Sunday, March 6, 2011

Independent Project! With pictures!

Hey everyone! Sorry I've been so out of touch lately- things are getting pretty intense down here. I just finished my first IP (Independent research Project), where I was studying the effects of ant-aggressiveness on the nest-destroying behavior of rufous-naped wrens.

What does that mean, exactly? Well basically, there are these trees in Costa Rica called acacia trees. They are often inhabited by ant colonies, which range from very aggressive Pseudomyrmex spinicola:

to very non-aggressive Crematogaster brevispinosa:

There is also a bird called the Rufous-naped wren that nests in these trees to get protection from the vicious ants. However, previous studies have shown that a lot of Rufous-naped wren eggs are destroyed by other Rufous-naped wrens. We decided to find out whether they are doing this to get a better nesting site by testing nest destruction between two different species of ants. Here's how.

IP Day 1

My IP started a day earlier than everyone else's it seemed. While everyone else spent their day typing up data sheets and lazing around, Chelsea, Liz, and I spent our day making 120 imitation wrens nests out of grass. It took us all day.

IP Day 2 & 3

On the second and third days, we woke up and went out into the field at 5:30 AM and didn't come back until 6 PM. What were we doing all day? Locating acacia trees and putting the wrens nests (complete with a quail egg and a clay egg) into them. Oh and did I mention that the ants attack you? Because they do.

And it hurts.

Somehow, all the pain of the ant stings (which must have been somewhere in the hundreds each day) made us extremely giddy, so when we weren't getting stung or putting nests up in trees, we were busy falling into fits of giggles. Exhibit A:

IP Day 4 & 5

Spent all day taking the nests down and checking for predation. We got predation in 40 of our 120 nests, which was a pretty good number. Most of them were wren-caused, which was even better.

The sad part is after all this work, our results weren't significant. Its true that we could make a statement based off that (wren nest destruction is not patterned) but still a little disappointing

So at the end of the day, we were pretending we felt like this:

when really, we felt like this:

Ah well. The joys of science.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cuerici and Apologies

I realize I haven't posted in a while, so this post is a quick gettin-people-up-to-speed thing.

I didn't have internet for a while! And the world did not collapse. While I was not checking facebook or writing to any of you guys, I was in the mountains of Costa Rica, looking at cool things:
The view from the peak of the mountain the Cuerici farm is located on.


Eh, who am I kidding- I just really like this picture and want to show off.

Cuerici was most of the things I expected it to NOT be- like cold, for instance, or a sustainable trout farm. I gutted my first fish!

I apologize for these terrible posts as of late- I promise that in 5 days time (once my independent project, or "IPs" as we call them, is completed) I will write a really interesting and thought provoking blog post.

Thursday, February 10, 2011



For our most recent free day (yesterday) we had the option of going to Boruca, a small town of indigenous people about 2 hours away from Las Cruces. I obviously lept to the opportunity. When we got there, we heard a talk about the activities of the indigenous Borucans, and learned about their mask-painting and weaving traditions.




We then hiked to a waterfall where we had the most scenic lunch/swim I have ever had.



Sorry this post is so short- I'm literally writing this in the 10 minutes I have before we leave for our next site, which is Cuerici. I won't have any internet there, so you won't hear from me for a little while. Until then!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Las Alturas

This past Saturday and Sunday, we left the Las Cruces Biological Station to trek up to the Las Alturas Biological Station. It is located in one of the biggest privately-owned reserves (apparently it's owned by some multi-billionaire software mogul who resides in Florida), which also contains a subsistence farm and a small town of less than 250 people total. All these are employees of either the farm or the reserve, but they live without electricity, and basically without contact with the outside world for a good majority of their lives. It was weird, but interesting.

At night on our first day there, we had a bonfire, complete with marshmallows and cookies, and told stories around the fire. It reminded me of camping when I was 10, but it was still fun.

I then fell asleep on the top bunk of a terrifying bunkbed, in a room that was not heated and therefore absolutely freezing cold. Ah, well. I needed my sleep because the next day we hiked for two hours up a mountain that changed about 600 feet in elevation in a very short distance (read: very steep and hard to climb, especially if you are out of shape, as I am). Was it worth it for this view?

The answer (which this picture does not do justice) is yes.

More pictures of all sorts of things on my flickr page!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Intro to Las Cruces

From left to right: Ashley, Ashur, Ellen, Tom, Carmen, and Anna.

The biological station I am at right now is called Las Cruces Biological Station, located relatively near the border of Panama. The most interesting thing about this location is that besides being located in an extensive wet forest, it also has its own private (and extremely extensive) botanical garden. They've been maintaining it for over 50 years, and it is just amazing. Every day I wake up and make my way to a dining hall by weaving through rows of bromeliads, palms, orchids, and succulents. Its going to be hard to re-accustom myself to regular life in America after this.

That's not to undermine the beauty of the wet forest, though. This past Monday (our first rest day), my friends and I hiked into the forest to a waterfall, where we all splashed around, bathed, danced, etc. I felt like I was on Survivor. The realization probably finally hit me when, mid-waterfall dance party, my friend Ashur grabbed me and started giggling, "WE'RE IN THE JUNGLE! WE'RE IN THE JUNGLE!"

Between the hiking, the soccer, the insects, and the plants- the jungle is looking pretty awesome.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Snake Sighting!


Don't worry, it's not a fer-de-lance. It was actually quite small, and even though my professor didn't know what kind it was, he knew it wasn't poisonous. No Lees were harmed in the making of this photograph.

In other news, I'm really loving my program. It is an incredible amount of work though- we usually have three 90 minute lectures a day, plus 3 hours of hiking in the morning. We also have to catch and identify 10 different insects before we leave the station next Friday. And we don't have weekends off- today was my first free day since the beginning of the program. My next free day is a week from Wednesday.

But despite the fact that it is a lot of work, the people that I'm here with are really great, and so far I like everyone in my group, which is great because we literally are always together.

Some of my new friends: Ellen, Justin, and Manny.