Thursday, May 25, 2023


Poco Sol is a beautiful place, in the middle of the Children's Eternal Rainforest.  This picture shows our bus, the barracks / dining / meeting area.  This is about as remote a place as you can get to in Costa Rica, and one of the most special places in the world - the middle of the largest protected bit of rainforest.

We started Wednesday morning at 6:00, as always, birding.  This was a phenomenal place to look at humming birds, due to some humming bird bushes planted in front of the research station.  In the near ground is Jackson.

Ryan is wearing his dad's old hat, which I'm very envious of.  The edges are frayed from decades of use.  He's very proud (and posessive) of this hat :-)

Our fabulous guide, mentor, and teach Mark Wainwright catches a butterfly and points out the adaptations to help it compete in the environment.  I wish I could somehow convey to you just how much the students respect and revere Mark.  I do to.  He is the best naturalist I have ever met, and is an outstanding teacher.  He has a way of building and building on the story of the environment, and slowly engaging students more and more, drawing them in and encouraging them to make connections between what they learn with one species and extrapolating that to other species.  Mark is the real deal.  Rock solid.

Here, Mark is discussing seed dispersal and pollination at the buttress of a giant tree.

Olivia holds a pug-nosed Smilisea frog she caught.  One of the coolest things for me in the trip, is seeing students grow and become more comfortable with wildlife, the unusual environment, weird conditions, strange bunkmates, and the like.  These trips are the most intensive learning experiences I've experienced in my 26 years of teaching.


This is a trail of leaf cutter ants.  They make their living cutting leaves, carrying them to an underground chamber, and growing fungus on the leaves.  They eat then eat the fungus.  

Jenna holds a Jesus Lizard she caught, which we watched earlier running on the surface of the lake.

We're taking a much needed mid-day swim break to cool off....swimming in a lake in the tropical rain forest in Costa Rica!  That's Will, Jenna, Isabelle, Danielle, Lauren, Tim, some old looking gray haired guy who actually is prematurely gray and only 29 years old, Aidan, and Olivia.   Photo by Tori.

In the afternoon, we listened to a lecture by Mark on the Children's Eternal Rainforest.  This was particularly interesting because it really illustrated the interplay of people and conservation.

 After supper, we went for a night hike where we found a record 4 species of snakes, a glass frog, lizards, and some glowing beetles that fulfilled Danielle's wish to walk in the set of Avatar.  Another day of 6am to 9:30... 15 1/2 hours....and then journaling.  These night hikes are another instance of where there's a lot of growth, walking in the middle of the rain forest in the rain in the dark, when you're exhausted and tired from a long hard day of hiking and learning and thinking....and still hiking and learning and thinking...

Thursday, we were up birding at 6:00.  I realized that Dr. Parshall's "birding" is really drinking coffee and tea on the deck, so I joined in.  I like "birding."  The students were tasked in the morning with walking any trail in the forest, having a 20 minute quiet spell by themselves, finding a flower, a fruit, and a leaf that has a scent, and drawing a sound-scape map.  Here's a picture I took to give you an idea of the density of the forest.  Interesting, a lot of the land was cleared farmland when the forest got protected some 40 years ago.  The steepness and the heat and humidity always make me feel at home, reminiscent of my "coming of age years," hiking and walking in the Smoky Mountain Forests in the summer.

A lot of students chose to walk to the waterfall- the view was spectacular!  I'd guess it is about 160 foot drop.

Isabelle talks about the waterfall (and wanting to swim down below).

On the walk several students and I saw the Capuchin Monkey that Dr. Parshall spotted.  I took this amazingly clear, National Geographic quality photo to share.  We saw a couple more further in the background.  This one was taking an aggressive stance, shaking and jumping, because we were in his or her space.

After lunch, we had a little down time for swimming, napping, or journaling.  Then Mark led the discussion of fruits by sharing a huge variety of fruits with use to try.  Delicious!  That's always a favorite part of the trip for me.  The variety of fresh, tropical fruit is amazing.  Next, each student did a show and tell of what they found during the morning hike.

Well, Danielle found this fruit stalk, which was everyone's favorite, but Lauren obviously plans to keep it.  Each of those red berries was on a little stalk, and the hold thing would sort of swirl in a delightful would be a great fidget toy....  In the background Ben and Jenna are looking at fruits and flowers.

Dr. Parshall explaining nuisances of plant reproduction.  Aidan holding flower in the background.

For me, one of the coolest things about this course is that it brings together students with different interests, skills, personalities, and majors.  Will had a sore muscle on the outside of his leg from hiking on these steep twisty trails with a heavy pack.  He asked me if I knew any stretches that would help, and Jenna said "I can fix that."  Jenna is a Movement Science major who's specialized in athletic training...and she fixed it!

I'm writing this while the students listen to Mark talk about the world-wide amphibian decline.  This is a good time to write the blog, because the wifi bandwith is very small at the field station, and I can only post these picture intensive blog posts when the students aren't communicating :-)  This evening, students will go on an additional night hike, then tomorrow we're leaving the rainforest and heading by way of the Arenal Volcano to the cloud forest, which is higher in elevation and...wait for it...cloudy.  Hopefully.  It's been very dry, though we did get a gullywasher rain last night.  Meanwhile, besides some bad stomachs, headaches, and sore joints, everyone is doing great.


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