Reflections on Palo Verde


It was the last night before we ventured off to our next field station, La Selva.  To commemorate these fantastic last few days, a hike to the Guayacan lookout which overlooks all that encompasses Palo Verde, was most certainly in order.  We hiked up the steep trail decorated by jagged rocks and Tourist Trees (Bursera simaruba) with bark that waved in the breeze almost coaxing us to continue along our exhausting endeavor.  Eventually, we reached the summit.

The view from the summit was like poetry.  It was difficult not to be filled with inspiration as we gazed over the landscape that has been home over the previous week.  From here we could easily see the vast expanses of the marsh that is just adjacent to the field station.  The wetlands here at Palo Verde were originally used to justify the protection of this land.  These wetlands are the last stretches of land that water races down before it enters into the Gulf of Nicoya.  For a while, the wetlands of Palo Verde were saturated by a particular plant called Cat Tail (genus Typha).  This domination suffocated much of the other diversity so accustomed to wetlands of Palo Verde.  Eventually, someone got the cat by the tail using several management approaches such as driving large tractors throughout the marsh that took out the roots of the Cat Tail.  Although the Cat Tails are no longer as much of a nuisance as they once were, it is still a mystery as to why they became such a problem in the first place.  Perhaps it had something to do with changes in the salt content of the wetlands or they suddenly no longer had any animals interested in eating them, nevertheless this mystery still captivates the folks at Palo Verde.

The mystery of the Cat Tail is just one of many mysteries of the natural world.  All of the biologists participating to this course have now shared their own questions that drive them.  It is clear we all will contribute to the understanding of our world in our own unique ways.  The passion to answer our questions is what unites us and is in part what has catalyzed the incredible bond we all already have with one another.  We are here.  We are doing great science.  Can you dig it!?!


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