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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.