David and recruited field help sample fish the west branch of Rio Java, a tributary that drain primary wet forest.
Mel's experiment involved collecting litter of two species and distributing litter bags in backwater areas along a Rio Java at Las Cruces and monitoring decomposition of the litter. Here are some photographs of her second and last collection period. Mel was interested in examining macroinvertebrate communities associated with decomposing leaf litter, so she carefully removed litter bags with a colander and transported the bags to the lab for processing in plastic bags. Daniel Bird assisted in this collection. Mel plans to present her data at some meetings, including SACNES, which she's receiving funding to attend in October.
Wendy Kuntz, a NAPIRE faculty mentor from University of Hawaii-Kapi'olani Community College, is advising a couple of students in projects about bird behavior and nest predation. Here, Shaina, one of Wendy's students, is placing 40 artificial nests within the Wilson Botanical Garden at Las Cruces to assess nest predation rates at both high nest locations (~2 m) and low nest locations (~1 m). Shaina monitors loss of quail eggs in the nests over the course of a week. I "helped" set a few of the nests up one day... but I ended up dropping the cooler full of quail eggs and smashed about 8 of them. I will not likely be asked to help again...
Mel and José collected several similar looking, native species for their decomposition experiments. We chose leaves of Miconia appendiculata and an invasive bamboo (collecting leaves here) to compare in their experiments. Here, they collect the M. appendiculata leaves from trees lining the Río Java.
Thickly vegetated headwaters streams scar the mountain-sides in the primary forest at Las Alturas. Currently, not much research is being conducted at the station, but a couple of mentors are interested in setting up i-buttons (remote temperature and humidity monitors) to collect data on an elevational gradient within the forest. This is of interest given some dramatic shifts in forest communities elevation changes (hence, the microclimate of the mountain-side changes), and climate change forecasts in the region. As the regional climate changes, these forest communities are expected to shift up or down in elevation, but communities may disappear if they can't compensate (e.g., the community at the top of the mountain may have nowhere to go). I think monitoring streams is of interest as well. For instance, alterations in precipitation, which are also predicted by climate change, can lead to altered hydrological regimes within these streams, which could lead to stream community and ecosystem change. Simply picking up a few rocks, I observed hundreds of Simuliids (blackfly larvae), some psephenids (water penny beetles), mayflies, and damselfly larvae.
Perhaps this is a good enough reason for me to visit, and stay, again...
Under the guidance of Andy, a graduate of University of Akron and soon-to-be post-doc at University of Chicago, Alicia collects and investigates mayfly (Ephemoptera) communities within headwater streams at Las Cruces.
The station at Las Alturas sits adjacent to La Amistad, and there are a few trails (senderos) that meander into the primary forests of the reserve. One such trail is Sendero Chai, a straight hike up about 600 m to the peak of Cerro Chai at 2100 m asl. The trail brings one through several forest types, beginning at tropical, premontane wet forest, and ending in some shrub forest at the peak, because these forest types are linked with elevation. It's an astonishing 2.5 kilometer journey.
Mixed between the peak forest-type and the wet forest is some montane oak forest and a thin band of bamboo-oak. The wet forest has many large strangler figs and Cedrela, amongst other species. I believe the high elevation oaks are Quercus costaricensis, but there are several species of oak in high elevation locations throughout Costa Rica. When passing through the oaks, the forest become a bit quieter and the forest floor feels thick and soft; there is a thick layer of leaf litter that accumulates in these forests, and the litter absorbs sounds like snow. These habitats are my favorite terrestrial types because of their calm nature and tannin-y smells. Cerro de La Muerte sits in this habitat type, but Sendero Chai was the first time I was able to clearly observe transition between forest types.
Here are some photos from each forest type, starting from the top, shrub forest, working through bamboo and oak, and finishing with wet forest.
Mel, one of my students, is building a study investigating decomposition of leaves from a native tree Miconia appendiculata and an invasive bamboo Phyllostachys makinoi in streams. Here, she's recruited some others to help her collect bamboo leaves.
The pool at this sampling site is the deepest yet: approximately 1.2 m. It's also conveniently just down stream from a bedrock slide... Of course, we're doing hard field work.