Saudade

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Botany class in high forests with Mauricio Bonifacino at Cuerici, Costa Rica.

Botany class in high forests with Mauricio Bonifacino at Cuerici, Costa Rica.

Before coming to Costa Rica and diving into ecology in the tropics, I asked a friend to tell me about her experience in a previous OTS course she had been to so that I could know what exactly I was getting myself into. She said she didn’t have enough words to express how much being in Costa Rica meant to her and how much you can learn there.

Rodo showing a tunguragua palm seed and a Musa sp banana the orientation hike at Las Cruces Biological Station, Costa Rica.

Rodo showing a tunguragua palm seed and a Musa sp banana in the orientation hike at Las Cruces Biological Station, Costa Rica.

After almost a month and half of travelling to all corners of this amazing country I can truly understand her. During the “Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach” course we had a talk almost every day about new research being done, everything from plant chemistry, bat and plant evolution, seed dispersal by agoutis, mud–nest harvestmen, nutrients cycling in soil to amphibian and lizard population declines. At each new place we had a guided hike into the forests to listen to stories about every plant or animal that crossed our way. So even if you were deep into thought about your FLP and IP project you would still always have these opportunities to expand your knowledge to a multitude of subjects. Besides that, every time we traveled to a new station without internet access we had to clear all our doubts the good old fashioned way: asking our friends!

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Green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus) at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica (Photo by Vilisa Zambrano).

So every minute here in Costa Rica is an opportunity to learn and teach something. I am thankful for all the expressions and words in English that people taught me and of course every time someone taught me how to ask for more food in Spanish. And also I won’t forget the overwhelming feeling every time someone introduced me to a new plant, reptile, amphibian, bird or insect.

As all new graduate students think, and as all old good scientists have already thought about, there is so much out there in nature and books to be discovered and learned.  I am really glad to be part of this fundamental OTS course and to have the chance to learn about tropical biology constantly. And as a Brazilian would say I will have a lot of  “saudade” of all these intense and scientifically demanding days!!

Learning about birds during the orientation hike at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.

Learning about birds during the orientation hike at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.

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