Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Palo Verde

First, a few random thoughts about my attempts at blogging:
1. I can't spell (grammer is also a little sketchy). I am fully aware of this, and will probably continue to ignore such basic literary conventions for an indeterminate length of time.
2. I have been in Monteverde for two days now, but I am a wee bit behind in typing up the stuff I wrote out during our field trip. So, Monteverde is awesome and I am sure I will blather on about it in the near future.

OK, time to talk about Carara, ECMar, and Palo Verde! (also time for me to lay off the coffee... twitch twitch giggle giggle)
In Carara we spent the day hiking about and learning the names and natural histories of endemic plant species that I will never in my life see again. When we stopped for lunch we were accosted by a pack of hungry Ctenosaurs (2 foot long igauna things) that apparently are fond of pizza.
We then headed towards the Guanacaste region, stopping to gawk at some absolutly enormous crocodiles (20 feet long, I swear!) We spent the night at ECMar (estacion de ciencias marinas) and did a little bird watching and some mangrove swamp tromping. We also sat on a slightly gross beach (public trash cans have not made it to rural Costa Rica) and watched a glorious sunset. Of course, there was also a bit of learning to be done: some 20 new species and a lecture on plant identification.
As the week progressed we moved from the excessivly damp heat of Corcavado to the instant dessication brand of heat offered in Palo Verde. Palo Verde is in the much drier northern area of Costa Rica. In the wet season it is a giant mosquito breeding swamp. In the dry season (what we are in now) it becomes a haven for about a zillion different birds. I think I might actually be starting to enjoy birdwatching. I think it was the brilliant epiphany someone shared with me: "birds are really just like screwed up, feathery mutant lizards". Really, that makes ducks sooooo much more exciting.
In Palo Verde I also spent some quality time with Ant Acacias (and their nasty stinging ants). We were split into groups to do a day long field project and my group was investigating the correlation between Acacia thorn size and the number/development stage of the ants inside. Perhaps this requires a little bit of explanation: Acacias are shrubby trees that have a symbiotic relationship with ants. The tree gives the ants food and housing and the ants terrorize anything that is within biting/stinging distance. The results of our project showed that bigger thorns housed more ants and ant bites hurt like hell (nasty nasty little buggers).
Hmmm, what else? Someone found a scorpion in their bed on the first night, that was exciting. We mist netted for bats. One of the bats died (not from my group!) and the guys pocketed it in hopes of playing a really evil practical joke on someone. Unfortunatly, egg-fryingly hot weather does really bad things to dead mammals and the bat carcass did not last long enough to make its way into anyone's mosquito netting. Disappointing, but there was a great prank pulled off envolving a very large cane toad and a professor's tent, so all is not lost.
Our adventure continued to Liberia. We stayed in Liberia for two days, but each day took a trip to reserves nearby. Santa Rosa: trees, monkeys, monkeys in trees, monkeys in trees hunting down a squirrel and then eating it in a rather disturbing manner. We happened to be in Liberia at the same time the town was having a giant party in celebration of its existance. Pretty much drinking in the streets and sketchy carnival rides and a bull ring that might have collapsed at any moment. I walked back with two of my classmates and somehow managed to get lost. We got a cab and discovered 30 seconds later that we had been about 2 blocks ( and 1500 colones, less then 3 dollars) from the hotel.
The next day we visited Rincon de la Vieja (a very nifty park) and only had to learn one new species (it was a day off). We hiked to an awesome waterfall/swimming spot, watched a group of spider monkeys chase off a group of white faced capuchin monkeys, saw a 2 m long Tiger rat snake (I think thats the name, I am too lazy to go check though), and pretty much had an awesome day.
Sometime after all this excitment we made it to Monteverde, but those stories will have to wait because my caffeine buzz is starting to wear off and I still have to memorize about 100 species' information before I go to sleep (which reminds me, I want to breifly groan about my lack of sleep... why must breakfast be at 7am, with class at 8am.... EVERY DAY!? like today: 7am breaky, 8am-3pm species reports while hiking straight up a mountain, 30 min walk to spanish class, 3:30 -5:30 spanish class, 6 pm dinner, 7pm epiphyte lecture, 8pm until I pass out from exhaustion = study time. And it all starts again tomorrow. I am loving every minute of it, but at the same time, this is actually more exhausting then school at Berkeley.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Two weeks ago we left behind the internet access and air conditioning of San Jose and went careening down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The city was rapidly replaced by leafy walls of green as our quasi-suicidal bus driver (this is actually a compliment, because all the other drivers down here are completly suicidal) deftly manuveered the vehicle down the tangle of asphalt known as the Pan-American Highway. In Sierpe we learned about mangroves, bug bites, and certain group members' inability to tolerate boats. The next day, armed with our newly acquired knowledge of who was most likely to puke over the side of the boat, we set off for the San Pedrillo station in Corcavado National Park.
Pretty much AMAZING, yep, that sums it up. We camped for 5 days along the beach and I discoverd how silly I was to have brought a winter sleeping bag... it hasn't left my backpack. There was much learning to be done, despite our classroom's existance as a tropical paradise. It turns out that this program will be a lot of work, probably a good thing, I guess.... An adequate course description might be "Knowing everything about everything". I predict some serious study time in my near future. I admit, I should have studied in Corcavado, but each night seemed better spent tromping through the rain forest harassing poisonous snakes and poking rare frogs... four nights in a row and I still haven't seen a Fer de Lance in the wild, so disappointing... but the spider monkeys, gladiator frog, tamandua, crocodile, Turnip tailed gecko, howler monkeys, rocket frogs,.......etc.... all might make it worthwhile.
Our days, and often nights, were filled to the brim with things like island biodiversity lectures, organized lizard chasing, species reports, and sunscreen application. So much to do and see, soooo little will power to sit down and put it to paper.
To sum up for the time being, the other folks in the program seem to possess an adequate amount of nerdy biologist-ness to make for a very entertaining and cohesive group. The profesors and TA s are awesome. I have decided that I am rather fond of rice and beans (also beans and rice, and beans mixed with rice, and rice mixed with beans....really the options are endless). Our first field trip continues to Carara National Park and perhaps some time in the not too distant future I might be convinced to write again (stranger things have been known to happen).

Friday, February 9, 2007

Made it to Costa Rica

I have arrived in Costa Rica! Our first day was quite an adventure. I have been in the country less then 24 hours and already I have had an orientation lecture, toured a history museum, visited a center for producing snake antivenom, and survived being dropped off at El Mercado Central with the assignment of buying an assigned fruit and learning its natural history and cultural importance.... in spanish.
The best part of the day... a toss up between learning how to make chile relleno from a shoe sales person (my fruit was a chile, and we were loking for rubber boots)and watching incredibly poisonous snakes be milked for there venom (yep, thats a Fer-de-lance!)

Right, so there are about 6 people who really want to use the internet and are hovering behind me.... so, now might be an excellent time to relinquish the ethernet cord. alas.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Pictures from my trip to Texas. The salamander pictures were taken at the National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center in San Marcos, Texas (conveniently located in the same town as my grandma).
Eurycea rathbunihehe, this is cool

Salamanders are nifty!Eurycea nana
Scorpions: they give you much more interesting pictures after being poked.I rolled all these logs and all I got was this lousy scorpion!

(probably should mention that the scorpion was all of an inch long and at 40 deg F outside, was not moving very fast)