.
Team CAKE in action with the Atta ants. They use the scientific method to identify where the Escovopsis is in the fungal garden.
Bamboo Orchid after the rain.

Maisie MacGillivray and Ethan Smith