Arriving to the Osa Peninsula is always a pleasure for scientists or holiday makers alike with 2.5% of the species and the largest patch of Lowland Rain Forest on the Central American Pacific, the Osa is one of those places that take your breath away. My name is Beatriz Lopez Gutierrez and I have been working in this area for the past few years: turtle conservation, camera trap, river quality, environmental education, citizen science, I have coordinated them all! But this year is special! I recently started my PhD at SFRC, University of Florida, and this is my first summer carrying out field work towards my (UFL) research. The research “A social and environmental framework for monitoring biodiversity and connectivity applied to the Osa and Golfito region of Costa Rica” will develop a network of long-term monitoring sites in collaboration with local institutions and organisations to explore the connections between forest structure and biodiversity within various ecosystems and areas of significant conservation value. The goal is to understand temporal fluctuations in animal diversity and abundance, as well as linking forest structure and land use change with species composition, connectivity and other services such water quality and carbon sequestration. Another component of this project is the integration of local and international citizen scientists, visitors and community groups, working with the host organizations, to different parts of project: from data collection and managing to sharing collected data with other scientist via online databases such as eBird. This summer, I am working with Lapa Rios Ecolodge and Osa Conservation, two local organisations managing one of the largest wildlife refuges in the country, Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Osa (RNSVO) with nearly 5,000 acres of primary and secondary forest habitats with significant biological and conservation importance. I am using and expanding their ongoing camera trap programs and adding ultrasonic and sonic recording equipment to evaluate bio-indicator species such as birds, anurans, and bats. Providing initial biodiversity baseline data and monitoring sites as well as exploring and determining the species present and required for further PhD analysis, as well as exploring and comparing groups and taxa and forest structure in different ecosystems.
During these first weeks, I have been testing the equipment, carrying different pilot studies around both properties, meeting potential collaborators and private land owners, preparing citizen science activities and permits, coordinating a fundraising event, etc. and carrying out some surveys. Surveying has been a challenge specially this year with the Niña climatologic effect which in the Pacific side of Costa Rica translates into intense rain fall. Other challenges include equipment malfunction or a spider making a cob web in unexpected places like the camera lens. It is all part of the fun though, especially when you are surrounded with so much beauty or you collect the first pictures of a Jaguar in almost three years!! Keep tune for more updates from the Costa Rican Jungle!