My name is Vickie Grotbeck and I am a junior at KU, studying Organismal Biology. I hope to learn all about the aspects of field research while in Costa Rica. This will be my first time leaving the US, so I am looking forward to not only gaining scientific knowledge, but some cultural knowledge as well. I can apply what I learn from this trip to future life experiences, since when I graduate I want to do tropical field research. - Vickie
Hello! My name is Kaitlin Neill. I am participating in the 2015 Field Biology Study Abroad to Costa Rica! I am a junior at KU majoring in Organismal Biology, minoring in astrobiology and chemistry and am in the UKanTeach program. My plan after college is to teach middle school or high school biology and chemistry.
This is the first time that I will be leaving the country. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. though it is comforting to know that I already know two of the other people going because we went to the same high school. I booked the flights all by myself and felt very much like a grown up. Everyone assures me that I will love Costa Rica, which makes it scary that it won’t live up to expectations, thus I have refrained from looking up any beautiful pictures on the internet. I expect my first post after arrival will mostly consist of “Oh my goodness, this place is awesome!” then a list of cool stuff we see. Keep a lookout for it :)
My name is Alex Barbour, and I would like to take the time to tell you a little bit about myself, my interests, and my family. Upon first meeting me, you will find that I am quite shy and quiet. As I get to know people and open up, you will find that I am laid-back person who likes to joke around. In my spare time I love to listen to a wide range of music, follow soccer (Chelsea and Sporting KC), and hang out with my friends. I listen to almost every type of music out there ranging from EDM to classical. I just enjoy good music, and I try not to write songs off just because they fall into a certain genre. As for soccer, the BPL has just finished its season, so I have shifted my focus to our hometown team and the women’s national team. The day that we leave for Costa Rica the women’s world cup will begin, so if the games are broadcast in Costa Rica you will probably find me watching them.
My future interests lie with healthcare. I am currently working in the laboratory of Drs. Mary and Elias Michaelis on West Campus. The goal of the group is create a therapeutic for Alzheimer ’s disease. Thus far the group has developed a seemingly non-toxic drug that appears to decrease neuropathology. I am very excited to have joined this group, and I look forward to helping them progress towards creating an effective drug for the debilitating disease. After KU I will either join a lab to pursue a PhD or head to medical school. My family consists my father, mother, and one little brother. My father is an investor, my mother is an accountant at Sprint, and my little brother is pursuing music producing. All of this information should aid you in getting to know me at least briefly. -Alex
My name is Kayla Yi and I will be a junior this fall as the University of Kansas. I am studying biology but I am also very interested in visual art. Much of my inspiration comes from nature and I like to explore the use of non-traditional materials. I wrote several grants for my research proposal that will combine art + science to make the subject of science more accessible to a wider audience. During my study abroad experience, I plan to document Zingiberales and the microenvironments they create for other organisms in order to create a large-scale model that can be used for education.
For months I have looked forward to my expedition to the Costa Rican rainforest. In just 10 days I will depart from Kansas City and arrive in the city of San Jose. I have never had the opportunity to leave the United States before, so my Costa Rica adventure will be unlike anything I have experienced thus far in my life. Being a biology major interested in research, I am insanely excited to study the rainforest and all of the organisms the ecosystem has to offer. This research trip will expand not only my scientific skills, but also my understanding of the world outside of America. As I continue to prepare for the trip, I have developed a few goals that I would like to accomplish while in Costa Rica. First, I would like to improve my ecology and field biology skills. Secondly, I seek to improve my understanding of foreign cultures because I have never had the opportunity to leave the United States. Finally, I am interested in improving my photography skills, and my note taking skills so that the trip can be documented and saved for the rest of my life. Words can’t explain how excited I am to be given this opportunity, and I will continue to count down the days until we depart for Costa Rica!
My name is Tim Mayes, and I am about to be a senior at KU majoring in Organismal Biology. I am extremely excited for this trip to Costa Rica. I am leaving early to travel with my dad and cannot wait to immerse myself in this new culture and view a new way of life. Once the program begins I am looking forward to exploring the rainforest and researching the insect life. This will be my first time conducting research so I am interested to see what the process involves. I plan to document as much as possible through a multitude of mediums in order to both remember the trip and aid in the research to be conducted. -Tim
My name is John Kaiser and I will be a junior at KU studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. I have a deep interest in studying organisms on both the ecological and molecular levels. During the Field Biology Program to Costa Rica, I hope to expand my scientific knowledge and research skills by engaging in ecological exploration to better understand the interactions between organisms in the lush ecosystems of Costa Rica. Additionally, I plan on learning more about the Spanish dialect native to Costa Rica in order to better understand the diversification of the Spanish language and culture throughout Central America. -John
Ever since Steve Goddard, KU’s Spencer Art Museum, introduced me to Sunprints during our 2011 field class at the CICRA Biological Station, I have incorporated this art/science activity with subsequent classes. Sun-printing, developed by 19th century artists, uses the sun’s UV rays to make prints of objects on photographic paper. [UC Berkeley sells convenient kits].
After a morning of tough high-elevation hiking and a rich lunch of quinoa soup, we needed a quieter diversion. My kit had 15 sheets, enough for my KU students as well as others conducting research here. Each person collected some leaves and flowers and spent a few minutes designing their layout. Then we got to “printing”, essentially exposing the plate to sun for ~4-6 mins.
The end-product is beautiful and frame-able. Indeed, some appeared in our 2012 Spencer exhibition, http://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibitions/39-trails.shtml. This fun art/science exercise opens various discussions, e.g., about sunlight traveling down through forest layers* and leaf morphology**. No winner of our competition was selected since we could not agree on a single most beautiful plate from so many.
– Caroline Chaboo
* John A. Endler. 1993. The Color of Light in Forests and Its Implications. Ecological Monographs Vol. 63, No. 1, pp. 1-27.
** AP Coble, MA Cavleri. 2014. Light drives vertical gradients of leaf morphology in a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) forest. Tree Physiology 02/2014; DOI:10.1093/treephys/tpt126
During our eight-day stay at the Villa Carmen Biological station, four days were a wash-out. The unusual weather, with rain there and drought here at Wayqecha, is being explained by the locals as probably due to this being an El Niño year. What is a researcher to do with time to sit around? We finally can flesh out our data (digital or notebooks), have time to explore the station’s library, or chat with other visiting researchers. Inevitably, one gets a little desperate for rain to stop falling in the rainforest. The students are glum and I am anxious.
Set-backs crop up: an important piece of equipment borrowed by another researcher is missing; humidity affects one computer; other trap batteries are not charging well on solar panels, so one student must switch project plans; a student gets a minor cut but requires stitches at the local clinic (US$3/3 stitches); and inevitably, two students get the stomach bug. Today was the last collecting day; we took down traps and I sorted the equipment to return to KS and those that will stay for next year’s fieldwork. More bad news – my export permit won’t be ready until Tuesday, after I fly out on Monday night.
Fieldwork isn’t always smooth and I have no choice but to keep calm and carry on. -Caroline Chaboo
Of course, the last day at Villa Carmen is the day the sun shines. It is supposed to be the beginning of the dry season, yet we have had rain everyday. Only two days were dry enough in the afternoons for me to enjoy a sampling period. I had one full day of sampling without rain at the beginning of our stay here, and then there’s today.
Today is packing day, but I was able to sample for a few hours this morning. I am surveying the diversity of orchid bees, Euglossini. Some species are a beautiful metallic color; others are fuzzier and yellow and black striped. This is KU’s 4th season to survey these bees in this corner of the Amazon basin*. The males collect pheromones from volatile compounds, such as eucalyptus. It’s unknown if they do this for mating behavior or another purpose. I apply various scents to cardboard squares, as baits to attract the bees. Once they are distracted by the scent and hanging out at the bait, I net them, document the bee and scent in my field notebook, and retain the tagged specimen for lab study. It is surprising how sophisticated is their eyesight. I swear they see me and hover at the bait, sometimes, staring directly at me. Today, they loved the purple verbena in the garden.
Euglossini, Orchid Bees, are known to pollinate orchids and many other plants. Around here they are also pollinators of the Brazil nut tree, an important indigenous tree. We commonly eat Brazil nuts in party nut mixes. Since there aren’t any orchid bees at Wayqecha, one begs the question, “What pollinates the amazing number of high-Andean orchids?”
In the field, you never know what environmental conditions you’re going to get. It’s one of the things I love about it and one of the things that people, who prefer to work in a lab, hate about it. -Carey Bowen
*See Niemack, R. S., D. J. Bennett, I. Hinojosa-Diaz, and C. S. Chaboo. 2012. A contribution to the knowledge of the orchid bees of the Los Amigos Biological Station, Madre de Dios, Peru (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Euglossini). Check List. 8(2):215-217.