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.