@gaiawilson_photography on Instagram and Gaia Wilson photography on Facebook
Research and Volunteers:
Hello, I’m Gaia Wilson and I’m from England. I am currently studying my Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation part-time and I was working full time but decided to leave my job and come to Latin America for a few months. I wanted to learn more about the Costa Rican way of life and their wildlife which is why I’m volunteering at Cloudbridge. I have been helping to plant and clear around baby trees, go out on butterfly and birding surveys and get to learn all about the other projects going on here. I also love photography and have been lucky enough to spot quetzals, monkeys and hummingbirds, to name but a few.
@gaiawilson_photography on Instagram and Gaia Wilson photography on Facebook
Izzy Gavel was studying the effect of cardboard mulch around planted trees on the soil invertebrate community. She collected soil samples from 9 planted sites, collecting 3 samples from trees with cardboard and 3 from trees without cardboard at each site. Then she used a Tullgren-Berlese funnel system to separate the invertebrates from the soil so she could count and identify them to Order.
She found that the presence of the cardboard did not significantly affect the abundance of soil invertebrates, but that it did create a significant difference in the species richness (number of species found per sample). She also compared abundance and richness between sites that were new plantings (trees planted in open or barren areas), or supplementary plantings (trees planted in areas with already established tree cover), and found that there was no significant difference between the two.
Back in January, Alyce Straub designed and set up some quetzal nest boxes in the hopes of encouraging more quetzals to nest around the reserve. Other reserves have tried installing nest boxes for quetzals in the past, with little success, making nest box design a challenging project.
Quetzals typically nest in old woodpecker nests fairly high up in dead snags. As quetzals are bigger than the woodpeckers, quetzals excavate the holes to make them bigger, which some believe stimulates ovulation in the females. Alyce found a fallen tree and cut it into 5 logs, which she dug into to create a hole about the size of a woodpecker nest, allowing the quetzals to be able to excavate the nest.
Alyce unfortunately had to leave before all the boxes were hung, but other interns and volunteers took up the project. Arran Redman and Stefan Hertell were instrumental in getting the boxes hung, although many others helped. Then Eloïse Roy and Maddy Skinner took on the long and tedious task of observation to see if the quetzals were using the boxes. Each box was observed for 2-3 hours a week and the area around the box examined for signs of excavation.
Unfortunately, although quetzals were occasionally spotted in the area, there were no signs of quetzals using the boxes this year, although two natural nests were found in the reserve. It may be that the nest boxes were not old enough for the quetzals as they typically nest in old nests of other birds, and they may be more interested in them next year. Another possibility might be the large number of Emerald Toucanet’s in the reserve (several of which were seen around the boxes) as toucanets are known to eat chicks. There could also be something about the box design that the birds do not like. Monteverde has successfully managed to build nest boxes that quetzals use and is expected to release a paper on the subject soon. We look forward to reading their results in the hopes that we can improve our boxes and have better success next year!
Holly Drage – England
Hi, I’m Holly from England. I have always been passionate about environmental conservation. I completed my degree in Environmental Science and for the past 7 years I have worked in sustainable resources for a food retailer. I have been lucky enough to take a four month sabbatical from my job to travel around Central and South America. I was really keen to volunteer at Cloudbridge after reading about all the reforestation work that has been completed here and wanted to be apart of it.
I have really enjoyed my time at Cloudbridge, I have had a variety of jobs from painting signs, preparing saplings ready to be planted and clearing around newly planted trees. I have especially enjoyed the opportunity to follow some of the research students on their birding and butterfly surveys.
Rosie Gerolemou completed her research on conflicts between domestic livestock and wildlife. She presented her findings at Cloudbridge and also in the town of Herradurra where there has been problems with the jaguars and cattle.
Reducing conflict between livestock owners and predators in Costa Rica
- Conflict can arise between people and wild predators when livestock is predated by carnivores
- Aim of study: To identify attitudes which allow livestock owners to coexist with wild predators, thereby lessening the conflict
- Suitable participants in the Rivas Valley were identified and asked about their animal ownership practices and feelings towards carnivores
- 54 participants (27 with livestock, 27 without livestock)
- 12/27 experienced some sort of predation
- Predators identified by participants: coyote, jaguar, jaguarundi, opossum, puma, tayra, feral dogs and snakes
- 53 chickens killed (total ownership 802 chickens)
- 16 cows/calves killed (total ownership 151 cows)
- Most attacks in the Herradura area
- 31/54 participants had positive feelings about carnivores, generally speaking, 8 were scared or apprehensive and 15 were indifferent or had mixed feelings about carnivores
- 25/54 said they didn’t want carnivores on their land
- Most of the people who said they wouldn’t welcome predators on their land cited fear of potential interactions or conflict with predators as reasons why
- Environmental education and taking measures to reduce predation (e.g. presence of dogs, lights and proper fencing) were associated with increased tolerance
- Tolerance to carnivores was found to be dictated by numerous factors, and not necessarily conflict
- Overall, participants were knowledgeable about conservation and wanted predators to remain part of the landscape
Nina Champion was here for three months working on the butterfly diversity project as well as doing a small study experimenting with different kinds of butterfly bait to see if they would attract different butterfly species or would be more effective than the standard banana bait. Over 4 weeks, she trialled 4 different kinds of baits: banana, papaya, cow dung, and sweet mud. She found that while the banana bait caught more individuals and more species of butterflies (with papaya 2nd highest), because the results were very variable, the differences were not statistically significant. As well, all of the butterflies caught in the non-banana bait traps had been caught in banana baited traps before, so the different baits are not effective at catching new butterfly species. So we’ll be sticking with the banana bait for future surveys!
Nina also identified a new butterfly for the reserve: Opsiphanes quiteria quirinus (caught in a banana bait trap). This butterfly is considered quite rare, so it was quite the find!
Anna Bowland presented a summary of the birds she has seen during her time as a bird monitoring intern. Over the past 3 months, she identified 2175 birds of 108 species! The most abundant birds she saw were: Common Chlorospingus, Slate-throated Redstart, Silver-throated Tanager, White-throated Mountain Gem, and Sulphur-winged Parakeet.
The bird point count stations are separated into 6 different kinds of habitats based on the type of reforestation and age of the forest: planted forest, naturally regenerating forest (under 30 years old, over 30 years old, and one station that has both young and old regenerated forest), planted/naturally regenerating forest (P/NR<30), and old growth forest. She found that the P/NR<30 and naturally regenerating >30 forest had the highest bird abundance, while the naturally regenerating <30 and planted sites had the highest species richness.
Stephen Clark – USA
My name is Stephen, I hail from the noble city of Washington DC. I’m currently Studying environmental law/policy at Green Mountain College. My arrival at Cloudbridge was catalyzed by a deep interest in conservation, particularly reforestation projects. When I discovered Cloudbridge’s remarkably successful forest reclamation projects and realized they were still ongoing, I saw it as a excellent opportunity to fulfill my desire to be involved in such ambitious work. Volunteering here allows me to actively aid the preservation efforts. Whether it’s clearing around saplings or replacing their cardboard to help retain moisture, my daily tasks grant me the ability to directly assist the current reforestation projects, particularly by nurturing the previously planted saplings. However, I will be doing my first planting event in the upcoming weeks, which I’m beyond animated to be part of. Waking up everyday to do a task benefiting the forests is very gratifying, to help accomplish a project on behalf of the environment is something I cherish greatly. I’m extremely grateful that Cloudbridge began these efforts and continues them with such zeal, allowing devout volunteers to be so heavily incorporated. When I’m not tending to the trees I’m usually hiking and admiring the serenity of the old growth forests within the sanctuary, on many of my hikes I’m able to witness first hand the result of intense dedication to conservation; seeing dense forest where farmland once lay is especially inspiring. The community here is welcoming and embracing, we thrive together since we all share similar ideologies in regards to respecting nature, it’s nice to be part of such a committed group. My advisor, Rachel, is very enthusiastic and passionate about Cloudbridge and their mission, her spirit towards the reserve’s pursuit is influential and will undoubtedly remain with me long after I depart from Costa Rica. I am so elated to be here, I wake up excited each day and could not imagine doing anything else this summer.
Cléa Lefebvre – France
My name is Cléa and I’m 23 years old, from France. I have always loved nature and wildlife. I wanted to be a vet but I did not pass my exam. I oriented my studies on the environment and more specifically in the forest management. I am a second-year student in a program leading to a Master degree in Forestry at AgroParisTech, a National Institute of Forestry and Environment, in Nancy (France). So, I’m coming to Cloudbridge to do my internship to complete my second year and I am really enjoying being here for the next 11 weeks. My project focuses on the difference between the regeneration in the natural regeneration area, plantation area and old growth. I hope to improve my knowledge about forestry and I am learning a lot about tropical forest. I hope to spend part of my career in tropical island of France like La Réunion, La Martinique or La Guyane.
Elisa Yang – USA
Elisa Yang is an 18-year old aspiring ornithologist and evolutionary biologist from Orange County, California. She will be attending University of California, Berkeley in the fall to study biology and environmental science. Some of her projects include an ongoing study on Dark-eyed Junco subspecies and a newsletter for young birders, Wrong-eared Owl. In the meantime, she is doing avian point-count and walking surveys at Cloudbridge as part of a birding internship. At the end of her internship, she hopes to do an analysis of bird species composition and elevation. She hopes that the internship can provide her with fieldwork experience, and is excited to see all the Costa Rican birds. In her free time, she works on wildlife photography and writing, which you can check out at http://forthebirders.weebly.com/.