Tropical Ecology 2014

2014 Tropical Field Ecology abroad in Costa Rica and Panama

Sixteen Oxy students and three professors traveled to Costa Rica and Panama for the field section of the Tropical Biology course. Here is a video of their adventures by Morgan Winston '14.

"three weeks in four minutes: my trip to central america this june with occidental college's BIO 370 course, as seen through clips from my go pro.

in costa rica we spent time conducting research and hiking through la selva biological station, volunteering at pacuare nature reserve with leatherback sea turtles, and learning about the indigenous culture of the bri bri tribe in talamanca. while in panama, we went caving on isla colón and snorkeled daily on the reefs of bocas del toro while designing and carrying out research projects."

June 11, 2014

Project Presentation Day: Time to lock it up!

After four consecutive days of data collection the time had come for every group to lock it up and put together both the PowerPoint presentations, as well as a research paper on our findings.  The topics varied from behavioral studies on the territoriality of two specific species of damselfish to the homebodied nature of the Yellow bodied jarfish. The other topics included the population dynamics of the long-spined urchin (Diadema) and an exploratory study on the reef composition in relation to the elkhorn coral (a study that will be extended by Zoe Goozner in her Undergraduate Research project at Oxy over the summer). We (maybe I speak for myself being a senior..with senioritis) had to fight our desire to relax on our last day in order to complete the various statistical analyses and...

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June 10, 2014

Final Data Collection and Beach Relaxation 

After being at ITEC for about a week, we have become acclimated to the “field biologist” lifestyle. The days leading up to today were filled with mastering the challenging feat of data collection while snorkeling. In addition, each group came up with topics and all that remained was to collect the necessary data. Speaking for my group (and perhaps the entire class) we were all recharged and ready for some intense collection after the  trip into town last night. And intense collection we did! Connor, Elise, Emma, and I were out all morning, getting some sweet “obs” on the Yellowhead Jawfish, a small burrowing goby found in the tropics. The other groups were either out collecting their data simultaneously or waiting to collect more data in the afternoon at a different site....

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June 9, 2014

Fishing and research in the morning, downtown Bocas Del Toro at night

Ryan and I woke up this morning at 5:30 about 15 minutes before sunrise. As we walked down from the ITEC station to the dock the howler monkeys and birds began to replace the nighttime drone of crickets. We took an old canoe out to fish the mangroves and sea grass beds just outside the station.

After returning with one fish and eating breakfast, my project group got to start our behavior study of yellowhead jawfish. We are looking to see if their feeding increases with their colony size. We hypothesize that the security of being in a larger group might allow the jawfish to feed more frequently. As we returned for lunch a storm rolled through so we decided to visit town versus trying to collect more data in the murky water.


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June 7, 2014

 “I found myself in the cave”

Today half the class began the day with a hike to a couple caves on Isla Colon near Drago Reef while the other half snorkeled and conducted a mini behavioral study. To get to the caves, the group that I was in took a boat to get nearer to the caves. After walking for a bit on an established trail we stepped off the path and walked through some vegetation to the cave entrance, stopping on the way to see a wall of limestone which is old coral that both the caves and the island itself are made of. 

Crawling in the guano and mud, we squeezed through a small opening for about 10...

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June 6, 2014

Who needs showers when you have snorkeling?!

Our third day at ITEC began with quite the treat of a breakfast: pancakes! The lovely staff here at ITEC even provided our dairy-free friends with soy milk! After filling our stomachs with probably too many pancakes than one should eat before a long morning of snorkeling (totally worth it), half of us headed out to the dock. Continuing our work from yesterday, we headed to a new site, Bocas del Drago, to record all of the species we saw in order to compile a comprehensive reference list for three main sites near ITEC to use for our final projects. This area is unique as it was the first site exposed to open ocean, which included the additional difficulty of waves jostling you while attempting to classify speedy fish, write down their characteristics on a plastic...

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June 5, 2014

Termight be in my food

After our first extremely hot night under double mosquito nets at ITEC, we woke to the loud downpour of rain. The walk down the cabin steps towards the dining hall was accompanied by a soundtrack of howler monkeys yelling in the distance and stirring Montezuma oropendolas in their teardrop-shaped hanging nests. Breakfast excited us all as we spotted, and quickly demolished, two platters of toast for the making of classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Full of food and excitement, we all eagerly looked out the window for a hint of clear sky; unfortunately this was not the case. Lightning and Claisse-startling thunder began to silence the group as the weather conditions became increasingly unsuitable for snorkeling. Tropical Reef Books, stacks of National Geographic magazines and Edward O...

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June 4, 2014

Bridges, border crossings, and boats: oh my!

Greetings from Panama! Today was yet another day of travelling, beginning at Ditsowu and ending at ITEC. Our kind hosts at Ditsowu packed us sack lunches (which turned out to be spirit lifting later in the day) and sent us on our way early. We arrived at the Costa Rican border merely an hour later and began the process of hoop jumping, stamping, and paying the fees required to leave Costa Rica. After getting all of our ducks in a row, we crossed a bridge, MacGyvered out of an old train track covered by boards of wood (which is, apparently, significantly less sketchy now than when Claisse traversed it in the 90s,...

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June 3, 2014

Lessons from the Bribri

This morning we awoke under our multicolored mosquito nets to the sound of chopping wood and the smell of the cooking fire in the kitchen. Breakfast time at Ditsowu. After our morning dose of rice and beans and eggs, we load onto the bus for a day of cultural immersion amongst the Bribri people. Oh how we take ease of transportation for granted in Los Angeles.  After half an hour in our nicely air-conditioned bus we reach a river; named for the manatees that once lived here, it has a fast current and many long boats heaped with green bananas passing by. Life jackets on, we pile onto a narrow boat and are ferried across to the other side, where another bus picks us up and takes us on the rockiest, bumpiest ride of our trip so far. We stop on an incline, and our...

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June 2, 2014

BriBri and the Chocolate Factory

Our time at Pacuare came to an end with a nice farewell breakfast consisting of eggs, plantains, rice and beans. We left the reserve at 8 am aboard the same two water taxis’ (small water boats). We traveled from a water front home with the cool ocean breeze to a traditional indigenous style home in the lowland mountains. We traveled south along the coast then eastward into the Talamanca province to reach the BriBri indigenous reserve. Our first stop within the reserve was at La Finca Integral, a small farm dedicated to cultivating diverse crops using traditional BriBri customs. Everything from the buildings to the animal feed is gathered from natural resources within the mountains. Nothing goes to waste on the farm.


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June 1, 2014

 A relaxing and exciting day living at the beach. 

Open your eyes, calm.

Hammocks swing under the palms.

Turtles, sand, no qualms.

Today marked our first full day at the Pacuare Nature Reserve. After yesterday’s late night turtle patrol many of us were extremely tired waking up in the morning, but stepping out of our wooden bunks we were greeted with a refreshing ocean breeze and the breathtaking sight of palm trees, sand and a wide expanse of the Atlantic ocean. It more than made up for our late night excursion. After heading over to breakfast and having pancakes (a welcome relief and quick reminder of breakfast foods from the states), we put on our rubber boots and started out on a hike of the nearby trails. As we were grouping up outside of the cabins in...

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