Friday, July 27, 2012

After not being able to post last night due to internet difficulties here it is direct from the Liberia airport

7/27/2012 by Harrison

Today, our last day on our Costa Rican research experience, was the perfect way to top off this amazing trip. After our breakfast of the usual eggs rice and beans, our group embarked on the long awaited monkey hike. There were two reasons for our excursion this morning; to compare the previously explored rainforest to the dry forest found along the coast, and to see some primates. Unfortunately, there were no monkeys to be found, although a glimpse of a crocodile and a beautiful waterless waterfall satisfied our appetite for adventure. Following lunch, we made our way to the same pristine beach in which we witnessed the East Pacific Rim Black Turtle give birth. Untouched by resorts and tourists, our day on the beach was a time for some much needed relaxation. A delicious barbeque consisting of steak, chicken and kielbasa accompanied us as we watched the sun setting over the Pacific. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our journey in Costa Rica. It has been a long and wonderful trip and we are excited to be reunited with Minnesota late tomorrow night!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wed 7/25 trip to the coast
                We had an early start with breakfast at 7:00 am!!! Right after breakfast we said farewell to Finca La Anita and started our trip to the research station along the coast. Our first stop was the canopy tour (zip lining) and there was both excitement and fear among the group. We all got harnessed up and the rain started pouring. We started up the mountain until we reached the first zip line. As people started getting used to the idea some were brave enough to go upside down.  As we were hiking between zip lines we saw a rabbit squirrel (don’t know the scientific name) and were hopeful to see monkeys because our guide was whistling for them, but no luck. The last zip line was the longest of them all; we flew over rainforest and a field of cows all the way to where we started.  Even though it was kind of painful and a little wet, not many people can say they went zip lining through the rainforest.
                Our next stop was a wooden sculpture shop hand-made by a famous local guy. We only had ten minutes there to browse and buy souvenirs. We got back on the bus for an hour then stopped at a local supermarket where there happened to be a fiesta.  We stocked up on candy and pop to remind ourselves that we are Americans.  We arrived at the research station and got settled after lunch. We headed to the classroom to learn about another type of ant. We observed the ants in their habitat to learn about the mutualistic relationship they have with the tree they live in. We played cards and Frisbee during the free time we had until dinner.
 After dinner, we got in the bus for what we thought was going to be a 20 minute ride to the beach, but the ride ended up being 45 minutes due to the speed we were going (~ 10mph). At the beach we walked a couple lengths of the beach before we found the tracks of an Eastern Pacific Rimmed Black turtle. Some of us stayed to watch the turtle while the rest of the group continued on. We found the tracks of another turtle, but unfortunately, not the turtle.  We went back to the first turtle and saw that it was getting ready to lay its eggs. We watched it as it dug its hole and went into labor. We watched for a while until the bus left at 10pm. Four others stayed to watch the turtle finish its egg laying process. We went to sleep right away anticipating our cow milking in the morning. Adios!

Authors: Katie Page, Jamie Larson, Christina Truwit

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GOOD MORNING COSTA RICA! At last, the long-awaited day of graduation has arrived. Today was our final day of research with the ants in the rainforest. The morning went as all the previous mornings have, filled with data collection, analysis and cleaning. However, there was more of a sense of urgency because we had a tight schedule. Once the final data was collected, each group met with Adrian and used a website called Vassar Stats to determine the statistical significance of their results. Over the course of the morning, each group created a poster which displayed what they had been working on for the past week to use in their presentation later in the day. After lunch, Dr. Pinto had us practice our presentations in front of our peers to prepare for our final presentations for members of the community. The first set of presentations were pretty tough to watch, so making us practice turned out to be extremely helpful because we were able to receive constructive criticism and improve for the final presentations. Those tips resulted in fantastic deliveries of each group's information and everyone was very happy with how they turned out. The local elder who attended even shared that one of the group's idea of how to repel the ants was already being used by farmers in the area. They suggested that using the dirt of one ant colony could deter other ants from going somewhere. Another group's deterrent produced results that seem to suggest it may be a way to make ants abandon the tree it was applied to. It is simply a plastic ring wrapped around a tree with an added paste made of leaves that are disliked by the ants so they aren't able to climb up and harvest the leaves.
Ant deterring device
This device may not be practical on a large scale, but for small farms or households it could be just the thing to provide protection for a few important trees.

Unfortunately, Adrian had to leave after the presentations. No one wanted to see him go, all his help and advice has been invaluable. Jordan and I had the opportunity to talk with him about his experiences and learn more about the field of microbiology and in particular medical microbiology. This experience will be very helpful in determining everyone's plans for the future I'm sure.

Group photo with Dr. Pinto (Center blue shirt)
 We have all now officially graduated from the Costa Rica Science Research Experience. While we have no diploma, there is definitely a great sense of accomplishment throughout the group.We have all learned a lot over the past few days and had an amazing time along the way. 

Author: Austin

Monday, July 23, 2012

     Our day started with a thunderous pour of rain louder than WWII. We awoke early as usual to begin our scientific exploration. Groups continued their field and lab experiments with mixed emotions regarding results from the previous night. Overwhelmed with scientific knowledge we ended our morning with our friends the ants and went into the afternoon excited for the hike to come. Shortly after lunch half of us hopped into the back of a jeep while the other half sat in the back of a pickup truck not expecting an hour of constant bumps and potholes so big people were launched out of their seats. 20 minutes into the drive after driving through many rivers, we came to the "Bridge of Questionable Integrity". We all hopped out of the cars and walked across the bridge watching the trucks behind us hoping they wouldn't fall through the bridge that looked like it could barely hold 100 pounds.

     Once we reached our destination we were stripped of our backpacks and loose belongings to begin our expedition. It took us 10 minutes to get to the start of the first waterfall. We changed into our bathing suits and headed up the rocky river into a cavern. We were surprised to find a little swimming area under the waterfall that took everybody's breath away. The rain soon started to fall again and we exited the river onto our next adventurous hike. 2 minutes later we came across the cold spring just as pretty as the first. The experience was unreal.
After about 10 minutes in the cold spring we headed for the hot spring. We somehow managed to loose our teachers on the hike, they claim they got sidetracked trying to find a cure for cancer but we all know that's not true. The hot spring was fun and we finally didn't have hard rocks cutting into our feet. The owner of Finca La Anita, Pablo, managed to scrape his head trying to follow suit in Kaitlin's synchronized swimming show. Sadly we couldn't go to the double waterfall because it broke (apparently it collapsed). We took a shortcut back through the rain and everyone was drenched by the time we got back to the trucks. Showers were needed and white socks were no longer white. The day ended with dinner and a few groups finishing up their science experiments with the ants. All in all it may have been the best day yet. Everyone enjoyed himself and no one was severely injured. We are all ready for a good nights sleep and a day of science tomorrow. Farewell.

~Authors: Katie Page, Jamie Larson, Christina Truwit


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jordan Sell, July 22nd

Today was quite an adventurous day to say the least. As usual in the morning we worked in our groups on our experiments both in the lab and in the field. We also were able to work on a side project today with Dr. Pinto with some bacteria that we have been culturing for 4 days. This entailed gram staining bacteria which is a process used to identify the type of bacteria in the sample and is widely used in hospitals to determine the type of antibiotic to be used as treatment for the bacteria. That was really cool because it gave us a chance to see the real life application of some work that we were doing, and it is always more rewarding when you perform the work yourself.
After lunch today we met up with Javier, our rainforest tour guide for the rest of the day, and he definitely knew his way around the forest. He could easily point out various plants and animals all over the forest that I would never have been able to see on my own. In the afternoon he led us on a trek through the forest. It was all downhill and rather muddy, I only fell 1 once though, but the trail led us right to a river that cut through the forest and we reached it at an opening where we could easily get in. There we all had a chance to swim in the river and that was fantastic.

The water felt great and whether I was swimming against the rapids or letting them carry me down the river, the whole experience was unbelievable and was definitely worth the hour long hike back up through the mud.
Then before dinner, since it gets dark around 6:30 here, Javier took us on a night hike through the forest. That was really cool but to be honest it was a little scary. Going out at night is different since the animals are much more active at night, but knowing that there are thousands of animals of all kinds around you can be a little nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time. The guide pointed out a ton of cool creatures in the forest, and I have no idea how he could see all of them but it seemed like everytime he turned his flashlight it landed on another animal that I had never seen before.

I thought that today was fantastic because both swimming in the river and walking through the rainforest at night were unreal experiences that I definitely have never had before and may never have again. I hope the next few days are like today because swimming in that river was awesome because it was super fun but just thinking about where you were and the beauty surrounding you mad it one of the best adventures that I have ever had.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


 In the morning groups initiated phase two of their experiments. After testing and lunch we proceeded to painting the community center with rust colored paint with guidance from the town leaders/elders . While the short people painted the exterior of the building, the taller people painted the door red and the ceiling of the health clinic white.

After painting we were shown how real futbol is played by the locals. with a score of 5-8 we were vanquished, creamed and decimated,even by the smallest children and through the assistance of Prof.Leland kicking the ball in our own goal. Afterwards the locals told us we were the best American team they have faced which we were honored by.

Proceeding the futbol game we went to Aracielly's casa to prepare dinner which consisted of tortillas, beans, rice, cheese, mixed vegetables, and chicken. For dessert we devoured chocolate-chip ice cream. We walked back to the ranch in front of vehicle with illuminated headlights so we could see. We wrapped up the night by finishing up our second steps of the experiments and now we need to go to bed.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Day 4
July 20, 2012

Today, we started off with sampling new and old fungus from our colonies into petri dishes. The new fungus is grey and lies on top of the garden. The old is on the bottom and is much more white. We stored multiple samples to find where the good and bad fungus lives in the gardens. After that, each group developed an experiment to test how to prevent ants from eating crops on Pablo's farm. My group decided AJ had the best idea, so we are using his. We are going to test if it is possible to stop an ant colony from harvesting a tree by spreading a different colony's fungus and soil around it. This may work because leaf cutter ants are territorial, and each colony has a unique scent. We worked in heavy rain digging fungus and dirt out of multiple colonies. I was a little scared after I got bit the first time two days ago. After several attempts, we successfully got our fungus and dirt without injuries. We also found the trees that we will put the soil and fungus around, but we have to wait until tomorrow to test our ideas.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 3 July 19th

Today was our first day working with the leaf cutter ants! We started harvesting our leaf cutter ant colonies with Dr. Pinto, and to start that process we went out into the rain forest to look for the nests of the two species of leaf cutter ants, acromyrmex and Atta cepholates. We were taught how to identify the leaf cutter ants, their foraging trails and homes, and to dig for the fungal gardens. The battle to find an Attas colony with fungus and (even better yet) an attainable queen was great! Out we were, supplied with our shovels, spades, plastic containers, and labeling markers to collect the Attas ants and their fungal gardens to create gardens of our own for study. We encountered a bullet ant and Joe even suffered a battle wound from a foraging Attas ant (yes, there was blood drawn. Don't worry parents he survived!). Once we had our ants, fungus, and queen collected we ate a wonderfully delicious lunch and got ready for riding horses up the foot of a volcano! Since it was my first time I was a little nervous, but after a while, getting use to riding a horse it was very enjoyable and fun! The views and trails were fantastic and it was a great experience! Once we got back we had diner and then got back to science! We looked at the bacteria cultures from yesterday and to end the day we made nice cozy homes for the Attas ants we had collected!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 2 July 18th, 2012 (Ben and AJ)

Hola from Costa Rica! Day two was filled with many adventures. Started off the day with a humbling downpour on our way to breakfast. We enjoyed our delicious meal while listening to the rain and watching the bright white clouds swallow the towering volcanoes and thick rainforest. After breakfast, one owner of the farm we are staying at, Pablo, showed us many of the different crops he grows and explained how the different crops affect the economy of both Costa Rica and the rest of the world. He also gave us a solid introduction of the leaf cutter ants and the farmers' hatred towards their huge appetite for their crops. We tried heart of palm, starfruit, pineapples, weird-looking bananas, and many other oddities. After that and a filling lunch, the rain cleared and we went on a tour of the town. We got bags of ice cream with three flavors; cocoa, coconut, and cream. Pablo gave us a full tour of the town and explained how it was founded, the school system, and the law enforcement of the area. It was great to see how the people lived without any tour buses or fanny packs (not a lot of tourists). When we got back, we relaxed until dinner where we got our research groups and began to experiment with the microbes and bacteria that live on different places as practice for our experiments in the field. We are all very excited for tomorrow, where we will enter the lives of the leaf-cutter ants and explore the rainforest a little bit deeper.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17

The first part of our journey started at 5:30, on an airplane bound for Atlanta. We were given an assignment to complete a paragraph and a diagram explaining the relationships between Atta ants, their fungus gardens, bacteria grown on the ants, and a pathogen. After landing in Atlanta we were taking the airport tram to the next gate when it got stuck in the tunnel. Right as we were about to walk out it got going again, and just in time. The next flight went to Liberia, and we were given a second assignment. It was to evaluate how ants were able to fix nitrogen without destroying the balance in their environment. Upon landing we were driven in a mini bus to a lunch place where we ordered our food by pointing at it. We then continued on the final leg of the journey to Finca La Anita. On the way we were surprised by our guide who brought us all mamom chino, similar to leychee. It was fantastic, but a bit too interesting looking for some. As we traveled along some fell asleep, but quickly woke up when the bus driver decided to plow through a river. After a few hours, many pretty flowers, and several cows later, we arrived at our new home. We unpacked, were assigned boots, and headed off on a hike into the forest. A few steps away from the ranch and we were swallowed up by the music of birds and insects. The ranch dogs, corleone and bumbai, joined us in crossing a fast flowing creek. They were much more successful in staying dry than we were. After that the slosh slosh of our marching boots joined the percussion of the forest. Back at the ranch we had time to relax, dry off, and then it was time for dinner. Yum. Adios!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Welcome to the Wayzata High School Blog for the Costa Rica rainforest trip.

We will meet at MSP terminal #1 at 3:50 AM down by door #6 in the drop area.  We will take Delta flight # 2130 to ATL at 5:20 AM.  We will continue on to Costa Rice via Delta flight #353 from ATL to LIR at 9:50 AM and arrive at 12:00 PM.

We will return home on Delta flight #356 at 12:50 PM and arrive in Atlanta at 6:49 PM.  We will continue on Delta flight #300 at 9:45 which arrives in Minneapolis at 11:34 PM.