Volunteers and Research:
Jen Powell – Toronto Canada
Jen is continuing a study comparing amphibian presence across various levels of forest regeneration on the reserve. She hopes to be able to set up a standard protocol that will allow the study to be continued by future volunteers. This information will help monitor how frogs are repopulating in planted areas.
Jen on one of her frog surveys. This can be challenging in the rainy season.
David Tutschner – Germany
David came to Costa Rica for an independent travel experience in his gap year before university. His prior holidays have always been with family. This time he is travelling alone. He wants to learn about the culture, the environment and in particular the animals that are endemic to this area. He has been helping in the gardens, planting trees, using a machete to cut weeds and is also been enjoying living communally with the other volunteers. Together they have been cooking some really good food.
David – Clearing for tree planting.
Barbara Wotzka – Germany
Barbara has taken some time to travel before she starts her own business in Germany. Previously she volunteered at an animal rescue centre in Peru. Now in Costa Rica she is enjoying a cloud forest volunteer experience with us. Her plans are to return to South America to meet a friend and continue with more travel. She has been helping out with tree planting and maintenance and has enjoyed exploring the trails and also took a weekend trip to Dominical beach. Her cooking skills are something we are all enjoying. The German potato pancakes with applesauce that her and David prepared for one of our potlucks were delicious.
Barbara swinging a machete and looking dangerous
The Four Amigos – USA
Vaneta, Clara, Matt, Brent
These four friends are enjoying life and having an awesome Costa Rican adventure. Part of that adventure included volunteering at Cloudbridge. Here are some thoughts from their time here:
“Volunteering is the purest way to travel. You meet locals, live their lives, see the land and culture from their perspective and have a wonderful experience doing so. How many people can say they’ve participated in reforesting a Costa Rican mountainside? Have rushing waterfalls as their backdrop and soundtrack? Learn about trees, flowers, birds, and bugs? Live in a cloud? And even watching a meteor shower from a mountaintop? I can now say I’ve done all that, and then some. We’ve worked hard, learned a lot, and played cards every night. Thank you Cloudbridge, I can’t wait to return to see the saplings have become giants.
Until then.” – Brent Grant
“Reforestation”—verb (used with object)
to replant trees on (land denuded by cutting or fire).
“Any word is easily referenced in a dictionary, our eyes can scan the letters, can derive a meaning from its definition and immediately recognize this as a topic worth advocating for. Looking up things on the Internet, even burying your face in books for hours and hours of intense studying of this subject, looking up all the photos on the Internet, acquiring visuals of examples of deforestation, speaking with experts in the field etc … None of this can prepare you for the reality and the sheer scope and magnitude of standing on a mountain top, full and lush and covered with trees for as wide and vast a horizon as your eyes can intake, but KNOWING that not a single One of those trees existed 20+ years ago or so. To have stood on the edge of the world so to speak, in the midst of a cloud forest – that’s tangibility. To have physically carried up the steep mountain, the newest batch of tree babies that are poised to take their turn in transforming the once barren landscape, having resulted from the greed and negligence of the people who came before you, this is what replanting is. Working with the cloudbridge team gave rise to a new definition within me of what reforestation really is. It is no longer a definition based on the Webster dictionary or on the blogs and news articles I’ve read, but is now entirely an experiential definition.
As a traveler, to an extent you are asked to surrender to the greater mystery of life. We can never predict how a given situation will work out. Our travel group of four chose cloudbridge in part because it fit our time table, our resources, and our combined spectrum of interests. We expected to learn, to be challenged, and to contribute. We received all of that. What we also received was a warm welcome, a community of volunteers and a staff eager to teach us and share all the knowledge that they have. We received an amazing opportunity to live on beyond breathtaking lands and we formed great new friendships and stored some amazing memories. However, one reoccurring thought present in my mind over the last two weeks has been the fact that latent in one human being is power, sheer raw energy, but there is equal potential for destruction as there is for creation. Cloudbridge has done a magnificent job at illustrating both sides of this simple dichotomy. Which will you choose? Will you continue to partake in the continuous daily destruction of our environment, or will you take steps into the alternative option of rebuilding and care taking it?
Lastly I cannot describe to you the feeling of vulnerability of handling a young tree, or the feeling of Hope placed on it as I place it into the ground. I cannot describe the smell of the dirt or the feel of the soil on my hands, the aches and pains your body will endure – all I can say is that it is incredibly rewarding, and I would encourage anyone to come out and do their part and experience it for themselves.” – Veneta Mavrodieva
Clarice Esch – USA
After 10 months of research Clarice has finished her studies here toward a doctoral program with Michigan State Univ. She wrapped up her research with a presentation of two projects- Remnant Tree Soil Biota as a Determinant of Forest Regeneration and Tomato Grafting and the Feasibility of use by Local Farmers.
Not only did she spend many hours out in the field with her projects but she also took time to get involved with the local community. She volunteered with the organization Project San Gerardo to encourage English language studies for Costa Rican people. She has also volunteered to come back to Cloudbridge in January 2016 to assist with the travel program for the students from Gatton Academy.
We look forward to following Clarice’s career in the future and invite her to visit anytime as she has become a part of our Cloudbridge family.
1. Recycling – Cloudbridge volunteers helped sort and crush cans and bottles in San Gerardo
2. Annual Community Tree Planting – Friday October 23rd thirteen volunteers from the San Gerardo community and Cloudbridge joined forces to plant 200 trees is some of the rockiest terrain possible. After two days of clearing under-growth in an area of natural regeneration we did what we call enhancement planting. After surveying the tree species in the area we planted additional trees to diversify the tree stock with climax species and many trees that will provide fruit or nuts for wildlife. This is the fourth year that Cloudbridge, the community, and local businesses certified with the Bandera Azul Ecological (BAE) Program have participated in a community tree planting.
Volunteers included Olman Brenes Picado with the San Gerardo Community BAE, Rolando Zuniga Salazar with Aguas Termales, Jose Pablo Bordon with Hotel pelican, Eliecer Ganta Elizondo with Hotel Uran, and from Cloudbridge – Frank Spooner, Jenn, Brent, Veneta, Clara, Matt, Linda & Tom.
Some of the participants of the Community Tree Planting event.
3. English Day – Tom and Linda participated on the judging panel for this school event. Clarice Esch was also involved as part of the organizing committee. The day was a celebration for students who have been studying English in the communities of Herradura, Chimirol, Canaan, Los Angeles and San Gerardo de Rivas. Students were encouraged to speak their best English in a friendly competition through poetry, song and theatre. It was encouraging to see so many young people in the area progress in a second language that will be beneficial in the future for them. Much of the success for the English speaking residents is thanks to Jenny Moss and her organization Project San Gerardo http://www.sangerardocostarica.com/get-involved/proyecto-san-gerardo/
Some of the student participants
4. Bird count meeting and hike – Frank, Linda, and Jenn went to the Los Cosingos Neotropical Bird Sanctuary to take part in a general meeting and then a bird watching hike. This group of avid birders are organizing to encourage bird watching tourism in the Perez Zeledon area of Costa Rica. They want to meet every month in a different location and do identification and counts. Data will be collected to determine hotspots and for future studies in this area.
With the help of some expert bird guides we were able to spot some amazing birds including the Black-mandibled Toucan, Euphonias, Manakins, Tanagers, Warblers, Honeycreepers, Hummingbirds, Woodcreepers and more. It was fun to go birding in a different location. This area is a much lower elevation than Cloudbridge and many of these birds are not endemic to our area. One of the highlights was the Red-capped Manakin. Our guide Giovanni Jimenez from the Univ. of CR caught this guy on video doing the ‘moonwalk’ and shared it with us. You can see it on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FotosavesCR-409564825776875/ Here is another video of this crazy bird set to music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlJjuQbLgU4
Green Honeycreeper – Male
5. Santiago Environmental Festival 2015 – Tom, Frank and Linda were invited to attend this festival in the small town of Santiago which is situated about 40 km south of Cloudbridge. The school did an amazing job of organizing this event. The students spent the week learning about the environment and climate change. The last day was a celebration of what they had learned through dance, theatre, art, poetry and music. The day started with an environmental march through the village to demonstrate the need for awareness of environmental protection. There was even a fashion show with some of the students modelling very fashionable outfits made from recycled materials that they and their parents had created and sewn. There was a competition in both the fashion show and the art in which Tom, Frank and Linda were asked to judge with some very difficult decisions having to be made. There was a lot of talent in that little community. We wrapped up the day with tree planting around the school area. Cloudbridge donated trees, tools and some expert advice on planting. It was a fun day and something that may be considered for the San Gerardo community in the future.
Thanks to David Hurtado the English teacher (for both Santiago and San Gerardo schools) for helping to organize this event along with the rest of the staff in Santiago for inspiring the students and parents to learn and care for the environment.
Environmental march for awareness with the school children of Santiago
Recycle Fashion Show
Dog food bags for gangster shirts
Sporting an umbrella skirt and bottle cap earnings
stylish right down to the cardboard purse
Parents, teachers and students theatre
Judging the art competition
A surprise visit from Tono (the Pizote) the Chirripo National Park mascot
Even the dogs joined the celebration
Tree planting near the school
Just having a good time at Cloudbridge!!
Wind in our hair
Beer night at the Uran Hotel
Now this is what I call volunteering!
Learning to hike some rough terrain