Tu-tun-tá!! Dancing in the field


In late XIX century, some student asked to Michael Faraday about the secret of his successful in science. Faraday answered that The secret is comprised in three words – Work, finish, publish“. I believe in the Faraday’s quote, but some of the process to work, finish, and publish need an extra advice; don’t forget having fun!!

Four weeks in a country that perhaps is one of the most recognized by biological studies, visiting mystic and highlight Biological Stations (BS), learning with the most brillant classmates and Faculty, forced my body and my mind to improve my skills in Science, and beyond; overall, it was better than it sounds!!. Let me try to include a brief summary of four chapters in my life; to share my feelings and experience and encourage colleages to apply in this amazing course.

Chapter 1. Palo Verde BS “Let´s dance in the dry forest”


Dry forest at Palo Verde Biological Station

I was affraid; four weeks no dancing, and the first day I had headache for try to understand all in my “second lenguage”?!?! OMG, we need something to remedy this situation. Fortunately, “Ricky” came to save us!!; and he suggested a “Salsa workshop by OAC” after the Stats work. Some of my classmates look around and just they didn’t care about that; we had “R” assignments after take data in the field, and come on! Salsa? Why if we are not in the “latino” course?! Well, although Salsa is traditionally the latino dancing, it borns in New York!! Yeah, with a lot of influences by boricuan music (Puerto Rico), cuban music, but it rise in the Big Apple (as I known in East Harlem; “Spanish Harlem”).

My dad told me that if you take the attention of the 10% of your students, you did an excelent job as a teacher! Well, some of my classmate save my ass such as Salsa instructor, and I take advantage of that in the New Year celebration in Palo Verde, and all the parties coming in the course!!! Please keep dance guys!!!


People dancing in La Selva Biological Station (photos from Palo Verde dancing are not available; sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry)

Chapter 2. La Selva BS “Would you digging my hole? Att. Dipteryx panamensis

Just walking throughout the same trail where walked Holdridge, Jansen, Stiles, Blake, Loiselle, Chazdon, Aide, Wilson and more, if not all, “celebrities” in Tropical Ecology is a real honor. Moreover, try to understand the process behind of all this vast jungle, and understand that all could depend of soil nutrient cycling is fascinating!!!

I have the fortune to be witness of the bat poop (guano) depositation (yeah, they actually poop on me!); and already I know that even that shit (litteraly) supports the fertilization of one of the giants in the forest (Dipteryx panamensis; see Voigt et al. Biotropica 2015), which is the key resource of an endangered macaw species (Ara ambiguus); is that not so cool??!?!

Whould you diggin my hole

I was in the hollow of a Dipteryx panamensis tree, the bats were flying and pooping over me!

There were a suggested idea that hollow trees used by bats in the forest could be contribute to the nutrition budget, as a “hotspot” of nutrients. Actually, it is proved that the same N of the bat-guano fertilized D. panamensis nuts, and finally, I thought, fixed as well in Ara ambiguus tissue!! We performed a sample design to meassure soil nutrien concentration (Nitrate and Phosphate) and pH under and around hollow and no-hollow D. panamensis trees. It was awesome be part of a biogeochemistry project; and known all the complicated but facinating process involved. Work with biogeochemistry supports the ideallistic thought of be a naturalist…

“Do you remember when you were first a child

Nothing in the world seemed strange to you?

You perceived, for the first time, shapes already familiar,

And seeing, you knew that you have always known

The lichen on the rock, fern-leaves, the flowers of thyme,

As if the elements newly met in your body,

Caught up into the momentary vortex of your living

Still kept the knowledge of a former state,

In you retained recollection of cloud and ocean,

The branching tree, the dancing flame.” 

Kathleen Raine

Do you like it?? check out our Science Communication project in La Selva Biological Station with #BlackLlamaFilms, click on The Beauty in BioGeoChemistry

Chapter 3. Cuericí BS “The ‘feathered serpent’, or perhaps a ‘chunky trogon’, await for you…” 

There were a Mesoamerican deity named in Nahuatl language as Quetzalcoatl; quetzalii means beautifull or feather, while coatl means serpent; therefore, Quetzalcoat is like “beautifull serpent” or “feathered serpent”. The Resplandecent Quetzal (Pharomachrus moccino) is perhaps one of the most beautiful birds in Neotropics (well, all birds in Neotropics are beautiful!!), described sometimes simplelly as “a large, chunky trogon”, but it is an excellent example of the magnificent Neotropical biota. This “chunky trogon” is closely associated with the “feathered serpent” deity; so, it was mandatory known this Mesoamerican god in the field by my self eyes!!!

All was prepared to explore looking for the Mesoamerican god Quetzalcoatl in the oak forest. I was hikking mountains that remember me the Andes, my homeland, but in Costa Rica. However, I felt sick and I lost the main hike within Cuericí Biological Station. Don Carlos and Don Alberto (nice guys!!) comfort me, as well as my classmate, so we decided hike before dawn the same day that we leave Cuericí. Nice hike, nice trail, dark and cold dawn; we went in the field Becca, Stephanie, Ingrid and me, and Will joint us later. The dawn chorus was amazing!! but I lost my hopeness to see the mystic quetzal… however, more eyes see more!!! and Ingrid asked for my binoculars to see “something blue just up there”…. OMFG!!!!! it was a fu… serpent with feathers, flying, dancing for us!!! A resplandecent male just flew in front of us, from the first tree to other, and the dancing-long tail claim all the attention in the oak-forest canopy; you can´t imagine our emotion!!!! all the cold was gone, all the sickness gone, all the universe turns in perfect symphony after that sight; thanks Ingrid a lot!!! and the victory shout is… LIFER!!!!! (back to bird-work is amazing, but I lost many birds; I need back to CR!!! eBird List of the dayGreen Violet-ear calling)

Espectograma Colibri thalassinus

Green Violet-ear call (x is time, y is frequency). Recorded with the great-fancy acoustic equipment of Becca (thank you so much Bequita!!) in Cuericí

Chapter 4. Las Cruces BS “What the Ficus?!?!”

One of the big deals in restoration includes attract large frugivores to new secondary forests and active reforestation plots. Researchers in Las Cruces Biological Station, based in the knowledge of rural people, get start to plant big stakes as a way to contributed with the restoration process. Conversely to some traditional restoration projects, which used trees not so attractive or unaccessible to some of those large frugivores (ej. Inga or Erythrina spp), one project in Las Cruces began to plant figs (Ficus spp.) stakes in Young Secondary Forest plots as a strategy to attract large frugivores.

There are more than 800 spp of Ficus worldwide, and different frugivores such as birds, bats and monkeys love them; thus, plant big stakes of Ficus could be support the use of large and small frugivores during several time in the reforestation process. However, variation of the percentage of resprouting (growth of new leaves and branches), and even survivor, among the Ficus spp. planted, give new points of view in the process. For instance, how is the relationship between the wood specific gravity of the Ficus and the resprouting probability?

During our FLP in the course, we conduct a short research leaded by Dr. Leighton Reid, linking the specific gravity of seven Ficus spp. with the resprouting probability. Our results did not yield a strong relationship, but it seems that other things could be envolved. Interesting, two species with free-standing habit (subgenus Pharmacosycea) had less resprouting probability than other five stranglers habit species (subgenus Urostigma); which could be mediated by niche conservatism or life history.


The “What the Ficus” team, at Panama – Costa Rica border

Final comments…

Time was not enough, never it is! But my aim with this post is just give a brief opinion about a experience that changes the live. Pura vida, mae!!

Thanks to all, my classmates, the Faculty, OTS and the wonderful Biological Stations; I will back, for sure!!

OTS give to me a course tuition scholarship (OTS membership institution), and a course tuition award (OTS graduate tuition aid). On the other hand, UPR give to me four course travel awards to attent the course (Natural Science Faculty, Department of Biology, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research – DEGI, Dean of Students), and the Graduate Program offers an extra aid (noticed post course). Thanks of all these aid, I could attent the course and explore my potential with OTS.

Every day, I will try to work, finish, hopefully publish, but sure I will trying to keep having a lot of fun!!!


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