The Zoo partners with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly to offer international Earth Expeditions graduate courses. I’ve been fortunate to be an instructor of several courses over the years in Belize, Namibia, and Kenya. These courses provide firsthand experiences for formal and informal educators with inquiry-driven, community-based learning and conservation.
This year I’m co-leading the course to Costa Rica. Focused on Neotropical ecology, we’ll be exploring and investigating the biodiversity of lowland rainforest and cloud forest. It will be my first true rainforest experience and trip to Costa Rica and I couldn’t be any more excited.
On Saturday, my co-instructor Glen, a Zoo Academy teacher (the Zoo’s full-time high school), and I will meet up with our 19 participants at the San Jose airport and head first to the La Selva Biological Station. This is one of the premier sites worldwide for rainforest research. Glen is an expert in these parts, having led this particular course for many years. He tells me that the rainforest is literally dripping with life and I can’t wait to spot sloths hanging from the trees with my own eyes. I also expect to be dripping with sweat and rain, alternately, myself. Quick-dry clothing and lots of Ziploc baggies are a necessity. Here we will have guided hikes through the rainforest canopy as well as conduct our own ecological investigations.
Next we’ll move on to the Arenal Volcano National Park to check out one of the world’s most active volcanos and learn about its influence on forest ecology. Arenal has been erupting continuously since 1968. I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous, yet very excited, about witnessing such a spectacle in person.
Our last site will be the Monteverde Cloud Forest, also a leading tropical research community. Monteverde is famous as the home of the rare resplendent quetzal and critically endangered (if not extinct) golden toad. Up there among the clouds, they talk of horizontal precipitation rather than just the old, boring vertical rainstorms I’m used to back home. We will compare how the climate and geology influence the ecology of the forest here with that of the lowland rainforest and discuss the impacts of climate change.
I leave on Thursday and still have some packing to do. I wonder just how bad the mosquitoes will be, enough to warrant bringing along one of those silly head nets? I hope not! Stay tuned for updates on the trip.