Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 10: Everyone!

It's hard to believe that today is already our last night here in Costa Rica! We have had such a blast and learned 2000lbs (a ton!). Although we are sad to leave and will miss this incredible country, most of us are eager to see our families and sleep in our own (air conditioned) bedrooms (not necessarily in that order though).

First, a comment on last night. We had an amazing time doing turtle sweeps, but, unfortunately, the turtles eluded us. It was hard to be disappointed, though, since we were able to see the stars very clearly and hear the ocean's waves crashing on the beach.

This morning began at like 7:00 with another breakfast of rice, beans, and eggs for, like, the tenth time. After the hearty breakfast, the first year students set off on an adventure into the dry forest. The second year students were like, "we're tired," and opted to skip the hike in favor of a little down time. The first year students were like, "the hike was great but also, like, super long." On the hike, the students were, like, incredibly lucky and managed to catch glimpses of an assortment of birds, insects, lizards, and a snake. They also got the opportunity to, like, view TWO troupes of White Faced Capuchin monkeys that were very active. They, like, became very irritated that the students were in their territory, and, like, began shaking the branches in order to encourage the students to leave. The second year students were, like, extremely jealous of all the cool organisms the other students saw, but also enjoyed sleeping in (some slept until 11:30!).

Before we launch into the next activity, you will be relieved to know that the "like" trend stops here, and we will give you a bit of background on it. After our presentations, the teachers' main feedback was that we used the word "like" too many times (which, I guess, means that they weren't too bad?). They have been teasing us about it when we say the word ever since. Anyway, back to the day's narration...

After the hike, some students braved a free-solo climb up a fire tower ladder. There were great views, and we were even able to convince Mrs. Laden to climb up to the top. It was astounding to be able to see for miles.

Our final activity in Costa Rica was a trip to the Pacific Ocean. It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip; we were able to bond even more as a group by swimming, talking, and watching the sunset. We also terrorized hermit crabs and built sandcastles. For dinner we had a barbecue on the beach, and it was delicious! As the sun set over the horizon, we struggled to take a jumping picture as an ode to last year. Here is the best we could do:

And, finally, we leave you with comments from the students. We decided to turn it into a game; see if you can guess which student made which comment (key at the bottom). Also, some students didn't get the memo and used names in their comments, so we blocked those out.

1. Costa Rica has been very fun so far.  I will see you tomorrow.

2. Costa Rica has been very exciting so far.  Can't wait to see what happens next.

3. I love being in Costa Rica and I've learned so much.  See you tomorrow night <3.

4. Dear Mom and Dad, slowly but surely I have become Costa Rican.  Hopefully you still recognize me tomorrow.

5. Dear Mom and Dad, *** and ***, I hope you have had a peaceful time while I was gone.  Be prepared for the possibility of another friend coming back with me. 

6. Mom, Dad, *** and ***, I have had a blast in Costa Rica! I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

7. Mom, Dad, and brothers, I've been having a great time in Costa Rica. Obviously. Pumped to see you tomorrow Dad, and I'll see you in a week or something Mom and boys.

8. Mom and ***, I really don't know what to get you, so I just won't get anything, lol, love you!

9. Mom and Dad- I love and miss you (sorry I took like NO pictures) but... you love me anyway!

10. I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to not only be exposed to a completely different side of biological sciences, but also to experience a new culture and the rainforest. Thank you Dad and Mom; the adventures I had here are something I'll always remember.

11. Dear Mom, you're on the trip with me. This is pointless.

12. Dear Mom and Dad, thanks so much for bringing me on this trip. It has been the best experience. I can't wait to tell you all about it!

13. Mom and Dad, I have had a great time in Costa Rica and cannot wait to see you all tomorrow!

14. My dear family, this trip was great and I'll tell you all about it when I get home (and make sure there are sheets on my bed when I get home if you REALLY love me). I'm excited to tell you all my stories, but also I really want to hear from you about whether pets are still alive and a sibling hasn't burned down the house.

15. Hey Family! I love you all and thanks so much for supporting me and sending me to Costa Rica! The experience has been incredibly rewarding and exciting. :)

16. Did not want to write

17. Did not want to write

1. Jack
2. Claudia
3. Adalee
4. Adam
5. Bridget
6. McKenna
7. Meghan
8. Sarah
9. Leah
10. Anna
11. Karin
12. Olivia
13. Carlie
14. Annika
15. Erin
16. Allie
17. Taylor

And a PS from Erin:
Happy Birthday Anjali! I hope you had a fantastic day:). I love you!

From all of us:
Thank you John, Pablo, Andy (Senor Grande), Mrs. Leland, and Mrs. Laden! We appreciate all you have done and the time you have spent to make this trip possible.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 9- First Years

Hey Everybody!

First of all, we would like to say that we finally made it to El Horizontes. We also would like to say sorry for not blogging last night. Many of us were busy finishing our projects, but some of them didn't get done.

This morning we woke up (some of us very early to finish our projects) and had our last delicious breakfast at Finca la Anita. We frantically packed our suitcases and loaded onto the bus. It was a long 2 1/2 hour ride, but at least it had air conditioning (which is more than we can say for El Horizontes). As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were hit by a wave of humidity and sunlight, which we had never experienced at Finca la Anita.

On the ride to El Horizontes, we stopped at a little supermarket to pick up any groceries we desired. Mostly our groceries consist of chips and junk food, mainly because we crave American food. Although, don't worry! We are definitely making good dietary choices and not getting fat (for the most part).

After arriving at El Horizontes, we claimed our rooms, unpacked our suitcases, and hung up any wet clothes from Finca la Anita. This is the first time we have had any dry clothing since we got off the plane in Liberia. However, some of our clothes are getting wet for other reasons (because of sweat, ewww). We barely got out of our rooms for lunch when we were pulled on a itty-bitty walk to spot more Capuchin monkeys.

El Horizontes is super cool (not literally) because it is a actual research facility. Here they study a different ant species called Pseudomyrmex, which has a mutualistic relationship with Acacia trees. We got to study these ants up close in the field.

After lunch, the first years gave our final presentations on our ant projects. It was hard to do because the fans were very loud in the room and we couldn't hear people talk. Also, there were wasps flying everywhere, which was very distracting. But, in the end, we all did very well and look forward to presenting to our parents when we return home. 

Soon, we will be off to dinner and then the beach. There we will sweep for turtles and will not return until anywhere between 12:00 and 3:00 in the morning. Therefore, this will be the blog for the day. We will definitely report if we see any turtles, but not until tomorrow, since we will all be very tired tonight.

This is my conclusion paragraph... Don't know what to write. So... GO SCIENCE! WOOOOHOOOO!

-Olivia & Adalee

P.S. We saw a really cool lizard that has a name that translates to Tree Chicken. He is pictured below.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 8-Second Years

Hello All! The Second Years are taking over the blog writing for tonight since the First Years are working hard to finish their projects and we have already finished our presentations. We started off the day with the six second year presentations. We feel that we have learned a lot about bioinformatics and were excited and a bit nervous to present our findings. Although we all used the database IMG, the presentations ended up being very different because we each focused on different tools offered by it. The presentations went smoothly other than a brief intermission caused by heavy rains on the tin roof. When they were over, we were all relieved and ready to relax.

For lunch we had hamburgers which many students had been looking forward to for a while. Then, we had to say goodbye to Gabriel. He has been extremely helpful to us in explaining the basics of bioinformatics, and we wish him the best of luck in his future scientific endeavors.

Our afternoon activity was the community service project and soccer game. The service project was weeding a garden that had been developed by local women as a source of food, income, and independence. The second year students had helped on the garden last year, and it was wonderful for us to see the progress of the garden and the building where they cook and create jewelry to sell.

After the community service project, we walked to the soccer field. We started by just passing the ball around until other local kids showed up. The game started during a downpour and the field became very muddy. This allowed for some humorous slips and a more entertaining game for the spectators. Some people took their shoes off and braved the biting ants to play in their socks or barefoot in order to gain more traction. We all had a great time and played for over an hour and a half.

Once the game ended, many of us bought ice cream and visited the Poparia with one of the Costa Rican players, which gave us a chance to practice our Spanish and, occasionally, drawing skills. We all took a much-needed shower and then were treated to a delicious taco dinner.

Next up is our visit to El Horizontes, which is on the beach. We will have unreliable internet, therefore do not assume that we were all stung by bullet ants if there are no new blog posts.

 (Meghan teaching the first year students how to rap.)

Signing off,
Meghan, Anna, The Claudster

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21: Day 7

Hello people who actually have DRY clothes!
Today started off early, Pablo promised us a chocolate lesson after ingesting the chocolate previously mentioned on a earlier blog (well at least that's what I read). We hiked up to the ranch (the place where we eat foods), it was early so it seeeeeemed suuupeeeer faaaar awayyyy. Everyone who stumbled out of bed in time got to enjoy the top-secret chocolate making and the chocolate smells.

 After breakfast, we got started working on our experiments. We are making lots of progress and many of us are starting to see results, During our experimental time (yes we realize that sounds ____, we know) some of us got to work with unusual lab materials, such as ant butt-extract and nic-o-tea (specialty Costa Rican brews). We were feeling pressed for time because of the loomingly impending doom-full presentations. We, or I, feel as the experiments are compressed because of lacking time. We have all started to create the presentations and the act of writing the lab book write-up. Apparently some of us are not pressed for time as they are thinking of other related time filling entertaining experiments (I learned this while typing). We were heading off for lunch with vision of ants dancing in our heads (normally its sugarplums).

All activities today were earlier because of our daily adventure, which today consisted of hiking through a primary rainforest sopping wet for a large majority of the time. We lumbered off in the army tank-truck (like tow-truck, but not), today's ride was significantly longer and the treachery was high. At one point, never-mind two points we went "swimming" in our army tank-truck, in case you didn't understand our swimming, we went off-roading to cross some fast paced river where the bridge was uncrossable (probably not able to sustain any weight). When we finally survived the raging rivers of death and the lashing tree branches of terror, Sensoria was a safe haven. I wished I could have hugged the ground getting off the army tank-truck.

Sensoria is a primary rainforest, meaning the majority of the trees have never been cut (if you aren't satisfied with this explanation GOOGLE IT). Our plan was to hike to the cold spring first as it was the farthest away and if we would have done it last it would have been super-duper cold and over half of us would still be trying to hike back as this very moment. We all should have been in better shape coming on this trip, we were not educated on the this when we signed up (it probably would have made a difference in our decision, actually just kidding, we love it here. (Good bye mom and dad, I am running away to live in Costa Rica, and getting away from grammar.(my friends are fixing the errors (yes I actually have friends))) (if you cant tell its pretty late now). To end my period of digression, on the way up, actually down, we saw many cool trees and wildlife (more of the former because it's a forest.... with rain) including but not limited to massive strangler figs, funny tree turkeys, and an eyelash snake. When we finally reached the cold springs we all were amazed with the waterfall leading in to the pool area where we swam. I didn't think it was too cold but others were complaining that the water was freezing. The water we managed to carry with us the rest of the hike-pool-crawl. Next we went to a hot spring, on the way, the stairs made in to the path seemed so much longer and the steps higher, vertically challenged people were not enjoying lifting our legs above our belly-button region. The spring was a wonderful temperature, although the water was deep and murky. That mixture was not ideal when a waterproof camera was dropped (thanks Jack). We didn't spend too much time here because there was another warmer spring for us to swim in. The hike to it was so much shorter and gave us time to enjoy the majestic qualities of the forest. The hot spring was much shallower and there was an assortment of leaves floating in the water and layered on the ground. Finally we had to leave because it was going to get dark soon, so we started to hike, I was expecting a long hike back but we had barely started to move before it was over. The workers at Sensoria provided delicious cookies and juice (but its not too notable, the science is). The ride back on the army truck-tank was short seeming because of the exhaustion rate of everyone.So its pretty late and people are starting to complain so we will be done here.

Cold Spring

Happy Birthday Molly!!!! I hope you have had a wonderful day and the Twins provided entertainment or maybe won (not likely though). Pretend we are all singing for you. Love you.

Also its  cool to see comments on the blog.

 Good Night
Olivia and Bridget

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Karin, Carlie, Anna, McKenna, Olivia

July 20: Day 6 First Year


Today was an amazing day for all of us. It started with science, which is always long and tedious work. However, most of our groups are having fun creating and executing our ant projects. Whether we are taking off ant butts or creating sugar water, the projects are progressing.

Then came the super exciting part of the day. The group of us hopped in a modified Army truck and drove for a good 30 minutes to a remote area near a dense part of the rainforest. The ride was super bumpy and always lifted us out of our seats. It felt like a roller coaster, except it was raining harshly, so it was a really wet roller coaster. At last, we arrived, after becoming really nauseated, and got our gear to go zip lining! After the exhausting trek up the big hill (but a really small mountain), we were ready to begin our adventure. Since it was our first time zip lining, we were definitely terrified, but excited... but mostly terrified. On the first line, most of us were nervous, then felt very relieved when we landed on the first tower. Only after a minute did we realize we had more lines to go across. After a couple lines, the guides told us to ride upside down, which some of us liked and some of us didn't. To some, it gave such an amazing adrenaline rush. On one of the towers, we saw a couple White Faced Capuchin monkeys. All of us were very excited and loved to cross it off our lists of things to see. The end of the ride was definitely the most exhilarating because it was the longest and had the most breath-taking view.

After such an eventful day, the group of first years played many card games. Battles arose in games of Spoons and Egyptian Slap. In the end, we are all having so much fun experiencing new things. But we are very, very tired. Time for a good night's sleep.

Lots of love! -Sarah and Adalee

July 20: Day 5 and 6- Second Year

I would first like to apologize on behalf of all the second year students for our failure to regularly update  the blog.  As the trip progresses we are getting continually busier with our research.  By this evening we hope to be finished with the bulk of our research so that we can spend tomorrow working on our conclusions and preparing for the presentations that we will give on Tuesday morning.  Most of us have been staying out at the deck a little bit late each night in order to keep projects moving along on schedule.  Today we all feel like we are making significant progress toward our goals. 

Despite all the work we have to get done we are also finding time to let loose and enjoy ourselves.  Many of us participate in quite of the few afternoon adventures with the first year students.  For more information on our cooking class last night or Canopy Tour this afternoon, please check out the blog posts that the first years have been writing as they have been more successful at keeping the blog up to date.

We are all very grateful for the opportunity to return to Costa Rica for the Second Year experience.  
Now it is time to get back to work!

~Erin Gilbertson

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19: Day 5- First Year

¡Hola! Last night was the start of a long thunderstorm that lasted long into the morning. Many students were kept up at night by the incessant rain. At breakfast we discovered our plan for the day. We were greatly disappointed to find that our community projects and soccer game were postponed because of the sloshy wetness incurred by the relentless downpour (some were more disappointed than others.) Our plan for excavating our own ant colonies for our group experiments was impossible to implement. So instead, many of us used previously captured colonies in the lab. Our experiments are now well underway, because we worked throughout the morning. One of our experiments involved removing the abdomen of live (but frozen-ish) ants. As they began to unfreeze, the ants started to twitch and attempt to climb out of their containers. Let's say that it was disturbing and leave it at that.

After lunch, we continued with our experiments. Many groups started doing their write-ups, although not much could be accomplished due to the fact that our time-sensitive experiments had just started. Some of our break times, however, were not spent sciencing. In fact, we started intensely competitive card games. One of the most inclusive group games was Colored Pencils. Due to the fact that we are in Costa Rica, not all materials are widely available. The game might be more familiar to you as "Spoons." (If you aren't familiar with the game: quick, google it.) In several instances, players dove across the table to reach the last colored pencil. Injuries were narrowly avoided. (¡¡¡Let's make note that I, Bridget, managed to somehow win ONE round!!!)

After afternoon festivities (aka "sciencing"), we had a special event. We had a cooking lesson in traditional Costa Rican cooking. The group made its way to the home of Araceli, our host for the evening. In keeping with the style of the other blog posts, it was "a very unique experience." The doors of Araceli's kitchen were kept open, and unfortunately our cooking experience happened to coincide with the nuptial flight of the local termites. In layman's terms, we had a bunch of flying termites that decided to drop in. They literally dropped into our creations. Araseli was quite amused by Taylor's strong aversion to harmless bugs. The bugs quite liked his red shirt, and the only tactic he could think to use to defend himself was panicked flappy hands. Spastic movements. The works.

These bugs were so incredibly harmless that Profe Toni and Profe Amanda proved it to us by ingesting some bugs quite dramatically. This display was definitely reassuring, as some bugs had POSITIVELY ended up in our concoctions (despite our best towel-waving efforts.) You know, despite that, everything was incredibly delicious. We made cheese and rice & beans and a cooked-vegetable-medley and tortillas (on an indoor wood stove) and salad (with tomato roses.)

We were also served chicken and fruit juice and ice cream and hot chili peppers. Some of us sampled them. And some of us were QUITE dramatic. It must be repeated that it was delicious. Fantastically delicious.

 Anna French's parents should may or not be prepared for the smuggling home of Araceli's puffball of 2-month-old puppy. THAT was adorable. Like super adorable. Incredibly adorable. So unbelievably cute.

Be aware, as it's growing late, our writing skills are following the path of the sunlight (leaving us. quickly and totally.)

Annika and Bridget signing off. Completely and totally exhauseted. Seriosly.. We're sleep-typing. IT's like sleep-wa;lking, but cooler.

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18: Day 4 First Year

     The young men of the 2014 Costa Rica trip will be writing tonight's blog posting.  As the bright Costa Rican sun rose behind the thick, humid clouds over our cozy, eco-friendly cabin we slowly awoke and got ready for a day of adventure.

     We started the day off like any other day of the Costa Rica trip, with science.  This science session consisted of finally starting off our ant experiments.  Each group had started with their hypothesis, prediction and scientific experiment.  As each group brainstormed a long list of questions, all groups struggled with coming to a final topic of future research.  After a solid hour, each group had finally made a decision and started to develop their idea further.

     After eating a hearty Costa Rican lunch, the whole group was bussed to a horse ranch in which we all were assigned an individual horse to ride for the next two hours.  The horseback ride was an adventure to say the least.  Starting our ride out on the rocky road and slowly making our way onto the top of a nearby volcano, providing views that were breathtaking.  Considering the night before had presented us with the loudest storm we had heard since our arrival, the paths were turned to mud, thus making it a very slippery ride for us and our horses.  At one point in the ride, everyone had to dismount their horses and lead them safely down the muddy trail.
     Safely returning to the horse ranch, we were then bussed back to Finca la Anita and made our daily trip to the towns general store, the Poparia (Po-pa-REE-ah).  After dinner, the first years made their way into the classroom to present their hypothesis and what their future research will hold.

Here is the most aggressive type of snake in Costa Rica that Carlos had stomped  out while picking pineapples.

   After the presentations, the rest of the group headed off to bed.  As we sit here being bombarded with moths and mosquitoes, Dr. Andrew Bouwma spotted a unique bug named the Peanut Headed Bug, but our bug adventures had not yet ended for the day.  We sat down to write the blog when suddenly Jack swiped a bug off of his neck onto the floor, seeing it being the treacherous Bullet Ant Queen known for its sting and bite to feel like being shot with a bullet (hence the name).  We then spotted another Bullet Ant Queen and ended both of their short lives with a swift blow from McKenna's blue plaid notebook.


Starting from left: Adam, Jack, Taylor

Hopefully we will not be killed by any other exotic ants we are unaware of as we walk back to our cabin.  But we would like to let our parents know that if we are missing, we love them very much and we send our apologies for not being better equipped.

July 18: Day 4- Second year

Hello from Costa Rica!! Sorry about our lack of blog last night we were all hard at work on our projects for most of the day and we just got so caught up! We are all feeling a lot better about our research projects :) we all have our topics picked out and we all feel like we have made a lot of progress. Yesterday Claudia and Meghan went on the river hike with the first years and they said it was a lot of fun. Today Allie, Erin, Anna and Myself are all going horseback riding with the first years...expect some awesome pictures provided that it doesn't rain. Well it's lunch time (which means lots of delicious Finca La Anita food!!) bye for now

This morning we all made great progress on our bioinformatics research with the help of our adviser Gabriel Vargas. Most of us have a much better understanding of how to use IMG and what types of things we should be looking for in our research.

Many of us also had a great time horseback-riding this afternoon which provided us with a nice break from working on computers all day.  Now we have just eaten dinner and our putting final touches on today's work before heading back to our cabins for some much needed sleep. 

Leah and Erin