Tuesday, July 25, 2017

7/24 & 25

Alex, Jay, and Pablo with their coffee and tea experiments Sunday night.
Yesterday we had to say goodbye to Finca La Anita. We bought various items from the gift shop, ranging from a machete to a large stuffed sloth, and visited to the jewelry store owned by the women we helped previously. From there, it was a long and extremely bumpy car ride to our next destination. However, we stopped by Liberia to use the bathroom, as well as buy some oddly cheap bread, Oreos, and other necessities.

We arrived in Horizontes, a research station located in the dry forest. The dry forest only has torrential rain half the year. We got situated in our remarkably small rooms and had lunch.

We were given a short lecture on sea turtles by Veronica, a senior majoring in marine biology at the University of Costa Rica. We were also given a lecture on the second year program of Seeds of Change by Beth.

Some time later, we went into the dry forest to make observations on "above-ground ants" that they felt like we needed to learn about, despite some of us feeling happy to never touch an ant again. We were lead to some acacia trees, on which we could see multiple ants. After some prodding, pinching, and breaking of the trees and their thorns, we returned to the classroom to compile our observations. It turns out the ants have a symbiotic relationship with the trees and live inside their thorns.

At 8 o'clock, we drove on a dark and distressingly unstable road to the beach. There we split ourselves into four groups, two of which patrolled the beach looking for sea turtles. We couldn't use lights for fear of disturbing them, so we stared at every rock and other shadow on the moonless, sunless, streetlamp-less, beach until realizing that it probably was not a turtle, or at least a very lazy one. The waves were a little unnerving; you could hear them crash but never sea them.  At 10 we switched, and the other two groups headed out.At the ungodly hour of 12 we headed back and promptly fell asleep.

Today after breakfast, we met our favorite tour guide Freddy and headed out into the dry forest. There we learned about very fast growing and massive trees that needed a large base to survive the winds and yearly droughts. We also learned how to use the jungle to acquire valuable survival gear such as water, fruit, mosquito repellent, alcohol, crosses, bowls, and silverware.

The vines he showed us use everything from claws to tendrils to make their way up into the sunlight.

We saw some animal tracks on our way to a watering hole/dried up waterfall, but due to the trumpeting of the group members who found some grass, we were unable to spot any animals there. Standing at the top of the temporarily inactive waterfall, we contemplated our own mortality. After traumatizing a turtle and befriending some minnows, we got on the back of a tractor for a nice easy ride back to Horizontes.

Daring gravity to inconveniently ruin the picture (and the rest of the trip).

The vines attempted to abduct us whenever they could, and while they only managed to temporarily acquire a hat, they betrayed Henry when he attempted to Tarzan swing away. Several grasshoppers chose to ride with us, including one with a spike the size of Jay's pinky which it used to defecate on his hand.
Related image
Here is a google image because none of us wanted to take out our phones.
After that was done, we said good riddance to our boots. We recuperated for an hour or two, before our next activity: going to the beach.

It was a very different experience the second time; apparently there are layers of mountains to the right and a huge cliff to the left. We hardly even recognized it as the same beach that we went rock-watching on, probably because we could see enough to distinguish a turtle from a rock.

Today was a holiday in Costa Rica, so some other groups were hanging out at the beach when we arrived. It didn't take long for a couple to become involved in a soccer game with some of our athletes, which went on for quite some time. Meanwhile, everyone else rode waves, swam, got saltwater in their mouths, sand in their everywhere, and generally had a good time.

Before long we migrated south to the river estuary which had crocodiles on one side, and conflicting currents on the other. Luckily the area between was nice and cool, so no one was tempted in either direction. After a cannonball competition, two sandy wrestling matches, and Jay being buried alive, we returned to the main beach for more swimming and waiting for the barbecue.

The food was a delicious cookout, so the meat-eaters were very happy. There was also a beautiful sunset with gentle golden light, which when combined with the beams of sunlight made for a very renaissance-esque view. It was a wonderful way to end off the trip.

Tonight we'll be packing our bags, checking our beds for scorpions, and getting excited about coming home (to our real beds, showers, and internet).

- Jay & Lia

Monday, July 24, 2017


This is Liz and Meredith doing today's post. Tomorrow Jay and Lia will do the last post before we head to the airport on Weds.

We have left beautiful Finca la Anita and arrived at El Horizonte Research Station. Tonight we will do the turtle patrols.

We are now in a different microclimate.  Today we did some field work with a different type of ant.  All the kids are doing great and we are all looking forward to a play day at the beach tomorrow.

-Liz and Meredith

Sunday, July 23, 2017



Team Attaboy

Team 4 Hormigos

Team Boomba Squad

Hey Minnesota,
     Today we finished up our projects, did our final presentations, and went on a celebratory hike. All of the presentations were excellent, even though they were very different from the original plans. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Pinto and Ibrahim, who helped us envision and create our projects.

The hike started out as sunny and hot, but quickly devolved into a rainstorm. During the downpour, we saw a sloth up in a tree (but we really just got to see her back or a lot of rain). We aborted mission on the hike, after we got our boots soaked in a swollen creek, and went back to Finca La Anita to shower and dry off.  The locals asked for ideas of what to name the hike and Audrey came up with  "Slippery Mud River Trail" and "Sticky Boot Sucker Trail".

Before dinner we saw 2 toucans in a tree outside of where we eat.  After dinner Jay got to drink a cup of coffee which he made himself.  He spent the week working on it - he picked the beans, fermented them, shelled them, roasted them and ground them!

Tomorrow we leave for our next research site at 8:30am.  Only two more days left!
-Charlie and Alec
The trail before the rainstorm.

More photos

I finally figured out how to get photos off my camera so I wanted to add some photos for the parents.  I'll let the kids write about our experience but I wanted to add some visuals.  :)  Meredith

PS  Audrey took some of the photos too.

Learning how to do field work with Dr. Pinto

The group at the top of the summit of our horseback ride 

For some it was their first horseback ride ever!

Team Dr. Boomba Squad's field work in action

The 4 Hormigos are experimenting with pheromone trails

Dr Pinto worked with students on their presentations last night

Ibrahim, Pinto's grad student did too

It was a late night of work but they should be ready to go today!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Day in the Lab


Last night was another late night, the power went out in the dormitories, and the plumbing also stopped working. Luckily Pablo managed to fix the situation in the morning before anything truly bad happened. This morning, we woke up early to work on and finish our projects. Tomorrow we present them to the rest of the groups and possibly some guests. Many of the problems have been worked out, and although time is an issue most groups are doing well, with two groups finished halfway through the day. We had an American lunch of burgers and chips. There was a trip to the village for ice cream, as well as a short break of chocolate and coffee. After this, we went back to finish our projects. The Atta Boys are finishing their project on the ant's microbiome. The Dr. Boomba Squad are finishing their project on ant colony air passages. The Four Hormigos are almost done with their project on ant pheromones, and M.O.T.H is analyzing their data on fungus in ant colonies. It'll be a late night tonight but it will be nice to finally be done.

Colin and Henry
The Four Hormigos
Boomba Squad
Research Station View
Gram Stained Bacteria
Atta Boys
Lab View

Friday, July 21, 2017

Jul 21

Hola guys!!!

    Today started off at a time no one should ever wake up, 5:40 am. It was unbearable but totally worth it once you hear what we did! We had a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage, fresh watermelon and pineapple. Then, me (Alyssa) and Ashley rode in the van with Eddie! We listened to Camille's music, which is questionable at times in its variety. It made the drive fun. Along the drive, we saw at least 30 Blue Morpho butterflies which are vibrant blue and absolutely gorgeous! Pablo, the living legend, according to his vast knowledge has never before seen so many awesome blue butterflies dancing in their graceful way. When we arrived we met our guide, Freddy, and hiked 3 km, seeing impressive vegetation, waterfalls, and insects, until we got to some volcanic hot springs.    Alyssa had a traumatic experience in the river because she has a hole in her boot and got her foot wet. Aaron forgot water shoes and put volcanic mud on himself to exfoliate himself and others also did that too. (Hi mom this is Aaron btw). Ashley, Alyssa, Katie, and Lily all enjoyed rubbing themselves with rocky dirt to smooth out their skin. The hot springs were very beautiful and an exotic color for the rain forest (or dry forest).
    Ashley also had a traumatic experience with some fire ants when she was changing back into her boots (they hurt a lot when they bite). When we hiked back, Freddy explained the difference between the wet and dry forests and that the volcano makes them able to exist next to each other. He also pointed out some Long-tailed Manikin calls and Golden Orb Weavers. We then hiked to a waterfall which was big and beautiful and misty. People took lots of pictures. After we hiked back to the picnic area, we saw the other bus driver holding baby possums which were super cute and soft! Audrey, Meredith's adorable daughter really liked them. We had a delicious picnic of sandwiches, chips, juice, and cookies.
   Back at the ranch, we changed out of our wet, dirty clothes and got ready for an afternoon of science. Ashley and the Dr. Boomba Squad successfully transitioned between experiments and tested our new experiment twice each on two different colonies. Alyssa and Aaron, apart of Atta Boy, got a lot accomplished too! We were very scientific looking with our gloves, dishes, and scientific utensils. The 4 Hormigos learned a lot about pheromones and where ants will follow them today. They are still trying hard. M.O.T.H. mass murdered hundreds of ants for science today!! They are very far in their experimental process.
   We had lasagna for dinner, with salad and plantain chips. The real highlight of the meal was the raspberry ice cream on top of the dark chocolate spread for dessert. Aaron feels that it is important to mention that the best quality of chocolate is slightly red and at least 82% cacao.
   On a completely unrelated note, Fletcher saw a green snake on the hike and Ashley captured a rhino beetle in the classroom. Lots of people got to see the 60+ (total) Blue Morpho's and the agouti in the woods. (It's kind of like a cross between a squirrel, a wombat, and a rabbit). The Four-eyed possums bear mentioning again because they were so adorable.
   Tomorrow is a full day of science (roughly 8 hours) so hopefully we will be well rested. That's why this is wrapping up.

The End
- A team
Aaron, Alyssa, and Ashley

Image result for blue morpho butterfly
                                                                     Blue Morpho Butterfly

                                                                    A cool spiral plant
                                                                  People at the pools
                                                             Everyone at the hot springs
                                                                   Ashley and Camille
                                                                   Weismann brothers
                                                                       Audrey having fun
                                                                      Aaron in sulfur pool
                                                                           Both possums
Possum on Christian's shoulder

                                                               Kids crossing river

Attaboy working on their experiments! Nice classroom!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 5

-Hey, it's Fletcher from Dr. Boomba Squad, and Chris from the 4 Hormigos

Today was a loooong day, after breakfast, we drove over to this horse riding place and got the closest thing to a break in the past 4 days. It took some of the group a while to figure out their horses but once we were used to the horses it was very pleasant. Many of the views out over the volcano were breathtaking, but some of them were inhibited by the fact that the cloud cover stopped us from seeing anything very high up. After that, we had a delicious lunch of some veggie rice and fish. Some people went into town once we were done eating, and Alex decided to get a 3 liter bottle of orange juice. Later on our break ended and we went back to doing science. All of the groups ran into some issues and there was some changing around of the projects that we were doing, but everyone should end up in good shape to finish their experiment. For dinner, we went to a local restaurant and helped in making our own dinner. It was very tasty, and the pride of ownership made it that much tastier. Once we came back, some of us decided to work some more on our projects and some of us went to bed. We're looking forward to what we might see tomorrow!

Moth I caught in the classroom

Horse riding trip

Local restaurant

Here is the way we got divided into our work groups, and their group names and project topics. 
The Four Hormigos
Henry, Lia, Christo, Lily
Topic: trail pheromones

Alex, Colin, Alyssa, Aaron
Topic: colony age and bacterial diversity

Jay, Camille, Charlie
Topic: fungus swap

Dr. Boomba Squad
Fletcher, Ashley, Katie, Alec
Topic: effect of damaging gas vents in colonies

-Chris and Fletcher