June 2009 Archives

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The last post from Asis

This is my last post from Costa Rica.  I would like to say that I´m very busy wrapping up my work, but I did everything last night in a fit of mild panic.  Now I´m killing time and mostly hanging around Asis like a bum.  I suppose I could feed the animals or machete something, but after the last few work-filled days, I´m content to waste a few hours.

I have enjoyed my week very much!  Today was the first morning that I didn´t see any new birds for my birdcount which is at 43 I think.  Considering my inaptitude at birding and severe depedence on my fieldguide, I´m proud of that number.  I tried to do some ant-watching this morning and got myself all set up.  I staked out a huge anthill and surrounded it´s perimeter with tunafish.  I was still only getting litter ants after about 40 minutes and was distracted for the most part by birds.  I had a very difficult time feeling like ant-watching was more important than bird-watching (sorry Nick)!  Then the hound dogs came through and ate my experiment.  I never saw a single ant come out of that hill, not even after I obnoxiously poked a stick into every hole, so I decided it must be a dead colony.  Morale was low and I packed up in haste, getting back just in time for the coffeebreak.  I feel like I´ve been taking a coffeebreak ever since!

I suspect that Alvaro is happy with the work I´ve done, since he just came in to ask for advice.  He would like to offer some sort of ecology program to university students was looking for advice on topics or areas of study.  I dusted off my brain and came up with reforestation, diversity studies, an ongoing behavioral study at Asis of broad-billed herons (they have one of the most stable communities in this area), and a sustainable agriculture program with homestays and first-hand experience.  Who knows if any of that is feasable!  Alvaro is very much in his own head and is particularly difficult to read.  He has been very helpful in arranging my visit here and at least, in return, I overwhelmend him with lots of ecology information to offer to visitors.  Alvaro has been trying to read them all and keeps apologizing for being behind.  I did not intend to give him ¨homwork!¨ 

My ride tomorrow leaves for San Jose at 8:45am.  My flight is at 2:45pm and I think I might get there with time to spare.  Good!  I have non-negotiable plans to visit all the free CafeBrit chocolate samples, which is something like a marathon.  Dedication, persistance, and honor!  These are the virtues I will need to complete my mission (honor because after I´m done I think I´m duty-bound to buy something).

I am very grateful to everyone who made this week possible!  I have had a wonderful time!  I think that I´ve learned a lot and perhaps I have been able to help a lot.


I'm finished..! :)

I'm both happy and sad to be finished with field ecology Mayterm. It was definitely a new experience for me...but a great one! I enjoyed getting to know my classmates so well especially in the Costa Rican rain forest! Dr. Brown is really an incredibly smart and talented lady from whom I learned a lot. Before this class, I hadn't had the opportunity to put into play my environmentalist concerns. The most I had done for the environment was to decrease my water bottle purchases and take my own cloth bags to the grocery store. Now I can say that I have really done something for the environment. My project falls under the umbrella title of "Habitat Monitoring" that called for me to work with and analyze water and soil samples. I also had to take photographs of the habitat and compare the plant life from the photographed points in 2008. Obviously my favorite part was the photographs since it retained my more artsy-not-so-sciency personality, but my other jobs were just as fulfilling because as I said, I finally got to explore my environmentalist side. All in all, I think this was a great experience for me, so I am sad that it is over, but am glad that it happened. :D

My spectacular bird-find

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Greetings once again!  My project here at Asis is going well and I´ve produced some rather good information sheets on island biogeography, ecosystems, wetland habitats, riparian habitats, rainforest habitats, as well as probably doubling the birdcount.  I think Alvaro is happy with it all, at least I hope so.  I´ve been waking up early and watching birds before Señora Flora feeds me breakfast.  They start the day late here.  I don´t get picked up until 8am and by then the birds are more subdued. 

I´m waiting on my flaculation tubes so I can determine the soil composition, and have been stalking one particular hummingbird all day.  I think it´s a juvenile black-crested coquette female, but it may be a juvenile white-crested coquette female.  Isn´t that an absolute bear?  Oh, exciting news for anyone who birds - I identified a rather uncommon species of bird called an agami heron.  It´s been hanging around for two days.  I´m positive it isn´t a tricolored heron.  I have photographic proof, yarrr!

PhotoSynths are online

I've created the PhotoSynths and put them online at the new PhotoSynth page. PhotoSynth is a Microsoft product which htye have recently released from their R&D labs. It allows you to create a pseudo-3d image of an object or space using lots of photographs. The photographs are matched up, allowing you to navigate around the object or space. Some liken it to Google's StreetView product.

Due to the long time taken to process and upload the PhotoSynths, I had to store the images and process them back here in Texas.  Therefore it wasn't possible to correct any potential problems. Overally they can be described as "fair". They could be better, but some bits work very well.

There are two PhotoSynths. The first covers the area around the cabins, concentrating on the path connecting the three cabins, but also including the steps up to the 'Monkey Cabin'. It includes a number of 360 degree views.

The second PhotoSynth attempts to give a walk along the 'Bird Path', starting at the turnaround (below the cabins) and finishing at the bottom of the slope below the stables. Some parts of this work well, but PhotoSynth had problems connecting some sequences to each other, and with the darker areas. It is recommended that you view this PhotoSynth in "slide show mode".

Your field assistant has promoted herself

I arrived at Proyecto Asis this morning and found a very charming 8 acres of restored habitat to wander around in for the next 4 days.  There are some cages with animals that are being rehabiliatated (monkeys, parrots, a pecary, etc), some natural streams and wetlands, and a secondary forest that is growing up just swimmingly.  Steve and Debbie´s will hopefully resemble this in about 13 years.  Asis was farmland 15 years ago but things grow quickly in the tropics. 

Alvaro is working very dedicately to educate visitors about Costa Rican ecoIogy.  Native Costa Ricans in particular are lacking in science education so he wants me to make interpretive guides.  Consequently, I spent the afternoon typing up some background information on island biogeography, ecosystems, and diversity.  I have plans to make some for the particular habitats here at Asis and perhaps some for specific animals here.  I´m also trying to extend his bird-list with a bit of success today.  Tomorrow I´m starting soil analyis and will be ant and bird-stalking. 

I´m going back to the nice old lady, Flora, who is hosting me.  She unfortunately does not speak English and my Spanish is pathetic, so everything is rather hilarious.  Her house is beautiful and has about 4 rooms!

Back in Dallas

The group is back in Dallas and the students are enjoying a well-needed day off.  We're having a very rainy morning here, which could make us believe we're still in Costa Rica, if not for the absence of the songs of toucans and hummingbirds.  We arrived late last night after a very long journey, which included a longer than usual trip from Monterrey to San Jose for our flight.  There are three main roads from the capital toward Monterrey--one lost nearly 19 km of road due to the earthquake in January, and a second road was washed out due to a landslide the morning of our departure.  So with all of the traffic (animal and automobile) diverted to the sole remaining road we had slow travel.

We dropped our field assistant, Katheryn, at Proyecto Asis (www.institutoasis.com) on the way.  The site is a wild animal rescue center that allows homestays by volunteers.  Katheryn will be helping the director, Alvaro del Castillo, with some of the work he would like to do on a guide for visitors.  She'll be blogging from the project, and will return to Dallas on the 6th of June.

Thanks to all of you following the blog.  The reflection the students have put into their blog entries has enabled them to think more about what they've done, and its significance for both the course and for what the ultimately would like to do.  We'll be posting the data from this year's research soon, and updating the maps with Richard's help.

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