I am Caroline Chaboo, Director of this 2015 program to Costa Rica. Normally, I head to Peru every June with students. However, this year Costa Rica is on the menu due to several factors and opportunities. The University of Costa Rica and the University of Kansas have a long established relationship of collaboration in research, education and visits. This program is supported by KU's Office of International Programs.
In 2014, I expanded one aspect of my Peru research, arthropod communities on Zingiberales plants, and sought a second site for comparative study. Two UCR colleagues, one I met more than 10 years ago, developed a grant proposal which was funded. One UCR collaborator visited KU recently (his first visit to the USA). Our plan is to develop a Central American site and study the diversity (taxonomic and food web relations) of the arthropods that are associated with these distinctive Zingiberales plants (familiar ones are bananas and ginger, but flowers are also sold in shops).
The field course program developed as a way to initiate a joint education program alongside the larger research so we could bring KU and UCR students together, conducting research towards their first scientific publication as they gained exposure to rich tropical habitats and acquired several field skills.
Some KU participants opted to pursue grants for research, which they were awarded. We have met several times to discuss everything, from travel medicine to hiking shoes. I am excited to renew collaborations with the excellent UCR biology faculty and to expose KU students to Costa Rica = "rich coast" = rich biodiversity.
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Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here.
The day after our arrival in Costa Rica, we went to a volcano!! We went to Irazu Volcano National Park (here is a map of the volcanoes of Central America; this one was number 28). It is still an active volcano. The last time it erupted was in 1963 and happened to coincided with former US President John F. Kennedy visiting the country . The last activity was in 1996. Irazu is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica, reaching over 11,000 ft! While there, we saw our first mammal of the trip: a coati!
The volcanoes in Central America are part of the ring of fire, a ring of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean. The volcanoes are closely spaces and easily accessible, as well as running generally parallel to the Cocos Plate (a tectonic plate). Those factors make Central America a great place to study geochemical variance, especially those caused by plate tectonics.
Later that day, we went to a coffee plantation that had a pool fed by a hot spring! John Kaiser translated what the owner was telling us about the processing of coffee. They grew some of their coffee on hills that were stair-stepped (pictured below). When walking down from the processing building, we saw a rock with carvings from the aboriginal people! The hot spring pool had quite a view.
My name is Jake Kaufmann. I am studying Visual Art at the University of Kansas. I am participating in the Study Abroad program in Costa Rica because of my interest in the country's environmental sustainability and to enhance my connection to art and science. I am very excited to explore the region's cloud forests and to draw inspiration from the abundance of nature and culture. My goal is to reveal the beauty of environmentalism by depicting the Costa Rican landscape, while conducting field research and interacting with local people.
My name is Hannah K. Boyd. I am a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. I am broadly interested in the diversity of organisms and their behaviors, herpetology, and entomology. During this study abroad program, I will carry out a study of insect communities on plants of the Marantaceae family and hopefully a niche model study on eyelash vipers (Bothriechis schlegelii). This will be my second time traveling out of the country and conducting research with Dr. Chaboo. Our work last year on the biodiversity click beetles (Elateridae) in collaboration with Dr. Johnson of South Dakota State University, is currently being prepped for publication and we discovered some new species. I am excited to be able to conduct the field research that i enjoy so much in a beautiful country like Costa Rica and hopefully I can learn a little more Spanish this time around.
My name is Eric Becker and I’ll be a senior at the University of Kansas. I’m currently studying organismal biology with an unofficial concentration on entomology with a bit of arachnology. I’m particularly interested in behavioral biology. In addition to the research being conducted as part of the course, I’ll be using this opportunity to work with parasitoid wasps, a group of insects I have an interest in. I plan to compile a list of parasitoid wasps in Costa Rica that are attracted to cantharidin, a toxic substance produced by blister beetles.
I am a soon-to-be junior majoring in organismal biology and minoring in Spanish. I enjoy sports, traveling, and trying new things. I am a pre-med student and have recently taken to the task of learning more about the health care of different regions of the world. Going to Costa Rica will hopefully give me a chance to observe firsthand some differences and similarities between the systems there and in the U.S.
My name is Emma Overstreet and I'm in my fourth year at KU. I'm currently majoring in Genetics, but I have broad interests in organismal biology and particularly entomology. I love travelling and hiking and am always looking for ways to spend time in nature. While in Costa Rica, I hope to broaden my knowledge of ecology and appreciate the incredible biodiversity the tropical climate has to offer, while gaining useful insight into the process of field work and research.
My name is Kristen Bontrager, I am a senior at Washburn University majoring in Biology with a focus in ecology. Currently I am working on expanding our herbarium collection and documenting the species of oaks in our research plot in Topeka, Karlyle woods.
My interests include growing plants, the soil composition that they are able to grow the best in including biotic and abiotic matter. In the summer I am usually in my garden, which I bring inside in the colder months and continue to grow in my own semi-greenhouse all winter long. I have a passion for eating food that I know where it comes from, and what exactly the nutrients are. I also enjoy hiking throughout the entire year. As long as I have the proper clothes to wear, I can manage to hike in the snowy months with my dog.
For months I have looked forward to my expedition to the Costa Rican rainforest. In just 10 days I will depart from Kansas City and arrive in the city of San Jose. I have never had the opportunity to leave the United States before, so my Costa Rica adventure will be unlike anything I have experienced thus far in my life. Being a biology major interested in research, I am insanely excited to study the rainforest and all of the organisms the ecosystem has to offer. This research trip will expand not only my scientific skills, but also my understanding of the world outside of America. As I continue to prepare for the trip, I have developed a few goals that I would like to accomplish while in Costa Rica. First, I would like to improve my ecology and field biology skills. Secondly, I seek to improve my understanding of foreign cultures because I have never had the opportunity to leave the United States. Finally, I am interested in improving my photography skills, and my note taking skills so that the trip can be documented and saved for the rest of my life. Words can’t explain how excited I am to be given this opportunity, and I will continue to count down the days until we depart for Costa Rica!
My name is Tim Mayes, and I am about to be a senior at KU majoring in Organismal Biology. I am extremely excited for this trip to Costa Rica. I am leaving early to travel with my dad and cannot wait to immerse myself in this new culture and view a new way of life. Once the program begins I am looking forward to exploring the rainforest and researching the insect life. This will be my first time conducting research so I am interested to see what the process involves. I plan to document as much as possible through a multitude of mediums in order to both remember the trip and aid in the research to be conducted. -Tim