July 2016

 

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Talamancan palm-pitviper (Bothriechis nubestris) –  photo by Matt Smokoska

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the University of Costa Rica (UCR) discovered a new species of snake in Costa Rica.  This species resides in the cloud forests of the Talamanca mountain range, which is where our reserve is. The research has been published in the July 15 online issue of the journal Zootaxa.

The species went unrecognized for more than 150 years, likely because it looks almost identical to another species called the black-speckled palm-pitviper (Bothriechis nigroviridis). We had always believed that this was the snake we were seeing on the reserve.  Our biologist has sent photos to the researchers for confirmation on the new identity as a Talamancan palm-pitviper. The researchers think that, yes, it is the Talamancan palm-pitviper that has been seen at Cloudbridge.

Researchers also believe that this species only has a range that is about 100 sq km.  This confirms how important conservation projects like Cloudbridge are for protecting animal species.  Development of land in environments that may be inhabited by a species living in a limited area could wipe out that species forever.

 

Research and volunteers:

We have 4 new interns from Global Vision International (GVI),  www.gviworld.com

Jeb Hartman – USA    He is studying reptiles and collecting camera trap data on mammals.

“My name is Jeb Hartman. I came to Cloudbridge to gain experience in the field of conservation and also to see all of the beauty here. I’m hoping to get a job in Costa Rica with GVI or maybe even at Cloudbridge some day. I’m from Ft Collins Colorado and I love the outdoors and nature. I got my love of nature from my dad, who is a true outdoorsman.”

Jeb

Jeb

 

Matt Steele – Birmingham, England     “I came to CloudBridge because of an internship in wildlife conservation with GVI as I have a passion for animals. I am really excited to be on the reptiles project at Cloudbridge and have already learned lots!”

Matt

Matt

 

“Emma Noyes- Australia    Emma is continuing the bird monitoring study.

Emma finished her degree in zoology and ecology last year and decided it was time to get some field experience. To do this she decided to  dive into the jungles of Costa Rica for a six month internship, with three months in Tortuguero National Park through GVI and then a three month  placement in the mountains at Cloudbridge.  She’s excited to see as much tropical and northern hemisphere biodiversity as possible, as Australia doesn’t even have squirrels or woodpeckers!

Kasey Bedford – Baltimore, Maryland, USA.     Casey is also working on the bird monitoring project.    ” I have come to Cloudbridge as part of a 6-month internship with GVI. I spent the first half of the internship in Tortuguero National Park and have now come to Cloudbridge to finish the internship. I am very excited to have the opportunity to work here and I hope to learn more about environmental conservation.”

Emma and Kasey

Emma and Kasey


 

Mélia Del Degan – Quebec City, Canada. Melia is at Cloudbridge for a month as a research assistant and general volunteer.  “I’m studying the environment in university and I’m fascinated by nature. I’m doing an internship in Cloudbridge and I wish to learn lots of new things and help to build a better world.”

Melia

Melia

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Tobias Hoffmann from Germany  is staying at Cloudbridge for 2 months. He has a degree in engineering but wants a new experience – something not everybody is doing. Living and working in a wildlife environment is a new experience for him and he hopes he will learn something new and it might challenge his personal view on many things.  He wants to contribute to the conservation of an endangered ecosystem by participating in research projects and helping with maintenance on the reserve.

 

Tobias

Tobias

 

 

Marian Barz from the Netherlands finished his 3rd year internship with Cloudbridge.  He gave his final presentation on tropical forestry as a community event in the village of  San Gerardo.  He also did the presentation through Skype for Tom and Linda who are in Canada and missed the one in Costa Rica.   His research covered tree identification, measurements and fruit count in three forest types – old growth, natural regeneration and new plantings.  This was a challenging 5 months as the learning curve for identifying  the immense number of species in a tropical forest can be problematic.  He said that his time doing this internship has helped him realize that mapping for environmental research is something that he really enjoyed and would like to pursue further for future studies and employment.IMG_1704


Baptiste Saunier of France finished his 3 month internship.  He studied mushrooms and left us with some beautiful photos. He identified over 330 mushroom species in the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota groups, as well as 11 taxa in the Mycomycetes group (Slime Moulds).

Baptiste's presentation

Baptiste’s presentation

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Expedition Cloudbridge – Students from the UK and Netherlands – University of Exeter

“As 4 students of 3 different universities we came to Cloudbridge Nature Reserve to assess the species diversity of herpetofauna and mainly frogs. We will be in the reserve for a total of 6 weeks of which half is spent surveying the existing transects and half will be in the north of the reserve at 2600m where no surveys have been done before. We hope to get some interesting results!”

This research focuses on an inventory of amphibians across the entire altitude range from 1500 m/4921 ft to 2600 m/ 8530 ft encompassed by Cloudbridge. This entails some of the most physically taxing inventory locations we have.
In preparation for this research some non existing trails in the upper altitudes had to be cleared for safe passage to do the research.

Edgar ,Oscar and Tobi at Vulture rock before sunrise to cut the border trail for the Exater research

Edgar ,Oscar and Tobi at Vulture rock before sunrise to cut the border trail for the Exeter research

 

And they found tapir poo on border trail up above vulture rock.

And they found tapir poo on the border trail up above vulture rock.

 

Exeter group from the UK and Netherlands

Exeter group from the UK and Netherlands


 

For the second year, Broadreach Global Summer Education Adventures studied at Cloudbridge. Seven middle-school students from around the U.S. travelled with two staff to Costa Rica. They spent four days at Cloudbridge learning about the cloud forest, planting trees, exploring camera trapping and getting an over view of tropical biology field research. For additional information on Broadreach tours visit http://www.gobroadreach.com/program-overview-for-field-biology-high-school-summer-camp-in-costa-rica.asp

IMG_1642 IMG_1652 Planting trees


 

King Edwards High School – UK

Outlook Expeditions   http://www.outlookexpeditions.com  organized this trip for a group of students interested in an educational travel experience. They were at Cloudbridge for 5 days experiencing tropical field research and learning about the ecology and culture in the area.

 

unnamedKing Edward students measuring tree volume to calculate carbon sinks in various forest types.

 

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From the Camera Traps:

Photo by Matt Smokoska

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From inside the traps: 

A very sad face.  This coati is one of the culprits who has been steeling food and being destructive around the Cloudbridge grounds.  He was caught and moved up the mountain and across the river to the very northern most part of the reserve.  Enjoy your new home !

Caught in the act

Caught in the act

Fun and Games:

Our very own Frank Spooner is on the San Gerardo futbol (football/ soccer)  team.  He and Austin Anderson the two gringos are a little over sized by Costa Rican standards but they were allowed to play.  Maybe the Ticos appreciated their long legs after all. The team has made it to the finals.  Good luck!

Team San Gerardo

Team San Gerardo

June 2016

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Across the world the earth’s living systems are experiencing extreme summer heat and other drastic weather conditions.

2016 is already the hottest year on record, with India and other regions experiencing record shattering temperatures, and scientists are speaking about the rapid melting of Arctic ice. Everyday, we witness countless clear indications of our changing world and responsibility to act.  Some simple actions everyone can do might include speaking up when you see people idling their vehicles, take your own shopping bags to the store instead of accepting plastic ones, take shorter showers to save the electricity used to heat the water, take public transportation, or bike, or walk and turn off lights when they are not needed. These might seem like small things but if everyone did it, or spoke up to those who aren’t acting responsibly, our environment would be a greener place.

Cloudbridge is actively planting trees this time of year.  This is just one of our many contributions towards mitigation. Please join us and do what you can!

 

Research:

Global Vision International interns – These volunteers have finished their term at Cloudbridge providing the reserve with important data for our long term projects including bird point counts and amphibian studies.

  • Victoria and Shannon presented the results of their research with the ongoing frog survey at Cloudbridge.  They spent 11 weeks working in 4 different habitat types including old growth, natural regeneration in older that 30 years and also less than 30 years, and in areas newly planted.  They conducted night surveys as well as daytime leaf litter surveys.  Over the course of their surveys they found 9 species, both leaf litter and arboreal species.
    Victoria and Shannon doing their final presentation

    Victoria and Shannon doing their final presentation

     

     

While Alex was at the reserve doing the bird point counts he identified 2 new species that haven’t been seen in this area before. These are the Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) and the Buffy-crowned Wood-Partidge (Dendrortyx leucophrys).  This brings our count of bird species to 284.

 

Alex

Alex

For more information on the organization Global Vision International go to     http://www.gviworld.com

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New Volunteers:

Yuré Laura is a psychologist from San Jose, Costa Rica. She is also a holistic therapist (massage, reiki, shiatsu) and is experienced in field work with organic agriculture and uses and care of medicinal plants. Last year her sister, a biologist visited Cloudbridge for a weekend and insisted that Yuré come to the reserve too.  She speaks English and Spanish.

She has been helpful in identifying  traditional medicinal plants and took staff and volunteers on a medicinal tour.  We look forward to Yurés return to continue with our medicinal plant identification.

Yure

Yuré


Leo Chevillon, France  –  “Wildlife conservation for me is very important, therefore I am motivated to have this volunteer experience in order to dedicate myself directly to this cause. Moreover, my studies (degree in Management and Protection of Nature) requires 11 weeks of training in a nature reserve which makes this volunteer time perfect for that.”

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Baiba Matule,  Latvia –  Baiba worked on a variety of projects including preparing areas for tree planting, tree planting, and tree maintenance. In addition she worked on wild fig propagation, and a variety of small projects. Baiba is returning to Switzerland to start her masters in forestry.

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Baiba (black t-shirt)  hiking with Emma

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The Belafsky family from California joined us for several days to plant trees and to learn about the forest and climate change.

“Thank you for welcoming our family so warmly into your ‘magical forest’. It was inspiring, beautiful, educational, and fun. It was a privilege to plant trees at Cloudbridge, and be part of the reforestation work that you do. We look forward to returning.

Sheri, Samantha, Allie, and Cooper”

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The organization ARO joined us again with 12 volunteers from Quebec, Canada. They spent several hours working and then ended the morning with a short hike and a visit to the art gallery . They put their backs into moving cement blocks and burying them in two areas of the road to improve access to Cloudbridge in the rainy season.

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How to visit a cloud forest through the internet!  

The cloud forest is not as far away as you think. Video conferencing and internet communications, like Skype and Facetime, allow the cloud forest to come to you. Video conferencing makes it possible to learn about the cloud forest, forest conservation and restoration, and to speak with actual researchers about their work, from your home location.

Cloudbridge is happy to arrange a ½ hour to 1 hour video conference on a topic of your interest with students and other interested groups. Typical talks include us walking the camera around to give you a glimpse of what we see everyday, a showcase of whatever interesting wildlife specimens (like frogs and giant insects) our researchers have recently collected, and the opportunity to ask questions of Cloudbridge staff and researchers.

In the spring of 2016, we talked with the fifth-grade class at Ralph R. Smith Elementary in Hyde Park, New York. The children watched and interacted with the presentation on a SmartBoard powered through an iPad as Cloudbridge staff talked to the class over an iPhone on FaceTime. Mrs. Ramsey the teacher later sent student comments about the experience. Here are a few:

Me (Emma) and my class really appreciate the time you took out of your day to facetime us and tell us about the rainforest!!!! Thank you for everything! I never knew that there was a snake called the milk snake and I learned the difference between female frogs and male frogs. I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was when you guys told the story on how the spider monkey was peeking in your window!…I’m just so glad that you guys took time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Thank you so, so much… Personally, I want to become a Biologist when I grow up! You guys are my inspiration…
Sincerely, Emma ( :

Thank you for allowing our class to face time with you and showing us the frogs and grasshoppers you had. I learned that the grasshopper can grow so big. I liked seeing the glass frog. I learned that there are two seasons, dry and wet. I enjoyed asking the question about seeing big snakes where you are. Thank you for taking the time to face time with us, we really enjoyed it!
Sincerely, Sammy

 

Students may not be able to visit the forest but they can learn about it through our cyber visit and then research all of the wonders of the tropics.

Bob photo (2)Chirripotrail in den Wolken (2) DSC_0071researchers DSC02176 frog

You can also visit us on our website        http://www.cloudbridge.org   and Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/cloudbridge.nature.reserve/

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Gallery:

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This Mottled Owl juvenile (Ciccaba virgata) has been heard around our learning centre.  Baptiste Saunier who has been studying fungi as well as the owl populations spotted the young owl and took this photo.

May 2016

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Our favorite time of year  – Tree Planting Season

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New Volunteers:

Emma Moore – Conneticut, USA

“I really want to learn about Costa Rican flora and fauna. I look forward to helping the reforestation project by planting trees and maintaining existing nurseries. I am looking for a hands-on biology learning experience and an opportunity to contribute to forest conservation. It would also be cool to practice Spanish.”

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Presentations:

Lara Van Meter from Colorado studied a non native tree species that has been extensively planted in Costa Rica for harvesting.  We do have some on the reserve as well.

 Her presentation is called  “An Analysis of the Invasive Potential of  Cupressus lusitanica and its Effects on the Chemical Properties of the Surrounding Soils.”

Lara

Lara

 

Melanie Thierry finished her research project and presented her final paper –

 “The Effectiveness of Tropical Forest Restoration on Bird Community at Cloudbridge Natural Reserve, Costa Rica”

She talked about why cloud forests are important, the large number of endemic species, and the importance of birds as pollinators and seed dispersers.

 

Melanie

Melanie

 

Information on both of these studies can be obtained by contacting cloudbridge.2015@gmail.com

 

 

Education:

Tom and Linda travelled to Kentucky USA to talk to faculty and students from Western Kentucky University about future potential classes using Cloudbridge as a study abroad destination. Gatton Academy from this campus already comes to the reserve yearly.  Tom and Linda were treated to a tour of the new Gatton Academy building still under construction.  One of Linda’s cloud forest paintings will hang in the lobby of this building when construction is complete.  Tom gave a presentation about what the reserve offers and the potential for diverse studies. There seems to be possible interest not only from environmental studies but also  from departments such as engineering, arts and psychology.  Cloudbridge looks forward to a long relationship with this institution.

 

Tom - presentation at WKU

Tom – presentation at WKU

Gatton Academy tour

Gatton Academy tour

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New Gatton Building

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Western Kentucky Campus

Western Kentucky Campus

Western Kentucky Campus

WKU - with a focus on International studies

WKU – with a focus on International studies


 

Past Researcher:

Kendall DeLyser is a past researcher who has a bright future:

Kendall wrote to us with a big thank you. This is part of what she wrote;   “I wanted to let you know that I was accepted into every grad school that I applied to and I decided to go to Duke University in the fall!!! I’m beyond thrilled at having been accepted everywhere and really happy that I’ll be going to Duke and with a decent financial aid package. I know a lot of this has to do with the recommendations you wrote and submitted for me, as well as the experience I gained at Cloudbridge, so I want to say again how much I really really appreciate you taking the time to help me out with those.”

Kendalls reflection:

“One year ago, I was in the final stages of my research at Cloudbridge, struggling with tree species identifications and trying to soak up every last moment I could in the beautiful forests of the Reserve. I never would’ve imagined that in a year’s time, I would be preparing for grad school at Duke University, in one of the top Environmental Management programs in the US, but I know I now have this opportunity partly thanks to Cloudbridge.

Cloudbridge is a unique place, and I feel very lucky to have spent four months conducting research there. My project was focused on determining the effectiveness of the Reserve’s reforestation efforts, measured by the presence of certain important tree species in areas of regenerating forest. My study showed clearly that Cloudbridge’s efforts were paying off in helping the forest come back faster, and I’m still immensely proud of having been involved with such work.

I started my research with basic knowledge of scientific investigation and very big goals, and throughout the months of my work I learned enormous amounts about trees, their regeneration, and their impact on their surroundings. I’d always been interested in working with forests in some capacity, but my time at Cloudbridge really helped me fine-tune my interests and understand what I need to know and do in order to be successful in my future career. It was the final push I needed to apply to grad school, be accepted by every school I applied to, and finally choose to attend Duke.

The independent and self-motivated structure of my research at Cloudbridge was a huge advantage in my grad school applications. Whereas most volunteer research positions entail being someone else’s research assistant, at Cloudbridge I was responsible for the entire project, from the initial concept to the end result. The success of my research depended on how well I planned and carried out my study, and the report I wrote at the end of my project turned out to be very helpful in showcasing my work and my potential to grad school committees. All the acceptance letters I received commended my experience in the environmental field, and I think my work at Cloudbridge is a significant piece of that experience.

I can’t say enough about what Cloudbridge means to me, both for the vital academic experience and the unforgettable sense of community I gained there. Everyone involved with Reserve shows their own brand of dedication, and working with such an inspiring group is a wonderful feeling. Cloudbridge is a place where people see possibility instead of defeat, and they work tirelessly to make those possibilities into reality. This is another great lesson I learned from the Reserve, that a small group of people with determination and heart can truly make a difference in their own corner of the world.

One year after leaving Cloudbridge, I still feel a connection to and a sense of pride in what’s happening at the Reserve, and I’d strongly encourage anyone considering contributing to Cloudbridge’s work in any way (with a donation or as a volunteer) to stop thinking and just do it. It’s an experience you won’t regret.

Thanks for everything, Cloudbridge!”

kendall

kendall


Visitors:

Cloudbridge is working with the Association Community Carbon Trees Costa Rica  http://www.communitycarbontrees-costarica.com  which is a non-profit community based organization that produces  and plants a highly diverse selection of native tropical trees. Jenny Smith, founder, was also responsible for the initial plantings at Cloudbridge. Cloudbridge is working with ACCT in a reforestation and diversification of abandoned agricultural land in neighbouring San Jose de Rivas, a small somewhat isolated community in the mountains. Jenny along with Jay & Brie  spent the weekend at Cloudbridge after working with the volunteer community members of San Jose de Rivas to establish a tree nursery and initiate the project.
In June Cloudbridge will be donating specific high altitude seedlings that are native to the area. We have come full circle from needing ACCT to direct our planting at Cloudbridge to now partnering with them to assist another community.

 

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Brie, Jay, Jenny

 

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Insect of the month

Insect of the month

April 2016

 

 

 

 

April showers bring April flowers.

April showers bring April flowers.

And more flowers

And more flowers

.....and even more flowers - thanks to the rain.

…..and even more flowers – thanks to the rain.

 

 Volunteers:

Corinna Franke – Germany

Corinna graduated from school and after this exciting break she will start university in the fall. She has been travelling for 6 months. Previous to Costa Rica she was in Guatemala where she took Spanish classes. The idea of travel was to study a new language and to enjoy new experiences that might help her decide her future.

She has been busy here helping to renovate the welcome centre. With her meticulous painting skills she redesigned some of the lettering on the building. She worked on some grounds improvements including digging out old turf, installing new signs on the trails, working in the tree nursery, and building a fence. She enjoys working outdoors and having the feeling of accomplishment.

Corinne

Corinna


Felix Burmann – Germany

Felix is volunteering during his gap year. He left Germany to discover Costa Rica, work in a reforestation project and to practice his Spanish. He feels that this experience will help him understand what direction to take with his life. Later this year he will attend university and he is now thinking that he wants to study environmental law.

As a volunteer he has planted trees in the nursery, helped build a bench for one of the trails, renovated the welcome centre and is working on building a fence for a future hummingbird garden.

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Felix

 

Internships:

Baptiste Saunier – France

Baptiste is a student at Universite de Limoges in France.  He is studying Landscape design and forestry.  Baptiste is here for a 3 month internship and has chosen to study mushrooms and do an owl survey.  He says he found the Cloudbridge website and liked the idea of studying in a country with a very different climate and biodiversity to France.

Baptiste

Baptiste

 

 

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Global Vision International (GVI) interns:

Lucy Read – UK

She finished her undergraduate degree in geography and now wants to start a postgraduate program in biodiversity and conservation. An internship through GVI is providing research experience. Through this program she felt that the biodiversity in Costa Rica would meet her expectations, and it hasn’t disappointed. At Cloudbridge she is collecting data from bird surveys for the reserve.

Lucy and her GVI partner, Alex have an extra opportunity to collaborate with another researcher Graham who is doing a bird study throughout Costa Rica. He needs assistance with a specific study of the rare silver-throated jay. They will be monitoring the nesting process. Hopefully the data they collect will be included in his paper, This is an excellent opportunity for these young interns.

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Lucy

 

Alex Acott – UK

Alex is also on the bird survey at Cloudbridge. He has finished his degree in ecology and is keen on getting some experience. He really wanted to do wildlife surveys in a different country and through the GVI program he is getting a varied opportunity with turtles, jaguars, and now birds.

When he returns to the UK he will start the job search. Ideally he would like to work abroad where he feels there will be more opportunities with wildlife.

Alex

Alex

 

Shannon Boehmer – New York, USA

Shannon is a junior at Le-Moyne College.  She will be returning as a senior in the fall to study biology and business.  Through her experience with GVI she has found out that she loves animal conservation.  Here at Cloudbridge she is working on the frog survey, doing identification in transects from within several forest types.

Shannon

Shannon

 

Victoria Lang – UK

Victoria was born in Zimbabwe but now lives in the UK.  She is newly graduated with a degree in environmental science. Now comes the hard part – looking for a job.   Until then her internship with GVI is providing some hands on experience.  At Cloudbridge she is working on the frog survey with Shannon. Her next stop is Greece where she has accepted a one month position as a staff member with GVI for a turtle project.  She will also be working in collaboration with the organization Arcelon.   Marine conservation is one of her interests.

Her dream is to find a job in which she can continue to travel.

 

Victoria

Victoria

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Independent Research:

Graham Montgomery – US

Graham is a student researcher from Cornell University in the United States.  Cloudbridge is an ideal location for his work studying the response of birds to the songs of their close relatives. He is doing 15 observational trials for a few species.


 

Community:

Frank and Jenn went  to the Canaan School to give a presentation to the young students. Besides a slide show they were introduced to some live frog specimens and were able to look for birds through a spotting scope.

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We have had a longstanding relationship with York University from Toronto, Canada.  This month they inaugurated their  nature reserve and ecocampus for environmental studies. This reserve is situated just a valley over from Cloudbridge near the town of Santa Elena, Costa Rica.

Tom, Frank, Linda and Jenn all attended the event.  The York students will be coming up to visit Cloudbridge in May.

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How is Cloudbridge Funded?
Cloudbridge was purchased and primarily supported annually by the founders Ian and Jenny Giddy for the first seven years. Following the death of Ian it became necessary for Cloudbridge to become more self sufficient. For the past six years staff and volunteers have worked to increase revenue coming into the reserve through donations, volunteer housing, and more recently by renting our cabins that are available to tourists. This has allowed us to channel Jenny’s contribution to infrastructure and capacity building. The funds that we have collected have allowed us to continue our reforestation program, expand research and volunteer programs, and solidify  internship opportunities while at the same time expanding our educational efforts.

In the past six years we have expanded our collaborations with many more key partners, We now host high school and university study abroad programs including Western Kentucky University, Gatton Academy, Broadreach, Outreach Expeditions, ARO, Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences ,and  AgroSup Dijon University, to name a few.

In 2012 with the completion of the Giddy Environmental Learning Centre and additional volunteer housing we began to see a significant increase in researchers and volunteers. In 2010 we hosted 14 volunteers who stayed a cumulative of 58 weeks, then by 2015 we hosted 44 volunteers for a total of 352 weeks. Thanks to the housing fee paid by volunteers we are able to employ a number of local workers and continue to expand our educational programs.

In 2015 we began renting Casita Blanca (Jenny’s house) when Jenny is not at Cloudbridge and in 2016 we have added Casita Colibri and Casita Gavilan to our rental options, as we now house all of our researchers and volunteers in new dorm style cabinas adjacent to the Education Center.

Donations at the Cloudbridge entrance have always been a small part of our budget, however in 2016 we placed a sign with a suggested minimum donation of $6 and the donations have increased significantly over 2015. We continue to be open with no fee and welcome those who choose or can not donate at that level .

2016 has started with an active 3 months and Cloudbridge continues to be an exciting place to be. We are still looking for additional high school or university classes who are interested in a study abroad program in the cloud forest and will continue to work with researchers from around the world to spread the word about climate change, environmental threats and opportunities, and provide a safe and challenging learning environment in one of the most spectacular places I have seen.

Please inform us, if you know a teacher or professor who is adventurous and interested in working with their class in the wilderness.  The opportunities are endless for college grads or under grads interested in field research or volunteering.  If you know a corporation with an interest in what we do we are always looking for partnerships. To donate go to  www.cloudbridge.org and hit the donate button.  We very much appreciate all donations which allows us to continue our work for forest conservation and environmental education.  So join us and thanks for being a part of Cloudbridge.

Tom Gode

tom.gode@gmail.com

Giddy Environmental Learning Centre

Giddy Environmental Learning Centre

Study abroad students

Study abroad students

 

March 2016

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As the dry season is slowly passing we are reminded of how important moisture is for our forest.  It is an extremely dry year with record warm temperatures in this normally cool moist cloud forest.  Some of our recently planted trees don’t look like they will come out of it very well.  Others are hanging in there. The oaks in particular seem to be able to handle the heat, while the Sapote does not appreciate sun bathing.  The mature trees curl their leaves on hot days, trying to conserve what moisture remains within them. Much of the undergrowth has died back revealing bare patches among the trees.  We are thankful for our rivers that still manage to provide water even in this dry time of year.

 

 

Research and Volunteers:

PicsArt_03-14-08.18.37  Laura Seidl of Germany is here for 3 weeks. “Before I go to the University I wanted to travel through Canada and Costa Rica. I am still not sure what I want to study in the environment direction, so I am here in Cloudbridge. I would like to get to know new cultures and different things about flora and fauna.”

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The Easter Bunny made it up the hill and found the reserve. He left baskets for the volunteers and Frank…..although they did have to do some searching to find them.

Tropical easter egg animals

Tropical easter egg animals  – owl, quetzal, frog, spider monkey, ocelot and peccary.

 

 

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Max Cunningham was at Cloudbridge 2 years ago and has returned to Costa Rica for more field research.  He is a grad student at Columbia University.  Max spends most of his time up in the high altitudes of Chirripo National park.  He is studying glacial processes.  Some of the questions for his study are – How are mountains shaped and what are the processes that shape them?  What is the efficacy of glacial erosion?

You have to understand that this research is not an easy process.  He spends weeks up in the mountains in very remote areas, walking for hours, examining rock formations, and taking samples. Not to mention the eeriness of being alone in the middle of nowhere.

He gave a presentation at Cloudbridge and we got to see some amazing images of the Talamanca mountains and glacial mapping outlining the perimeters of ancient glaciers over the Chirripo area.

Max showing us his area of research near Chirripo

Max showing us his area of research near Chirripo

Chirripo National Park. You can see the park trail

Chirripo National Park. You can see the park trail

Mapping the location of the glacier that covered Chirripo and area 18,000 years ago

Mapping the location of the glacier that covered Chirripo and area 18,000 years ago

 

 

Education:

Not everyone can have the luxury of spending time in the tropics and so thank goodness for Skype and FaceTime!  We shared what we do here through distance learning sessions with a couple of schools this month.  It is an opportunity for young students to experience environmental studies in a different country.

The fifth-grade class at Ralph R. Smith elementary in the Hyde Park Central school District, Hyde Park, New York. The children watched and interacted with the presentation on a SmartBoard powered through an iPad as Charles and Jenn talked to the class over Charles’ iPhone on face time.  Mrs. Ramsey the teacher later sent student comments about the experience.  Here are a few:

“Thank you for taking time and facetiming us and teaching us about some cool stuff. I learned some cool stuff about frogs today like; how male frogs have a hook on their shoulder and female frogs don’t. So now I know if I ever see one I could figure it out.  I enjoyed and thought it was funny when the frogs kept jumping out of Jenn’s hand. I also learned that you put flags down and a number them so you know the exact place to put the frog back. I enjoyed seeing the HUGE grasshopper it was really cool and also how Jenn said she saw a snake about as big as her arm. When you facetimed us today it really inspired me to think about being someone who goes to the rainforest to study cool animals. Thanks for taking time to teach us cool stuff. I really enjoyed it!”           Sincerely,  Gaven

“Me (Emma) and my class really appreciate the time you took out of your day to  facetime us and tell us about the rainforest!!!! Thank you for everything! I never knew that there was a snake called the milk snake and I learned the difference between female frogs and male frogs. I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was when you guys told the story on how the spider monkey was peeking  in your window! ( P.S. I was the girl who asked If you ever interacted with a monkey) I’m just so glad that you guys took time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Thank you so, so much…  Personally, I want to become a Biologist when I grow up! You guys are my inspiration….”       Sincerely,   Emma ( :

“Thank you for FaceTiming us today. It was really cool that the whole class got to see a tree frog and the glass frog. I learned that the cloud forest is really big and has a lot of trees. Also it was fun learning about the tree frog and the glass frog. I always wanted to do research on the rainforest because you can meet lots of different kinds of animals like sloths and monkeys it just looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for telling us a lot of cool things about the rainforest! Bye.”     
From,    Chase

 

We also enjoyed talking to Julie Johnson’s grade 8 class class at Shanty Bay Public School in Oro Medonte which is located 1 and 1/2 hours north of Toronto!

We discussed  frogs and other animals at the reserve, history of cloudbridge, volunteer opportunities and eco art. The students are working on a report for a blog.

Some of the questions that they sent to us at the reserve before the call were:unnamed

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Art Exhibition about climate change at the National Gallery in San Jose, Costa Rica:

 

Climate Warriors

Two Artists – Gibrán Tabash & Linda Moskalyk

Two Countries – Costa Rica & Canada

One united issue

 Our earth is warming.

This is a man made problem.

We can all make a difference if we choose.

This exhibition focuses on conservation of forests for the mitigation of the climate.

 Recognizing that forests are the lungs of the planet can lead us to make changes that will slow or halt deforestation. The impact on climate through

activities such as agriculture, palm oil plantations, logging, and mining can all be reduced by our consumer choices and better land-use policies for forest protection.

 The exhibition gives a voice to artists as agents of change to move the climate conversation in a new direction. Forests are essential for our survival and will be our climate warriors!

Linda and Gibran at the opening night

Linda and Gibran at the opening night

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National Gallery, San Jose, Costa Rica

National Gallery, San Jose, Costa Rica

Painting by Gibran Tabash

Painting by Gibran Tabash

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Our manager Frank Spooner took some time off to travel back to the UK and visit family.  While he was there he managed to connect with his old seconday/high school – Petersfield School.  Wearing his original school tie and dressed in a jacket (never before seen at Cloudbridge) he gave the students presentations on climate change.  The results were: 5 presentations, 200 students, 2 cups of tea, 9 former teachers, 4 slides that didn’t want to work (which were resolved) and a sore throat the next day.  Great work Frank!

Frank - back in school

Frank – back in school

 

Photo Gallery:

DSC_0133 Photo by Steve Britten

 


DSC_0816-2Photo by Steve Britten

DSC_0134Photo by Steve Britten

 

Community Service

donation poster

Our day of collections for the Perez Zeledon International Women’s Group amounted to almost $100.00 .   The money will buy a few more books for the mobile library.  This project delivers books to schools in the Perez Zeledon area of Costa rica.  Since it started a year ago 550 books have been added to the collection.  There are 11 schools on the rotation and 600 students.  There is now 14 more schools asking to be included in this project and so more books are needed.  Education is a big part of what we do at Cloudbridge and reading is the the best start for an academic future.

Thank you:

Thank you to a few people who sent in donations through our website http://www.cloudbridge.org   We assume you were here and had enjoyed the reserve and appreciated the project.  Your donations are much appreciated and will be used to further our conservation efforts.

 

Theresa Juedes
Joanna Skinner
Katherine Taylor

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Martha Roberts is volunteering in the Canaan school here in Costa Rica. She connected Cloudbridge with the Interact Club of Morse High School, in Bath, Maine. The Interact Club donated a camera trap to our mammal monitoring project. Thanks to all of the students and to Martha for setting this up. These cameras are a vital part of our mammal research on the reserve.

 

 

February 2016

"What in the World??" is one of the paintings for Linda's upcoming climate Change exhibition.

“What in the World??” is one of the paintings for Linda’s upcoming climate change exhibition. It depicts the warming earth through a patchwork of collage paper and acrylic paint.

 

Our tree nursery is a vital part of the Cloudbridge fight against climate change.  Planting trees helps to cool the earth and take in and store CO2. Newly grown rainforests can absorb 11 times as much carbon from the atmosphere as old-growth forests because they are actively growing.  Old growth forests still need to be protected because they are the carbon sinks.  Even though we can’t plant until the rainy season begins in May there is much work to do in preparation.  We gather the native seeds from the forest, start them in the seed beds, and eventually transplant them into individual containers where they will continue to establish roots and grow.

Seed bed with emerging seedlings

Seed bed with emerging seedlings

 

Seeds from the Monkey comb tree

Seeds from the Monkey comb tree

 

Volunteers working in the tree nursery

Volunteers working in the tree nursery

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I wonder if our volunteers realize the contribution that they are making for the planet?  It seems like a simple task but the outcome is huge.  If the world can hold the temperature below 2 degrees C maybe there will be a  positive outcome for future generations. These seedlings will eventually become part of the forest on the reserve.  The forest is well on its way but we still need to do enhancement plantings within the secondary growth with climax species which will be the long-lived trees in the reserve.

A young forest emerging at the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

A young forest emerging at the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

 

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Researchers and volunteers:

February at Cloudbridge started off with a bumper crop of frogs! As part of a study on the frog population at Cloudbridge, Hazel Mitchison (a research intern from GVI) and Jennifer Powell (Cloudbridge’s resident biologist) found 17 frogs in one evening. All of the frogs were Pygmy Robber Frogs (Pristimantis ridens), although you’d never realize they were all the same species from just looking at them.

Many of the frog species at Cloudbridge are tricky to easily identify due to a wide variation of colour patterns within each species. To make things even more complicated, individual frogs will often change colour from nighttime to daytime. P. ridens will change from a light tan colour with a pinkish colour in their groin and on the back of their thighs and calves during the nighttime, to an almost black colour with dark red in their groin and on their legs during the day.

Because of their colour morphing, the only way to accurately identify them is to look at various characteristics on their hands, feet, eyelids, etc. under a microscope. Their fluctuating colours, tiny size (most that we catch are around 1-2 cm long), and Houdini like escaping skills, make them a challenging frog to work with. However, their general adorableness and spunky personalities more than make up any frustrations in identifying them!

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Lara Van Meter and Geoffrey King from Colorado are frequent travellers. Lara has a degree in ecology and is doing some field research on the non-native Cypress trees that have been planted in Costa Rica.  Previously she has also used her degree in a project at the Univ. of Colorado for ground control space research for growing strawberries. Geoffrey is here to assist her in any way that he can as well as putting his engineering skills to the test with other Cloudbridge projects. He has worked at the Univ. of Colorado designing what he calls a space toaster. It is actually an automated bio laboratory for the international space station. These two have opted to stay up in our remote Gavilan cabin. The lack of wi-fi and limited power has not deterred them from enjoying the solitude and sweeping views that this accommodation offers on the reserve.

Geoffery and Lara

Geoffery and Lara

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Sean Hoyt and Elyce Talavera are from L.A. California. They have put their careers on hold to travel for a year. Some of their travel includes work to fund their year and some of it is to volunteer and give back to others. Their talents are being shared with many around the world. Sean is a chef and Elyce is a yoga instructor/massage therapist. Elyce has given free lessons to locals in their travels. Sean has taught cooking skills and helped set up a beach food shack on the Corn Islands in Nicaragua.   Here at Cloudbridge they are helping out with trail work and maybe we will reep some of the benefits of their professions.

Sean and Ellyse - trail work

Sean and Elyce – trail work

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Alex Dilley and Hayley Barrett – Wales UK.

Hayley was interested in coming to Cloudbridge for volunteer conservation work. This is similar to her own work in Wales where she is employed with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. She took 6 months off to experience  tropical ecology. Alex has joined her and is willing work on web design or any other project that he can. They have been helping with the trail work to start.  They also were able to buy tickets to climb Chirripo along with Louisa and Guy. Lucky for them as it has been sold out for months.

Alex

Alex

Hayley

Hayley with Tom the supervisor keeping an eye on the new trail steps.

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Ron Bonnett PhD and Ana Trujano  (US) are visitors renting the Casita Blanca.  They both teach at the University of Tulsa but are on sabbatical.  Ron gave a great presentation to our Cloudbridge group on Salamanders.  They also spent time writing  and catching up on some relaxation while here.

 

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Ron giving his presentation.

Ron giving his presentation.

 

 

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Conny Geberl – Germany. Conny has studied biology and has worked in Munich doing eco-location in bats. Now she works in the area of air pollution control.

She has been working in the tree nursery at Cloudbridge transplanting seedlings.

Conny

Conny

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Melanie Thierry – France.   Melanie has her masters in Ecology and is interested in travel and volunteering for experience in ecology. Before Costa Rica she was volunteering in Ecuador and Peru.

Melanie

Melanie

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Wes Testo – US    Wes is a PhD student at the Univ. of Vermont. His research focuses on ferns and their relatives.   He has been conducting research in Costa Rica and elsewhere in the neo tropics. While here on limited time he found over 80 fern species  but he thinks that there could be up to 140 species.

He took us on a nature walk and we did a little fern identification. There are so many different characteristics – simple, pinnate and bipinnate leaves with varying vein structures. Some are epiphytes while others are terrestrial. One species can dry out and loose all of its water and yet survive.  This is extremely rare in plants. Some species have interesting adaptations such as scales to protect them from drying out.  The bracken ferns which we really hate here because they take over entire areas are extremely hardy, often overgrowing our young planted trees.  In fact they spread by rhizomes that can be up to 10 feet below the ground.  No wonder we can’t get rid of them!

 

Wes

Wes

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Getting a lesson on fern identification

Getting a lesson on fern identification

 

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Marian Barz – Netherlands   Is a student from Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences. He is studying tropical forestry and nature management. He is at Cloudbridge to complete an internship.

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Louis Massey PhD – Quebec,Canada   He is a assistant prof at the Royal Military College.  Louis was only here for a week but he enjoyed helping on the trail crew and was especially proud of the steps he built.  We will probably see him back in the future.  For now he is continuing his travels down to South America.

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Fun at Cloudbridge:

A group of us went down to our neighbours (Bill and Beth) to borrow their extra large deck for a session of yoga.  Elyse, one of our volunteers led us in some good stretching, breathing exercises and some moves that were not really possible for most of us.

Our Instructor - Elyse "Try this"

Our Instructor – Elyse
“Try this”

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Genevieve, Charles and his daughter Beth are all here to lend support to the reserve projects, have some relaxation time, do some hiking, and enjoy visiting with volunteers and tourists.

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Charles and Genevieve relaxing at their casita.

 

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Beth and her Dad. Beth has dedicated some of her time to helping update the website.

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Our Cloudbridge family this month.

Our Cloudbridge family this month.

January 2016

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

 

 

Education:

16 students from Gatton Academy, Western Kentucky University were at Cloudbridge (under the direction of Dr. Keith Philips)  through our Study Abroad program. We divided into 5 groups with group leaders guiding them in the studies of  dung beetles, carbon capture in forest successions, butterflies, plant monitoring, and the symbiotic relationship between the plant Gunnera and the bacteria Nostoc. The week consisted of field studies, internet research, final presentations and also lots of fun. The swimming hole in the river was a big hit even though it is ice cold. They took in the San Isidro farmers market, the trout farm and an evening at Café Robinos for traditional food and Music. There was even a little dancing.

This year brought about a change for our study abroad program.  We now have enough cabins to house all of the students, professors and chaperones here at the reserve. We also provide catering for breakfast and lunch.  Many thanks to to our 4 volunteers who spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing healthy plant-based menu. Anna, Allen, Brodie and Emma made some incredible food including some English favourites from their home country.  It was a fusion of tico rice and beans, delicious salads, English shepherd’s pie, baked beans on toast, flapjacks, a variety of pastas, vegetarian burgers etc.  Of course the desserts were always the favourite.

Our education program included a presentation on climate change.  This generated a good discussion about what is happening around the world and what the students can do to make changes and/or educate others.  The state of Kentucky where these students live has an economy that is based on the coal industry.  This spurred talk about their current government leaders and the theory of denial that is prevalent there.  However there seems to be a shift in view among these young people who want to see a change in climate awareness emerge in the US. We hope that through our presentation and the discussions we had that some of them will return and  become advocates for climate action.

A little internet research

A little internet research

Field studies include long hikes in the mountains. Sometimes we were rewarded with sitings of monkeys, beautiful vistas, and the calls of the quetzal

Field studies included long hikes in the mountains. We were rewarded with sitings of monkeys, beautiful vistas, and the calls of the quetzal

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Presentation day

 

Prof Keith Philips is as curious as the kids. Maybe more!

Prof Keith Philips is as curious as the kids. Maybe more!

Caught in the act

Caught in the act

Swimming and other antics

Swimming and other antics

Making off like monkeys

Making off like monkeys

Trying to fish them out of the water.

Trying to fish them out of the water.

The cooks hard at work

The cooks hard at work

Emma And Brodie dishing out the food

Emma And Brodie dishing out the food

Chef Allen

Chef Allen

Anna's brew

Anna’s brew

A hungry crew

A hungry crew

At times it looked like a laundromat outside

At times it looked like a laundromat outside

 Sketching class in the jungle. Linda gave them some art instruction that they could hopefully use for field notes or in a travel diary

Sketching class in the jungle. Linda gave them art instruction that they could hopefully use for field notes or in a travel diary

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Even the adults gave it a try!

Who do these belong to?? Trying to pack up.

Who do these belong to?? Trying to pack up.

 

Thank you Gatton Acadamy for a wonderful week!

Thank you Gatton Acadamy for a wonderful week!

 

 

Volunteers and Research:

Welcome back Jen!  If you remember, Jen was a volunteer for 3 months in 2015.  She had a life changing moment at Cloudbridge in December when she realized how happy she was doing conservation work. She returned to Canada ad quit her job and now has returned to take a temporary position as resident biologist.  She says she wants to get back into her first love which is conservation and leave her career in industrial/environmental consulting. She will see where it will take her! Sometimes life is too short not to follow your dreams.  Love what you do, and do what you love – I think there is a lesson in here somewhere about following your dreams!

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Jen, back at Cloudbridge doing frog studies and helping the new volunteers.

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Brittany Beagle – Kelowna BC, Canada  – Brittany is here as an intern through GVI (Global Vision International). Brittany is a registered geophysicist in Canada but she wants to focus more on mapping and conservation. Through the GVI program she will gain experience and fin out if this is the direction she wants her future career to take.

Brittany

Brittany

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Amelia Westhoff – Australia  – Amelia has her bachelor of environmental science and post graduate studies in protected area management.  Through GVI she will get a chance to work in protected conservation areas in Costa Rica.  Here at Cloudbridge she is collecting data through bird point counts.  Through the reforestation efforts and protection of wildlife this area will give her the opportunity to see how she can cultivate some management skills for conservation.

 

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Hazel Mitchison – U.K. –  Here is another one who quit her job as a lifeguard to follow her dreams.  Hazel saved her money so that she could join the GVI internship program and do work in conservation. Presently she is helping out with the frog study.

Hazel

Hazel

 

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Ian Rowntree – Ireland      Ian is also an intern with GVI. He is doing the butterfly research at Cloudbridge.  After returning to his native Ireland he plans to carry on with another GVI project in Nepal.

Ian

Ian

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James Ratcliff- U.K. – “I’ve always been I interested in wildlife and conservation but unfortunately have never got around to getting involved until now. After 5 years doing investment banking, I finally decided to take action and do an internship for GVI at their Jalova base in Costa Rica. After completing my 6 months at Jalova they offered me the position as head of turtle project which will last for 1 year. But before I start that role, I really wanted to gain more experience in conservation and had heard many great things about cloudbridge and couldn’t resist coming for a few months. I have not been disappointed.”

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Guy Boudreau and Louisa Jung – Montreal Canada

Louisa is an environmental scientist specializing in soil and water.  Guy has been working for a generator company for 15 years.  He grew up on a farm in Quebec and has maintained his rural roots, love of nature and gardens.  They both took time off of work to escape from the cold and do some volunteering together as a couple. They are assisting with the butterfly and frog projects as well as helping with work around the yard.  They have even learned how to use machetes.

Guy and Louisa

Guy and Louisa

 

 

How to Change your Life:

If you read earlier about our volunteers that are here this month or in past months it seems there are many who want to make a career or life change.  We get a lot of folks wanting to volunteer while using the time here to make life decisions. (I guess I might have been one of these people a few years ago.) Also there are those who are just passing through and stopped for a hike with similar stories. Maybe Cloudbridge should be renamed Nebulousbridge Reserve.  Definition of nebulous – not clear, difficult to see, understand, describe, etc.  It is like crossing the bridge into the unknown.

Many people let everyday life get in the way of following their dreams.  And sometimes its easier to just go to work, come home, watch a little TV, go to sleep, and then do it all over again. But what about your childhood dreams?  Maybe they weren’t so childish.  When one realizes that the path they are on is not making them happy then maybe it is time to reconsider.  I have to admire the people that we see who have made that decision to go in a new direction when the yearning calls.  Whether it be our world travellers who took time off or quit their jobs to discover their path through adventure, or those who just decided that a new opportunity might be the magic medicine for a better life. Or maybe not a better life but just a career change, or to pursue something that has a deeper potential for giving back to others or the environment.   No matter what the reason it is always refreshing to listen to the stories and see the anticipation for what the future holds for them. Some of them leave to carry on with their journey and others head home to their respective countries to start anew. The travel experience helps clarify and educate.  It creates a well rounded person that can then take on new challenges and pursue dreams.

If we can help others that come here seeking change, how much fun is that!

Life just keeps unfolding in new and exciting ways!

Linda Moskalyk      quotes-about-changing-life-journey-48224