Here’s to looking forward to a new year of research, education, and reforestation efforts at the Cloudbridge reserve.
We are grateful to have Adam Wicks-Arshack back with us as the resident biologist. His knowledge and enthusiasm for helping out with the education programs and guided tours is always appreciated by students, volunteers, and the visiting tourists who come up to hike the trails. Adam will be with us for 3 months, until the end of March. He has many projects in mind to enhance our programs and develop ties with other organizations that share our interests in forest and wildlife preservation.
This year we also have a docent position filled by Drew Hart. His contribution to the reserve will include developing the volunteer docent program for future seasons utilizing local interns, setting up a data base of visiting tourists and students, organizing the grand opening for our new learning centre, and leading birding hikes. His curiosity for mammal studies has found him setting up camera traps along the trails to monitor activity of some of our cats, peccaries, coatis, and other cloud forest residents.
Our first volunteer of the year is Carol Bracewell, with her amazing computer expertise. Just what we need! She has given her time to developing mapping and signage for our hiking trails. The old information signs and maps will be getting a much needed makeover. She has designed a new system that will provide hikers with easy to follow references and detailed maps that include symbols and color coding. Thank you Carol for sharing your time and talent for this much needed upgrade at the reserve. Within the next few months we should have the information installed along the trails.
21 Jan 2012.
“I came to Cloudbridge as a graphic designer not too sure how to be useful to a cloudforest research station. I was glad to be able to contribute to the Cloudbridge visitor experience by redesigning the maps and signs that guide hikers. It’s exciting to know these will be printed on metal and be here a long time. The hiking trails are great, and while I had no desire to summit Mt. Chirripó, I did climb to the 6km trail mark (8245 feet!) to see some huge old growth trees, and took several day hikes around the Reserve. The staff and volunteers were welcoming and the Casa is a sweet place to stay. We had fun making great meals and watching a movie outside in the jungle, though why we chose a film about Minnesota in the winter remains a mystery!”
The student’s experiences and reflections are summed up in these statements:
“Spending time in Cloudbridge has been a great research experience, but has also given me a new appreciation for warm showers, washing machines, and dryers. The time I’ve spent hiking here has also given me an understanding of how great it can be when we just take the time to sit and observe the things going on around us in nature. Sitting on a rock watching the mountains around me for an hour and a half doesn’t sound like something I would normally want to do, but taking a wonderfully exhausting and beautiful three hour hike just before made the time I spent resting and observing the changing weather amazingly worth it. I will walk away with valuable field experience as well as an awareness of how much I miss if I don’t take the time to slow down and enjoy what’s going on right around me.”
“I traveled to Cloud Bridge in order to research the symbiosis between Nostoc and Gunnera, but the trip proved to be so much more than a simple research opportunity. It was certainly an eye-opener. I had never realized how much I took for granted: warm showers, washers, dryers, and relatively flat ground. My feet have hurt every single day I have been here, I have been short of breath through most of the hikes, and I have ruined more clothes by falling in mud than I care to count, but it was completely worth it. The scenery here is breath-taking and awe-inspiring. For the first portion of the trip, I missed the luxuries I was used to having such as the internet and the warm showers, but now that I’m spending my last full day in Cloud Bridge, I feel like I’ll miss this gorgeous place more than the luxuries. “
“Today, Holly and I began to feel more like botanists as we ventured into a particularly verdant plot in the Secondary forest. We took turns looking up plants in our field binder, and physically maneuvering our way through the crowded area off the trail. I kept thinking to myself as I spotted a familiar vine or herb, “I know that plant!” It was particularly exciting to recognize some of the plants, and humbling to realize that I had never seen many more. The cloud forest is teaching me about the complexity of nature; how everything is connected in a unique fabric of life—it is amazing!
The feeling of walking under a canopy that has grown for decades before I was born, and the knowledge that there will always be a part of the forest I have yet to see, is extremely fascinating. I am sad to give up these tough trails and slippery slopes that have played host to my slight transformation in personality. I have come to respect these great, green mountains for the challenge their elevations have provided me, both physically and mentally, and am most sad to return to world so tamed and flat—a world far less wild than I have become endeared to. I really do hope others can experience this magical place! I probably sound childish, but have you ever seen trees that big! Incredible!”
“Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is the most beautiful place in the world. With such lush vegetation, raging waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, my experiences at Cloudbridge are left unmatched by any of my other travels. Siting many creatures ranging from a glass-winged butterfly to a band of white-faced capuchins, I was able to see wildlife in a natural atmosphere that I had never previously experienced. More than anything, I enjoyed hiking in a beautiful and serene environment.
Time spent at Cloudbridge gave me the opportunity to learn not only about the environment, but about myself. I learned about self-motivation, goal-setting and even personal limitations. This experience was both physically and mentally challenging.
The staff at Cloudbridge is made up of a wonderful community of individuals dedicated to education, compassion, and most fervently, the environment. I can’t begin to express how much I learned from hiking with Tom, or talking to Adam, or listening to stories of Drew’ s hiking adventures. Thank you to everyone at Cloudbridge for providing me with one of the most enlightening weeks of my life!”
Hosting Schools for an educational and research experience goes far beyond the students partaking in a school trip to an exotic place. They take back with them skills in critical thinking in research procedures such as data collection, and observation techniques. The experience can leave a lasting impact that may influence their future interests and studies. This was truly the case for one of last years Gatton students, Clarice Esch who is now an undergraduate student at Western Kentucky University in the College of Agriculture. She returned to Cloudbridge this month to research a project she is working on at the university. ” In agricultural systems throughout the world nitrogen fertilizers are a common and often necessary component. Yet, the angiosperm Gunnera has managed to beat the system by developing an intracellular symbiosis with the cyanobacteria Nostoc, which supplies all of Gunnera’s nitrogen needs. I came to Cloudbridge to gain a better understanding of this symbiosis and to examine Gunnera populations as they occur in their natural ecological niche as disturbance colonizers.”
Genevieve Giddy will be presenting at the Yale University International Society of Tropical Foresters 18th Annual Conference on January 26 and 27th, 2012. She will represent the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve with her poster presentation “Ten Years into Reforestation”. This discussion will include the results of studies done by several researchers at the reserve.
Linda Moskalyk’s paintings of the old growth trees will be shown in a exhibition in San Jose, Costa Rica.