Aug 18, 2013

Additional Photos!

If anyone would like to see additional photos from our trip, please take a look at our Flickr account

LCHS Costa Rica Reasearch Trip 2013


Jun 6, 2013

Day 10: Final Day

Today began with an early morning for some students who wished to participate in a new experience, milking cows. By 5:30, most students were up and ready to start on this new and exciting experience, but unfortunately, the cows did not come into the corral that morning due to the severe rainstorm that had occurred during the night. Even though we didn't get to milk cows, it was still a good start to the morning, as everyone was wide and awake by the time breakfast rolled around.

After breakfast, it was time for our tour, to see some beautiful scenery in the dry forest, as well as two waterfalls. We set out on a trailer pulled by a tractor, and drove down the road to the trail. Once we reached the trail, we crossed over a bridge and began working our way to the first waterfall. Along the way, we saw beautiful trees and other plant life, such as some vines and borealis, which are related to pineapples. When we reached the waterfall, we were greeted with the beautiful sight of a majestic waterfall in front of us. We all stood at the base of the waterfall and watched the water come cascading down, and several braver students ventured up a path to the top of the falls. It was a wonderful sight and there was still more to come.

After a few minutes, we left the waterfall to our next destination, another waterfall! This one was even larger that the first. When we reached it, our breath was taken away by the sight of it. Spray from the water created a beautiful rainbow. We took some great pictures and were excited to see more.

On the hike back to the trailer, we were greeted by some incredible wildlife. A few feet away from the trail was a large snake(nonvenomous). Our guide, Freddy, tried to grab it, but unfortunately the snake was too fast and too far into the trees for him to grab it. Once we headed out, we had a light snack of fruit and soda and started making our way back to the station to prepare for our afternoon on the beach.

After lunch, it was ocean time. We were all so ready to get out of the jungle and just relax on the beach. However, once there we did anything but relax. Our afternoon consisted of seven foot waves, large holes, and sand mermaids. Robert started a project of creating a "hot tub" and enlisted Drew for help. They simply sat in the sand and dug and dug and dug. Next to them Lauren, Hannah, and Megan buried themselves and made themselves into mermaids. The others headed to the ocean.
All of us eventually got into the ocean and began to combat the extremely large waves. After tumbling in the waves and swallowing large amounts of ocean water, we had our beachside barbeque. Delicious steak and chicken was served along with some soda. We sat with our food and watched the sunset, thinking this trip could not have been better.

See you all soon,
Megan, Austin, and Zach

Jun 5, 2013

Day 9

Today we left Finca la Anita, after buying our coffee and cacao from the la Anita souvenir shop.
We had a three hour drive to our next destination, Estacion Experimental forestal horizontes, a
real tropical research station. This is the parrot we saw while we were observing the ants.

After our drive we settled in and had lunch. After lunch we made some observations on a species of ant called the pseudomyrmex (which sting very hard I might add). After we did our observations we played soccer for about an hour.

By the way that is Megan and Austin.

Then we had dinner. After dinner we were scheduled to go to the beach and study the turtles, but the weather was too bad for us to continue, so we came back. That concluded our wonderful day.

- Michael, Robert, and Guy

Jun 4, 2013

Days 7 and 8

First, yesterday. We started with even more work on our research projects. The entire day was devoted to our research- mostly testing our experiments. What took up the rest of our afternoon was a community service project we did in the village. We met with the village's peace corps volunteer and worked with some of the ladies in the village in their developing spice and aromatic plant garden. The night was spent working late, rushing to finish projects and prepare for presentations.

As mentioned briefly yesterday, we also took a break to do some community service with the local women in their soon-to-be medicinal garden. While we were there they let us try some fresh sugarcane.

We woke up entirely too early, some of us at 5 o'clock.  After finishing our presentation boards and having a quick practice session, it was time for the real presentations.  Several local scientists came to see our projects.  Presenting was stressful, but it was a relief to be done with our ants and research.  Overall, the projects went very well.

After a quick lunch, we loaded up in a pickup truck and went to an incredible site on the volcano.  There, we were taken on a tour through the jungle to various springs and waterfalls. The first was a convergence of two waterfalls in a canyon which we had to crawl through a creek to reach. Next we went to two different waterfalls, where the water was pure blue (and freezing). Finally we went to a geothermal pool where the water was much warmer and very relaxing. the only downside was the mineral covered contacts, and for those without contacts, eyes.

We returned to our final dinner at Finca La Anita, thanking the ladies that cooked all of our wonderful meals, as well as Pablo and Ana, who have been great hosts. We head to the coast tomorrow; the coast and simple not-as-bueno-as-Finca-La-Anita living.

For the last time,
-Drew, Hannah, and Lauren

P.S. A happy birthday goes out to a Ted Warren. Ted, if you're out there, your daughter wants to wish you the best on your special day.

Jun 3, 2013

No Blog Today

We're sorry that we're not able to give a detailed blog today. We're trying really hard to finish our projects, but to give a short description of today- All 3 groups have been working hard to finish their projects and we're aiming to present by tomorrow morning. We did have a nice break today in which we did community service with the local people.

Sorry again; we'll be sure to write more tomorrow.


Jun 2, 2013

Day 6

Our day began with sad news from Adrian. It seemed like he would be leaving us to go to Belgium to attend a bioenergy conference. One of his students, Gabriel, was coming out to Finca la Anita in order to help with the rest of the course and the experiments.
We began working today as we presented our boards to the other groups, as well as Mrs. Formisano, Mr. Heintz, and Pablo. Team Cacao, composed of Zach, Drew, and Hannah, presented their idea for using pheromones to see if it was possible to alter the ants interactions with other ants. The Suertudos, composed of Megan, Robert, and Michael, presented their idea for creating solutions composed of plant materiel in order to see if these could be used to influence the ants reactions towards other plants. Team LAFT, composed of Austin, Guy, and Lauren, presented their idea for using pastes composed of plant extracts to act as a deterrent to keep the ants away from specific areas. After each group presented, they talked about various improvements and suggestions, as well as applications for these experiments.

After the presentations and discussions had concluded, each group set out to work on their own projects. Team Cacao began a series of trials in order to determine a scale for ant interactions, ranging from peaceful or nonexistent interactions to violent, hostile interactions. The Suertudos began testing various recipes for the plant solutions to use for testing. Team LAFT began testing various ratios of materials in order to create a paste with both the right amount of plant material, and with the right viscosity. Before lunch, each group had made great strides in their work, but each group encountered their problems in their research.

Next was lunch, and I think we had the most traditional Costa Rican food yet... Hamburgers. I know, crazy right, but they were delicious. Even the french fries were great even if they were not really french fries but Plantains cut up to look like fries. A little tricky but still great.
After lunch we said adios to Adrian and had our formal introduction with Gabriel. Gabriel is also a microbiologist, and has been  great help to all of us. After the introduction everyone continued to work on their projects. Team Cacao started working with a pheromone solvent on soldier ants to see if they could get some more interesting results. Basically they wanted to see if the ants could kill each other faster. Los Suertudos started their field tests and found two test trails to place their repellent covered leaves. LAFT also started the work on their projects. LAFT placed their control paste and found that the ants really do not like it. I mean really so not like it. There was such a huge pile up of ants that it was almost comical. Once everyone was finished with that parts of their project, it was time to get ready for shopping and dinner.
When we left Finca la Anita, we first headed to a local shop. It was a very tiny store that was stuffed full of merchandise. We were all so excited to get sodas and local food. It was all amazingly cheap too. There were even little gelatin cups that were to die for. It was a truly great experience.

This dinner was very special. We actually went to a local's house and she prepared us a fantastic meal that consisted of a photogenic salad, pinto with a spicy surprise, wonderful plantain chips, and mouth watering chicken. The women and her daughter were wonderful hosts, even though they spoke very little English. Everything was wonderful, and we loved relaxing after a very grueling day.

Signing off,
Megan, Zach, and Austin

Jun 1, 2013

Day 5

Day 5

Today we worked on several different projects in the lab. First, we did the gram staining of the cultures we had previously made in the lab. We did the gram stain and then went up to view our stained slides under the microscope. We saw gram positive (Purple Stain) and gram negative (Red Stain) bacteria. After we finished with this, we checked on our ant colonies. We took out the leaves they had not eaten and then gave them more of the leaves they had eaten.

After that we began to work on what we wanted to study while we are here. Each group came up with a problem, hypothesis, experimental design, and a materials list. We then made posters to present to the other groups what we are doing. 

The Cacaos preliminary idea was to work with the pheromones of the ants. One of their experiments will test how the leaf-cutter ants will respond to an outside ant that has been laced with the colonies pheromones. Their second experiment will test how the ants respond to one of their own kind that has been laced with an outside pheromone.

Los Suertudos are looking a plants that naturally repel the ants and are then going to create a solution that will repel the leaf-cutter ants from food producing trees. They will be using the jack-ass bitter, citronella, and the papaya plants to try to repel the ants.

Team LAFT is working on creating a paste composed of several plants in order to divert the ants away from trails, and create areas that the ants will not travel in; in order to create safe zones for crops.

After lunch we went on a trip to go zip-lining. It began to rain as soon as we got ready to start. We decided to continue on and ended up having a lot of fun.