Guidelines for Research at La Selva

In order to coordinate the increasing research and educational use of La Selva, a Master Plan for management and administration of the station has been developed with input from OTS staff, the La Selva Advisory Committee (LSAC), and researchers. Major sections of the Master Plan that you need to keep in mind when writing proposals are detailed below.

Seeds and seedlings | Marking plants, animals or plots | Site restrictions | Exotic plants or animals | Artificial gene movement | LSAC issues | Data base policy | Research permits | Collaboration with local scientists | Station naturalists | Research facilities | Equipment to bring | La Selva User’s Guide

Collection of Seeds and Seedlings at La Selva

Collecting seeds and/or seedlings is destructive sampling with high potential impact for many plant species. If you want to collect seeds or seedlings, you are welcome to do so within the borders of established trails (within 1 meter of the center of the trail), in the arboretum, in La Flaminea, and in the lab clearing. To collect seeds or seedlings anywhere else, ask for permission in your proposal.

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Marking Plants, Animals, or Plots at La Selva

If you plan on studying organisms or plots that are important for others to leave alone, you will have to install obvious markers (surveyor's tapes, flags, cords) that clearly demarcate the plant/area involved. If you do not do this, your study may suffer from inadvertent interference by someone else. Please mention these markers in your proposal.

PLOTS Please list any limited-access plot you will need in your proposal. Such plots should always be located at least 15 meters off any trail.

LONG-TERM PLOTS (i.e., plots maintained for more than months or to be left in your absence.) Establishment of long-term plots requires LSAC approval in most cases. If you anticipate the need for the long-term allocation of any site, contact the director ahead of time to avoid siting conflicts with other projects. Some areas are zoned as high impact, meaning they are appropriate for large-scale manipulation. Areas zoned for low impact projects are not suitable for large manipulations.

MARKING ANIMALS Please list any markers you plan to place on animals (except very short-lived markers). To use bird bands, you need to be cleared to fit within existing banding systems. This generally entails custom bands with your initials and a number.

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Site Restrictions at La Selva

TRAILS You cannot mark plants within a meter of the center of any trail or within the obviously cut margin of any trail. These areas are regularly macheted clean by workers who are not responsible for watching out for markers.

THE ECOLOGICAL RESERVE The only research possible here is observational from the trails (no marking, collecting, or walking off the trails).

PLOTS I-III You cannot perform any research within these three demography plots, which are marked on the La Selva map. Access to other areas is also restricted but these areas change frequently; consult the station director (carlos.delarosa @ tropicalstudies.org) for details.

LABORATORY-CABINAS CLEARING, STATION CLEARING, EAST BANK, ARBORETUM, LA FLAMINEA These are good sites for many types of research. However, research needs have to be fitted within the plans for these areas (e.g., protection of buildings from threatening trees, construction and maintenance, arboretum maintenance, environmental education). If you want to set up a study in any of these sites, please specify it in your proposal.

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Exotic Plants Or Animals

In accordance with the Master Plan policy, live plants or animals from outside La Selva are not permitted in the station/laboratory areas, in Old La Selva, or in the Sarapiquí Annex (all of which are zoned for low-impact studies). They may be introduced to La Flaminea, the East Bank, or the La Guaria Annex, but make sure to mention any introductions of exotic organisms.

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Artificial Gene Movement

Experimental plantings in forest sites cannot be allowed to flower or fruit and must be removed at the end of an experiment. Hybrid fruits from hand pollinations must be carefully collected.

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La Selva Advisory Committee Issues

The following manipulations require prior approval by LSAC (La Selva Advisory Committee) during its regularly scheduled meetings (twice yearly).

  • Collecting vertebrates
  • Collecting rare invertebrates or plants
  • Large-scale destructive sampling
  • Collecting large numbers of seeds or seedlings outside of the designated seed collection zones
  • Long-term (more than six months) allocation of plots more than 100 square meters
  • Habitat manipulation at a scale of more than 100 square meters
  • Application of substances such as radioisotopes, herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
  • Introduction of exotic (non-La Selva) animals, plants, or microorganisms
  • Installation of substantial equipment or infrastructure

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Database Policy at La Selva

La Selva maintains a database of information on all research projects carried out at the station. The objectives are to create a secure archive of information about La Selva, promote the coordinated use of complementary data sets, and enhance the value of La Selva as a research site.

OTS recognizes the interest of researchers in controlling the use of data that they have collected. At the same time, institutional and societal commitments of funds, facilities, and site protection substantiate an obligation to ensure the eventual accessibility of the data.

For these reasons, OTS implements the following data archival policy to guarantee the long-term availability of such data sets and their protection from unauthorized use:

  1. A research proposal is required before initiating work and a brief report must be submitted at the end of each stay. Researchers may also be required to submit fully documented data sets in cases where the project involved data of broad utility or special interest (e.g., information on temporal patterns; spatially-referenced physical, chemical, and biological data; information on marked individuals of long-lived organisms; and data on rare or endangered species.)
  2. OTS will safeguard data from release to persons not specifically authorized by the investigator for a period of five years after the data are deposited. This protection can be renewed every five years on written request of the investigator. The data will be made generally available in the absence of such a written request.
  3. In the event of an investigator's death while data are protected, data will be made generally available in the absence of contrary instructions.
  4. In the case of projects already underway, it is especially critical that investigators appreciate the importance of depositing previous data, to enhance the value of future data that must be deposited on request.

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Research Permits

In accordance with Costa Rican law, a researcher must obtain a permit from the government before beginning research if projects involve manipulation of flora and/or fauna (including marking animals or collecting for immediate release or specimen preparation). In addition, a separate export permit is required to remove any specimens from the country. The OTS Costa Rica office can help obtain the necessary permits for a standard fee. More information about this process is available HERE .

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Collaboration with Local Scientists

The Universidad de Costa Rica, the Universidad Nacional, the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, the Universidad Estatal a Distancia, and the Museo Nacional are all institutional members of OTS. They welcome cooperative projects and use of facilities, as do many other local institutions. Researchers interested in cooperative arrangements for work at La Selva should contact the station director.

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La Selva Station Naturalist

A station naturalist is available for brief consultation about plant and animal identifications, locations of organisms, and general natural history information. Longer commitments of the naturalist's time can be arranged through the station director and are billed to projects.More information is available by contacting Orlando Vargas at orlando.vargas @ tropicalstudies.org.

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Research Facilities at La Selva

Research was given a substantial boost with the completion of La Selva's first modern laboratory in 1983. Improvements continue in order to meet expanding research interests. A well-equipped analytical laboratory opened in 1989, offering opportunities for many types of technologically advanced research. A Geographical Information System (ARC-INFO, two Sun work stations), with databases for La Selva and the surrounding region, is also available. If you are interested in using La Selva lab instrumentation or other special facilities, write to the La Selva lab manager and specify your needs. The lab manager can provide details on availability of instruments, arrangements for their use, and any components or reagents that you will need to bring with you. For further information, please contact the laboratory manager at bernal.matarrita @ tropicalstudies.org

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Equipment to Bring to La Selva

Researchers should plan to bring their own expendable materials, specialized equipment, and heavily used items vital to the study. To avoid problems with importation of equipment (impoundment and/or high duty charges), you should make contact with the OTS Costa Rican office at least two months before anticipated arrival so they can help facilitate the arrival of your equipment into the country. Small items carried as hand luggage normally present few problems, and even boxes weighing less than 30 kilograms can normally be checked as excess luggage and cleared through Costa Rican customs (Aduana) as scientific equipment. For additional information and help, contact Research Services: bernal.matarrita @ tropicalstudies.org

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Last Updated ( 07/12/12 )