3pm – 07-18-17: Milking Cows and Planting Seedlings at Rancho Margot

Students had the opportunity to milk cows and plant seedlings today at Rancho Margot, a fully sustainable working farm.  The majority of the food prepared here comes from the farm, including the beef, poultry, pork, all the dairy (milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, butter), vegetables and fruits. Students have enjoyed learning today about the way an organic, sustainable farm functions, and participating in the process.  Apologies for some blurry pics, which is due to humidity getting into the camera.  Humidity is one thing you cannot avoid in a tropical rain forest ecosystem!



11:30 a.m. – 07-18-17 – Day 7: Rancho Margot

Yesterday we left Tirimbina to head to Rancho Margot, which is where we are now.  Rancho Margot, is a fully sustainable, working farm, that all the students would agree feels like heaven!  Coming from a hotter climate zone, this temperate climate zone is a refreshing change from the sticky, lowland rainforest feel.  We are still located in the tropical rain forest climate zone, but we are fairly close to Monteverde, which is a cloud forest climate zone.  This perfect location between two zones creates a moderate temperature, with frequent rain showers, but absolutely delightful.  The cool breezes and sounds of the birds are calming and restorative.  Students have already had a chance to relax, and immerse themselves in their research topics and enjoy some group time today.  The group is also getting a tour of the farm, will get a chance to milk cows and work on the farm later today, and get some time to work on projects, do yoga, or soak in the warm compost-heated pool.  Pictures will follow later!

On the way here yesterday we made a couple of awesome stops. Our first stop was the Iguana Bridge, where we saw a large assortment of iguanas basking in the trees, and we also enjoyed some delicious ice cream!  Our next, and totally amazing stop was at the Venado Caves. These originated 17 million years ago, pushed up from the sea by tectonic plate movement, at a location where the Caribbean plate pushes up or subducts the Cocos plate.  The caves were spectacular!!!  Huge limestone stalactite and stalagmite formations, beautifully sculpted by water erosion, surrounded us.  Four species of bats make their homes in these caves, and students looked thru Mark’s telescope at nectar and vampire bats.  The group climbed through a narrow passage called ‘el nacimiento’, or the birth canal, got to wriggle under ledges, up a rock staircase, and under a spectacular waterfall to see the ‘Papaya’ – a formation shaped by stalactites and stalagmites joined together from ceiling to floor.  It was an experience that students will always remember.   We purchased a CD of pictures that were taken by a professional photographer inside the caves.  We will post those later after we get access to an external CD player to upload the pics from the CD.  Additional pictures include views of Arenal volcano from the bus, Ginger the dog at Rancho Margot, students enjoying the delicious food at Rancho Margot, and students working in their project groups.  Pura Vida!


7-15 to 7-17 Tirimbina in the Tropical Lowlands

These past two days we have been at the Tirimbina Field Station, which is part of the Tirimbina Ecological Reserve (http://www.tirimbina.org/).  Daisy and Pablo were there to welcome us with lunch, after a canal boat ride out of Tortuguero and the bus ride to Tirimbina.  The reserve is used for ecological research and tourism, all with the aim of promoting an awareness of the beauty and vital importance of the forest in this northern tropical region of Costa Rica.  We began our first day with an unbelievable bird walk, where a myriad of species were seen.  The afternoon was also breathtaking, with a walk across the largest suspension bridge in Central America (800 feet long), that spans the Sarapiqui River, where we saw toucans and a Howler monkey.  Continuing on, we had a presentation on the history of chocolate. A separate post of those pics will follow.  We finished the day off with a night walk, where we saw multiple species of frogs, a snake, cool insects and arachnids, and a two-toed sloth. Special thanks to Daisy and Pablo for hosting us, and to Mark and Raul who enabled students to see some really cool animals up close and personal!

Yesterday we left Tirimbina to head to Rancho Margot, which is where we are today on Day 7 of our trip. See pics below from our time in Tirimbina, the iguanas at the Iguana Bridge, and a couple of pics before we headed into the Venado Caves.  A full set of Venado Caves pics will be posted once we get access to an external CD player and can upload the pics from the CD we purchased.  Pura Vida!


Day 3 – Part 2 – 07-14-17: Walk in the National Park of Tortuguero and Canal Boat Tour

After our morning birding walk this morning, we then boarded a boat and went across the river to the National Park in Tortuguero, home to an extinct volcano and an innumerable amount of species of everything living you could imagine, in all the groups of animals (reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds, insects, bats…).  The pictures we were able to capture on the boat ride and in the park were spectacular. They include some of the following:


  • Allen’s coral snake
  • Eyelash pit viper


  • Orapendula
  • Black vultures
  • Anhinga
  • Mangrove swallows
  • Falcon
  • Frigate bird
  • Anasari (toucan relative)
  • Brown-caped vireo
  • Black corcair
  • Green macaws


  • Green iguana
  • Black river turtle


  • Poison dart frogs


  • Howler monkeys
  • Spider monkeys
  • White-faced capuchin monkeys
  • Great white-lined bat
  • Long-nosed bat

Insects & Arachnids throughout the day – an assortment of butterflies, katydids, grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, etc.; also several really cool arachnids on the trip through the National Park of Tortuguero.

This was the most incredible day.  Students saw more animals than most groups would see in a day. Many thanks to our guide, Mark Wainwright, and Justin, our boat driver from Tortuguero, who made this experience an incredible one for all course participants.

Day 3 – 07-14-17: Caribbean Lowland Birding Walk in Tortuguero



Today was an amazing day in Tortuguero!  We started the day with a nature walk, and didn’t get very far from the Hotel Icaco http://www.hotelelicaco.com/when we came upon a myriad of bird species, butterfly species, and the industrious leaf cutter ants we have all come to admire.

One of the points shared today by our MVI guide, Mark Wainwright, was that everything around us is shaped by evolution. Nothing in nature is random.  Every organism has a purpose and a function in the ecosystem it inhabits.  Each also has adaptations that have evolved to make it successful in its niche. Many of these adaptations include symbiotic relationships with other organisms, which we saw multiple examples of on our walk, such as the  mutualistic relationship between ants and the fungus they feed the leaves to.

We hope you enjoy the pictures from today’s walk, including some of the bird species such as the Social flycatcher Myiozetetes similis, Rufous-tailed hummingbird Amazilia tzacatl, Green-breasted mango Anthracothorax prevostii, and the Tropical kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus.




Day 2: 07-13-17 – Ride to Tortuguero, Stop to Sample Fruit

After leaving the Hotel La Rosa de America, today’s trip (Day 2 after students arrived) was spent making the long bus ride to Tortuguero, but with a stop to sample fruit along the way, and learn about the amazing fruits that Costa Rica has to offer.  After the fruit sampling, we finished our journey, and took the fun boat ride to the village of Tortuguero.  Once students had lunch, and got settled in their rooms, we made a visit to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, for a 2 hour lecture on marine turtles, and conservation efforts going on in Tortuguero.  It was an amazing talk, with students learning about the dangers marine turtles face, the marine turtle tagging and tracking being done by the STC, and ways everyone can protect marine turtles to prevent them from becoming endangered.  It was an informative time spent together, and students will be going tomorrow night to hopefully see a marine Green turtle nesting.  See the next post for updates on that!

07-12-17: Day 1 in Tropical Ecology and Culture Course in Costa Rica

Apologies for this late post of our first day in Costa Rica.  Uploading pictures has been a challenge, due to the bandwidth required to do so.  Finally, we have good internet (for now) here in Tortuguero, so we will try and get a couple of posts done tonight!

The trip is going amazing so far.  Wait until you see the pictures from today’s walk up the side of an extinct volcano, and our boat ride thru the Tortuguero canals.  Spectacular!

—————————— Day 1 Post ————————————————

All students arrived today via their flights from all over the country (including Hawaii!). Students spent time unpacking, getting settled into the Hotel La Rosa de America, and taking pictures of the beautiful flowers, birds, and even a Cane toad Rhinella marina. Lunch was at a nearby restaurant (see pics attached) and the afternoon was spent getting acquainted, getting some very important safety tips, and learning about the History of Costa Rica, from our esteemed MVI guide, Mark Wainwright.  Dr. Auger then outlined some of the course items on the trip, including the importance of keeping a field notebook as part of the course grade, and an outline of the potential project format.   Students were provided the Trip Itinerary and the Course Syllabus, and more details will be provided as the course gets underway tomorrow.

Tomorrow we head to Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast for two days, where students will be immersed in a tropical coastal environment, tour the Tortuguero canals by boat, explore the village of Tortuguero, and learn about the various species of nesting marine turtles from the staff at the Sea Turtle Conservancy.  We hope to be able to witness the nesting process, which is purely a timing situation, so hopefully our group’s timing will be good!  It is an amazing process to witness.

Please enjoy today’s pictures below from the various animals and plants we photographed today at the Hotel, including the Cane toad mentioned above, an arachnid, butterflies, a cool lizard that we think may have been a Ctenasaur , various other plants, and our favorite, a Rufous-naped wren Campylorhynchus rufinucha  near his/her nest. We even took 2 pics with our FLIR thermal imaging camera … a butterfly and the Cane toad!  Continue to stay tuned in, as we journey through the beautiful country of Costa Rica!



Day 2 – 07.13.17: Delayed Blog Postings

We just wanted to get a blog post out to let course participants and their families and friends know that internet service is VERY slow and unpredictable at many of the places we go in Costa Rica, including the current hotel. This is already causing delays in getting pictures uploaded and the blog posts completed. Please continue to Follow us and check in periodically to see what new pictures have been successfully posted.  Posts may be out of order, but all posts will be dated in the Heading.

The trip is already off to a great start, with an immersion on Day 1 into the History of Costa Rica by our amazing guide, Mark Wainwright, as well as a course overview by Dr. Auger.  The food has been terrific, the birding and other wildlife sightings spectacular, and course participants are already making many new discoveries!  Stay tuned for more posts!

Pura Vida!