ESF Beyond - Costa Rica

Stumpies divulge their adventures outside of the classroom


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By Kayla Miloy

My last weeks of a semester of hopping around Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies were in the famed La Selva Biological Station. Stepping out of the lab clearing and into the lowland rainforest was like falling under a huge wave of green. All sounds were intensified; the cicadas, frogs, and birds were deafening. Although it was beautiful; I did not have the expected sense of wandering into an untouched oasis of tropical wonder. La Selva is one of the most heavily researched forests in the tropics. I kept hearing the outrageous figure of a publication every 72 hours, and based on the moss-covered flagging tape abounding off the trails, who knows? Neotropical research has been pouring out of this relatively small area (1600 ha or 3,900 acres) since the sixties.

In this setting, my classmates and I were given our challenge: develop an independent research project that’s feasible (minimal equipment, 2-3 people, large enough sample size… you get the idea), and answers a legit biological question(that hasn’t been tackled before). Oh yeah, and do it in four days. By  far having to generating quality research in under a week was the hardest part of my Spring semester abroad.  Luckily for me, wet season started the day proposals were due and my Tica (slang for ‘lady’) friend had a love for herps. Thousands of frogs converged in seasonal ponds in La Selva for their breeding events—their songs were out of this world. We ended up in swamps all night catching red-eyed tree-frogs and actually getting some interesting data. Research wasn’t easy, but playing with frogs was a pretty good time. It turns out the breeding biology was fabulous fodder for a project!