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Zips and Salsa: One student�s taste of Costa Rican Ecology
By
Jacob Girard (�12)

 
 

It was a New Year�s Eve I�ll never forget. My feet burned as I stepped to the rhythm of the salsa music, and I had a sizzling partner in hand who was quietly whispering something to me in Spanish that I couldn�t understand. The tiki torches were flickering, providing a dim light, and the sounds from the bar and outdoor grill floated over the dance floor. Despite the vibrancy of my surroundings and the cacophony of conflicting sounds, images of ants were floating through my head, and suddenly I realized, I�m in Costa Rica!

  The Saint Michael's College Tropical Ecology Study Tour group in the rain forest.  Click to enlarge!
 

Over winter break, a group of twelve students led by Professors Banschbach and Martin of the Biology Department and their husbands, departed on a trip to Costa Rica to study tropical ecology. The course itself was designed to introduce students to tropical ecosystems and to help them experience the unique culture of Costa Rica. From group projects to canopy zip-line tours our group shared memorable moments that we will cherish for a lifetime. Though the dancing, culture, and recreation were exceptional, I must confess that the diversity of flora and fauna has left the biggest impression on me.

Our journey began in the capital city of San Jos�, but we quickly set out to Monteverde cloud forest, which is characterized by frequent low-level cloud cover. The accommodations were just feet from the park entrance and resembled something you�d see in a Jurassic Park movie, except instead of velociraptors and stegosauruses there were howler monkeys and coatis roaming freely. After long hours of trail hiking, designing experiments, collecting data, and presenting our work, we left the cloud forest and traveled towards the Atlantic to La Selva lodge and rainforest reserve.

The rain was overwhelming at times, but being able to experience the incredible range of plants and animals all in one area made it well worth the soggy socks. Such a rare educational environment is hard to come by and I couldn�t have imagined a better way to start the New Year.

 

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