Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

13 February, 2007

La Fortuna: La Catarata Ecolodge

La Catarata - Arenal

Photo taken from La Catarata Pathway. In the background is Arenal Volcano. La Catarata was the first tourist accommodation in the area. They began a small neighborhood and have developed into a fully functioning, environmentally friendly community. The owners of La Catarata serve on the Pro Environmental and Sustainable Development Association. They have helped develop the area in environmentally friendly ways and have taught many in the ways of the environment.

Las Cabinas

In this picture you can see the Cabinas that were part of the original construction of La Catarata. In the beginning they only had eight cabins and a restaurant. They had no previous experience in running a tourist accommodation, but they did so well with their first customers that the customers wrote to Lonely Planet and raved about how this was a must see in Costa Rica.


Working Hard
The men in this picture are building another set of cabinas to add to the 16 already available at La Catarata. This is an example of how the people of La Catarata have gotten the local people involved. Not only have they given back to the environment, they have given back to the local people as well.

Pool Party
This picture shows the pool at La Catarata Ecolodge. It was added to the grounds a few years ago. When the Ecolodge first came into being, the women running it had to bring bed materials and cooking supplies from thier houses, because they didn´t have the money to buy them. Eventually enough profits were made to reinvest in project. This pool is an example of how for they have come since the beginning.


This is a picture of a native species of Costa Rica. It is a Paca. La Catarata has started multiple projects over the years to give back to the environment. This mammal is an endangered species and the people at La Catarata have been trying to breed them back into a sustainable population. This is just one of many projects they have started to improve the environment.

Solar Cooking

A very cool contraption on the grounds of La Catarata, this solar cooker, as displayed by his awesomeness, Dr. Miguel Karian, is another environmentally friendly addition to the Ecolodge. In this photo, our professor, Dr. Karian, is teaching of the effectiveness of solar cooking and the science behind it. This is a ´parabolic dish´system. There are many more systems that all rely on the same basic principle of harnessing the sun´s radiation to produce heat for cooking.

Author: Chris Coats

12 February, 2007

Playa Langosta: Las Baulas National Park

Olive Ridley's Baby Sea Turtle
A Baby Olive Ridley's Sea Turtle. We kept it at camp during the day and released it into
the ocean with it's brothers and sisters at night, when chances of survival were higher.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Baby
Two leatherback babies hatched while we were on site. Like the Olive Ridley's, they were kept at camp until the night patrols. While the shells of all baby turtles are soft, the shells of the Leatherbacks aren't true shells at all and will never become fully 'hard' - living up to their name of Leatherback.

¿Donde Esta la Tortuga?
This was one of the babies that hatched during our time at Las Baulas. I believe that he/she was one of about 65 in the nest that had hatched the night before. This night we sent all of the little babies off in to the big blue to achieve their destiny. They were struggling to wake up that night because I think they had fallen asleep in the day while awaiting the departure (not that they had any idea what was going on). or maybe they do-- once they started to awaken from their slumber that night on the beach, they just charged right into the ocean-- those lil troopers. they have to be one in a thousand to make it back here to lay their eggs in 30 years-- good luck little buddies!

Voluntarios on a Mission This was right before we left to go on our second to last night of patrolling the beach. When patrolling beach, we walked up and down 3k each time, 4 times a night. The patrolling period was 3 hours long and there were two shifts- one from 7pm to 10pm and a second from 10pm to 1am. When participating in the second shift, we take the temperatures of all the nests along the beach. On this night we were the second group and on the last leg of our walk we came across a mother leatherback-- no a rock-- no, it was a mama leatherback! I was jumping up and down and so excited as she was hurling herself onto the beach. We ran up the beach to wait for her. This process can take a while, so we sat quietly staring in the dark, trying to make out what was going on. All of a sudden we realized that she was turning around. "Why?" we asked Alejandro-- he explained that the tide was too low and that it was too difficult for her to make it to the part of the beach where it was safe to lay her eggs. He also said that she would return. The next night we saw another mama and assisted her in the birthing-- it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I loved this project-- every single thing about it-- even the incredibly rustic living conditions, I could seriously have stayed forever.

Taking Tortuga Measurements This picture was taken late at night on our final patrol of the beach. We came across this leather back turtle in our last 100 yards of patrolling. It might be hard to see in the picture, but we are measuring the size of the turtle and catching her eggs in a bag. We relocated them just a few yards away so that they were out of reach of high tide. Sami is really the only person in the picture. She counted 147 eggs. However, only 45 of them were actually fertilized.

Relocation of Turtle Eggs
This photo shows Sami relocating the eggs we got from the leatherback to a safer place. She carefully took each individual egg and placed them in a hole that our guide had dug just a few yards higher up on the beach. It was a very interesting experience for all of us. In fact Sami was asleep and we ran back and got her so that she could see a leatherback sea turtle before we left the next morning. It was quite an adventure that will never be forgotten.

Las Baulas National Park
You see this small building right when you walk up to the park from the street. This particular building is the kitchen. Attached to it are; a sink (for brushing your teeth) and a shower. The sink can also be used to wash your clothes. It is very rustic, but great because you live a simple life.

The Tide Pools at Las Baulas
This is where you live the camp site and have a beautiful beach. As the tide goes out, tide pools form. Here, you can find many species. For instance, there are crabs, eels, starfish, sea urchins, and other tropical fish. You can easily make it out to these tide pools to catch your own tropical fish!

Las Baulas: The Hangout
This is a picture of me, Eddie, Dani, and Chris. This is were we would hang out at night before or after our night patrol. Here we would play cards, talk, listen to music, and possibly homework. Eddie was our guide/leader for night patrol. I miss this spot more than ever! This night we went out for patrol at ten so this was around eight.

Living Conditions: The Bunk Beds
This is where we slept at Las Baulas. There is a thin mattress above wood slates. It was very important to strategically place the woods slates. If you did not, you would have a very uncomfortable sleep. There were ten bunks here, but there are six more bunks on the other side. The floor is dirt too. It looks bad, but it was a blast if you could believe it!!!

Authors: Sami Nichols, Chris Coats, Devon Howard, Anne Christoff

10 February, 2007

Guatuso: Maleku Indigenous Reserve

Traditional Maleku Construction
Our Club Cabaña, half finished, but still a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the breeze, with two hammocks and mattresses for the afternoon siesta. We helped with a small portion of the
finishing touches of its construction. See next picture.

Assisting With Constructing a Traditional 'Rancho'
The Moreras are building the interior walls of the cabaña with cane, culminating in a simple yet exquisite result. This arduous process consists of first harvesting the cane, transporting it to the building site, measuring out each thin piece, cutting it to size, and finally, nailing it into place. We never knew how hard it was to nail round objects until this project, especially in a corner! This small triangular area took two of us about three hours to complete!

Claire Wingred Raking Leaves off a Trail
In our first project, we cleared the trails throughout the community´s demonstration forest. Most of their land is cleared for agriculture, but some of the remaining areas of forest are dedicated to education, conservation, and tourism. We walked about two kilometers from the center of the community, through La Finca Nica, which is a farm where we stopped to gather oranges for refreshments. This was where our leader, Alex, taught us about many different plants and trees the Maleku use for medicinal, housing, clothing, and aesthetic purposes.

Medicinal Plants of the Maleku
This plant is called Cora in Maleku, or Barija Negra in Spanish. This particular plant was found in the demonstration forest where we cleared trails. One can use the terminal bud to alleviate the affects of certain snakebites. When bitten take the bud and cover it in saliva, press it in to the bite, and wrap it in place. “¡No hay problema!” as Alex kept repeating. This is one example of how the Maleku put their faith in nature, sure that it will provide all of their needs.

The Maleku: A Cultural and Environmental Experience
The Morera family has been an initiating force in Tonjibe for about ten years now. "Tafa" Morera had a vision of preserving and reviving Maleku culture through Eco-Cultura, an organization committed to educating their community and others about their traditional ways. The Eco-Cultura provides an on-reserve income for the community beyond agriculture. It offers educational walks hikes through a forest, traditional ceremonial viewings, a unique cultural experience, with a large emphasis on art. All the art is made on the reserve by the creative Maleku people. The art includes wood carved masked, beautiful paintings full of color, drums made with wood and iguana skin, and necklaces made from seeds and wood. Tafa died nine months previous to our visit but his vision lives in his family and the community. They were truly unique, creative, open hearted, and passionate and proud of their culture. The people and culture were the reason our experience was so indescribable. Names: (top to bottom, left to right) Kelly, Ninica, Wendy, Angela, Claire, Wilson, Nicole, and the amazing Alex!

Author: Nicole Lynch