Teacher Research Experience Blogs

Teacher Research Experience Blogs

This year we are lucky to have three teachers from Oregon and our Oregon education coordinator Kari come down and help us with the research in Costa Rica. They are here as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) program called “Research experiences for teachers” (RET). This is a similar program to what is funding Christina and Tyler. We are lucky to have such a great group that is keen to learn and full of new ideas. While the teachers are here they will have three main goals:

1. To learn participate directly in research – The teachers get to help us in the field and see the work we do up close. They get to see many new techniques and to be a part of the actually data collection. The saying goes that “seeing is believing”, but I would go further and say that seeing, touching, smelling and hearing the jungle in which we work is critical in order to truly appreciate this amazing ecosystem. The teachers will be able to share first-hand experience and accounts with their classes back home.

2. Design and implement their own project – The teachers are conducting their own experiment here in the garden to examine nectar removal rates by hummingbirds. We help the teachers by working with them on sampling designs and using our local knowledge.

3. Bring the research to the classroom – While here each of the teachers are blogging daily about their experiences and sharing with all of the classes back in Oregon. You can also follow their blogs here: http://drouhardincostarica.blogspot.com/, http://4thgradegeckos.blogspot.com/, http://garfieldgeckos.edublogs.org/

4. Linking science education efforts in Oregon and Costa Rica – The teachers are visiting classes here in Costa Rica and establishing connections that will enable students from both countries to share their experiences as they participate in the hummingbird projects. The teachers are working with Kari (OSU) and Carla (OTS) to build on each other’s experiences with science outreach.

An Unexpected Animal – A blog entry by Ava Betts (age 8)

Editors note (MGB): One of the major parts of the outreach part of our project is to encourage kids to be enthusiastic about biodiversity. We are working with kids in grades 3-5 in Costa Rica and Oregon who are learning about pollinators and collecting some data for us. We hope Ava’s adventures in the tropics – and with our project – will inspire other families to learn more about nature.

Ava Betts

There is one mammal I have not told you about: HOWLER MONKEYS*. It was everyone’s ambition to see at least one. When we went to Amistad (the biggest national park in Central America) everybody HEARD them, but did not SEE them (we saw the resplendent Quetzal though*) and everyone thought that was where we would see them too. It was a bit of a shame. We thought our only chance to see monkeys had gone. But surprisingly, that was not the last we heard, (or saw) of them.

I am on the ferry to the Osa Peninsula. The Osa Peninsula is a place where there are many tourists and lots of hotels, cabins to stay in, and seafood. We are on a closed in boat. It is a warm day but humid in the ferry. Once we all start moving, I thought, I can read. Indeed, I did read Wildwood. I read for a half an hour. When we got to the cabins we were staying in, we got settled and then stayed for a while. After that, we set off to a better beach for swimming. There were, apparently, rays in the water. Everybody still swam though*. The waves were huge! We did that for a while, but now let me tell you about the monkeys.

The Iguana Lodge is a good place to eat. You know, nachos, good sauces, seafood, nice desserts, etc. etc. Now we are having dinner, and something TOTALLY unexpected happened. MONKEYS. HOWLER MONKEYS!!! And there was one baby! That right there was the first time I have seen monkeys in the wild. It was a wonderful experience.

Howler monkey_low*Howler monkeys are medium sized monkeys that make sounds like a lion. I have a suspicion that the first people to explore Costa Rica thought this: What on Earth have I gotten myself into? There are lions???!!! This is how they sound:

Paste into your browser: http://www.naturesongs.com/howler2.wav

*See: My Encounter With a Resplendent Quetzal.

*We were not THAT scared!

Species of the Day: Emerald Glass Frog (again… we couldn’t resist)

Species of the day: Emerald Glass Frog! Miles (my son) and I were out collecting insects tonight for an experiment and ran into this guy again. About the size of your thumbnail, this might be one of the coolest amphibians around here. If you shine a flashlight under his body, you can see his internal organs (hence the ‘glass’ part). – MGB


Species of the Day – February 12th: Scale-crested pigmy tyrant

Species of the day: scale-crested pigmy tyrant! We caught this bird in one of the large cloud forest patches a few days ago. The ‘crest’ is perhaps used to make it seem bigger and more ferocious to enemies (hard to imagine this bird looking any MORE ferocious no?) Oh, and the chicks dig it too.

Scaly-crested pigmy tirant_low

On another note, our research seems to be going well. We are now testing experimentally whether flowers can tell the difference between green hermits, violet sabrewings and stripe-throated hermits. Here is a photo of Ava with a hermit we just banded (note bird’s right leg) as it was about to take off.


Species of the Day: White-throated Moutain Gem (Lampornis castaneoventris)

Species of the day: White-throated Mountain Gem! This is quite a small hummingbird that occurs in the higher elevations around our study site. Notice the short bill compared to Green Hermit and the Lancebill. One of the questions we are trying to answer is whether it is possible that some plants can actually distinguish among pollinators – that is, they can “tell” who is visiting them and turn their reproductive investment on or off depending on whether the species is a good pollinator. This species only moves short distances, so most likely spreads poor-quality pollen around. ‘Scuse the dirty thumbnail. My manicurist is on strike.Lampornis castaneoventris_low

Field workers large and small

Field workers large and small

This year our field crew ranges in size from Matt’s kids to our second REU student Tyler. Tyler has now been here for a week and we are glad to have him on our team. Tyler has now become the official carrier of “El Muerte”…a very large and heavy pack with equipment you need at the banding sites.


Ava didn’t seem to be too upset about trading jobs!