March 2017

 

Mystical Magical Cloudbridge

Internet Education:

Educational distance learning through video conference is a way for us to bring the cloud forest to the classroom.   We organized a three way skype call that included Linda and Jenn from Cloudbridge, Pedro from the Toucan Rescue Ranch in San Jose, and the grade 4 and 5 class from Georges Vanier School in Saskatoon Canada. The students were introduced to tropical frogs, an anole, exotic plants, giant insects, baby sloths and an anteater . The students learned about forest and wildlife conservation. We also talked about climate change. When Linda and Tom return to Canada in the spring they are planning a climate march with these students.

 

Research and Volunteers:

Jade Roubert is from Marseille France. She is a 2nd year engineering student in a master’s program at AgroSup Dijon National institute of Agronomy and Food Science and Environment. She is here for a 5 month internship. Her research at our reserve is challenging because she is studying coatis and their problem solving abilities. Finding these guys to observe has been the challenge for her.  Some of her interests are dance, playing the violin and horseback riding. Jade is applying to transfer to a University in Thailand.  She is interested in studying and possibly working in tropical forestry of Asian countries.

Cyrielle Vandewalle from France also attends the AgroSup University. She is a master’s student majoring in environment and natural spaces. She intends on finishing her university studies in the Czech Republic. Cyrielle is an accomplished horse back rider in show jumping.  At Cloudbridge she is researching  small mammal effect on planted seedlings. For example the gophers have been excavating the roots of small trees to the point that they fall over and we lose some of our reforestation efforts to these mammals.

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Jade and Cyrielle


Hung-Yeh is a volunteer from Nova Scotia, Canada.  She is a homeopathic healer and yoga teacher. She also teaches Argentine tango.  Hung-Yen is interested in sustainability and volunteering to contribute in her travels. She says that this is a fabulous project and the world needs more reforestation.  Her volunteer experience included watering the seedlings and garden, cleaning the cabins, working in the welcome centre and clearing around the young trees with our local workers.

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Ted and Jeannine, Rosanne and Larry – Friends of Tom and Linda.   These Saskatoon volunteers and visitors enjoyed hiking and exploring the reserve, but they also took the time to volunteer.

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We put Ted to work because his carpentry skills and handyman experience was just what we needed. He built a wall in the casa, did some electrical retrofitting, and other odd jobs that have been waiting for just the right person to come along.

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Larry assisted Ted with his projects and was the car wash attendant.

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Jeannine (with the blue t shirt) helped all of us with Spanish. She also helped with  laundry and cleaning in some of the buildings.

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Rosanne’s Laundromat. A never ending job here.

It wasn’t all work.  They did take time to enjoy the trails and learn about forest conservation.


 

Matt Smokoska has returned for his 4th visit to Cloudbridge.  This time he is here on a leisure trip, checking out some other areas of the country as well.  He is helping out as a tour guide for us and working the welcome centre.  Eagle eye Matt seems to have the ability to find all kinds of creatures on his night hikes including the rare velvet worm. He is also an avid bird watcher and photographer. I am not sure how he carries that new camera up our mountain slopes, but he does.

Always capturing close ups!

2015 – Back when on his first visits to Cloudbridge he was always taking photos

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2017 – Bringing out the big guns – New camera equipment for serious photography


 

Art Studio – Linda Moskalyk

‘ One of my favourite things about being in Costa Rica is meeting all of the people who visit my art studio.  It gives me a chance to talk about how art can be used for creating change in the world through addressing social and environmental issues.  My art represents forest conservation and awareness of climate change but there are so many other issues that can be explored through the arts.  I am fortunate to meet visitors from all over the world.  Sometimes I am even surprised by visiting tourists from my home town – Saskatoon.  There are so many interesting conversations that happen up in the studio – art, travel, environment, culture, politics etc. I always like to throw in the topic of climate change hoping to get people thinking about taking action.  Everyone that comes to visit the reserve are happy, excited to explore, and just having a good time travelling. Life is good when I am  surrounded by this kind of company and energy every day!’

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Art studio visitors

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Visitors:

We have so many great visitors that stay at the reserve.  Their stay  in one of our casitas and rental dollars contributes to the program and we get to meet and spend time with people that appreciate the environment and what we do here.

We really enjoyed having Jasmine, Ian and their delightful children from Quebec, Canada here at Cloudbridge. Not only did they take the time to understand the project and immerse themselves in nature, but they also took part in community volunteering. We all went into our little town of San Gerardo de Rivas to make tamales and other traditional foods for a large annual event.

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Washing banana leaves for tamales at the community salon

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Photo Gallery:

Bird photos by Matt Smokoska

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February 2017

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                              Old Growth Forest At The Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

 

 

Research and Volunteers:

David Reinhard is a cinematographer from France.  He is taking a break between films to travel Central America.  In the past he filmed a documentary about primary rainforests in Peru and Gabon Africa.  The stories about his work are fascinating. For the rainforest documentary they had to put 400 metres of cable through the forest for the cameras to move along through the canopy. They also used drones.

At Cloudbridge he helped clear around trees, plant seedlings and dig trenches.  Not quite the same as photography.

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David helping transplant seedlings


Theresa Bonell from Italy studied art history in Vienna. This is her first trip  outside of Europe.   She was both scared and curious at the prospect of travelling alone half way across the world.  She found the Cloudbridge website and knew that this was a place she wanted to go – away from the cities, into the rainforest and nature.  She says “The most beautiful thing is to see a living tree. I even hug trees”.  Now, thats an admittance we like to hear!    stick_figure_tree_hugger_t_shirts_and_gifts_poster-rbdcc5ff7a5fb487a8b8bfa062cc7aff8_w2j_8byvr_324

Theresa working in the tree nursery

Theresa working in the tree nursery


Justus from Germany was busy building steps into some of the trails, transplanting seedlings, and helped dig trenches for the grey water drain field in the yard.  He used his muscle power to help some visiting tourists who were staying up at the remote Gavalon cabin. The gas tank for their stove was empty and Justis gallantly came to the rescue and hiked up the mountain with a very heavy replacement tank on his back.

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Mathijs Van DerSanden and Michon Fleer are both from Van Hall Larenstein University in the Netherlands. They are doing internships for their tropical studies program.  They are continuing the habitat assessment research.

Mathijs is doing a 5 month internship and then 1 month of travel after.  He will return to university and continue studying tropical conservation and also GIS. He is also interested in photography so we expect great photos while he is at the reserve.

Michon is eager to learn about tropical forest trees and ecology during his thesis research. He says that it is important to know about tropical ecology and how it is managed.  He comes from a temperate region but feels that he can learn a wider perspective in the tropics and that there is more to discover.

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Michon (front) and Mathijs


Spencer and Neil finished up the Bird and Butterfly surveys for their term.  Neil reported 152 species of butterflies that have been identified.  His presentation included identification techniques, trapping methods and data collection.  Spencer’s bird survey results covered a lot of ground.  All of our trails were included in rigorous early morning hikes by these two guys.  In total they saw 713 birds (70 species) at the bird point counts within 3 months.  The trail with the most birds was the Gavilan trail.  Spencer noted that birds are great indicators of forest health and the survey is a good way to keep track of migrants.


Franziska Lex – Germany  She is enjoying her gap year and volunteer experience.  She decided to travel and learn Spanish.  Her trip has included Bali, Argentina, Ecuador and now Costa Rica. She has been helping here at Cloudbridge by working around our newly planted trees, greeting people at the welcome centre, and assisting with construction of the new tree nursery. The end of her trip will be in Cuba where she will meet up her parents before flying home to Germany to start university and study International Management and Communications.

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Emma Moore from the US has been here before.  Her parents both work at the US embassy  in Costa Rica and so when she visits the country she comes down to stay at the reserve for a few weeks to do a little volunteering. In her spare time she dabbled with her watercolors, creating beautiful depictions of the insects that can be seen here. Back in the US she is in University studying Neuroscience and Art History.

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Uma Thakar makes her home in Australia.  She is a freelance writer and also teaches meditation.  Her trip started in Indonesia where she volunteered at a nature reserve that does reforestation and focuses on protection of an endangered bird, the Starling.  At Cloudbridge Uma is working in the tree nursery and participated in a community event with the other volunteers helping to make tamales.  One afternoon at the reserve she taught us how to use meditation for relaxation and awareness.

A meditation session at Cloudbridge by Uma

“If there is one place on the planet that is the ideal meditation resort it would have to be Cloudbridge. Majestic mountains, beautiful forests that Tom and his team have worked so hard to preserve.

It was a privilege and honor for me to lead a meditation group at Cloudbridge.

The theme was self-acceptance.

Steven Hayes said ‘Bringing love to yourself will help you bring love to the world.’

Meditation provides the framework for practicing self-acceptance. Four steps that are helpful are 1)Practicing self awareness. We go through are day almost mechanically, unaware of our thoughts. Meditation helps us to be present 2)Gratitude. An oldie but a goodie, being grateful for the good in our life and also the difficult people, because they are our best teachers. 3) Having compassion for yourself. Remind yourself that you are only human and will make mistakes. 4)Don’t compare yourself to anyone. You are unique and complete in yourself.

The session began with an introductory talk about meditation, followed by a brief meditation session. After that there was a question and answer session, where participants shared their personal life experiences and how they worked through these issues. One of the participants mentioned a free meditation app called Headspace and also TED meditation talks.

We also practiced walking meditation.

We finished with an acceptance meditation, extending kindness and compassion to ourselves, our friends and family, the difficult people in our life, and extending that acceptance to all beings.”

Uma

Uma


Volunteer opportunities are ongoing at the reserve.  Whether you are just finished high school, working on a post secondary degree, travelling the world, or just retired and  looking for a way to spend some quality time this place might be the experience for  you.

A morning in the tree nursery.  Transplanting seedlings to add to our forest.

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Our crew volunteering to make tamales for a community event.

Volunteering your time can come in many forms.  Every Monday we have our potluck dinner together.  We encourage people to contribute an educational presentation after dinner.  This month Linda shared her climate change presentation, Frank gave a presentation on butterflies and we watched the video ‘Treaty Talks’ https://vimeo.com/116831814   by a former biologist Adam Wicks-Arshack -Voyages of Rediscovery.  Uma taught a meditation session in the classroom.


Now and Then:

This is the Montana trail. In 2012 Marloes from Wageningen University, Netherlands did a research project along this trail.  This year Mathijs and Michon also from the Netherlands, stopped to check out the progress of reforestation at the same site.  With the right conditions tree growth in the tropics can be amazing.


Hiking:

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January 2017

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Volunteers, researchers, guests and staff sharing information on a weekend hike.

Finally it is the New Year – 2017.   Not that we have been waiting for it to happen. But, 2016 seemed to come with its challenges – Politics, climate change impacts, race and cultural relations etc.   With world leadership uncertainties and now possible new environmental policies in the US that could effect us all worldwide, we hope for the best.   And also at the reserve as we continue to grow and expand our educational programs there has been some growing pains.  We are accepting more student groups and researchers which comes with infrastructure needs. Now we need more bathrooms, a bigger kitchen, and always newer equipment. But this is all for the better because the more research that is done and the more people we can reach the bigger the impact we will have.

Research and Volunteering:

Britt van Engelen from the Netherlands presented her 5 month research project. Her study was about the relationship and corrilation between food availability (fruits and flowers) and bird abundance on the reserve.

She used data from the ongoing bird surveys and then did her own fruit and flower counts.This was a a difficult research project and she indicated that it will require further data collection, hopefully with a future researcher. In that way more information can be collected throughout different times of the year.


 

Justin Roberts and Daniella Garvue are travelling for 3 months and volunteering along the way.  They say it gives them the opportunity to get to know the people and the area.  They have taken enough time off to travel and spend all of their money in a very rewarding way.  They are from Seattle Washington.  Daniella works in a children’s museum and Justin is a guide for tourists in the area.  They are staying 2 weeks at Cloudbridge helping out with all kinds of maintenance work and taking time to do some hiking.

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Daniella – “I decided to travel to Costa Rica because of its incredible biodiversity and natural beauty, and I wanted to do some good there as I expanded my world.”

Justin – “I see nature/habitat conservation as one of the most important remedies for a world that is rapidly losing the richness of species and ecosystems that make life on Earth so amazing.”


 

Jacob Suissa and Sylvia Kinosian are both interested in ferns. Sylvia Kinosian is working on her PhD at Utah State University. Jacob is an intern at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

They were in the Costa Rica taking a fern course through the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). While here they decided to come up to Cloudbridge for a few days to check out the ferns and do a little identification.

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Laura Hollingbery from the UK is a volunteer who just finished a degree in Ecology.  Volunteering at a place like this is part of her 3 month adventure. She is interested in mosses and is going to do a project to study them while here. When she gets back home her plan is to do a one year internship before going to India to do a masters program.  There she hopes to study human rights and environmental law.

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From the Camera Traps:

 

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As you may recall several months back we captured a photo of our first jaguar at the reserve.  Well, here he is again seen on January 7th.  If you compare the markings on the left (2016 photo) to the new photo it looks like it could be our old friend.  He must have decided to stick around.

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Also seen  this month are these characters:

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Long Tailed Weasel

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Cacomistle

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Peccaries

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Coyote

Weird Orchids

Our biologist Jenn Powell found these amazing orchids

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Angels

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Little people

 

 

Study Abroad in Costa Rica – Gatton Academy 2017

Clouds over Mountains

Clouds over Mountains – Gatton students arrive to mountain views and mesmerizing clouds.

 

Every year we look forward to the visit from the students of The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science (part of Western Kentucky University).  This educational institution has received numerous accolades throughout the years and is named among the top-preforming high schools across the United States.  Their visit to Costa Rica includes a turtle project, a visit along the southern coast for snorkeling, horseback riding and wildlife adventures, as well as cloud forest studies up here at  the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.  It all sounds like a great holiday; but these students are researching, doing presentations and gaining cultural and environmental experiences every step of the way.

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The students begin their day very early in the morning.  They have to be at breakfast by 7:00 am and then out in the field working on their research projects by 8:00 am. (This schedule differs from their time at the turtle project where they were out walking the beaches in late night shifts collecting data for turtle conservation.)  At Cloudbridge they are also studying conservation but this time it is about the forests and ecosystems at a higher elevation.  The 16 students are divided up to do group research on trees, insects, plants and butterflies.

 

Early morning at the dorms

Early morning at the dorms – every day seems to be laundry day here.

 

A hardy breakfast to get them up the mountain

A hardy breakfast to get them up the mountain

Everyone eats very well thanks to wonderful cooks.  The food is a fusion of Costa Rican flavours and student favourites – Mango chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, burritos, spaghetti, pancakes, pineapple crisp, chocolate cake and fresh wholewheat bread to name a few. We shop locally for fresh fruits and veggies to provide nutritious plant based meals.

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Beth, Laura, Angie and Lou provided Cloudbridge cuisine.

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The great thing about this visit is that we are in our 7th year of this study abroad program with Gatton.  All of our staff/leaders – Tom, Frank, Jenn, Clarice, and Linda have developed long lasting friendships with the Gatton (Western Kentucky University) staff. We have as much fun (maybe more) than the students.

Martin, Derrick and Frank having a little down time at the coffee table.

Martin, Derick and Frank having a little down time at the coffee table.

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Dr. Derick Strode , Dr. Martin Stone, Linda and Tom (Cloudbridge) – Now considered long time friends.

Tom with our good friend Dr. Keith Philips

Tom with our good friend Dr. Keith Philips

 

Tom still has it when it comes to leading the long hikes - notice the students struggling behind him!

Tom still has it when it comes to leading the long hikes – notice the students struggling behind him!

Frank is our butterfly expert. As you can see he has much finess with his netting demonstration. netting.

Frank is our butterfly expert – as you can see in the finesse of this netting demonstration.

 

Early morning near the dorms

Jenn Powell has extensive experience in field research.

 

Clarice and her epyphyte group

Clarice Esch and her epiphyte group –  Clarice was a Gatton student 7 years ago.  Now she is working on her graduate degree, but returns to Cloudbridge every year as a leader for this study abroad program.

 

Linda assists with the tree group as well as teaching the jungle art class

Linda assists with the tree group as well as teaching the jungle art class and gives a climate change presentation.

 

 

Out in the field, or should I say high on the slopes, the student groups are introduced to tropical reforestation and environmental research. This is not necessarily the main interest or career focus of every student. This school has students with engineering, math and computer science minds to name a few.  Never the less everyone jumps into the particular study group that they have been assigned and the magic of nature and the challenges of biology open up new perspectives.

Clarices epiphyte group on their way up the trail

Clarice’s epiphyte group on their way up the trail

 

Collecting data

Collecting data

 

Soil evaluation - does throwing it in the air to see if it stays together count as a viable test?

Soil evaluation – does throwing it in the air to see if it stays together count as a viable test?

 

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Identifying the right plants can be a challenge

 

Research:

90% of butterfly species live in the tropics.  Research about diversity of tropical butterfly populations helps to effectively conserve them.  The students in this group didn’t know much about butterflies when they started their week long study. Using sweep nets and canopy traps they were able to catch and identify each species. There is a technique for using the nets. With a ‘swish and flick’ motion they were able to capture them and then learned how to hold them carefully for examination without injuring these delicate organisms.  Learning about coloration, wing shapes, vein patterns, and body characteristics is all part of the identification process. The students soon learn how subtle some of the differences are between species. Using tools such as the Simpsons Index of Diversity along with their collection of data they were able to make some interesting generalizations considering the short time frame and complexity of habitat for the study.

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The correct way to examine a butterfly

The correct way to hold and examine a butterfly

 

 

Analyzing tree health is vital for reforestation projects. The students took a look at what factors effect a saplings tree health within its first 5 years of growth.  Some of the factors included canopy closure, altitude, slope, soil type and competition from other plants.  Of course there are so many other variables such as climate and insects and diseases that were not accounted for in this short term study.  Never the less they put together some interesting data and looked at correlations that might be helpful for further planting studies.  The success of reforestation projects will determine the outcome of species diversity, wildlife conservation and successful ecosystem recovery.

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Determining soil type

 

Canopy cover data is measured using a decimetre

Canopy cover data is measured using a densiometer

 

Determining tree health through measurements and observing leaves and roots within a planting plot

Determining tree health through measurements and observing leaves and roots within a planting plot

 

 

There was a couple of groups studying plants – epiphytes and understory plants.  You need to know botany basics for identification. Venation patterns, petiole length, texture and serration of the leaf edges are all important to determine the family or genus.  For the understory plants the students concluded that diversity increases as the planting plot age increased until about 15 years.  At that point it started to decrease, probably due to the canopy cover shading out some of the plants.  The epiphyte research looked at bromeliads, lichens, moss, ferns and angiosperms. One conclusion is that moss is always present and the most common of all epiphytes in the cloud forest.  Variables in elevation and slope can also be a factor when looking at plants.

Bromeliad

Bromeliad

Team work

Team work

Mapping epiphyte research areas on the reserve

Mapping epiphyte research areas on the reserve

 

Dung beetles are a good indicator of biodiversity in the area.  They exist on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.  Keith Philips is an expert on this subject and provided a wealth of information from his years of research.  The students set traps in the primary and secondary forests as well as in adjacent pasture land.   Learning how to make their own traps, collect the beetles and then ID them was all part of the process.  They concluded that there is more diversity and abundance in the primary forest.

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Keith demonstrating how to set dung beetle traps

Keith demonstrating how to set dung beetle traps

 

 

Scientific investigations in the realm of biology and environmental studies are complex.  Often results are inconclusive and there are many variables at play. The field research provides an opportunity to explore the environment with hands on experience.  The students learn how to gather and integrate information through observations, identification, and sampling methods. Critical thinking, communicating and proposing solutions are also part of the process.  These skills will be useful for all of their future studies.

Part of what was so interesting with these young people was how innovative and creative they could be.  For instance, one group needed to measure the slope but they didn’t have any tools on site with which to do this.  Within minutes they began to collaborate on what would work and they came up with a protractor of sorts using the back of a notebook, a weight, and a string.

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Measuring slopes by improvising

Measuring slopes by improvising

 

Another group didn’t have the densiometer to measure canopy cover and so someone used their glasses to receive the reflection and then they did a % calculation from that observation.

Not too scientific but its a good example of problem solving!

Not too scientific but its a good example of problem solving!

 

Talking Climate Change

The reality of climate change at our reserve has never been clearer.  The last two years have seen much warmer temperatures on the mountain.  This equates to lower survival rates of our seedlings and changing ecosystems for wildlife.

Our solution is education. We have 3 climate leaders at Cloudbridge. Tom, Linda and Frank took the world renowned Climate Reality Leadership Corps training  and now give presentations to student groups, volunteers and researchers who come to the reserve.

We hope that educating our visiting Gatton students about climate change will inspire them to be leaders in their future careers in a way that will be sustainable and bring climate action to the forefront of their work environments.  After all, it will be within their lifetime when food and water security will be at risk along with species extinction if they don’t choose to act.

Leading by example can challenge students to make changes …

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…and then challenging them to do what they can:

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Time for some relaxation and fun!

The San Isidro farmers market is a great place to find new and exotic fruits

The San Isidro farmers market is a great place to find new and exotic fruits

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No shopping trip is complete without purchasing some Costa Rican machetes

 

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Mountain swimming is not for the faint at heart - BRRRR

Mountain swimming is not for the faint at heart – BRRRR

 

A long hot hike into the bordering national park.

A long hot hike into the bordering national park.

 

Sketching lessons can teach observation skills and might be needed out in the field to record ideas or just for fun!

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Sketching Classes

 

A cultural night included Costa Rican traditional food and music.

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We have some strict rules for those who leave their stuff lying around and cluttering up the dining area.  At every meal there were a few who were disciplined and had  to sing a song because of their clutter bug tendencies.

Dr. Martin Stone and The Forgetful Four singing "My Old Kentucky Home'

Dr. Martin Stone and The Forgetful Four singing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’

 


2017 Gatton Academy visiting groups at the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve

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“Thanks for the immersive education in all things ecological.  Makes me more committed to fight for a cleaner future than ever! Muchas gracias.”   – Tony

This place is the most amazing place I’ve been!  There is no place on earth where you will find so many different plants and animals or feel so close to nature”    – Marco Garcia

Cloudbridge is ecotourism at its finest. Conservation is key to all that they do and education is everywhere.”  – Olivia Simpson

“Amazing place! Thank you for everything.  Changed my perspective.”  – Xander Bowen

I learned more about the earth and myself everyday.”  – Sarah

“This is the seventh time visiting this magical place – one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet and recognized as a biodiversity hotspot.  There is so much more to the tropics than just the beaches!” –  Dr. Keith Philips

“Thanks for your hospitality, friendliness, and knowledge. What a great few days.  See you next year.”  – Dr. Martin Stone

Thank you all for making Cloudbridge the magical perfect place it is.  Your hospitality, teaching, and interest in our students is unmatched.” – Dr. Derick Strode

 

December 2016

 

Merry Christmas from all of us at Cloudbridge!

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner – A potluck of amazing food and good cheer.

Our Christmas and holiday celebration also included guests staying at our Casita Blanca, friends and neighbours.

Donations:

A big thank you to the Krishnan family from Conneticut who were with us over Christmas.  They enjoyed the reserve so much that they donated $500.00 to purchase some camera traps!

Volunteers and Research:

An ARO group from Ottawa was here helping to build up a section of the bank around the classroom which will one day allow us to get a truck to the vivero (tree nursery). This involved moving dirt (and some BIG rocks) from one side of the building to the other side. Their enthusiasm and good spirits while moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt was a pleasure to work with. We even unearthed a Cane Toad while digging, and after a brief science lesson and some photos, we safely re-homed him to a different part of the yard, well away from the digging. Afterwards they went to the local hot springs to soak their sore muscles, which was well earned!

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Alice Donoghue from Toronto is a volunteer. She has no academic background in biology but is truly interested in learning more about the environment and ecology. She hopes to gain some insight into what she can do to help in this area and how her practice of being a vegan ties into the picture. Little did she know that being a vegan already has a carbon footprint that is less than ½ that of a meat loving diet. Her goal here is to better understand all of this and come up with what she can do locally to make a global impact.

Lou Eney is from California.  He is volunteering for a month.  He has a bachelors in Environmental Science and has done lots of volunteer conservation work.  He left his last job to travel. At Cloudbridge he has helped on owl surveys and is also doing general handyman projects (because he is a very handy man).  He wants to spend 2 months in Costa Rica.

Lou and Alice repairing a screen in one of the casitas

Lou and Alice repairing a screen in one of the casitas


Laura Antonaru finished her 3 month internship of plant identification on the reserve. Most were herbaceous plants and shrubs.

She concentrated on plants that grew near the trails and had the opportunity to thrive because of the light gaps. She started her presentation by saying ‘Trees can be bad”.  We were all a little taken aback by this comment as we are big tree lovers.  But then she went on to say –  meaning that other plants don’t always appreciate the shade and lack of sunlight for them to grow.  That is how forest successions evolve – from herbaceous and small treelets that are eventually out competed by larger trees.

Laura identified 110 herbaceous species and left us with a list including photos to add to our website.

Laura's presentation

Laura’s presentation

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Our three new GVI interns started this month.

Training Day

Training Day

Not long after they arrived and started studying the birds these guys put together a presentation called ‘Little Birdies – the difficulties of identifying them’  This is so true.  With 300 species at the reserve and many of them with very similar features and color it is a difficult task to make accurate identifications. It can be the slightest variation that distigueshes them. The presentation reminded all of us of how challenging birding is.

Neil, Spencer and Nicholas

Neil, Spencer and Nicholas

Neil Hancart was born in Belgium, lived in Spain for awhile and now calls the US home.  He finished high school and was not sure what he wanted to pursue.  He loves nature and decided to join GVI in Costa Rica to do an internship.  This brought him to Cloudbridge where he will help with the bird surveys but also be the primary researcher for the butterfly survey.

Spencer Kane from Wisconsin USA is doing an internship with GVI so that he can figure out what direction he wants to go next with his education. He is enjoying environmental work.  His responsibility at Cloudbridge is the bird survey and he says “I didn’t used to be interested in birds but now they are cool”.

Nicholas Flood from Sweden is also here through his GVI internship.  He has studied natural science, animal husbandry, and ecology.  When he goes back to Europe he wants to continue to travel a little longer…..if his mother agrees to look after his cats.

Global Vision International (GVI) is multi-award wining social enterprise that runs high impact volunteer and international education programs. 

Where Are They Now?

 Marloes Froling - Netherlands


Marloes Froling – Netherlands

Marloes Froling -A former researcher who did an internship at Cloudbridge in 2012 recently graduated from University.

“After I left cloudbridge, now more than 4 years ago, I also have been on a fieldtrip to Surinam with our class of tropical forestry. Here we performed a forest management plan for a local community. I have finished my bachelors in 2014, by writing a final thesis at my internship at Centre ValBio in Madagascar about tree development of replanted areas. This was actually a place that Drew (another former Cloudbridge researcher) recommended to me during my stay in Costa Rica. After finishing my bachelors, I went to the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, where I entered the master’s program Environmental Sciences. At first I wanted to continue with forest and nature conservation at the university, but when I came across the Environmental Sciences program I figured out that this was also a big passion of mine and that together with tropical forestry it would make a great fit. During the last two years I followed many Environmental Sciences related courses in the major Environmental Systems Analysis. I figured out how important the connection of economy with ecology sometimes is and therefore I followed some economic courses as well. My final thesis at Wageningen contained an analysis study towards the global effects of changing diets on the N and P runoff to surface waters. It was quite interesting to analyse the N and P flows in our agricultural systems.

Since October I finished my final internship at a project based company called ‘nature doublers’ in Amsterdam that focusses on biodiversity, ecosystems, and natural capital. Here I worked on an action plan to measure and decrease the biodiversity impact of mining practices in the beverage can supply chain. I figured out my passion for analysing supply chains (cradle to cradle) and how to make them more sustainable. I might be able to help this company a little bit more on some projects in the future, but this is not certain due to their company size. For the rest, I am focussing of finding a job in my field of study, which is not so easy unfortunately. Due to my lack in technical or policy based background I am not qualified enough for most of the vacancies. But it has only been a couple of weeks yet, so I will not lose hope and keep looking. An ideal job for me would hopefully also include some fieldwork abroad because I still want to see a lot more of the world. For example, I now am trying to connect into the world of sustainable palm oil and other products, which is very interesting because here I can combine my knowledge of sustainability and tropical forestry. Well this was more or less what I have done the past couple of years and what I am hoping to do in the future.”

Graduation Day

Graduation Day

Congratulations Marloes on all of your hard work!


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November 2016

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Community Tree Planting:

We had our annual community tree planting day a little later than usual this year.  With all of the rain this season the trees should have sufficient moisture to establish in an area surrounded by secondary forest on the reserve. We planted about 70 trees along the Gavilan trail.  The tree planters included Cloudbridge employees and volunteers, tourists from Spain, and community members from San Gerardo.

Edgar preparing the site by cutting away invasive ferns and shrubs.

Edgar preparing the site by cutting away invasive ferns and shrubs.

 

20161105_111644  Planting crew

 

Research:

DK Nicol (with the bug), and Oli Aylen (with the camera). They are here studying the role of downed woody material (i.e. logs) as habitat for saproxylic invertebrates (i.e. invertebrates that depending on dead or dying wood). Both are Bachelor’s students from Otago University in New Zealand. Oli is currently undertaking a Bachelor degree with a major in Zoology and a minor in Ecology and is an accomplished photographer. DK has previously taught English in schools around the world, is an avid cyclist and outdoorsman, and is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Ecology degree.

 

 

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DK Nicol

Oli Alyen

Oli Aylen


Fredie From England is here on an internship studying Dung Beetles. Using a variety of traps throughout the reserve she is studying the diversity and relative abundance of beetles. The design of the trap pictured is called a flight intercept trap and aims at catching dung beetles as they fly over the bait rather than the beetles that just make a direct landing. The best bait so far has proved to be human poop which brings in the dung beetles in much greater numbers.  Rotten fruit and coati poop are also used as bait. Still to try are rotten fish and fungi which might attract some specialist species.

Fredie

Fredie

Dung Beetle Trap

Dung Beetle Trap

 

Amazing Nature – Colors, Patterns, Texture

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October 2016

Jaguar

After many years of camera trapping now all 6 of Costa Ricas cats have now been seen here. The Jaguar (Panthera onca) saving the the best till last!

Capturing the photo of the Jaguar at Cloudbrdge marks the return of Central America’s ultimate predator and a sign of the improved health of the Cloudbridge environment. It has been amazing to watch the wildlife return as Cloudbridge has transitioned from barren cattle pastures to an evolving secondary cloud forest. To see what two individuals, Ian & Jenny Giddy, have accomplished over just 14 years since they purchased Cloudbridge North is an example of what individuals can do to rebuild a landscape that has been decimated by human misguided actions. In todays world as we all begin to face our changing climate due to over-extraction of natural resources we need to ask ourselves how can we make a difference. There is so much that we all can do. We can write a letter to the editor of a local paper or educate our political leaders. We can even get radical and give up eating meat and transition to a plant based diet or we could join the protest at Standing Rock. Regardless of what we do, it has passed the time to do nothing, so each of us needs to step up to the greatest challenge facing mankind in our lifetime and take action.  Wildlife like this jaguar might then have a chance to be a viable species on this planet. 

    Tom Gode

 

Volunteers and Research:

Laura Antonaru is a masters student in Molecular Plant and Microbial Sciences from the Imperial College London. She is studying the understory, both the herbaceous and shrub layers. She is looking at those plants eaten by catapillars and trying to map an association between the two.

Laura

Laura

Geometridae caterpillar

Geometridae caterpillar

 

Kristin Bell is on a scientific illustration internship from the Science Illustration program at California State University. She has just finished an art degree in illustration and is making some beautiful images for printed material. Here is a shot of her with an rhinoceros beetle.

Kristen

Kristen

 

Danny Guy is an intern from Global Vision International, Jalova base in Tortuguero Natinoal Park where he worked on the jaguar project. He is with us for 3 weeks working with the camera traps. In this photo he is spraying Calvin Klein Obssession on the scent stick which seems to attract the cats close to the camera trap.

Danny

Danny

 

 

Beth Ramsey – Oregon, USA    Beth has come to Cloudbridge to volunteer and spend some time relaxing.  She says ” I am anxious to get some plant species knowledge and help out on that front as much as possible. I have been out clearing spots for reforestation and planting. Plus working in the garden and working on trail maps and web stuff. I am going to help out with cleaning up the rentals too.”

Beth is also assisting the researchers and gathering information for the blog.

The relaxation must be kicking in as she has already written a poem.  This is the first poem she has ever written, at least the first outside of a school assignment.

 

Beth

Beth

 

 

Giving Presence at Cloudbridge 

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Often the force is too great,

there is a no choice but to rush,

inadvertently making the calm

so much more indulgent.

 

River over slippery rock and moss,

free-falling into the next challenge,

busy, breaking logs, crashing stone,

until eddy lullabies a sweet circular trance.

 

Hummingbird practices dance,

white oak bends, stretched downward,

butterfly quickly sips nectar and retreats,

as the daily afternoon rain comes down.

 

A wild rodeo of nature,

owned by none, no need for influence,

simple opportunity for lathering the soul,

humbling the experience as larger than our own.

 

-Beth Ramsey

 

 

Fun at the Reserve:

Weekly potluck dinner at Cloudbridge

Weekly potluck dinner at Cloudbridge

 

Clockwise from Jenn in the blue shirt, we have Sam (England, Birds), Neza (Slovenia, horticulture), Oscar and Barney (England, Frogs), Sarah (Australia, Birds), Kristen (Oregon, Illustration for publications and maps), Britt (Netherlands, Fruit around Bird plots), Ignatio (Argentina, Volunteer), Laura (Romania – Plants), Beth (USA), Sam (England, Cats ), Philip and his wife (temporary visitors) – did a couple bat surveys. They caught 10 bats, one of which was new to cloudbridge.

 

Happy Birthday this month to Jenny Giddy, owner of Cloudbridge and longtime environmentalist.  She is an inspiration to all of us!

Jenny with her partner, Charles at Cloudbridge

Jenny with her partner, Charles at Cloudbridge

 

Jenny visiting the trout farm in San Gerardo.

Jenny visiting the trout farm in San Gerardo.

 

From the camera traps.

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Puma

 

Tamandua

Tamandua

 

Paca

Paca

 

Margay

Margay

 

Coati baby

Coati baby

 

Tayra

Tayra