So, three days after leaving the beautiful Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve, I finally have a moment to reflect upon my experience there. First of all, it was gorgeous! Our dorms were a short 200 feet from the ocean, so each night we fell asleep listening to the waves crashing on the beach. Unfortunately we didn’t get to go swimming because there were tons of sharp rocks everywhere, but we did get to go snorkeling! We got to touch sponges, see a nudibranch, and even hold brittle stars, which are my favorite invertebrate. If you have time, look up a youtube video of them moving. You won’t be disappointed.
The food was amazing! Delicious rice and beans for every meal, including breakfast. We’ve been told we’ll be sick of them by week 6, but for now they are still new and exciting to our taste buds. And the fresh juice! Even though we couldn’t always tell what kind of juice we were drinking, it was amazing and gone by the end of the meal. And all the buildings were so open. There was no air conditioning anywhere: not in the dorms, not in the dining hall, not even in the classroom. So all that openness meant that, of course, there were bugs everywhere! This would probably freak most normal people out, but we happen to have some scientists that love cockroaches, ants, and beetles so we all got to learn the names of the organisms we were spending so much time with.
But it wasn’t all just oohing and ahhing over the scenery. We also had work to do! We split into three groups and did three super fun projects! There was a bat group that looked at… bats! They set up their nets during sunset and then would go around collecting the bats at night. They caught some super cute and cool bats, including a vampire bat! Don’t worry- none of us were bitten by one. Apparently they will nibble on your toes while you sleep and we slept inside. Another group, the seedling sisters, looked at how a fungal disease spreads from seedling to seedling along a stream bank. They had some interesting results that showed as seedling density increases, so does fungal occurrence. Very cool. And last but not least, was my crew: the crab team. We looked at land crab density and how it changed the forest structure. That meant we spent a lot of time on our knees crawling around to measure tree seedlings. All of our projects were hard work, but we all had a blast and learned a lot. Swimming in a cold nearby river with a waterfall at the end of long, sweaty days helped keep morale up as well.
In the middle of our stay we got to take a trip to “town” to see the Costa Rica vs. Uruguay soccer game and it was incredible! People were packed into every nook and cranny with a TV. We chose a sports bar, and a beer company had hired drummers from a marching band to come and pump people up! It was hard to hear most of the time, but it was also hard not to get swept up in the excitement with each Costa Rican goal. By the time they won, we were all screaming and dancing right along with the Ticos. It was a great way to take a break and get to know the local people.
Unfortunately most days weren’t filled with fun activities like that though. We normally dealt with lectures in a boiling hot room, statistics courses, lots of field work, and the humidity. By the end of our stay, everything we owned was wet. Nothing would dry, especially towels. The humid, wet tropical forest combined with the ocean spray to make sure everything stayed damp. But luckily we all have amazingly positive attitudes so we stayed happy. The scenery helped a lot too. The coast looked like the set of “Survivor”. After a long day, our favorite place to hang out and talk was on the huge back porch that was behind our dorms and looked out over the ocean. At night you could hear animals rustling in the bushes and hermit crabs (there were hundreds) scuttling through the sand. In the morning we would hear howler monkeys calling out, their noises sounding like they belonged more to a gorilla than the smaller animal they actually are. As this is a 6 week class, I think this first week was really important for setting the tone for the rest of the trip. All 14 of us got to know each other, without internet or phones to distract us. And I think we are all excited to be spending the next 5 weeks together! At least I am…
Cabo Blanco coastline. It looks rugged and beautiful because it was.
We weren’t just on vacation! We had to work a lot too… Here’s Jeff and Aidan from the crab team, holding our equipment as we walk to our next site.
Costa Rica wins! Victor, our Costa Rican TA, is salsa dancing with Sofia. Everyone was excited!
Crab team’s animal: the beautiful land crab. Also known as the Harlequin crab. We saw a lot of these on the path along the beach