Cajun Traveler

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On the morning of June 9th 2014, I departed on a 6-week trek to the country of Costa Rica. Over the course of a month tropical ecology will be taught to us while me and fellow students travel around this country to see the different habitats it has to offer. Over the past few weeks extra hours have been devoted to collecting roaches, fixing problems that have arisen and editing various papers that I have been working on in preparation to leave the lab for such an extended period. The stress of having so many pots on the fire quickly faded away as the beauty of this country slowly sinks in.

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My final farewell to my dog Ted, fiddle in hand

It is my honor and privilege as a scientist and a musician to be able to not only immerse myself in this country’s culture customs and people but also learn about the incredibly complex natural system that makes this country one of the most diverse areas on the planet. The ultimate goal of this blog will be to convey the beauty and uniqueness of the biodiversity seen in my travels and also the different cultures that we will be surrounded by, including both the natives and our fellow students. The fellow students that will be traveling with me are a very diverse group in itself. The areas of study range from fungi and tigers, all the way to pure statistical analysis. After meeting we did what all grad students do and sit and try to sound like we know what were talking about over more than couple of beers.

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First night getting to know each other

The following morning we packed into the vehicle and headed to Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve for 6 days. Staying in a station with no air-conditioned located in a seasonally dry forest on the Nicoya Peninsula. Although we were on beachfront property the insanely intense schedule of OTS course calls for breakfast at 7 and continuous work until around 9:30 with very few breaks in between, this allows for little to no beach time. Although almost no free time is scheduled I did manage to pay a quick visit into the bay near our cabin when the chef of the research station cooked food I was allergic to and my lunch consisted of Ritz crackers, Chips Ahoy cookies, and a beer; for extra carbs. So goes the struggle of food allergies.

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A quick walk from our cabin opens up to a beautiful view

For our first faculty lead project (FLP) I had the pleasure to work with Dr Gloriana Chaverri. I have always had a fondness for bats but not nearly at the level as this tica (female native of Costa Rica). Learning form this expert how to capture, release, and identify the bats was an amazing experience. Using data we collected we did a project on infestation densities of the ecto-parasite Streblidae (batfly) in relation to roost fidelity and group size in bats.

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Bat of the family Phyllostomidae the defining character being its leafy nose

One excursion was allowed and myself along with the fellow students were taken out to the nearest town to watch the world cup match between Costa Rica and Uruguay game. Costa Rica won for the first time in 9 years. The passionate energy was amazing before the game even started with a drum-line present and couples breaking out into dance with the crowd sang along with the cheer song and only escalated as Costa Rica claimed victory. After the game it was a rush back to the site to collect bats

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Ticos supporting their team

The time in-between catching bats in the nets were used to search for Blattodea species in Cabo Blanco. Unfortunately due to the status of absolute reserve absolutely no specimens were allowed to be collected and taken off the site so a few pictures of the unidentified cockroaches was the best I could do at this site.

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Two of the many Blattodea resting on the leaves at night

The first week of this six-week course wraps up as we say farewell to Cabo Blanco. We soon depart to Palo Verde for 6 days. One final photo was taken on our last night there of the sunset. Tomorrow is the 1 km hike carrying both my luggage and the box of equipment to the OTS truck to bring us to the deciduous wetland preserve where the rumors of mosquitoes darkening the sky have already started to circle around the group. I’m quite confident I have the edge being from Louisiana but I guess we’ll find out.

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