Sunday, July 19, 2015
Jake Kaufmann

monteverde forestI am constantly astounded by the amount and diversity of nature in Costa Rica. As I vigorously attempt to record the bright colors and structure of plants, animals and insects in my sketchpad, the group scurries along to the next feature of the cloud forest and I am left to wonder at the thriving ecosystem that surrounds me. Attempting to recreate the beautiful scenery is proving more challenging than I thought due to its impressive variety.

“[He] will go mad if the wonders do not cease,” said Alexander Von Humboldt of his fellow traveller on their journey to South America in the 19th century. I can see why upon entering forests such as Zurqui and Monteverde. The abundance of vegetation is an overwhelming indicator of life. Upon closer inspection, the inner workings of a tropical climate emerge from leaf rolls, bromeliads and other popular insect hang- outs. I have chosen to capture my experience of Costa Rica primarily through photography, rather than sketches, due to its timely and accurate sensibilities. There is simply too much to render with just pencil sketches.

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the investigative qualities of sketching the nature around me. So much is lost behind the lense of the camera if one doesn’t stop to have an intimate understanding of the plants and insects. Dr. Chaboo encourages us to fondle the plants, which may sound peculiar, yet this practice allows us to understand the texture, taste and smell of various plants that we would otherwise not fully comprehend.

Before arriving in Costa Rica, I only had a vague understanding of what a cloud forest could be like. I did not appreciate how unique tropical areas such as Costa Rica are until I squished the damp earth below my boots, cracked open the stem of a zingiberale or collected beetle specimens. We are studying one of the most diverse areas on the planet, considered by some as the apex of creation. I may be mad with wonder, but it only motivates me to keep searching. -Jake Kaufmann

Thursday, July 16, 2015
Rich Glor

Still looking for a place to stay for the SSAR 2015 meetings in Lawrence? We still have space in the dormitories at prices ranging from $40-60 per person per night. All dormitory rooms must be reserved at least one week prior to the start of the meeting and will not be available for walk-ups. Because we have already sent out notices for room-mate preferences, we also may not be able to accommodate matches with preferred room-mates for late sign-ups. If you did not sign up for dormitory lodging at the time of registration you can still add a reservation to your registration by contacting the registration professionals available at (785) 864-5823 or toll free (877) 404-5823. Some photographs of the dormitory might give you a better idea of what life there will be like.

Dormitory lounge

The lounge on the first level of the GSP dormitory.

Entraceway to the dormitory rooms at GSP.

Double room in the GSP dormitory. Bedding will be provided to all attendees to sign up for a dormitory bed.

Shared bathroom in the GSP dormitory. Private baths are not available for guests in the dormitories.

Shared bathrooms in the GSP dormitory have private shower stalls.

Breakfast is included in the price of dormitory rooms and will be served in the "North College Cafe" dining area on the ground level of the GSP dormitory.

View from the porch of the GSP dormitory. The tall building in the background is the Oread Hotel, which will host numerous meeting events. The Kansas Union is just beyond the Oread. All meeting venues are a short walk from the dormitory.

View from the porch of the dormitory looking back toward downtown Lawrence. The large buildings in the middle of this frame are in downtown Lawrence.

 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Rich Glor

The Agenda for SSAR 2015 is now available in PDF format. The agenda includes information on scheduling for all of the conference's major events. Detailed schedule for oral talks will be posted shortly.

Monday, July 13, 2015
Caroline Chaboo

Anyone wanting to participate in a field expedition must have a spirit for adventure, adaptability, and curiosity. Any travel takes one out of the familiar comfort zone; but if a participant is not happy, it negatively affects the entire group.  My task in selecting participants is tough, trying to determine the above qualities and the fit with the group (both for travel and in teams collecting data).  The biggest test comes usually with the first day of hiking —are you physically fit to hike for several hours?  Or, with the first rainfall—will you complain when we get caught in the rain?  Some students daydream of doing international fieldwork, but only when we try it out can we be sure that long hours with wet clothes and a soggy lunch are trivial compared to the exhilaration of being in the field, doing field research.  Fieldwork is not for every biologist; it is okay.....and okay to learn this sooner than later.

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Fieldwork goes on, rain or shine!
Daneil taking a break for lunch, during a shower
KU students in thermal spring pool, Costa Rica

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Monday, July 13, 2015
Caroline Chaboo

Well-marked trails at Monteverde
Cloud and mist define "cloud" forest
The 2015 KU class at Monteverde

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Friday, June 26, 2015
John Kaiser

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

As an Army brat, the concept of home is an idea that differs drastically from the views held by many of my classmates. Since the day I was born, my family has moved around to countless different locations, stayed a few months to possibly a few years, then packed up everything and left. As such, a single location that I can call home is completely foreign to me.

Take, for example, this new place that I am living at now. It’s an army base in Wiesbaden, Germany, a place that I have never seen before in my life. My dog is here, all the stuff that I decided not to bring to college is here, and even my family whom I have not seen in over ten months is here. I’ve lived here for less time than I’ve lived in Costa Rica, yet I already consider this place to be my home. When I told this to several of my classmates, they found this to be absolutely implausible. How could a home be a place I’d never seen before? To me, I’ve always found a home to be a place that makes me comfortable, a place that I can come home to after a hard day and just relax.

This brings me to my trip in Costa Rica. 

Every single day I would undergo some new thrill, some new adventure that very few people get the opportunity to enjoy, from playing with local dogs that randomly decided to include us in their pack, to spotting a sloth on a walk down to the beach, all the way to discovering how some of the best coffee in the Western Hemisphere is prepared. Although I was given the opportunity to do this, a new discovery or adventure is nothing without people to uncover it with.

My classmates were without a doubt an important part of this voyage, from their roles in uncovering exciting new sights out in the wild to being roommates for two straight weeks. Although many wanted to get out of Costa Rica by the end of the two weeks, I was ready to stick it through for quite a while more. Costa Rica had become a place of new friends, vast stores of knowledge and countless adventures. Which brings me back to the ultimate point of this blog post; Costa Rica had become, without a doubt, my home for the past two weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2015
Vickie Grotbeck

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

My experiences in Costa Rica were unforgettable. I have learned much about myself, the world, and about field biology. The past two weeks have been not only incredibly informative, but lots of fun as well.

Field biology is vigorous; it really makes you realize your limits. Getting muddy and hiking on rather steep trails is difficult. Going off trail to collect specimens that are behind several other plants is hard. Despite all this, it is also rewarding, getting some rare insect in your collection jar or seeing something incredibly rare on a leaf; it is all something that you will never forget. I will never forget seeing a beetle larvae eating a snail, nor the first time I aspirated my first bugs.

My cultural experiences abroad were also enlightening. It was amazing to see how other countries are, from their societal conventions to how they view Americans. I met one person from Costa Rica, he shared much insight into how young adults behave, along with views on culture, both his own and how he views Americans. I have a whole new respect for how tolerant people are, and was pleasantly surprised at how Americans were treated.

Now that I am back in the United Sates I have noticed a few changes in my behavior. I have noticed myself being more active; I take my dog on more regular walks, especially in the morning. I find that I have been craving the food we had while in Costa Rica, ranging from the delicious rice and chicken to the fried platanos. I plan to learn how to make some of the things we ate, and I also plan on keeping up my personal fitness. I hope to participate in another study abroad experience, this experience has opened my eyes to many new experiences, and now I want more.

Friday, June 26, 2015
Kyle Clark

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

Reflecting back on my study abroad trip to Costa Rica, I can see all the beneficial knowledge and characteristics that I gained from the experience. My cultural view was broadened when we visited our first destination, San Jose. The city was large and densely packed, which gave me a chance to see how the Costa Rica population functions. The street were busy and frankly quite chaotic, compared to those here in Kansas.

Every night while in San Jose we went out for dinner, most of which were Costa Rican cuisine. The food in Costa Rica was far better than what I had expected. The meal sizes were not only larger than what I am use to back in America, but also presented delicious and healthy food. I noticed that the food in Costa Rica  lacked preservatives and processing that most American foods contain, which I found to be much more enjoyable.

I was surprised by the hospitality of the people in the big city of San Jose. Unlike many large American cities, the people were incredibly friendly and genuine despite the language  barrier. It was obvious that the people in Costa Rica value the revenue that tourism brings to the country. Tourism was especially apparent when we reached areas such as Manuel Antonio and Monteverde. In many instances there were more Americans in these two areas than native Costa Ricans. The towns where tourism was heavy flourished due to the high amount of money flowing from the travelers.

The cloud forest in Monteverde probably left me with the best memories because I was able to see the true beauty of the rain Forest. There was life everywhere you looked, and was just as I had imagined it prior to the trip. The cloud forest was a perfect location for our research because there was a large population of Zingiberales in the area. My favorite part of the trip was doing the research itself, and getting my hands dirty looking for bugs. It was amazing to experience biological field work for the first time and I am now interested in participating in an ecology field of some sort. My trip to Costa Rica is one that I will remember for the rest of my life, I had a truly fantastic time!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Emma Overstreet

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

beach

After our time spent marveling over the natural wonders of Costa Rica, I remained for another week to explore its cultural side a little more. My time travelling alone in Costa Rica led me to a much greater appreciation of its residents.

Everyone seemed eager to help in any way they could, from small favors and gifts to even just taking the time to try and talk to you, something that has become a rarity. Even though I could barely speak the language, warm conversations with taxi drivers, with waiters and waitresses, and even strangers on the bus were to be expected, and I realized this is sadly lacking from my life in America.

When I left my camera on a public bus, a woman hurriedly followed me off to return it to me, a kindness I would never expect. On more than one occasion, perfect strangers intervened on my behalf. Perhaps there were other dynamics at work that I was unaware of, but having traveled abroad before, my experiences have never been so overwhelmingly positive.

In addition to being more friendly, people seemed more outwardly happy. I think this may have something to do with the beautiful, lush landscape of the country. Who could be unhappy in such a picturesque setting?
This outgoing, cheerful and friendly attitude is possibly the most memorable thing I’ve experienced here, and it’s certainly something worth holding onto as I return to my daily life in the States.  
 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Kayla Yi

Note: this post is one of dozens written by students participating in a 2015 field course in Costa Rica. The entire series is here

During our final week in Costa Rica, our group traveled from San Jose to Monteverde to complete research at the field station. Dr. Chaboo had described Monteverde as a small town established by Quakers and a place very conscientious about the environment around them. What we had found was a town teeming with business and tourists. In a little over twenty years, Monteverde had been transformed from a small community to a bustling tourist destination.

This sudden influx of tourists has helped raise awareness about the decline in rainforests in places such as Monteverde. One of the most well known examples of the rainforests’ dire state is the extinction of the golden toad, Incilius periglenes. Once endemic to Monteverde, the species vanished by the 1990s. Tourists who visit the Monteverde Could Forest Biological Reserve come for the amazing sites and to learn about conservation. Now more that ever there is a drive to educate people and to protect the remaining rainforests.

But perhaps in a twist of irony, this sudden influx of tourists has also brought about new challenges for the environment. A larger population means more waste being produced, and more space required to dispose of it. As hotels, gift shops and restaurants appeared, land that once served as a self-sustaining ecosystem was developed into building space. In the height of tourism season, buses can line up from the reserve all the way into town. It is amazing to wake up each morning to see busloads of families, students and nature enthusiasts in the reserve.

Ecotourism is a double-edged sword. While it is a wonderful thing to see so many people eager to explore the cloud forest, such large numbers can also be a problem. But Monteverde has done an incredible job of finding a fine balance between the two. I have been amazed how the country of Costa Rica has been so environmentally conscious everywhere we go. The people here hold great pride in the biodiversity here and are eager to share it with the rest of the world.