Interning at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens

One year ago, I found an advertisement for an internship on WorkCabin and two months later arrived in Monteverde as a new intern at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens. I was greeted by the owners Bryna and David as well as their son Eli and another intern Mike. I had no idea what I was in for. I spent 2 1/2 months as an intern guiding tours and working in the gardens. What started as a joking “hey, you should come back for a few more weeks before you go” turned into me extending my flight and returning to the gardens after traveling Costa Rica for a couple months. I then went back to Canada to work as a naturalist running public education programs in Ontario. One day Bryna sent me a message, she asked me to come back as an intern coordinator! I was thrilled, but had already accepted a job in Canada. The downside to this job is there is an off season, so I offered to come back for a few months and help develop an intern coordinator position for the gardens. David often jokes that they can’t get rid of me. So at the moment I am the acting intern coordinator. A few of the interns have mentioned that they were looking for more information on working at the gardens and came across my blog. So here it is from someone who has spent a collective 5 1/2 months at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens.

Teaching local kids about metamorphosis

Teaching local kids about metamorphosis

Tours start in our nature center with 1-15 people!

Tours start in our nature center with 1-15 people!

I started off my training and quickly found out that I was going to learn a lot. Like, think an entire entomology course a lot. I arrived not knowing the difference between an insect and an arachnid (I focused mainly on marine biology in university) and now can ID most insects and arachnids then give you a 5 minute interpretive talk about how cool and important they are. As an intern you first learn to give hour and fifteen minute tours through 4 butterfly gardens and a nature center with beetles, tarantulas, and giant stick insects. You develop basic familiarity with all of the animals, enough to give a funny and informative tour, and then learn at your own pace. I can not stress enough how much I learned while here. There are textbooks available, you are immersed in the insect and arachnid world and the more you learn the more you want to know.

I could talk about tarantulas and beetles for hours if you let me

I could talk about tarantulas and beetles for hours if you let me

Some owl butterflies in one of the gardens

Some owl butterflies in one of the gardens

We often see other wildlife around the gardens as well!

We often see other wildlife around the gardens as well!

Between tours and learning we also have garden work to do. We keep our gardens to quite high standards putting out flowers and nectar in the mornings, raking trails and doing other chores. Between learning and garden work we keep very busy! In the nights we often go out for night hikes, looking for praying mantis, katydids, and other night creatures. We all live together, work together, have family dinner and pizza night every week, and go out together. It really just feels like a big family.

Interns showing off our cool entomology

Interns showing off our cool entomology

You have to be motivated, enthusiastic and flexible. You work 6 days a week and sometimes you do 4 tours in a day. This can add up to 5+ hours of talking enthusiastically to people! Some days, you do no tours, which means you have to find things to keep busy. Sometimes you are going to work until 4, other days you’ll still have tourists in the gardens at 6. These traits apply as both an employee and as a roommate. You’re going to be eating rice and beans the majority of the time, not showering as often as usual, and going without many North American luxuries. You have to be open to adjusting to the Costa Rican lifestyle! I’ve seen many interns come and go. Self-motivated, flexible individuals are the ones who enjoy their time at the gardens the most.

One of our interns, Matt, is particularly excited about catching animals on trail cam. He sets up a trail camera every night and checks out his cool photos in the mornings

One of our interns, Matt, is particularly excited about catching animals on trail cam. He sets up a trail camera every night and checks out his cool photos in the mornings

Bryna and David are amazing naturalists. Not only are they into entomology, but they are also avid birders, herpers, and really all around amazingly informed and knowledgeable people. I credit Bryna for my interest in snakes and public education, David fostered my interest in the scientific details of entomology and evolution, and Bryna and another intern Mike introduced me to one of my favourite hobbies: birding. Depending on the blend of interns here at the time, you have the opportunity to learn about many different aspects of nature.

You may find yourself leaving with a new hobby or two

You may find yourself leaving with a new hobby or two

Monteverde is an amazing place if you are interested in nature. You have opportunities on your days off to explore so many amazing reserves and hiking areas. I usually grab a pair of our Eagle Optics binoculars and walk around one of the reserves, grab a coffee at a local cafe and hike to one of the cool fig trees nearby. You’ll also hear a lot from tourists about different areas around Costa Rica. It is definitely worth keeping some time open to travel after your stay at the gardens, as you will be tempted to extend your fight after hearing about all of the amazing places to explore.

Days off spent exploring

Days off spent exploring

You can't make it all the way to the beach on a day off, so it's worth spending an extra week or more after your internship!

You can’t make it all the way to the beach on a day off, so it’s worth spending an extra week or more after your internship!

You can check out our tumblr, regularly updated by the interns to get a better idea of what intern life at the gardens is like: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/monteverdebutterflygardens

Apply for an internship! http://www.workcabin.ca/jobs/education/education-and-outreach-internship

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Costa Rica in 3 weeks: Part 3: The Yoga Farm

This is by far the farthest into my inner hippy that I have gone. I took a school bus to the end of a dirt road and then used my broken Spanish to talk someone into letting me and two other travelers hop in the back of his pick up to drive us the last half hour. I then hiked up the hill from hell with my pack (which had all of my climbing gear as well as traveling things and was very very heavy) and arrived at this beautiful series of small buildings tucked away in the forest.

The main building had a yoga studio on the top floor and dorms on the bottom. The yoga studio, open and surrounded by jungle, was the perfect place to get back into my practice. One day while doing yoga we saw a chestnut billed tucan, just sitting watching us from a nearby branch.

The kitchen had freshly prepared vegetarian food prepared by the volunteers each day, as well as a lovely kombucha station. I’m actually in love with this place. There were so many birds, most of which I did not identify! We had one 90 minute yoga class each day, and access to the studio all day long. I walked down the the beach at least twice each day to go for a surf or a swim or use the internet at Roberto’s where his wife Free (spelling?) would make the worlds most amazing smoothies. We would usually walk down to watch the sunset, it never gets old. The only way to really appreciate this place is to go there. It was my favourite part of my 3 week travels. But some pictures will give you a general idea!

 

The walk up the hill

The walk up the hill

The beach

The beach

Sunsets

Sunsets

Learning my insects

Learning my insects

This was our studio/bedroom. Yoga will never be the same

This was our studio/bedroom. Yoga will never be the same

Facepainting with one of the owners of The Yoga Farm and her wonderful children

Facepainting with one of the owners of The Yoga Farm and her wonderful children

We even got some Acro in!

We even got some Acro in!

The children in this community were your best friends as soon as they met you and were so high energy!

The children in this community were your best friends as soon as they met you and were so high energy!

Acro on the beach

Acro on the beach

 

Costa Rica in 3 weeks, part 2: Cachi Crags and Uvita

My second week of adventures following my internship at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens and my surfing trip in Tamarindo included a trip to Cachi Crags for some much needed rock climbing and a stopover in Uvita, a small town next to a beautiful marine reserve.

Cachi crags

I met up with Jenny and Chase, who I’d come into contact with through a friend of a friend, in the small town of Cachi, south of San Jose. I was a little tipsy as I’d gone into a bar for the wifi and come out 4 beer and 3 Facebook friends richer, but we went to the local market set up on the side of the road and picked up some delicious veggies and homemade yogurt. After a ridiculously steep drive down a single lane dirt road, we met Don-Vidal, owner of the climbing property, who set us up in a nice little cabin approximately 10m away from the crag. We were literally able to watch each other climb from the kitchen. We had 4 days of climbing with 1 rest day.

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Our little cabin in the woods

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The natural pool was awesome after a day of climbing

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Some crazy rock. It looks like it would have amazing holds everywhere, but its really rather slopey, and although you almost always have good feet the hand holds can be thin.

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Chase hops on what I believe is a 5.12b if I remember correctly. Which I may not…

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Jenny is a pretty amazing camp cook

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Our kitchen

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The deck turned yoga studio upstairs

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So on ‘ojo del tigre’, there was a wasp nest critically close to a handhold. One makeshift torch later we learned that the wasps were of the stingless variety. Anyways, he sent it.

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Jenny got it just as bad as the wasps. The torch swung and scraped her up pretty well. I’m just glad she wasn’t impaled.

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My 10c project, I toproped it first just to be sure. 5 months off climbing will do that.

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View from the top, not half bad

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On our rest day we visited Gyuapa National Monument, an archaeological site. This is a top view of the foundations of multiple buildings and an aquaduct system.

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Pretty impressive stone architecture

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Aquaduct system remnants

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The lizard petroglyph

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A parasitized wasp we found, super neat!

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We also drove up to volcano turrialba

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The view on the drive up, gorgeous farm houses

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Pretty successful rest day!

Cachi was pretty different from most of the climbing I’ve done, really interesting, I tend to rely more on being good at finding small balancey feet rather than searching for awkward hand holds, but that’s what you’ve got to do here as you generally have good feet! There is definitely room for development if anyone wants to commit to cleaning a lot of forest off of rock. As of now I believe there are less than 20 routes, plus a few projects, and nice wide range of difficulty! I was able to work on a 10c while Jenny worked a 12c and Chase projected a 13b.

With my forearms sufficiently sore and missing a significant amount of finger skin I made my way to Uvita, mid pacific coast area, to enjoy the national marine reserve for a couple days. I had a small room to myself near the beach, with a Spanish only speaking staff which made things like losing my key interesting… On my first day I visited the south end of the reserve, then arranged for a snorkelling/whale watching tour the next day. I went down to the beach as I heard there was music on my first night. I was met by a woman who introduced herself as brighthawk and invited me to join in the fire circle. They played drums and danced for a while, apparently there was an event called forest dance that I had just missed where they performed fire circles every night and that’s about all I got before I went to bed.

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Welcome to the park!

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Golden orb weaver

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The beach. Most people: “white sandy beaches!” Me: ” can you please direct me to the rockiest area on the beach?”

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And I found it. Tide pooling and surge channels. Unfortunately it was kind of mid-high tide though. You’d think I didn’t check the tide tables or something…

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But I found this cute little limpet

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Lots of crabs!

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And, unrelated to tide pools, a cicada.

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Landcrabs on my way to the beach.

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Day 2, snorkelling near the north entrance of the park at the whale tail

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We saw a humpback whale and her calf

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Island ballena where we snorkelled again. Parrotfish, coral, sea urchins, other neat fishes I don’t know the name of and gigantic sea.stars! I may have been pulled into a surge channel at one point while exploring sea urchins and algae…

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We then went to some beautiful caves, where I swear you could do some awesome climbing if the water were deep enough

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Going through a cave

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Brown footed boobies!

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Once I had my fill of salt water for the day I joined a few people for a few hours at a waterfall nearby. You can slide down the watersfall, and climb up the rock around it. To the left, a long-ish V0. To the right, anything from V0-2 depending on where you were and how wet your feet were.

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Sliding down the waterfall

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We had a little fun stacking plastic bugs back at the hostel

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Sunset swim on my last night in Uvita

With burned on tanned skin, salty hair, sand everywhere and a surprising number of ants in my backpack from my room I told the ocean I’d never leave it again, packed up and left on the 5am bus for The Yoga Farm in Pavones.

Monteverde: Exploring, Ziplining and Wilderness Survival

In the last 2 years I have seen snow probably less than 10 times. Most of those times were during the week before I left Canada for Costa Rica, I think I’m doing it right. Monteverde is gorgeous, I had another day off and explored a little more. I’ve been ziplining, night hiking, dancing, learning, teaching and just generally exploring and enjoying life!

The one photo I got of me ziplining. This is during the 1.59 km 'superman' line.

The one photo I got of me ziplining. This is during the 1.59 km ‘superman’ line.

I went ziplining at a place here in Monteverde called Adventura. It included a 1.59km “superman” line, which is when you are attached to the zipline by your back and soar through the air like some kind of weird bird, and a tarzan swing. The tarzan swing is a 45m rope swing. You step off of a platform (by step off I mean some patient employees push you off while you repeatedly say “ohmygod no, no no no”) and then you freefall until the rope catches you. Then you take this awesome swing 45m below the platform. It was amazing, I feel bad for any eardrums within a 100m radius though. As it turns out I can scream like a terrified howler monkey.

A gigantic strangler fig tree you can climb inside of.

A gigantic strangler fig tree you can climb inside of.

I’ve done some fun hiking and exploring, a friend showed me this amazing strangler fig tree that is completely hollow and large enough that you can actually climb up inside of it! The other volunteers here at the garden and I went and checked out another fig tree that has fallen across the river and it’s roots have grown down into the river. Both were absolutely amazing, I am completely smitten by trees right now!

A cute little frog we found on our night hike

A cute little frog we found on our night hike

I’ve been on a couple awesome night hikes. The first was just 4 of us nerdy biology types out for a casual stroll in the woods, which made for a great time with lots of interesting discoveries. We found a male praying mantis and threw him in with our female when we got back then got to watch them mate. It was the most violently interesting thing I have ever witnessed. She literally picks him apart like a crab and eats him while they mate. A few of us also did an official tour with an amazing local guide. We saw all kinds of things, but the highlight for me was probably the bioluminescent mycorrhizal fungus. That’s right, glowing fungus on a tree root. It was amazing. The guide rubbed the tree root and it glowed blue-white in the dark.

Our awesome new staff t-shirts. The Machaca bug is extremely toxic. The locals will know if you've been bitten by one, and there is only one cure for it: you must go to bed with a Costa Rican man within 12 hours. Just kidding, but it makes for a good pick up line/t-shirt.

Mischa, Mike & I modeling our awesome new staff t-shirts: “Have you been bitten by the machaca?”
The Machaca bug is extremely venomous and there is only one cure for it: you must go to bed with a Costa Rican man within 12 hours. Just kidding, but it makes for a good pick up line/t-shirt.

Work here at the gardens is so much fun, I’ve been giving guided tours to people from all over the world. This weekend I was able to run the Young Naturalist Club, a group of kids who get together once a month to learn about science and nature. I put together a wilderness survival type thing. I learned a lot, mostly that I need to be better at organizing children, but hopefully they learned a bit too. We made splints and slings for broken arms with a first aid kit and materials you’d find in the woods, attempted to start a fire with a flint and semi-dry coconut husk, and built a shelter.

The the Young Naturalist Club, I pre-built the structure & put half the leaves on to make sure it would work before turning it over to the young naturalists to finish.

The the Young Naturalist Club, I pre-built the structure & put half the leaves on to make sure it would work before turning it over to the young naturalists to finish.

The kids finished the shelter and made a little sleeping pad inside of it!

The kids finished the shelter and made a little sleeping pad inside of it!

We had two kids with broken arms who had to make splints & slings. As you can see they are in a lot of pain.

We had two kids with broken arms who had to make splints & slings. As you can see they are in a lot of pain.

I’m going to try to do some more science themed blog posts but it’s been rather hectic and I thought I should let everyone know what I was up to! So in summary it’s still amazing down here in Costa Rica, everyone should come visit, and here a bunch of my photos!

Eli had a lot of fun putting scorpions on the stick for Mike & I while we played 'scorpion stick'

Eli had a lot of fun putting scorpions on the stick for Mike & I while we played ‘scorpion stick’

Whoever drops the stick first loses, it was a tie. But I had a lot of scorpions on my face.

Whoever drops the stick first loses, it was a tie. But I had a lot of scorpions on my face.

An eyelash viper. Snakes will actually move around quite a bit after they die and may actually bite themselves. Herpetologists say that snakes "don't know when they're dead"

An eyelash viper. Snakes will actually move around quite a bit after they die and may actually bite themselves. Herpetologists say that snakes “don’t know when they’re dead”

A beautiful orange kneed tarantula we found outside

A beautiful orange kneed tarantula we found outside

Things not to be afraid of: tarantulas. They have never killed anyone. They just get a bad rep for being big and hairy!

Things not to be afraid of: tarantulas. They have never killed anyone. They just get a bad rep for being big and hairy!

A little white faced capuchin monkey came for a visit

A little white faced capuchin monkey came for a visit

This little caterpillar has a really cool predator deterrent. He looks like a snake!

This little caterpillar has a really cool predator deterrent. He looks like a snake!

Enjoying some coconuts with rum

Enjoying some coconuts with rum

Praying mantis sex. A violent affair.

Praying mantis sex. A violent affair.

A butterfly that has just emerged from it's chrysalis

A butterfly that has just emerged from it’s chrysalis

A super cool looking leaf mimicking katydid They hear with ears on their legs and have evolved ears that are structurally very similar to ours! But theirs can hear higher frequency bat noises.

A super cool looking leaf mimicking katydid They hear with ears on their legs and have evolved ears that are structurally very similar to ours! But theirs can hear higher frequency bat noises.

 

We'll end with a photo of a beautiful sphinx moth. Moths can be beautiful too. Sometimes even more beautiful than butterflies!

We’ll end with a photo of a beautiful sphinx moth. Moths can be beautiful too. Sometimes even more beautiful than butterflies!

Someone make a snow angel in my honor, and I’ll drink a coconut or something for you.

Much love from Costa Rica!

Monteverde: the first 2 weeks

Costa Rica has been such an adventure so far and I’ve only been here for 11 days. I’ve been giving tours of the butterfly gardens during the day, reading a lot, hiking and have even gone out dancing a couple times. On a scale of one to terrible, I’m pretty much the worst at dancing but I’ve managed to get by, mostly by finding guys who are half decent at leading and then just smiling and laughing a lot when I screw up.

Climbing on a big fig tree I found on a hike near the butterfly gardens

Climbing on a big fig tree I found on a hike near the butterfly gardens

The tours at the butterfly garden are so much fun, I basically take groups through an arthropod room tell them all about tarantulas, scorpions, beetles, cockroaches and a few other neat things then we go through 4 butterfly gardens. People come in from all different backgrounds so sometimes it’s a little difficult to communicate and I end up doing a lot of weird interpretive dances mimicking scorpion mating…but I think I get the message across! We try to kind of make it funny, but the language barrier kind of annihilates some of my jokes. That and there are definitely some major cultural differences when it comes to humor. So far, I’ve found that German people either think I’m the funniest thing ever, or they just stare at me like an idiot whenever I try to be funny. There is no middle ground.

Some Owl butterflies at the bar. They eat fermented fruit all day, they are the alcoholics of the butterfly world.

Some Owl butterflies at the bar. They eat fermented fruit all day, they are the alcoholics of the butterfly world. And they suffer the consequences, only living for a few weeks!

I had my first day off on Friday, hiked for a solid 8 hours, got kind of lost on a trail, which ended up being really nice because I found a big fig tree! Then I hiked Cerro Amigos, which is this pretty big elevation gain, but it’s worth it because the view is supposed to be aaamazing, except for when it’s cloudy, which it was. So I got a wonderful photo of the inside of a cloud…

Check out that view! Top of Cerro Amigo. I wasn't willing to wait around long enough for the weather to clear up. It was a great hike though, 1842m up!

Check out that view! Top of Cerro Amigo. I wasn’t willing to wait around long enough for the weather to clear up. It was a great hike though, 1842m!

I then went to the bat jungle. It was amazing, I learned so much and am pretty much going to be the hugest entomology/bat nerd after this trip! It was great because one of the guys who works there let me and the other volunteer join him mist netting the night before, so I’d seen a few bats in the wild and learned a bit before actually going for a tour. The mist netting was so much fun! We went out two nights in a row, set up very fine nylon nets along trails and then checked them for bats every 15 minutes or so for a couple hours. We saw a striped palm viper, which I walked right past in shorts so thankfully it didn’t bite me! An orange kneed tarantula, an orange mouthed arboreal tarantula, and 3 silky short-tailed bats. The animals in this country are amazing!

Check out how cute this bat is!

Check out how cute this bat is!

So in summary, everything is amazing and here are a bunch of photos:

The beautiful Julia butterfly

The beautiful Julia butterfly.

Some owl butterflies getting it on.

Some owl butterflies getting it on.

The Asthma beetle. Thought to cure asthma when eaten it turns out they actually cause it by chewing stuff up and making dust!

The Asthma beetle. Thought to cure asthma when eaten it turns out they actually cause asthma by chewing detritus up and making fine dust!

When a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it makes a crysalis out of it's exoskeleton and turns into goo inside, then completely reforms into a butterfly.

When a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it makes a chrysalis out of it’s exoskeleton and turns into goo inside, then completely reforms into a butterfly and emerges!

You can read all about how inside the chrysalis it is just a pile of goo, but there was one that wasn't hatching, sooo we cut it open to see for ourselves! Yup. Pile of goopy wet brown stuff.

You can read all about how inside the chrysalis it is just a pile of goo, but we had one that wasn’t emerging, so we cut it open to see for ourselves! Yup. Pile of goopy wet brown stuff.

Coffee and a sunset before bat research assistance time!

Coffee and a sunset before bat research assistanting time!

Striped palm viper that we walked right past!

The striped palm viper that we walked right past!

"Fishing" for an orange mouthed arboreal tarantula with a katydid on a leash

“Fishing” for an orange mouthed arboreal tarantula with a katydid on a leash

Hello beautiful day! Cerro Amigos.

Hello beautiful day! Cerro Amigos.

No hike would be complete without some impromptu yoga!

No hike would be complete without some impromptu trail yoga!

Totally biffed it on the way down, then I had to walk through town with a questionable looking brown mud stain on my shorts/legs. Good times!

Totally biffed it on the way down Cerro Amigos (super steep), then I had to walk through town with a questionable looking brown mud stain on my shorts/legs. Good times!

Congratulations on making it all the way through my hiking/arthropod photos, here is a cute little mammal. It's a Coati!

Congratulations on making it all the way through my hiking/arthropod photos, here is a cute little mammal as a reward. It’s a Coati!

So, Costa Rica is great. Public education is a blast. Seriously considering doing a masters in science education (apparently Laurentian University has a good program). I’m hoping to organize an event for the young naturalist club here in the next couple months. They are a group aged 6-13 and I’m thinking I’ll probably go for an ethnobotany lesson or something, but I’m not entirely sure yet. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

With love from Costa Rica, see you all back in Canada (or wherever) soon!
Christina

To Monteverde!

I arrived safely at The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens and have started to settle in and learn my way around a little. It was a bit of an adventure getting here though! To preface this post, I was not very prepared for this trip. I forgot to get a typhoid fever vaccination, I didn’t learn nearly enough Spanish, and I bought the guide book at the airport.

I flew out of Vancouver and had a brief stop over in Los Angeles before my overnight flight to San Jose. Once out of the airport in San Jose I completely disregarded my friend’s advice about only taking the orange cabs from the airport and hopped in a Honda Accord with a taxi driver who spoke English quite well. We went through probably the sketchiest area I have ever been through (that being said, I am not that well travelled) and I was dropped off at a Spanish speaking bus station, near the Coca Cola bus area.

Waiting at the bus station forever

Waiting at the bus station forever

Once I’d successfully purchased a ticket, in Spanish (I was pretty proud of myself), I had 5 hours until the bus arrived. I figured I’d have lunch and use the internet at the little cafe near the bus terminal. The good news is, it was $3 USD for a latte and a lunch thing, the bad news is I’m a vegetarian and I think I ate chicken. I just pointed at something behind the counter as I was failing epically at reading the menu. Turns out it had chicken in it, or pork, I’m not entirely sure to be honest. But on the bright side, I now know how to ask if there is meat in things. I then proceeded to hang out at the bus station for 5 hours while diligently guarding my bags. I had to pee, a couple times. You have to pay 200 colones to use the washroom, someone had peed all over the floor, there was no seat on the toilet, and there was a man fixing the sink. So I essentially did weighted squats with my 65L backpack, while trying not to laugh. And I thought I wouldn’t get in any exercise while traveling!

A kitty friend I made at the bus station.

A kitty friend I made at the bus station.

The bus ride up was all Spanish speaking people, lucky for me there was one German girl with broken English and she translated a few things for me. Including “there might be thieves, watch your bag” which the bus driver had tried to get across by pointing at my bag and making a sad face with a pretend tear drop after I confidently told him “No hablo Espanol moy bien”, which is probably spelled worse than I pronounced it. Once on the bus with my bags safely stowed I fell asleep for about an hour, then I woke up and we were driving through these gorgeous forests with huge green trees. We went through a few small towns and then drove up a winding dirt road for about an hour to get to Monteverde. I took a taxi up to the “Jardin de Mariposas” and met everyone. It’s me, another volunteer, the owners, and their 11 year old son all living at the gardens. I have my own room for now, but will be sharing with another female volunteer who is arriving in a couple weeks.

The volunteer quarters, well kind of. This is the kitchen/other volunteers room.

The volunteer quarters, well kind of. This is the kitchen/other volunteers room.

I had my first day, followed a tour, walked through the gardens, memorized some butterfly names and facts, learned how to do a few maintenance type things and attempted to make empanadas.

Just to be clear, I’m not a totally ignorant tourist…I didn’t really think I’d need much Spanish to get to the butterfly gardens and thought I’d just kind of wing it, but for the rest of my trip when I am traveling I’m planning to actually learn to speak enough to get by.

Not a bad view from the balcony

Not a bad view from the balcony

Only the coolest beetle ever: the elephant beetle. It feels soft like velvet.

Only the coolest beetle ever: the elephant beetle. It feels soft like velvet.

An owl butterfly in the low altitude garden

An owl butterfly in the low altitude garden

Silver crysalids from which glass butterflies will one day emerge.

Silver crysalids from which glass butterflies will one day emerge.

A stingless wasp colony

A stingless bee colony

Turns out I have curly hair! Me in my room.

Turns out I have curly hair! Me in my room.

I’m excited to be doing tours and working here for the next 2.5 months! I’ll probably be blogging about neat insects and stuff for the rest of my time here, there is a lot to learn!

Love to Canada from Costa Rica, hope you’re all enjoying winter!

P.S. I saw a tucan and a white faced monkey today! I didn’t get pictures though.

Go with the Flow: Little Isopods in Big Waves Part III


12x2x1 meters, 45,000 liters, a bag of pep-O-mint lifesavers and 12 big rocks: welcome to the flume. My research partner Sam and I met with the research coordinator on station yesterday regarding the use of the flume for part of our experiment. I’ve wanted to put something in the flume since I first came to Bamfield in 2011, unfortunately my research partners weren’t interested in biomechanics so we did a short behavioural experiment with decorator crabs. This summer I researched biotic influences on tide pool chemistry (see my posts on that project here: I & II), a topic which did not lend itself to flume research. But this fall worked our perfectly: our algae course measured drag on kelp in the flume and now Sam and I are going to use it for part of our research on Idotea (see parts I and II of our Idotea research)!

        
Top down view of the flume. It is currently divided in half to increase velocity, normally the centerpiece and wood pieces over the top aren’t there.

The flume is essentially a large rectangular glass box which creates laminar flow by recirculating water. You can change velocity, adjust temperature, use fresh or salt water and rig up all kinds of cool devices. It is equipped with a PIV laser which can be used to visualize flow around objects. Unfortunately we are unable to use the PIV system for our project due to time constraints and lack of training, but I was able to see it in action earlier this summer when an engineer was here looking at flow around tidal turbines.

Classmates Ondine, Angela and I in the flume ready for the PIV system to be turned on. You have to wear heavy duty goggles to block out the infrared light rays. Photo cred: Patrick Martone

We are going to measure flow over different morphologies of seaweeds on which Idotea are commonly found. We’ve chosen 2 seaweeds with very different morphologies: Fucus distichus is thick and highly branched while Ulva lactuca is a thin sheet. We have observed Idotea on both, but more commonly on Fucus at our exposed site and often under or on Ulva at our sheltered site.

Fucus disitichus; a thick, branched brown seaweed

Ulva lactuca; a thin, sheet-like green seaweed

Our plan is to find rocks with either Ulva or Fucus attached to them and tie lifesavers to the rocks so when put in flow the lifesavers sit in the middle of the seaweed. We’ll place them in the flume then compare how much mass the lifesavers have lost. We’ll also remove the Ulva and Fucus from the rocks and repeat the process. This will give us information about the amount of flow experienced by Idotea when they are on these seaweeds, giving us insight into their habitat preferences.

The glamorous side of science: the first bucket of rocks, the first flight of stairs

I picked up some pep-O-mint lifesavers (the industry standard, calibrated lifesaver that is used for mass dissolution projects similar to ours) in Nanaimo last month and we are finally going to use them this Sunday. I’m super excited to get this experiment going, we might have to trouble shoot a little as size and shape of rocks could affect flow, but hopefully we find some significant results!