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Cabo Blanco, May 21-25

 There’s nothing like an air-conditioned hotel with fluffy beds and a swimming pool to welcome you to Costa Rica. But for us it wasn’t meant to be and after one night of luxury, we took a bouncy 3-hour bus ride to the coast and to our first field station in the jungle. Cabo Blanco is a pristine (as a of 50 years of re-growth) absolute reserve of dry forest (very wet for 6 months and dry for the rest) on the southern coast of Costa Rica. Only 10-12 groups are allowed to visit Costa Rica's oldest reserve each year, so we were very lucky to spend 5 days exploring the area.

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Only a few small buildings represent the world of Homo sapiens, and our bunks are fully immersed in forest, with only the sounds of the ocean and abundant wildlife disturbing the quiet.
 

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It’s an invaluable playground for those looking to study tropical dry forests, and once we arrived we planned our studies. We aim to compare the species diversity of birds, plants, and insects at edges, in old growth and secondary growth forests, and across sites.

To maintain the pristine nature of the reserve, we were to be minimally disruptive, but not everyone could help her self. Gotham City had The Joker, Cabo Blanco has Grace:

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Although some lizards shed their tails as a defense mechanism, there’s no telling if this one survived.

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For some, day 2 began at 5:30am with birding (unless it had already begun with flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder at 12:01am in a pool of sweat) and by 7:00am everyone was awake and eating breakfast. Our first full group activity was an initial exploration of the reserve with naturalists Federico and Diana. There was no shortage of excitement. At first we couldn’t walk 10 meters without stopping to identify a plant, point out an orange-legged land crab or investigate rustling in the branches above.

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First there were monkeys, including Howler Monkeys and White-Faced Capuchins (pictured below):

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Then there was monkey feces. On Joe.

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But Joe got the last laugh:

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On the coast, we saw more birds and heaps of hermit crabs. The hermit crabs inhabit the empty shells of terrestrial snails and aquatic organisms that wash ashore, and can bring seashells into the jungle. Grace and Joy were inspired, and collected some for the hike back. The food's been great, but Joy likes her seafood very fresh.

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 The fate of Grace's hermit crab in unknown.

Also, we did science...

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We finally took a break from science and went to a bunch of waterfalls, which were AWESOME!!! We did, however, take 

samples of FUN on a horizontal gradient…

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We then got to work on our papers and presentations, and the stress got to us. 


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Some of us even experimented with cane toad poison:

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We were able to take a break and look at pools in the intertidal zone, which was incredible. We saw everything from an inking octopus to a puffer fish. 

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© Cardelús Updated August 2016