I woke up today feeling weird in my own room this morning but this is where my journey continues.
I was quite the drama queen coming home yesterday. Elise got the worst of my "laughcry" after Enrique said bye to us all coming home from La Fortuna. I couldn't control myself as we were both trying to go up the rocky hill to our cabin without a flashlight. It makes me laugh thinking about it.
the definition of a laughcry: the midway point between hysteria and abashment; really, it is what it sounds like haha
The morning of our departure I went to the the Toucan cabin to wake John so we can make our last round through the forest to collect flags, blue tape, and my butterfly trap. But he was just waking up and waiting on the bathroom.
So I sat by Joe to wait while looking out the window at the volcano. It made me sad that this is the last morning I'll be waking to this picturesque moment and I pointed at the volcano to Joe and was only able to say "the volcano! :(" before I broke out with a long laughcry episode. I could only imagine Joe sitting there confused because all he did was pat my back saying, "there, there," and then looked at the volcano and said "bye, bye."
I had everything ready and packed so I could get to the dining early without having a race with time. I wanted to stop by the stables for a bit but I opted not to because that would have been really weird if I laughcried in front of the horses.
Getting in the airport was the peak of my laughcrying tendencies which was pretty entertaining to everyone. I guess I'm still maturing in how I adapt with change because I was still asking where the volcano was when we were going back to the UD campus. So apologies for my childish behavior! But I'm back! The smooth roads feels nice again. I almost feel pro driving on them after being really amaze how Jose, our bus driver, handled the road back and to the airport.
I'm excited to share my experience here in the states and to finish the research paper with my Invertebrate group. We have a lot to talk about. I can't wait to help Sebastian out in identifying his ants and John with the data!
A link to all the pictures of trip will be coming soon. Look out for them in the next blog!
The above title conotes the rules during our waterfall rappelling adventures today. It was awesome. I believe the guides at Desafio took rule # 3 a little to serious, but that did not affect the amount of fun to be had. Today was a great way to end a great week. Everyon had a blast during their free day-fun. The week has been filled with field work, laughs, cooking lessons, great food, and adrenaline activities.
It is safe to say that most wish to stay in Costa Rica; however I am pretty sure Dr. Brown would dissaprove as would everyone's family. I won't lie, I kind of wish to stay here as well. But I have an idea that this will not be my last time here. I love the people here and I love the research. It really has been a joy and a priveledge to be the field assistant on this trip. It has been educational to be on the other side of a research project. And I am really proud of all the student's work this year. I can't wait to tackle the analysis when we all get back to the Uof S.
Please wish us well with out travels tomorrow.
Adios Costa Rica, Gracias por su genorosidad.
Today we didn't have any field work but knowing that today was our last full day I still woke early wanting to absorb all that I could see. I wish there was a way I could capture all the beauty that floods this place and keep it forever and... and just bring it back with me to the states.
It shows through my obsessive compulsion in wanting to click away on my camera... as if I'm going to miss a moment that will be gone in the next second and that there's no way of ever retrieving back that moment again. But to be reasonable, moving on through these moments and letting them pass us by to the next, we still take with us what we learned from them in some fashion... whether big or small.
I know I'm leaving Costa Rica with so much on my mind. The people here are all so very kind and I want to thank them a million times over!!!
Steve and Debbie - who made this place possible and I'm sad that I never got to meet during our time here
Oscar - who was so welcoming and made this place feel like home!
Mireya - who gave cooking lesson, shared recipes, showed me how to make cheese, and bringing Lorita to breakfast this morning
Carlos - who has the best smile and help make it fun to milk a cow and a goat!
Ronald - who I'm sorry that I didn't speak enough Spanish for him to understand me but allowed me to help feed the horses with him
Enrique - who gets the superlative for being most influential to me on this trip! I hope we get to meet again friend!
Chito - for making sure I didn't drown when I jumped into the waterfall and taking the horses out to race them around with us!
Dr. Brown - who made this class possible! her dedication is beyond any professor I know! Especially for kicking butt at water rappelling when she had doubts in the beginning! Soon you all will hear stories of her zip-lining, rafting, and racing horses!
Richard - for his work here with the groups and sharing his knowledge to the class! he was a great help for me in La Fortuna today in getting gifts for my friends back home!
The class - this experience wouldn't be complete without any one of you! you guys really rock! like really really! really really really! The Walker Bros! Christian & Austin, Sebastian, John, Jomar (Joe & Omar), Forrest, Allie, and Turin!
Elise - our field lab assistant! who really help us all out and bring the group together! she had such a pleasant presence here! I can't imagine someone else doing a better job!
The Staff - who help tidy up our cabins and made sure our stay was comfortable
Sam, Beanie, & Chew-Chew - the cute dogs you see in my previous blog
I think I'll stop there since I just started thanking dogs... but you get what I mean.
I'll be leaving tomorrow morning with bug bites all over that I could care less about at this point, 10 salsa bottles, so many pictures waiting to be print, data ready to be analyzed, and memories... memories that I can't decipher into words at this hour but I know they will help prosper whatever lies for me after this.
I hope this isn't adios forever but an hasta luego! Costa Rica! We will meet again!
I'm sitting out here on the porch enjoying the beautiful view of the Arenal volcano and wanted to share a few of my thoughts since I haven't been able to blog in a couple of days.
I think you all have been kept up to date pretty well with our habitat studies here in Costa Rica. So right now I'd just like to say a few things about our overall experience here. We've all had a lot of firsts here whether it be seeing or catching a certain bird, butterfly, ant, or countless other things in the forest. Since coming to Costa Rica I've learned quite a bit about plants and soils, where and how they grow in certain areas, and in the process have gotten to also see birds and bugs that the other research groups were studying. Some of the things that stand out to me most when I think about the last couple of days in regards to new experiences are:
Getting bitten by a number of tropical spiders
Seeing five snakes all together making their way through the forest on vines and branches as they hunted lizards
Stepping on a snake while walking back from one of our quadrats in the evening; that really startled me...
Seeing a bat snatch a bug out of the air 2 feet from my face as I was lying in the hammock
Milking a cow and goat for the first time
Seeing birds and animals that I've always wanted to see in the wild such as toucans and sloths
An overall awesome experience in Costa Rica of course...
Today since all our field work is done we have a free day
for some fun activities and adventures (all the research has been awesome and
fun already) such as zip-lining, rappelling, or exploring the canopy of a
forest. We're not able to do everything
so I chose to go zip-lining. I've never
done that before so there's another thing to add to the list.
Team Habitat has just a couple of things to do before we write our final paper on the research that we've done. I'm excited to see how all the data we've gathered is related and how the forests have been impacted by the different conditions, plant species, and soil characteristics that we've observed.
The pictures speak for themselves!
The other mood-lifter was the fantastic Tres Leches cake made by the girls in Monkey cabin and by John during some cooking lessons earlier in the day. Sitting down with a small slice of cake and a big glass of ice water was all anyone needed to feel better after the long hot hike.
Tomorrow they have their free day to enjoy various fun things in the area. Austin, Christian and Sebastian are going with Oscar (a great guide here and property manager) to El Silencio Reserve to see more birds, ants and primary forest. Most of the guys in Toucan cabin and Alli & Turin are going to try out the canopy zip line. And Elise, Roselyn and John managed to convince me to join them canyoning. So sometime tomorrow we will be rappelling down a waterfall, challenging my trust in my students and also any fear I might have of heights. I guess they trusted me to bring them here so I should trust them?
If you don't hear from me tomorrow we all know that I've either taken to it like a howler monkey or am at the bottom of a waterfall somewhere....
Today was supposed to be a long and hard-working day, but the habitat group worked professionally and was more efficient today. We were able to finish all our fields work today in order to start analyzing the data we collected. We encountered many diverse plant species, some that I have never seen before. Unfortunately we encountered 5 snakes and they looked like they were vipers. Joe was the one who spotted them and then started freaking out. His reaction scared us all and I did not want to go back in there again but you got to do what you got to do. We eventually calmed down and chilled out until we made sure that the snakes left and the area was safe to go back in and continue our work.
Later that day, Christian and Austin spotted an owl and had the telescope aiming directly at it. We had to be very careful at approaching the telescope and I had to enter my stealth mode in order not to scare the owl away. The owl was starring directly at us just chilling, knowing that we are there but didn't do anything and it kind of freaked me out but was hilarious at the same time.
I am glad that we got done with the fieldwork early and i was very successful day for our habitat group. After having dinner, which was delicious as every night, we went on a night walk to try to observe owls, bats, and other interesting species that are not visible in daylight. We ended up not seeing many animals but was a fun walk with the whole group together.
We headed back to the cabin and chilled as usual, then passed out.
I also was able to capture a single worker of large, very fast and agile black ant species that I have so far been unable to identify. As John mentioned, it seems to be mimicking wasps, which is not a behavior I have ever heard of. Myrmecomorphy, or the mimicry of ants by other species, is common in wasps; but as far as I know, the mimicry of wasps by ants is not well-documented. Further research will be needed once we return to Dallas to determine the classification of this ant.
All in all, it was a great day of field work. I love it out here. I think I could do this kind of work the rest of my life. Tomorrow's our last day to collect data. I'm looking forward to spending another day with these amazing ants.
The habitat team did have some rough terrain to cover today and some thick plants to thrash through, making their concern about snakes very real. They had a huge number of plants to catalog but got more efficient in their work today.
We were followed around by a motmot for a while, and maybe it could be considered their guardian motmot after the snake encounter.
The bird teams continued to get great data from point counts, netting and behavioral observations, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with them tomorrow. Sebastian was showing me his collection of amazing ants, and he's very excited to get back to campus to get them identified. There's only so much he can do here, but I think he'll have some interesting surprises once they are under a microscope.
Finally, there's one other support team member that I should acknowledge here in addition to our great field assistant Elise. My husband, Richard Marsden, has been a part of this project since it began, and has worked a lot with the students both as an additional chaperone as well as in the field with tech support.