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Return to the Rainforest (Part 4)

Chestnut-collared Woodpecker

Chestnut-collared Woodpecker

Birds, birds, birds!

I credit this birding addiction to Joel and Vicki Simon, who in 2004 taught me all about birds and migration in 2004 at a Hawkwatch International site in Corpus Christi, Texas. I have not been normal ever since, as I find myself constantly searching the ground, sky and everything in between for flapping wings or the flick of a feathered tail.

I have gone from being satisfied with just viewing them through my binoculars to obsessing about photographing them.  Here in Costa Rica, after one week of using my binoculars, I have put them down and have taken up the camera instead.

Anhinga along the Sarapiqui River

Anhinga

I like bird watching because it is relaxing.  Those who know me well know that I do not sit quietly for long. This is why bird watching is good for me – it forces me to be quiet, patient, and still.  It forces me to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Chestnut-mandible Toucan

Chestnut-mandible Toucan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here at La Selva there are 400 species of birds, and of these I have seen 40 species so I have a long way to go!  That is another thing I enjoy, the challenge of finding different birds, and there is always a thrill upon discovering one you have never seen before.

Volcano Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird

Please enjoy some of my favorite bird pics from this trip so far.

Pura Vida!

 

 

 

 

White-crowned Parrots

White-crowned Parrots

Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

Crested Guan

Crested Guan

Great Curassow

Great Curassow

Slaty-tailed Trogon at 100ft above the forest floor

Slaty-tailed Trogon at 100ft above the forest floor

Passerini's Tanager

Passerini’s Tanager

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Return to the Rainforest (Part 3)

Red Poison Dart Frog

Red Poison Dart Frog

The flora and fauna is definitely interesting and pulls me away from the work we are doing here. And we are working – I promise!

And what exactly is the work we are doing?

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Soil Samples from field sites.

In a nutshell our team of 3 science teachers (Alex Melendez, Marty Buehler, Jaime Miriam), 2 scientists (Ann Russell, John Moore) one lab manager (Greg Selby), and myself are here to learn about the soil food web.

This means riding bicycles through the forest to research plots that have existed for years and have been used by Dr. Ann Russell of Iowa State University.  Soil samples are taken at these plots and brought back to the lab.

 

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Marty preps soil samples.

A few days of sample preparation is done and then there are a few days of wait time for the soil fauna to be extracted, using different techniques. We then look at what has been extracted under a microscope and can determine what lives there.  We are looking specifically at Arthropods, Protozoa, Bacteria, and Fungi.

Flor sets up the Berlese Funnels for arthropod extraction.

Flor sets up the Berlese Funnels for arthropod extraction.

For those familiar with my Ten Days On The Tundra blog a couple of years back, this is an extension of that project.  Once we have data collected in the rainforest, we will have this information from the tropics, shortgrass steppe, and arctic tundra.

 

For more photos, see below!

 

 

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Arthropods have been extracted and are ready to be looked at under the microscope.

Set up complete for Protozoa extraction!

Set up complete for Protozoa extraction!

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Creating the nematode extraction slides.

Alex reads arthropod samples.

Alex reads arthropod samples.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Return to the Rainforest (Part 2)

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A Brown Throated Three-toed Sloth stretches out to bathe in the rain

It is the rainy season in Costa Rica, there is no mistaking that!  Each morning I wake up to rainfall.  Or so I thought…I have discovered that what I am actually hearing is the water on the leaves from the night’s rain storms, dripping to the ground. But then it rains again by 7:00am.

Rainforest leaves are generally large, with pointy tips where a water drop rolls down the leaf to the tip and then drips off. When there is a heavy downpour, I run for cover beneath a tree because the number of drops that will hit me is significantly fewer than if I were out in the open. Hooray for large leaves!

It rains nearly all day and all night.  There are different intensities of rain, from a mere mist to a sprinkle, to a steady stream, to heavy downpours and everything in between.  When it rains, you experience all intensities, in a seemingly random order. Often there is a lot of thunder and lightening.
Sarapiqui River - high water

Sarapiqui River – high water

The Sarapiqui River next to my cabina rises and falls depending on where the rain has fallen (upstream or at La Selva). In a 10 hour period, the river rose a good 8 feet, but about 12 hours later it was back down where it had previously been. Flash flooding is not to be taken lightly here!

Pools of water form above ground, creating ephemeral ponds waiting for a chance to seep down through the soil. The birds take cover in the trees but continue to call, the insects go quiet, and the monkeys sit tight on their branches and continue to howl as thunder rolls around above.  I take my rain gear on and off half a dozen times a day, as I try to maneuver the drops between the dining hall, lab, and cabina.
10 minutes of sunshine lights up the forest and brightens our moods, and then the rain returns.
 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Return to the Rainforest (Part 1)

Arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica July 20, 2014

Arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica July 20, 2014

Time has been flying by for me this year. There is so much happening in my work life, my home life, my student life, and in my life with Colin that I am having a hard time keeping up with any of it. I am busy all of the time and have lost all motivation and energy to do the things I love like write, hike, bird watch, run, bike ride, and go on fun trips exploring new places and things. I have developed anxiety, and seemingly chronic pain in my neck, back and hips that my massage therapist says are a result of constant stress and tension. None of this is good for me at all.

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View from Gran Casa Universitaria in San Jose.

So here I lie, at 7:00pm on a skinny mattress with a small lumpy pillow in a concrete room with a wall of screen windows and a fan. In 95% humidity. The river is just meters away and the muddy water has drowned its banks because of rainfall over the past 3 weeks. Crocodiles live in the river and I am non-to-keen about walking out the door and into their jaws tonight. Fortunately, there are screens on these windows, because I do not care to sleep curled up with the multitude of large insects I can hear out there in the dark.

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Driving down the north side of the mountains toward Puerto Veijo, Heredia.

My colleagues are all sweating themselves to sleep down the path in another cabina. When we arrived at La Selva this morning and found out I was not rooming with them, I panicked, for like 6 hours. Clearly something is not right about that and this is not my typical reaction to being alone. But actually, it has become typical for me. I just hadn’t realized it until today when I travelled from chaotic San Jose up over the twisty mountains and then down into the lowlands and rainforest, where life suddenly took on a drastically slower pace…and this is exactly why I need to be alone in a simple room with the rainforest threatening to come get me.

Photo Gallery below (WordPress is acting up – sorry!)

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A stop along the road for fresh coconut water – YUM!

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Heading down in elevation to the lowland wet lands.

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IMG_0584 Top: More fruits at the fruit stand. Bottom: Self portrait upon arrival at La Selva.

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La Selva Biological Station. We have to cross this river each day to get meals.

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My cabina, #5

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Iguana silhouette. This guy was about 120 feet up in a tree.

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Chestnut-mandible Toucan. 2 males were trying to attract a female and they succeeded!

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Pecary next to my cabin. They travel in small groups and while wild, they walk past you without so much as a glance.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Return to the Rainforest

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In 2008, my aunt and uncle invited me on a trip to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. It was an experience that changed my view of Central America and had me combing information on how to return to Costa Rica as soon as possible. That trip was followed immediately by a trip with then-colleagues to a rainforest in Mexico. Then life got more complicated as I went to graduate school and got a job in science education immediately after. It has been 6 long years, and I am FINALLY returning to the place I did not want to leave just over a handful of years ago. I will be journaling about my experience over the coming 3 weeks while in Costa Rica. I am so excited to be writing and sharing with you again!       – Amanda

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Inspiration Block

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This past weekend I went to see the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s World Tour for the 13th year.  It reminded me of sitting in the old theatre in Bozeman, MT where I was relatively new to the outdoor sports world.  I felt like I was among strangers but at the same time felt I was among friends.  There was a near electric feeling in the air, one of positive energy and good vibes. I felt like I had found my place and my people!

I was most intrigued by Ndizotheka – It is Possible, a film about a 30 year-old guy who had accomplished his dream by this age and was feeling like he had nothing to look forward to.  His everyday life seemed dull, he was becoming somewhat depressed, and he didn’t know what to do with his life.  One night he had a dream that he was flying kites with children in Africa, and that he met someone who he then taught how to fly via parasail.  Phenomenally, he flew to Africa and taught kids how to make and fly kites, and as he was doing so, met a young man whose dream was to learn how to fly.  And so went the next 6 weeks of his life.

I can relate to this man. By the age of 34 I too had accomplished my dreams and I had everything I had ever wanted.  My life was full of the things I worked for and had dreamed of.  I was blissfully happy.  I hiked and went bird-watching, snowshoed and traveled, went running and to classes I was interested in.  I had great friends and loved my job.  And then at age 35, it all started to feel boring and uninteresting. I wanted to do new things, go new places, have experiences unlike anything I had experienced before. But what haven’t I done that I want to do still?

I started to feel stuck, and that is where I have remained for almost a year.  In the past year I have set goals for myself and I have achieved those goals without much challenge so yes, that is fantastic and feels great. But I think I need a new goal, one that is a big challenge and I am not sure what that is. I keep looking for an opportunity that will change me, that will make me grow.  So I am searching for ideas and inspiration…perhaps I just need to pay attention to what I am dreaming about at night.

Note:  This is not a normal The Outside Within post, rather a personal commentary on the state of my life at present which is blocking me from writing new posts.  Feel free to make suggestions!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Impacting me to the Core: Ice

A glacier carves out a valley near Seward, AK.

A glacier carves out a valley near Seward, AK.

As I looked down from 30,000 feet upon a massive river of ice seeming to rest between two mountain ranges, I was overcome by an emotion I had yet to experience in my 35 years on this Earth. Never had I felt such a pull toward something before. It was as if gravity was literally tugging on me. I could actually feel a sensation as if real weights were strapped to my feet and at the same time pulling at my soul. During the minute I was able to look down at the miles of slow-flowing glacier, observing a period in time where nature itself is sculpting the landscape, I felt locked in time. It was me and the ice and this internal yet physical draw. Nothing else existed.

Holgate Glacier near Seward, AK.

Holgate Glacier near Seward, AK.

James Balog, a Boulder-based photographer, was the first to bring my attention to ice. Roughly 4 months prior he had spoken at the University where I work and I had gone to see if I could learn something about taking pictures from this master photographer of animals and ecosystems. Watching his still images become real before my eyes, and hearing about his most recent project, the Extreme Ice Survey, I had never been so emotionally drawn to, nor did I know it was possible to be consumed by, images. I left in a daze and continued to be both haunted and stimulated by the photos for days and weeks and then months.

Glacier advancing toward the ocean near Seward, AK.

Glacier advancing toward the ocean near Seward, AK.

Prior to July 2012, I had never witnessed anything so powerful that it brought tears to my eyes, as seeing glaciers face-to- face did. The experience dug at my core and shook me to a state of complete awareness. It brought all of the knowledge I have gained through my outdoor experiences, my education, and my work in environmental science together. As I felt the cold air flowing off Holgate Glacier, heard the cracking and popping of ice on the move, and watched massive flakes of ice fall into the ocean, it all came together for me, and I fully understood this system that we are part of, called planet Earth. It is a system that is ever-changing, causing its own changes and changing as a result of the forced changes created by its inhabitants. Looking at glaciers, I knew my place within the system, I felt connected to the system, and I knew that I, one little human just 5 foot 3 inches tall, have a major impact on it.

Glacial calving occurred where the "dent" in the ice is seen. Holgate Glacier.

Glacial calving occurred where the “dent” in the ice is seen. Holgate Glacier.

So what does one do with this knowledge? I impact everything around me, living and non-living. Every living and non-living thing around me impacts my life. How am I impacting it? Is my impact positive or negative, and who or what determines this? Ask questions. Pay attention. Be a healthy part of the system. Those are my current answers to these questions, which will change over time, just like the current landscape being carved by glaciers that will melt away leaving new territory to be explored as it too erodes away and changes form.

Glacier retreating into the Pacific Ocean near Seward, AK.

Glacier retreating into the Pacific Ocean near Seward, AK.

I highly recommend watching the 2012 film, Chasing Ice, which features James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey. To learn more about climate science, visit http://www.green.colostate.edu/climate-center.aspx and for information on why glaciers matter, visit http://earthvisiontrust.org/eis/?page_id=76. Link to the Extreme Ice Survey: http://extremeicesurvey.org/.

 

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Bear Glacier, one of Alaska’a largest, retreats into the Pacific Ocean.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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