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It’s day 13 in Costa Rica and this is the first of our weekly updates. So much has been going on but we are going to keep this relatively short and sweet.

Let’s start with our reforestation efforts thus far as that is the centerpiece of our efforts here in the Monteverde area. So far, in 8 days of planting, we have planted, marked and measured 800 trees, and have planted 800 more. Part of those trees were Ocotea monteverdensis, a critically endangered, endemic species whose fruit is crucial to the survival of the Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus), Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), and other important organisms. We had the opportunity to cooperate with Change the World Kids, a Vermont-based group of middle and high school students, who arrived this past week and worked tirelessly alongside us; without them, that 1600 would likely be a much lower number.

Loading the trees! (photo by: Deedra McClearn)
With árbolitos (tree babies) on our work site! (photo by: Deedra McClearn)
Boots and shovels are the newest fashion!  (photo by: Deedra McClearn)

Beyond our work out in the field, we had the chance to meet with many fascinating scientists and researchers associated with the Monteverde Institute, and similar organizations in the area. We toured the Cloud Forest Reserve with the one and only Mark Wainwright, received a special plant identification workshop with Willow Zuchowski and Bill Haber, sat down with our very own Deedra McClearn for a chat about the Natural History of Costa Rica, and heard from our very own Debra Hamilton about the Three-Wattled Bellbird.

Mark Wainwright, the author of The Natural History of Costa Rican Mammals, interpreting a hummingbird nest he picked up by the road. (Photo by: Eudora Miao)
Jason learning about plant identification from Willow Zuchowski and Bill Haber (photo by: Deedra McClearn)

Now that the introductory phase of our trip is winding down, the 12 of us have split into committees so that we can each focus on our specific passions. While we’ll all be helping out across groups, the committees will go more in depth into various fields.

Those of us who are more interested in nerding out over research will be involved in the research/investigation committee, and will be in charge of collecting and analyzing data about our, and previous, reforestation efforts. This data will be important for evaluating and improving the efficiency of our conservation work.

Students who feel more passionate about global climate change will be working in the carbon sequestration group, developing and using an algorithm to determine how effective these new forests have been in capturing carbon dioxide.

Interacting with community members is at the heart of the third committee as they will be working on surveying local landowners and their feelings towards reforestation in Costa Rica.

The ones who want to build something tangible for the community will be cooperating with Sustainable Future architecture students on creating the first public park in Santa Elena. This park will include various features based on opinions we collected from locals, such as a rain garden, fitness equipment, and a playground.

Lastly, there’s us, the communications committee. We will be responsible for maintaining this blog as well as our instagram account (check us out at dukeengage.costarica). In the coming weeks, all of our members will get a chance to post personal thoughts on their experience here in Costa Rica.


We are super excited about our upcoming work and the chance to share our journey with you.


Pura Vida!

Our group by the waterfall in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde) (Photo by: Eudora Miao)