Let the adventures begin!

Greetings! And welcome to the class blog for the Methods in Field Ecology: Costa Rica course. As the instructor, I have the privilege of adventuring to the tropical rainforest with 13 Bard students who have spent the last six weeks learning to “measure nature” in various habitats across Bard’s campus. Soon, we depart for the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, in Costa Rica, where students will be immersed in a new culture, a new ecosystem, and a week of asking questions like:

syllabus graphic
Figure 1. Field methods are central to conducting ecological studies, but must be understood in the context of other important components of the research process.
  • How much biomass are leaf cutter ants removing from the forest in a day?
  • How many different species of butterflies are in a riparian corridor vs old growth forest?
  • How can we estimate the population size of poison dart frogs?

Ecologists often joke that the most important field tools are duct tape, PVC, stopwatches, and ingenuity.  This may be true, but even the least technical projects require a clear question, a solid study design, reliable data management, and effective ways to visualize the results (Fig. 1). All of this is achieved more efficiently (and more enjoyably!) through collaboration.  This unique opportunity to live and work together in the tropics will bring ample challenges (did I mention the 2 km uphill hike each morning?), but also ample rewards–in the form of wildlife sightings (monkeys, toucans, sloths, oh my!), newly acquired field skills, fried plantains, poetic butterfly releases, inspiring ocean views, and oh yes, amazing coffee. Pura Vida!

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