July 23rd, 2017
It’s now the second to last week and it feels like time is speeding up. Our forest integrity study dominated the week as almost every day we were either planning and selecting our roles, or out in the field collecting data. Our emphasis was on forest structure, with groups measuring everything from leaf litter and soil temperature, to tree size and canopy cover. To compare the newer, secondary forest with the older, primary forest, we measured out two separate 1000 square meter grids, and within each we took our measurements. As we mentioned before, our hope is to write a paper that outlines, not only our findings, but also our methodology so that other groups can perform similar surveys to compare secondary forest integrity.
However, we won’t be constrained to just the structure of the forest itself, as we will perform tests to compare the biodiversity and see if ecological niches (seed dispersers, decomposers, etc.) are being filled within both forests.
Outside of our main study, we had the opportunity to work with Dr. David Ribble from Trinity University as he continued his research on rodents. We laid traps in both the primary and secondary forests in order to see if there would be a difference in the number we found.
The next morning, Dr. Ribble and his assistants taught us all about the species that we caught, as well as their research methods.
On Friday, after our fieldwork, we got a special treat as Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the former Minister of the Environment/Energy (it’s the same job in Costa Rica), came to speak to us. He gave us a fascinating talk about the history of environmental policy in Costa Rica as well what the future holds for this country, and the rest of the world.
Then, promptly afterwards, we all went to Deb’s house for pizza.
The weekend was very relaxing, and we definitely needed it. Saturday afternoon, however, many of us went to the local Friends School to play some Ultimate Frisbee. Not only did we all have a blast, but it was also a great opportunity to hang out with some of the kids and parents from the area.
On Monday, Randy Chinchilla came down to our site to do some GIS work. With his help, we mapped out both the perimeter of the forest as well as the coordinates of every large tree. Eventually, we will have a map of both forests with the size and species of every we measured.
On Tuesday and Thursday we started, and nearly finished, a rain garden in the local high school in Santa Elena. The rain garden will help handle the overflow of stormwater as well as beautify the area.
Wednesday was devoted to another conference hosted by Katie VanDusen , this time at the UGA field station, where various organizations met to discuss the various goals, both long and short term, for their reforestation efforts.
Finally, on Friday, as part of our biodiversity study, we set up mist nets for birds. Some of us woke up as early as five o’clock to prepare the nets and wait patiently for birds. Every thirty minutes, we checked the nets for trapped birds, and then weighed them and recorded the species. None of us had ever handled birds before, and a few of us described the experience as “transcendent”.
Next week we will be hard at work finishing up our research paper and preparing for our big symposium on Friday.