Reflections from our first days

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Wow, it has been quite a ride so far. We have a super dedicated and fun group of students on the course who have impressed me with their energy and drive to punch out some exciting science. We are now wrapping up our first Faculty Led Projects at Palo Verde Biological Station (tropical dry forest), and it seems like a good time to recap these first days as we get ready to head to the excitement at La Selva Biological Station (tropical wet forest).

We’ve had very few and relatively minor lows:

– couple hours late arriving to first site due to highway traffic

– bit of time to find the right plug converter to get the microscope working

– couple of people with tummy aches (that have since recovered)

And many, many highs:

– three rockstar Faculty Led Projects on ant lion behavior, Acacia ant patrolling, and plant trichome/temperature relationships and great presentations to follow them up

– a solid introduction to the language of and basic statistics in R, which will culminate tomorrow in a full-day workshop on how to do ecological modeling in R from Dr. Justin Calabrese

– a very useful biodiversity workshop using EstimateS with Dr. Cesar Nufio

– a fun New Year’s Eve party complete with salsa dancing and a game of celebrity

– amazing sightings including Centurio bats, both species of freshwater eels at the water hole, caiman sunbathing at the marsh, a Jabiru nest, a coral snake, a 4 cm iridescent green beetle with 10 cm antennae, and even a unicorn (Ok, it was a white horse in the dark). Many more, too many to list here.

– intense team effort to develop and produce a collection of blog posts, interviews, podcasts, twitter and instagram content, and in general a better understanding of how to become better communicators of science as we’re learning how to be better scientists.

I have been overwhelmed with the positive energy and development of everyone’s ideas on the new science communication and R aspects of the course, its wonderful. I think that we will all continue to learn a lot from it and will generate a lot of interesting public content on science, ecologists, and the excitement and magic of the OTS fundamentals graduate course.

I feel honored so far to be a part of this exciting course as the co-coordinator. Jane is a skilled and visionary driver of our Tropical Ecology Magic School Bus (metaphorically, of course…Carlos is a great Safari truck driver!), and Rolando (TA) has been the glue holding our pieces together. Looking forward to La Selva, a great set of Faculty Project leaders there, and a shift in our science communication efforts towards video production.

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