Tropical Biology summer program in Costa Rica

The Tropical Biology – summer course for undergraduates has been busy visiting the various OTS field stations and surrounding environments.  We recently completed two group projects conducted at the La Selva Research Station.  One project, lead by our invited faculty member Dr. Juan Rivero, estimated daily total numbers of birds and species diversity by employing four survey techniques: mist nets, point counts, transect surveys, and tower surveys to detect canopy-dwelling species.  Over the course of three days, 470 individuals were detected that were comprised of 75 species – many of which were new and exciting Neotropical species to the students.  Beyond training in essential survey techniques, which students plan to employ at our next site to compare avian biodiversity in relationship to different habitats, everyone was treated to a very rare capture in the mist nets – the famed Royal Flycatcher.  The image says it all, but it was an extraordinarily beautiful species with its crimson and royal blue crest.  It is moments like these which one experiences while learning fundamental field principles that hook students on a life-long trajectory of tropical studies and conservation.  We may have hooked a few students this week.

Another of our field projects sent students looking in all the nooks and crannies of the rainforest by day and night in search of spiders.  Students used pitfall traps, transect searches, and beating sheet survey methods to observe a wide range of species that typically go unnoticed.  Surveys were conducted across three forest types to evaluate species richness and diversity within the context of the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis theory.  Through the guidance of our invited faculty member Dr. Darko Cotoras, students noted 260 individuals that represented at least 49 different classifications of spiders based on identification to family and / or morpho-species.  Field, classroom, and lab discussions helped students understand the importance of a diversity of habitats and niches to support such a high level of species diversity.  Whether students continue with spider studies or not in the future, these field experiences help foster an awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the many parts of a tropical forest that are required for ecosystem functioning.  Furthermore, simply spending time in the field leads to unexpected findings that further intrigue students, such as when the group observed a spider consuming its own web to recover valuable energy – a rare and interesting phenomenon to behold.

Last Updated ( 06/13/17 )