Saturday, July 14, 2012

Last night was so amazing. The beach was beautiful at night, the waves crashed against the beach and there was lighting branching out across the sky that was as bright as daylight. We made two sweeps of the beach and found two sets of turtle tracks. At one end of the beach, stuck in an estuary, we also found a baby turtle! Since it was stuck and most likely would have been picked off by a bird the next day, we got to rescue it. Grace picked it up and gently set it on a course out to sea where it will hopefully have a better chance of surviving. We ended the night by sitting on a cluster of rocks under a tree, watching the lighting and listening to the ocean. I thought that waking up at 5am would be rather difficult. Not at all! I couldn't wait to milk my first cow! We all got a chance to milk, and we learned it was pretty darn difficult. We all stood in awe as the local farm boy milked three cows in the time we all did one. Then, we had our first official monkey sighting!!! Emma's trip is now complete. There was a howler monkey mom and baby right next to the dining tables. After that, we went on our dry forest tour. We learned a ton about all the different types of plants here and heard, but didn't see, many birds that had very exotic calls. On our tour we walked over a rocky area that had a waterfall on one side. We almost didn't make it back for lunch because the tractor got stuck in the mud! The long hike was incredibly tiring and sitting down to lunch was rewarding. After lunch we had free time which consisted of card games, ninja, and wa. The rejuvenating free time helped us to get even more excited for our afternoon at the virgin beach. I had never seen a beach like that before. I couldn't take in enough of the scenery- the clear waters, sandy beach, crashing waves, blue sky, trees lining the island... Seeing it during the day was so much different than at night, and it was even more beautiful. As soon as we arrived at the beach, everyone ran for the ocean. It was actually really warm and it felt so good. We swam all the way down to the estuary at one end of the beach. Then, we explored the beach and took tons of pictures of the beautiful landscape. For dinner they grilled chicken, sausage, and beef right on the beach and we had fresh tacos. While we ate we watched the setting sun until it was obscured by clouds. Before we left, most of us went swimming one last time. The waves had picked up a bit so we did some body surfing. As the darkness settled in, we said our farewells to the ocean and piled back into the bus. These blog posts can not even begin to describe the memories made or friendships that have been formed during this ten day experience. I think by now, most of us are ready to be home. To be clean and not sweaty or sticky or constantly being pestered by bugs (did someone say bullet ants?) will be absolutely wonderful. This trip will be something that I know none of us will ever forget. We have grown so much as individuals, but at the same time we have grown together as a group. I am so thankful for this time we've had in Costa Rica. We can't wait to see all of you tomorrow night at the airport! Lots of love, Katie L and Olivia U.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Today we was our last morning in Finca la Anita. It was sad to leave the rainforest, but not the humidity. We had an early breakfast and then the bus picked us up. We headed off to the zip line. The guides were very funny and could do tricks on their zip line. We all had fun and some people even went upside down. Then headed back on the bus to go to Liberia. There we stop at a supermarket to get snacks. Many people stared, but it was ok because they had really yummy snacks. Then we headed back on the bus and went to a conservation area called Horizontes. On the way, the people who weren't asleep, saw a ton of mountains and a lot of pretty scenery. Once we got to Horizontes we moved into our rooms. There we learned about checking your bed for scorpions and sharing bathrooms. So as you can imagine we were very excited... We had lunch after with chicken and really good ice cream. After we met at the conference room and were instructed to observe another type of ant that lives in the Acacia tree, and try to understand how they are each mutualistic towards each other. All of us managed to get it partially right. The ants live in the thorns of the acacia tree, while the ants act as herbicide for the tree, killing any nearby foliage that might suffocate the tree. Later tonight we are going to the beach to sweep the beach for Eastern Pacific Rim Black Turtle, so we will have to see if we find anything. Emma,Lauren, Amanda

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mrs Gabel and I are writing the blog tonight to give the students a break on their last night at Finca LaAnita.  Today the students (and ourselves) woke up to a bright and sunny morning, which lasted all day long!  The first sunny day we've had since arriving in Costa Rica.  Breakfast was a delicious meal of eggs, pinto gallo, yogurt and granola, fruit, juice and coffee....a pretty standard meal for us now.  Afterwards, students went to work with Adrian checking on their ant colonies and feeding them.  They also checked their plates to determine if indeed they were able to grow the Escovopsis parasite that can harm the fungus garden.  All groups had some growth and were able to see that newer fungus was free of the parasite while older fungus was more suseptible.  All groups were busy cleaning up their lab supplies and then went to work finishing their posters and official lab notebooks.  Adrian also talked about opportunities after this experience through OTS (Organization of Tropical Studies) and REU (Research Experience Undergrads).  Students heard about these groups that provide college students with reserach experience in other countries and Adrian was so kind as to offer his recommendation services to those applying for colleges in the next couple years.  Definitely something students should take advantage of!

Lunch consisted of salad, beef, pinto gallo, potatoes and fresh homemade tortillas as well as juice.  After lunch, students once again set off to work on their posters and Adrian rehearsed with each group what they were going to discuss in their final presentation.  We were sent off to our cabins to read so that the presentations would be a surprise to us as well.  Another group visiting the area from the Nicoya Penninsula toured the ranch to gain ideas and knowledge on how to improve their conservation program on the farm they own near the coast.  They are an off the grid campus with a semester and summer program focusing on tropical ecology and sustainabilty.  They evern stopped back to watch the presentations! 

At 4pm the final presenations began.  Each group had 15 minutes to discuss their experiment along with revisions, adjustments and statistical analysis of their data.  Los Vaqueros (Chris, Emma, Olivia and Kobie) tested how ash would act as a natrual repellent simulating a fire alarm for the ants.  Their test revealed that duct tape wrapped around the tree by itself as well as duct tape coated in ash from an furnace on the ranch both deterred ants from moving up and down the tree.  Los Tortugas Moradas (Grace, Shelby  and Katie C) tested citronella as a natural repellent.  They initially set out to test three forms of citronella (paste, leaves and a blank control) with a "bait" leaf but changed to putting a paste or leaves out in the ants foraging trail.  Their results showed the paste was a better deterrent than the leaves themselves.  Los Cientificos Locos (Dan, Katie L, Lauren and Sarah) tested how a tea made of achiotillo leaves would naturally repel ants. Achiotillo leaves contain arsenic and normally ants do not eat these leaves.  They used a high and low concentration for their teas and both seemed to work well in deterring the ants from consuming the leaves.  Los Hormigas de Fuego (Maddie, Amanda, Pedrum and Owen) tested a bell shaped device that fits around the tree trunk and had oil on the underside which ants cannot cross through as well as water in outer lip of the bell.  Their tests showed that the device deterred ants from moving up or down the tree.  All groups will be hopefully presenting their experiments and experience to parents and rotary members sometime after we return so more details can be given then about the rest of their projects.  Each student did an excellent job presenting and it was a remarkable group we took down here! 

Upon completing their presentations we said our goodbye's to Adrian and his wife Mariella.  This was graduation day for students and they celebrated with a trip to the pulperia (mini mini market) to buy candy.  Dinner followed shortly after with beef and chicken on homemade tortilla's and homemade taco chips.  Salsa, avacado, cheese and hot peppers were all available for toppings.  Since it is our last night here students will be busy packing up their belongings so we can head over to the dry forest tomorrow with a zip line canopy tour on the way.  It has truly been a great experience here at Finca La Anita and we know the students have enjoyed every moment of their research as well as their adventures hiking, swimming and community work.  Hard to believe we are leaving here and heading home in two days!  Kristin and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with each and every student and getting to know much more about them in such a wonderful place.  Thank you for giving us the chance to share this experience with them. 

Students will blog the next two nights, but we wanted to take the time to show our appreciation of how hard they have worked and what great individuals they are.  Good night and we will see you very soon!

Pura Vida (Pure life as the Costa Rican's say),
Katie Foley & Kristin Gabel

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Buenos noches!

Today was an eventful day! We started off with working on our science experiments, and we started our posters. Our posters will be used to present our projects to Adrian, Pablo, Ana, and locals. After lunch we went off to our hike to the thermal spring. We took taxi pick up trucks and got to ride in the bed. Standing up while we rode was very fun even though we went on some suspicious bridges and rivers. Even one of the signs said to be cautious while passing because the bridge was in bad shape. The hike to the springs was gorgeous in the primary rainforest. It was really fun to run through the forest with Pablo. We had to hike up a stream and a small waterfall to get to the thermal waterfall, but it was worth it. It was beautiful and a fun adventure. It wasn't that warm because of the heavy rain the day before. On the way back we stopped at a thermal bath that the locals go to. We could see the steam coming off the water, and we got to hike up the stream feeding it. When we returned we all took showers and had a great dinner. Right now we are all taking our last night of data. We will see you all on Sunday night!

- Lauren and Maddie 

Amanda's Poetry Corner:
Two falls water collects between.
Yin and yang balancing one another out in mass pools of miscellaneous ideas swirling together.
The only place without the limitation of time.
Many planes combine into one.
Thoughts are cleared out by the cleanliness these falls bring. 
Everything now the same, no telling where one thing stops and the next begins,
but do I want to know?
Why cannot quaint mysteries remain unsolved, benign to all importance.
Dive deep, look within, see yourself.
The mystery never known, set aside in calm passing.
Why must the outside be discovered when the inside is untouched.
Mortified by this new truth, minds expand. 
Time returns, new exploration uncovered by this plane between planes,
unseen yet guiding in such a meaningful way.

We added some a few more pictures to the flickr site:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hey everyone! The whole group was super tired today. Yesterday was a very thought demanding day and We really felt it catch up this morning. Delicious breakfast as always (pinto balls and eggs)and then back to the lab. We reviewed our data from last night and finalized our procedures again. Los Vaqueros (the cowboys) which consists of Chris, Olivia, Emma and Kobie are testing the effect of ashes on the ant activity. Los Tortugas Moradas (the purple turtles) which is Grace, Katie C and Shelby are testing how citronella affects ant activity. Dan, Lauren, Katie L and Sarah are Los Cientificos Locos (the mad scientists) are looking at how arsenic tea affects ants. The fire ants, Las Hormigas de Fuego, are testing a bell shaped oil covered device on repelling ants from certain trees. Amanda, Pedrum, Maddie and Owen are in that group. We checked fungus growth, colonies, and some gram staining on the side from three hours. Many groups fine tuned their experiments again to get ready for another night of data tonight. After fighting to stay awake during our group time we came in for an amazing lunch of homemade hamburgers. About this time the clouds cleared up for the first time all week and we could see all the beautiful volcanos (Rincon and Santa Maria) in the distance. It was really an amazing site and we all made sure to take a ton of pictures. Right after our meal we ran back to our cabins to put on painting clothes to get ready to go into the community for our service project this week. We walked to the church and broke into two groups to paint the inside of the church and the outside of the clinic. The man who was helping us at the clinic, Inez, bought us all cookies and coke. It was a really nice surprise. After we finished painting we went to play soccer against some local boys. They ranged from ages 6-15 but they still managed to cream us 5 to 1. They tried to help us at first but by the end they were literally running circles around us. Even the littlest boys couldn't help but laugh as we tried to take the ball from them. After time more and more people came To join the game or just watch. We could tell that the locals were really enjoying watching us scramble around on the field. After our soccer defeat, we went to Aracelly's house for a cooking class while we were still extremely sweaty and dirty from playing. She taught us how to make homemade tortillas, cheese "footballs", cerviche, and salad. She had also prepared rice, beans and caribbean style chicken. After it was all finished, Adrian and Maricella came to the house and enjoyed the meal with us. Once we all finished Aracelly brought out a couple of match picture mind games and stumped us all, even Adrian. By that time it was dark out and we walked back to our cabin while John drove the car slowly behind us so we could see where we were going. Right now the groups are out collecting their data and finishing up their experiments for the night, where we should probably be going to help also. Good night and see you all in 5 days!! -Sarah and Chris Shutout to my dad: I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I wish I was there to celebrate with all of you! Love, Olivia

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hola amigos! This is Katie C. and Shelby R. blogging to you from the dining hall! We did many amazing things today, and we would love to share with you. Today, we woke up to dry skys, which was a nice change from yesterday! We ate a lovely breakfast of pancakes, rice, and eggs. It was absolutly delicious, and then we went to the deck to begin our lab work. Our group is doing our project on the effects of citronella (a plant that repels insects) on gmellina tress (a favorite of the leaf cutter ant). We began with finalizing our procedure and examining our fungi and microbes. Pablo gave us a tour around the farm to scavenge for the best materials we would need for our experiments. We worked through late morning on our projects, and then took a break for lunch. We had an equiste meal of cheesy rice, steak and onions, and fresh salad. After lunch, we had two hours of free time, so many of us went into the village to purchase items from La Pulperia (the local store). Many of us bought various types of candy including: watermellon flavored suckers, cookies and creme flavored suckers, bon bons, chocolate, carmels, and basically anything you can imagine. After we got back, Dr. Pinto took us aside for another meeting, and we had more time to work on our projects. Since our group finished early, we decided to examine our bacteria a little more closly. With the help of Dr. Pinto, we made a bacteria smear, stained it, and examined it under the microscope. We found something very interesting; not only did we have the expected type of bacteria, but also another type as well! The bacteria was from Grace's waterbottle, so it may have been a little frightening for her! Next, we went back to our cabins for a break, and then, before we knew it, it was time to collect our data. Our first trial didn't go quite as expected, considering the leaf we had was completly missing! Although, we did get data from the other two trees, so hopefully we will be okay! We watched as many of the other groups investigated, and did trials on their projects as well. After that, we had another fantastic dinner of fish and potatoes with fresh mango juice. Now, we are off to do another trial for the night! Hope everyone is well at home, and wish us luck as we continue with our adventure!