Una alternativa importante para restablecer la salud de los ecosistemas / An important alternative to restore the health of ecosystems

En enero del año 2008 la Universidad de Georgia, Campus Costa Rica (UGACR) comenzó con el Programa de Compensación de Carbono. Este surgió como una iniciativa para compensar las emisiones de CO2 que se liberan a la atmósfera generadas por el transporte de estudiantes de programas académicos de la Universidad de Georgia. Por cada participante del programa se deben plantar cuatro árboles para secuestrar el carbono liberado en dichos viajes.

In January 2008, the University of Georgia, Costa Rica Campus (UGACR) began the Carbon Offset Program. This emerged as an initiative to compensate the CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere generated by the transportation of students from academic programs at the University of Georgia. For each participant of the program, four trees must be planted to sequester the carbon released in those trips. 

 

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Plántulas de Manilkara chicle
Seedlings of Manilkara chicle 

UGACR es una de las instituciones fundadoras del Corredor Biológico Pájaro Campana (CBPC), éste se ubica en la vertiente del Pacífico de Costa Rica, abarcando desde la Cordillera de Tilarán hasta la costa. Los corredores biológicos proveen conectividad entre ecosistemas, buscando proteger la biodiversidad. Una característica de los corredores biológicos es que no excluyen la presencia de poblaciones humanas. Las prácticas agrícolas intensivas y el desarrollo de infraestructura no planificado son ejemplos de degradación del medio ambiente, por lo que la reforestación es una alternativa importante para restablecer la salud de los ecosistemas dentro de un corredor.

UGACR is one of the founding institutions of the Bellbird Biological Corridor (BBC), which is located on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica, from the Tilarán mountain range to the coast. Biological corridors provide connectivity between ecosystems, seeking to protect biodiversity. A characteristic of biological corridors is that they do not exclude the presence of human populations. Intensive agricultural practices and the development of unplanned infrastructure are examples of environmental degradation, so reforestation is an important alternative to restore the health of ecosystems within a corridor.

 

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En orden de aparición de izquierda a derecha: Martha Garro, Riley Fortier y Lucas Ramírez buscando frutos en los árboles durante la recolecta de semillas mensual.
In order of appearance from left to right: Martha Garro, Riley Fortier, and Lucas Ramírez looking for fruits in trees during the monthly seed collection.

El programa de reforestación de UGACR ha donado más de 40 000 árboles de 130 especies que han sido plantados en más de 150 fincas, distribuidas en el CBPC. El objetivo del proyecto es reforestar con árboles nativos, además se busca restaurar los bosques perdidos de la vertiente del Pacífico, aumentar la conectividad entre parches de bosque, enriquecer y mejorar los márgenes de ríos y quebradas, establecer cercas vivas, disminuir erosión, conservar la biodiversidad, y desde luego, secuestrar las emisiones de carbono que se liberan a la atmósfera por la operación del programa UGACR.

The UGACR reforestation program has donated more than 40,000 trees of 130 species that have been planted in more than 150 farms, distributed throughout the BBC. The objective of the project is to reforest with native trees, seeking to restore the lost forests of the Pacific slope, increase connectivity between forest patches, enrich and improve the margins of rivers and streams, establish living fences, reduce erosion, conserve biodiversity, and of course, to sequester the carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere by the operation of the UGACR program.

 

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En orden de aparición de izquierda a derecha: Lonchocarpus minimiflorus, Hymenaea courbaril, Hura crepitans, Cedrela salvadorensis, Swietenia humilis, Manilkara chicle.
In order of appearance from left to right: Lonchocarpus minimiflorus, Hymenaea courbaril, Hura crepitans, Cedrela salvadorensis, Swietenia humilis, Manilkara chicle.

La persona que ha estado encargada de la parte operativa desde el principio del proyecto de reforestación es Lucas Ramírez. Él se incorporó al personal de UGACR en el año 2003. Antes formaba parte del Departamento de Reserva Forestal y Protección, y ahora pasó a ser parte del Departamento de Investigación, Enseñanza y Pasantías; sus principales funciones conllevan el mantenimiento y atención del jardín botánico y medicinal, el programa de reforestación y la atención de grupos académicos.

The person who has been in charge of the operative tasks since the beginning of the reforestation project is Lucas Ramirez. He joined the UGACR staff in 2003 as part of the Forest Reserve and Protection Department, and has now become part of the Research, Teaching, and Internship Department; Its main functions involve the maintenance and care of the botanical and medicinal garden, the reforestation program, and serving academic groups.

 

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Lucas durante el tratamiento de semillas: separando la semilla del fruto Swietenia humilis
Lucas during the seed treatment: separating the seed from the fruit of Swietenia humilis

 

 

Su trabajo con relación al proyecto de reforestación consiste primero en la ubicación de diversas especies de plantas, tanto de especies que habitan en zonas altas como bajas, adaptables a lugares rocosos, quebrados o a lo largo de los ríos. Posteriormente se recolectan los frutos, para así llevar a cabo el tratamiento de las semillas, para esto se separan del fruto, se lavan y se secan. El siguiente paso consiste en germinar las mismas, dentro de camas de germinación (las cuales contienen tierra, arena, hojas, ramas), luego las plántulas son trasplantadas a una bolsa de almácigo para poder ser donadas y transportadas a las personas, fincas y organizaciones amigas del programa de reforestación. Lucas es quien ha mantenido un contacto con las y los interesados en adquirir árboles, además de proporcionar información acerca de las diferentes especies y cuidados.

His work with the reforestation project consists of locating a variety of plant species, including those that inhabit high and low elevation areas, are adapted to rocky places, or occur along rivers. The fruits are collected and treated by separating the seeds from fruits and then washing and drying them. The next step is to germinate the seeds in germination beds (which contain soil, sand, leaves, branches), and then transplant them to soil bags which are donated and transported to people, farms, and other organizations. Lucas maintains contact with people interested in acquiring trees, in addition to providing them with information about the care of different species.

 

 

Actualmente se producen de cuatro a cinco mil árboles en el vivero forestal para ser donados. Algunas de las especies que tienen mayor demanda son: Montanoa guatemalensis (Asteraceae) “Tubú”, Croton niveus (Euphorbiaceae) “Corpachí” y Diphysa americana (Fabaceae) “Guachipelín”. Las diferentes especies de la zona tienen diversos usos y beneficios, como por ejemplo ser maderables, atraer biodiversidad, tener frutos comestibles, para cercas vivas y rompe vientos, para embellecimiento escénico, contener la erosión, restaurar márgenes de ríos y quebradas, entre otros. Por temporada se manejan entre 15 y 19 diferentes especies de árboles en el vivero forestal de UGACR, algunos ejemplos son:

Currently four to five thousand trees are being produced in the forest nursery to be donated. Some of the species that have greater demand are: Montanoa guatemalensis (Asteraceae) “Tubú”, Croton niveus (Euphorbiaceae) “Corpachí” and Diphysa americana (Fabaceae) “Guachipelín”. The species found in the area have a variety of uses and benefits: some are used for timber, to attract biodiversity, for edible fruits, to serve as living fences and wind breaks, for scenic aesthetic, to contain erosion, and to restore margins of rivers and streams, among others. During each season, between 15 and 19 different tree species are managed in the UGACR forest nursery, some examples are:

 

  • Cedrela salvadorensis (Meliaceae) “Cedro”
cedrela salvadorensis1
Arbolito de Cedrela salvadorensis en bolsa de almácigo.//
Sapling of Cedrela salvadorensis in a soil bag.

 

cedrela salvadorensis2
Arbolito de Cedrela salvadorensis en bolsa de almácigo. // Sapling of Cedrela salvadorensis in a soil bag.

Usos y beneficios: Especie en peligro de extinción, maderable, su hábitat es de bosque denso, sin embargo, pueden encontrarse como árboles solos en potreros o cercas, crece en tierras bajas.

Uses and benefits: Endangered species, timber, their habitat is dense forest, however, they can be found as single trees in pastures or fences, grows in low elevation sites.

 

  • Hymenaea courbaril (Fabaceae) “Guapinol”

 

hymenaea courbaril
Arbolito de Hymenaea courbaril  en bolsa de almácigo.
 Sapling of Hymenaea courbaril  in a soil bag.

 

hymenaea courbaril2
Arbolito de Hymenaea courbaril  en bolsa de almácigo. //
 Sapling of Hymenaea courbaril  in a soil bag.

 

Atrae biodiversidad, crece en tierras bajas y medias, su madera se utiliza para artesanía y construcción, la parte carnosa del fruto es comestible y su resina se utiliza como barniz. Las semillas se utilizan en la elaboración de bisutería en general. Se preparan bebidas con el almidón del fruto.

Uses and benefits: Attracts biodiversity, grows in low and middle elevation sites, its wood is used in handicrafts and construction, the fleshy part of the fruit is edible and its resin is used as a varnish. The seeds are used in the manufacture of jewelry in general. Drinks are prepared with the starch of the fruit.

 

  • Hura crepitans  (Euphorbiaceae) “Jabillo”

 

hura crepitans bb
Arbolito de Hura crepitans en bolsa de almácigo.
Sapling of Hura crepitans in a soil bag.
hura crepitans bb2
Arbolito de Hura crepitans en bolsa de almácigo.
Sapling of Hura crepitans in a soil bag.

Usos y beneficios: Para restaurar márgenes de ríos y quebradas, atraer biodiversidad, contener la erosión, su madera es utilizada en construcciones y ebanistería y los frutos para elaborar artesanías. La savia es tóxica. Crece en tierras bajas y medias de ambas vertientes.

Uses and benefits: To restore river banks and streams, attracts biodiversity, contains the erosion, its wood is used in cabinetmaking and construction, and the fruits to produce handicrafts. The sap is toxic. It grows in low and middle elevation sites.

Para más información información llamar al / For more information at (506) 2645-7363 extensión/extension: 109

O al correo electrónico/ or to the email : ugacrheadnaturalist@gmail.com

 

Escrito por Mariela Vásquez González pasante de fotoperiodismo/ photojournalism intern

Revisión científica por José Joaquín Montero Ramírez

 

Retos de conservación: Humanos, comunidad y medio ambiente/ Conservation challenges: Humans, community and environment

 

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Jordan Rogan explorando, de camino a una de su cámara trampa
Jordan Rogan exploring, in the way to one of her camera traps

 

Jordan Rogan es una estudiante de doctorado del departamento de Ciencias de la Vida Silvestre y Pesquería de la Universidad A&M de Texas y forma parte del Laboratorio de Monitoreo y Evaluación de la Biodiversidad. Ella ha desarrollado su proyecto de investigación con el apoyo técnico de UGA Costa Rica desde junio del presente año, titulándose: “Resiliencia, distribución y conservación de mamíferos medianos y grandes en Monteverde, Costa Rica”.

Su investigación busca identificar los requisitos que necesitan los mamíferos medianos y grandes de un hábitat para conservar la biodiversidad frente a los cambios en la cobertura de la tierra y la fragmentación del hábitat. La cobertura de la tierra en este caso se refiere a la cantidad de vegetación nativa que cubre un territorio. La fragmentación sucede cuando un área boscosa continua es transformada en un área con parches de bosque aislados. Ambos procesos pueden suceder por cambios antropogénicos, estos son los usos que le da a la tierra el ser humano.

Jordan Rogan is a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University in the department of Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences and she is also a member of the Biodiversity Assessment & Monitoring lab. She has been developing her research project with the technical support of UGA Costa Rica since June of this year. Her project is titled “Resilience, distribution and conservation of mid-large mammals in Monteverde, Costa Rica”.

Her research aims to identify the requirements of medium and large mammals in a habitat in order to conserve biodiversity in the face of changes in land cover and habitat fragmentation. Land cover, in this case, refers to the amount of native vegetation that covers an area. Fragmentation is when a continuous forest area is transformed into isolated forest patches. Both processes can occur due to anthropogenic, or human-caused, changes to the environment.

 

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Las principales herramientas que Jordan utiliza en las giras de campo son: las cámaras trampa, el GPS (Sistema de Posicionamiento Global), tarjetas de memoria, baterías recargables, cinta topográfica biodegradable para marcar donde se instalaron las cámaras, clinómetro y densiómetro, machete, cinta métrica, y un cuaderno.
The materials that Jordan uses in the field include: camera traps, GPS (Global Positioning System) device, memory cards, rechargeable batteries, biodegradable flagging tape, a clinometer and a densiometer, a machete, measuring tape, and a field notebook.

 

A nivel mundial la cobertura de la tierra de los bosques tropicales se ha degradado en más de un 50%, la pérdida de vegetación nativa está relacionada con la incapacidad de un ecosistema para mantener su funcionalidad, amenazando la biodiversidad.    

Según esta investigación gran parte de los estudios relacionados al tema, se han centrado exclusivamente en aves y pequeños mamíferos, sin embargo, este estudio se centra en mamíferos medianos y grandes. Estos mamíferos son los de un peso mayor a 1 kilogramo como, por ejemplo: Puma (Puma concolor), Pizote (Nasua narica), Ocelote (Leopardus pardalis), Chancho de Monte (Pecari tajacu), entre otros.

La investigación aborda la pérdida de hábitat y como esta influye en la población de los mamíferos de mediano y gran tamaño, según Jordan estos mamíferos “desempeñan un papel importante en la preservación de los procesos e integridad de los ecosistemas y representan un grupo particularmente vulnerable al cambio de cobertura de la tierra”.

Land cover change has resulted in the degradation of over 50% of tropical forests globally, resulting in the loss of native vegetation. This loss is associated with the inability of an ecosystem to maintain its functionality, thus threatening biodiversity.

According to this research, most of the studies related to the subject have focused exclusively on birds and small mammals, however, this study focuses on medium and large mammals. These mammals weigh at least 1 kilogram and include the Puma (Puma concolor), White-nosed Coatimundi (Nasua narica), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu), among others.

The research investigates the loss of habitat and how this influences the populations of medium and large mammals. According to Jordan they “play an important role in preserving ecosystem processes and integrity and represent a group particularly vulnerable to land cover change”.

 

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La altura para instalar una cámara trampa es entre 30 a 50 cm, se mide desde la base del árbol. Esta medida puede variar dependiendo si el árbol se encuentra en una pendiente
The height for install the camera traps is between 30-50 cm from the base of the tree, it can vary depending on whether the tree is on a slope

 

Los mamíferos de mayor tamaño son vulnerables a la fragmentación y a los cambios de la cobertura de la tierra, requieren de más recursos, ocupando territorios de mayor cobertura boscosa continua, además de ser blanco de los cazadores. Cada especie requiere de diferentes recursos para sobrevivir, por ejemplo, los que son depredadores necesitan de mayor cantidad de presas para alimentarse, y como resultado mayor cantidad de bosque continuo. Lo anterior se refiere a los rasgos funcionales, estos representan las diferentes características biológicas que definen a cada especie, con las que interactúan con el medio ambiente.

Jordan estudia múltiples especies en vez de centrarse en solo una; esto, en combinación con los rasgos funcionales, permiten que la investigación tenga una comprensión más profunda del tema. El objetivo del estudio es comprender las consecuencias sobre la biodiversidad por la pérdida de vegetación nativa en un hábitat y determinar así las áreas prioritarias para la conservación de los mamíferos bajo estudio.

Large mammals are more vulnerable to fragmentation and land cover changes because they require more resources, inhabit larger territories of continuous forest cover, and are targeted by hunters. Each mammal species requires different resources in order to survive. For example, those that are predators require larger prey populations, and as a result, greater continuous forest. Altogether the sum of biological characteristics that define each species is referred to as the functional traits, and these influences how each species interacts with the environment.  

Jordan studies multiple species instead of focusing on just one; this, along with the consideration of functional traits, allows her research to have a more comprehensive scope. The objective of this study is to understand the consequences of the loss of native vegetation in a habitat on biodiversity and to determine the areas of conservation priority for the mammal species under study.

 

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Instalando baterías y tarjetas de memoria en la cámara trampa, este proceso le permite a la investigadora recolectar información cada 3 semanas
Installing batteries and a memory card in a camera trap. This process enables her to collect data every 3 weeks

 

El programa Ciencias Aplicadas de la Biodiversidad del doctorado del que Jordan forma parte, prepara estudiantes para que puedan abordar retos de conservación involucrando tanto a las personas de las comunidades como también al medio ambiente, incluyendo ambos elementos dentro de un mismo sistema ecológico, como dice Jordan “es ahí donde la conservación sucede”. Es por esto que, además de recolectar datos de las cámaras ella entrevista a las personas dueñas de propiedades complementando así su estudio con saberes de personas locales.

La localidad en que Jordan realiza su proyecto es la Zona Protectora Monteverde Arenal y el Corredor Biológico Pájaro Campana en Costa Rica. Su investigación involucra cámaras trampa que coloca en sitios de estudio determinados a través de esta zona, recolectando datos acerca de la “presencia o ausencia de los mamíferos”. Instala las cámaras durante 45 días en cada sitio que luego reubica. 

Su intención es contribuir específicamente con la conservación del Corredor Biológico Pájaro Campana, su interés es presentar los hallazgos de la investigación a la comunidad, a ONG interesadas en conservación y que a través de un estudio integral se desarrolle un manejo ambiental adecuado.

The researcher is part of the Applied Biodiversity Sciences (ABS) Ph.D. program, which prepares students to tackle complex conservation challenges, involving both human communities and the environment, including both elements within the same ecological system. According to Jordan “there is where conservation takes place”. For this reason, Jordan interviews the owners of properties in her study area, in addition to collecting data from camera traps, complementing her study with the knowledge of local people.

The study areas of Jordan´s project are the Monteverde Arenal Protected Zone and the Bellbird Biological Corridor in Costa Rica. Her research utilizes camera traps placed in predetermined study sites throughout these areas, gathering “presence/absence data on mammals”. The camera traps run for 45 days at each study site before they are rotated to new sites.

Jordan´s intention is to contribute with conservation, specifically within the BellBird Biological Corridor. She plans to present her research findings to the community and to NGOs interested in conservation in order to promote integrative conservation management that incorporates the needs of both humans and the environment.

 

 

IMG_1369

Algunos resultados preliminares obtenidos a través de las cámaras de Jordan:
Ocelotes (Leopardus pardalis)
Some of the preliminary results of Jordan´s study, obtained from camera traps: 
Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis)

pecary

Algunos resultados preliminares obtenidos a través de las cámaras de Jordan:
Chancos de monte  (Pecari tajacu)
Some of the preliminary results of Jordan´s study, obtained from camera traps: 
Collared peccaries (Pecari tajacu)

 

Para más información contáctese al correo /For more information contact the email:  roganjordan23@tamu.edu

 

Mariela Vásquez G. pasante de fotoperiodismo/ photojournalism intern

Iniciativas de descontaminación en UGA: El Biodigestor / UGA decontamination initiatives: The Biodigestor

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UGA Costa Rica en el año 2008 quiso desarrollar el campus de una manera sostenible. Para esto evaluó y creó un plan de manejo para la finca, en el que se decidió incorporar en el año 2011 el primer biodigestor o sistema de descontaminación productiva de aguas residuales dentro del campus, un prototipo en el área de Monteverde.

La biodigestión consiste en la fermentación producida por bacterias anaeróbicas, componentes de las excretas (humanas o animales), sobre materia orgánica, éstas se aprovechan ubicándolas en un contenedor hermético, donde se generan altas temperaturas que destruyen y reducen las bacterias que podrían causar enfermedades. Las altas temperaturas llegan a “destruir hasta el 95% de los huevos de parásitos y casi todas las bacterias y protozoarios causantes de disentería” (Botero y Preston, 1987, P. 4). Es por esto que los residuos luego de ser procesados pueden ser aprovechados para la finca como fertilizante y abono.

In 2008, UGA Costa Rica wanted to develop the campus in a sustainable way. A plan to manage the farm was created, and in 2011, UGA decided to incorporate the first biodigestor/decontamination system of wastewater within the campus.  This biodigestor was a prototype in the Monteverde area.

 The biodigestion process occurs via the consumption of organic material by anaerobic bacteria. These organic components consist of human or animal excrement and other organic matter. The process occurs when these components are placed in an airtight container, where the anaerobic decomposition of these organic materials generates high temperatures that destroys or greatly reduces the concentration of bacteria that could cause illness. High temperatures “destroy up to 95% of parasite eggs and almost all bacteria and protozoa which cause dysentery” (Botero & Preston, 1987, p. 4). This is why the waste can be used on the farm as fertilizer after being processed.

 

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El encierro de los animales se limpia para dirigir las excretas a un filtro
The animal enclosures are cleaned up, excretement are directed to a filter

 

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El filtro por el cual pasan las excretas para ser dirigidas al reactor evita que pase material grueso o duro que puede ser difícil de descomponer dentro del biodigestor esto también evita daños a la bolsa.
The filter through which the excretion passes separates out the thick or hard material that would otherwise damage the reactor, or be difficult to decompose.

 

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El reactor es una bolsa hermética donde se produce la digestión anaeróbica, ahí se descompone el material orgánico que viene del establo para luego pasar al tratamiento secundario en las lagunas. Es en este proceso donde también se produce el biogás.   
The reactor is an airtight bag where anaerobic digestion takes place, organic material that comes from the stable decomposes there to pass to the secondary treatment in the lagoons.  In this process that biogas is also produced.

 

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Lagunas con plantas acuáticas para el tratamiento secundario de los efluentes que provienen del biodigestor.
Lagoons with aquatic plants for the secondary treatment of the effluent that comes from the biodigester.

 

Ya para el año 2013, por la eficiencia del primer prototipo instalado en la finca, se desarrolló otro biodigestor en el campus principal. Como resultado de ambos biodigestores se ha logrado procesar una mayor cantidad de materia orgánica generando más abono sólido y líquido, así como más biogás. Además, se implementaron las lagunas, donde el agua que sale del biodigestor de la finca lleva un tratamiento secundario con plantas acuáticas, las cuales absorben la materia orgánica restante, terminando de descontaminar las aguas residuales. Estas plantas también son utilizadas como alimento para cerdos y vacas.

La digestión anaerobia, como resultado produce una mezcla de gases que sirven como combustible (biogás), que puede ser aprovechado en diversos usos como fuente de energía renovable produciendo calor y electricidad.

La tecnología del biodigestor en el campus es considerada una herramienta multipropósito muy provechosa, ya que genera combustible, abono líquido y sólido. Además, el biodigestor juega un papel importante en la conservación, reduciendo la contaminación ambiental, según Carreras N. (2017, 3p.) el principal componente del biogás es el Metano (50-70%), este gas, contribuye al efecto invernadero y con esta tecnología en vez de ser liberado a la atmósfera es aprovechado como fuente de energía.

By the year 2013, due to the efficiency of the first prototype installed on the farm, another biodigester was developed on the main campus. As a result, both of the biodigesters have been able to process a greater amount of organic matter generating more solid and liquid fertilizer, as well as biogas. In addition, the lagoons at the farm were implemented, where the water leaving the biodigester has a secondary treatment with aquatic plants, which absorb the remaining organic matter, finishing the decontamination process of the waste water. These plants are also used as food for pigs and cows.

Anaerobic digestion as a result produces a mixture of gases that serve as fuel (biogas), which can be exploited in various ways as a source of renewable energy by producing heat and electricity. 

The biodigester technology on campus is considered a useful multipurpose tool, since it generates fuel, liquid and solid fertilizers, as also an educative oportunity. According to Carreras N. (2017, 3p.) the main component of biogas is methane (50-70%). This gas, which is known as a major contributor to the greenhouse effect, is harnessed as an energy source, rather than released into the atmosphere.

 

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Cámara de tratamientos de aguas residuales del campus principal
Main campus sewage treatment chamber

 

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Tubería que transporta el gas hacia el reservorio de biogás y tubería que comunica ambas cámaras para el proceso de tratamiento de aguas residuales
Large pipe on left: pipe that transports the biogas to the reservoir seem below.  Horizontal pipe consolidates both chambers for the wastewater treatment process

 

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Reservorio de almacenamiento de biogás.
Biogas storage reservoir

 

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El biogás siendo utilizado para el gas de la cocina
Biogas being used for gas in the kitchen

 

A través de los años en los que UGA Costa Rica ha experimentado con esta tecnología, se ha logrado compartir el conocimiento e instalar cinco biodigestores en diferentes fincas de la comunidad de San Luis y Monteverde.  Esto se ha logrado a través de programas académicos con estudiantes, donde se ha fortalecido el aprendizaje a través de la experiencia.

Through the years in which UGA Costa Rica has experimented with this technology, it has been possible to share knowledge and install five biodigesters on different farms in the community of San Luis and Monteverde. This has been achieved through academic programs with students, where their experience has been strengthened through service learning.

Mariela Vásquez G. pasante de fotoperiodismo/ photojournalism intern


Bibliografía

Botero R., Preston T.R. (1987). Biodigestores de bajo costo para la producción de combustible y fertilizante a partir de excretas. “Manual para su instalación, operación y utilización”. Recuperado de http://www.produccion-animal.com.ar/Biodigestores/04-biodigestores.pdf

Carreras N. (2017). CURSO DE FORMACIÓN TEÓRICO-PRÁCTICO DE ENSAYOS EN BACH (BMP) Y CONTINUOS DE DIGESTIÓN ANAEROBIA BASADOS EN LA NORMA VDI 4630. España: CIEMAT.

 

Una experiencia de aprendizaje en UGA Costa Rica Service Learning in UGA Costa Rica

Bosque nuboso de la Reserva de Monteverde/Casey Urban y Malcolm Scobell en el laboratorio durante la clasificación de muestras de macroinvertebrados
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve/ Casey Urban and Malcolm Scobell in the laboratory during the macroinvertebrate sample classification

 

Malcolm Scobell y Casey Urban llegaron en junio a nuestro campus para realizar su pasantía con el programa de estudios en el extranjero de la Universidad de Lehigh, Pensilvania, donde actualmente cursan su tercer año de la carrera de ingeniería ambiental. La pasantía duró 7 semanas quedándose en casa de personas de la localidad de San Luis, ubicación de la sede satelital de la Universidad de Georgia en Costa Rica. Según comenta Casey, ella eligió este destino por su valor ambiental y fue recibida como parte de la familia en donde residió.

Malcolm Scobell and Casey Urban arrived in June to our campus to begin their internship with the study abroad program at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, where they are currently in their third year of environmental engineering. Their internship lasted 7 weeks and they participated in home stays in the town of San Luis, where the satellite campus of the University of Georgia at Costa Rica is located. Casey chose this destination for its environmental value and she felt like a member of the family at her home stay.

 Piranga olivacea (Cardinalidae) Fotografía de Martha Garro/Muestra Botánica de Crotalaria maypurensis (Fabaceae)
 Piranga ilovacea (Cardinalidae) Martha Garro Photography/Crotalaria maypurensis (Fabaceae) botanic sample

 

El objetivo de la pasantía es aprender a través de la experiencia, por lo que los estudiantes formaron parte de diversas líneas de investigación que se realizan dentro del campus, incluyendo el proyecto liderado por Martha Garro Cruz, el cual se enfoca en estudiar el comportamiento de las aves y tratar de reducir los choques contra las ventanas. A través de una búsqueda sistemática, ella ha registrado el comportamiento y señales de este fenómeno en una base de datos. También contribuyeron con el proyecto liderado por el pasante naturalista Riley Fortier, montando muestras botánicas del herbario de UGACR donadas por William A. Haber, logrando contribuir con un total de 274 muestras de plantas montadas.                                                                   

The objective of this internship was a service learning experience in which the students
participated in several lines of research carried out on campus, including the project led by  Martha Garro Cruz, which focuses on studying the behavior of birds around windows in order to reduce bird strikes. Through systematic observation, she has been recording information about these behaviors and signs of this phenomenon in a database. Casey and Malcom also contributed to the project led by resident naturalist Riley Fortier, mounting botanical samples from the UGACR herbarium donated by William A. Haber, managing to contribute a total of 274 mounted plant samples to the collection.

 

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Los estudiantes de Lehigh junto al profesor Donald Morris, especialista en ecosistemas acuáticos quien los acompañó durante el proyecto de calidad de agua en UGACR.
The Lehigh students with their Professor Donald Morris, who studies aquatic ecosystems provided guidance during the water quality portion of the internship at UGACR.

 

En la última semana de su pasantía todos los estudiantes que conformaban el programa (Grace Boak, Shrivats Agarwal, Mariah Matias, Natalee Castillo, Tristan Morales y Juan Camilo Arbelaez) junto con el profesor del departamento de Ciencias de la Tierra y del medio ambiente, Donald Morris, quienes estuvieron en otras áreas de Costa Rica, se reunieron con Casey y Malcolm en UGA Costa Rica para realizar la última fase de su aprendizaje a nivel grupal.

In the last week of their internships, the Lehigh students that were interning in other parts of Costa Rica (Grace Boak, Shrivats Agarwal, Mariah Matias, Natalee Castillo, Tristan Morales and Juan Camilo Arbelaez) along with Donald Morris, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, met with Casey and Malcolm at UGA Costa Rica to carry out the final phase of their learning.

 

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Los estudiantes reunidos en el laboratorio de UGACR para conocer los objetivos de su participación en el proyecto de calidad de aguas
The students meeting in the UGACR laboratory to learn about the objectives of their participation in the water quality project.

 

Los pasantes participaron del proyecto de calidad de agua de las tres cuencas predominantes en el Corredor Biológico del Pájaro Campana en Puntarenas, investigación activa de la UGACR donde aprendieron a recolectar, clasificar y analizar muestras de macroinvertebrados acuáticos y otros parámetros físicos y químicos del agua . El Dr.Thomas Shahady investigador principal junto con José Montero de UGACR co-investigador, lideran este proyecto, el cual tiene el objetivo de crear un índice confiable para la calificación de la calidad del agua dentro del Corredor Biológico, como una herramienta para monitorear la salud de los ecosistemas acuáticos de la región así como para la toma de decisiones y empoderamiento de las comunidades locales.

They participated in an active water quality research project of UGACR that studies three prevailing basins in the Bellbird Biological Corridor in Puntarenas, learning to collect, classify, and analyze aquatic macroinvertebrates samples, and other physiochemical indicators of water quality. Dr. Thomas Shahady from Lynchberg University, is the principle investigator of this project, along with biologist and co-investigator José Montero from UGACR. The aim is to create a reliable index of water quality within the Biological Corridor as a tool to monitor the health of aquatic ecosystems in the region and to promote decision-making and empowerment of local communities.

 

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Durante el proceso de capacitación, explicación del cronograma a los pasantes
During the training process, explaining the schedule to the interns

 

Garro, facilitadora de programas académicos de UGA Costa Rica junto con José Montero investigador, Coordinador de Investigación, Instrucción y Pasantías capacitan, empoderan a los estudiantes, explicándoles la teoría y metodología a utilizar, brindándoles el conocimiento con respecto al trabajo de campo de recolección de muestras, así como también de las fases posteriores como de taxonomía y análisis de resultados.

Garro (facilitator of academic programs at UGA Costa Rica) along with José Montero (research, instruction, and internships coordinator at UGACR), guided the students by explaining the theory and methodology to be used – for example, the process of collecting samples in the field, as well as later phases such as taxonomy and analysis of results.

 

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Pasantes tomando datos para medir la corriente, la profundidad y el ancho del río/ Conteo de macroinvertebrados para calcular la calidad del agua
Interns taking data to measure the current, depth and width of the river/ Counting macroinvertebrates to calculate water quality in the laboratory

 

Las muestras de macroinvertebrados son tomadas en diferentes periodos durante el año abarcando los cambios ocasionados por los efectos estacionales. En este caso fue el tercer muestreo del año 2017. Los pasantes del programa participaron del trabajo de campo, aprendiendo a utilizar diferentes herramientas, recolectando las muestras e información de manera sistemática.

Samples of macroinvertebrates are taken at different periods during the year, covering changes caused by seasonal effects. In this case, it was the third sampling of the year 2017. Program interns participated in fieldwork, learning how to use different tools, collecting samples and information in a systematic way.

 

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Los estudiantes fueron divididos en tres equipos, en esta ocasión juntos(as) expusieron lo aprendido
The students were divided into three teams, this time explaining together what they had been learning

 

El último objetivo para los pasantes consistió en realizar una presentación del proyecto de aguas exponiendo las fases del proyecto, la metodología, los resultados analizados e interpretados a través de gráficos utilizando el método científico y apropiándose de su proceso de aprendizaje en UGA Costa Rica.

The last objective for the interns consisted of a presentation of the water project, using graphics to explain the phases of the project, the methodology, the analyzed results, and the interpretation using the scientific method. Through service learning here at UGACR, students were able to take ownership of the learning process.

 

Mariela Vásquez G. pasante de fotoperiodismo/ photojournalism intern

 

Desempolvando la historia de San Luis Unearthing the History of San Luis

 

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El sábado 5 de agosto la Asociación de Desarrollo de  San Luis de Monteverde convocó a su comunidad para presentar el folleto San Luis y su historia.

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El folleto fue posible gracias al trabajo de la comunidad en conjunto con estudiantes de la Universidad de Costa Rica liderado por Yossette Sojo.

 

 

 On Saturday, August 5, the San Luis Development Association summoned its community to present the San Luis y su historia  brochure. The booklet was made possible thanks to the work of the community in conjunction with students from the University of Costa Rica led by Yossette Sojo.

 

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El proceso empezó el año pasado y culminó con la presentación del folleto en el centro comunitario de San Luis, lugar donde según Sojo se realizaron la mayor parte de los talleres. Utilizando herramientas como creación de árboles genealógicos, líneas de historia, recolección de fotografías e información se esclareció la historia de este pueblo.

The process began last year and culminated with the presentation of the brochure in the San Luis community center, the place where most of the workshops took place. Collecting photos and information and using tools such as genealogical tree creation and timelines clarified the story of this town.

 

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San Luis fue fundado en 1918 y la primera familia que la habitó estuvo constituida por don Ramón Leitón Montero y Doña Florencia Méndez Bolaños. El estipular la fecha de origen de este pueblo fue uno de los pilares esenciales del proyecto de investigación. La recolección y selección de imágenes fotográficas fue de importancia para recorrer la historia, desempolvando el quién, el por qué y el cómo, que en algún momento sucedió. El folleto es un recorrido cronológico con la descripción de acontecimientos importantes. Empezando por establecer la primera llegada hasta eventos de mayor importancia de la comunidad.

San Luis was founded in 1918 and the first family that inhabited it was Mr. Ramón Leitón Montero and Mrs. Florencia Méndez Bolaños. Stipulating the date of origin of this town was one of the essential pillars of the research project. The collection and selection of photographic images was essential to explain the history, unearthing the who, the why and the how that occurred. The brochure is a chronological timeline of significant events, beginning by establishing the first arrival into San Luis followed by events of greater importance of the community.

 

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La Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de San Luis constituida en 1974, lidera el avance de la comunidad en sus diversas facetas, desde educación hasta infraestructura comunal. Esta entidad ha llevado a cabo distintos proyectos como la construcción del centro comunitario, puentes, una plaza de fútbol y un proyecto de turismo rural comunitario. La Asociación de Desarrollo Integral ha venido recuperando la historia y cultura de la comunidad.

    The San Luis Development Association, established in 1974, leads the advancement of diverse aspects of the community, from education to community infrastructure. The association to executed various projects including the construction of the community center, bridges, a soccer field, and a rural tourism project. The Development Association has been recovering the history and culture of the community.

 

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Parte importante de la actividad fue el brindar un especial reconocimiento a las personas mayores que han forjado la historia y que han visto crecer a este pueblo. A mano izquierda don Carlos Badilla, que fue un vecino y agricultor por muchos años y que al final de su permanencia en San Luis tuvo una lechería en la finca en donde hoy día se encuentra UGA Costa Rica y a la derecha don José Vargas, que fue el segundo maestro del pueblo en la primera escuela que existió en la comunidad ubicada al costado norte del cementerio.

An important part of the activity was to give special recognition to the elderly people who have forged history and who have seen the growth of San Luis. On the left is Mr. Carlos Badilla, who was a farmer in San Luis for many years and who, during his last years living in San Luis, owned a dairy farm where UGA Costa Rica is today. On the right is Mr. Jose Vargas, who was the second teacher in the first school that was established in the community, located north of the cemetery.

Para más información acerca de la comunidad  / For more information about the community:   http://sanluis.or.cr/es/inicio/

Mariela Vásquez G. pasante de fotoperiodismo/ photojournalism intern

 

Hands on the Herbarium!

William A. Haber arrived in Monteverde in July of 1973 with a doctoral thesis in mind. Initially studying glass-winged butterflies and their hostplants, he did not immediately expect to curate some of the most crucial insect and plant collections in the history of the region. His goal within the botanical community was to create one of the most thorough Costa Rican plant collections. His success produced four duplicate copies of this particular collection: One at the Missouri Botanical Garden, two currently at the National Museum of Costa Rica, and one now with us, inherited from Haber himself in 2009.

CAB_2017_3080_JuneIf Haber didn’t donate his personal collection to us, we wouldn’t have the extensive herbarium that we have today. With a plant collection that is double the age of UGACR, it is crucial for us to maintain and improve his legacy.

The collection that can be seen in the herbarium is currently a closet full of dry plant samples organized in old 80’s newspaper clips and manila folders. The newspaper has scribbled handwriting on the outside, informing us of its origin and collection number. The current project is to go through every specimen to make sure each is mounted in a professional way and has a thorough description.

 

Dr. Ann Willyard is a systematic botanist that teaches at Hendrix College in Arkansas. This is her first year coming down to UGACR with the study abroad program that has been coming here for many years. Her knowledge in the complex taxonomy of the ever-changing plant families is much needed. She brings a lighthearted tone to this particular work.

“The mounting part is more like an arts and crafts project than a science project,” Ann Willyard says. The students mount the plants using glue and then compiling the families together. Each dried plant sample is glued with a paper notation of who collected it, when and where. Any seeds or extra valuable plant material is placed in an envelope. The project goes from family to family, working its way all through the herbarium cabinets. When the project is finished, there will be a hearty collection of around three thousand plants, all pressed and organized together by family.

 

Resident Naturalist Riley Fortier is guiding the students through the whole process. He specializes in the study of tropical plants here and is taking initiative to mediate the process, along with Herbarium and Carbon Offset Coordinator Lucas Ramírez. After dedicating time to study and shadow our staff and researchers, Riley is turning into a Plant-O-Rama connoisseur and has been leading trainings on identification and plant components. His hand has been felt in the online community as he identifies species on more than one database.

CAB_2017_1422_Fit4Earth“Not many people know what an herbarium is to begin with, so being able to directly help in the preservation of ours makes me really excited. I think the students have fun mounting the plants, and even artistic people enjoy it… It’s really nice to have all of that help, because we made a huge dent in the work thanks to those students.” – Riley Fortier

Riley is a protagonist for UGA Costa Rica’s growing citizen science program, branching out to facilitate the process of peer review and crowd-sourcing information. It’s a gratifying step in a long-term interest of his.

“In college, most of my interest was in plants just because we have so many trees in Oregon and our campus is a certified arboretum… But I think it all started in my middle school, Sunnyside Environmental School, where a large part of our curriculum was environmental science and service learning. We had a native plant garden right outside our school and one of the things we had to do was learn more of our native plants each year.” – Riley Fortier

 

Riley uses the Tropicos database from the Missouri Botanical Garden that sets the standard for botanical taxonomy and classification. The vast majority of the plants in the Missouri collection have been identified down to the species level, which is the most precise. In our collection, they are often only identified to the family level. Riley has to use the online database to identify each specimen down to the exact species name, referencing the standard that the Missouri Botanical Garden sets.

One of the challenging parts is incorporating the newest annotations and changes to scientific names, based on the most recent taxonomy. These annotations indicate when the species, genera, or even families have been changed or reclassified.

 

The samples that were previously in newspaper might last 15 or 20 more years, but using the grease paper to mount and store them correctly will preserve them for easily over a century. With only a handful of herbariums in Costa Rica, the preservation of a unique collection is the compelling aspect.

“Many schools who previously had herbariums had to get rid of them just because they didn’t have anybody maintaining them. Botanists are in short supply these days, so we’re pretty lucky to have one here” – Riley Fortier

The Hendrix students are taking full advantage of their lab time. Their project includes finding, pressing, drying, and mounting their own plant collection. Not only are they focused on plants, but they’re pushing their mounting skills to the next level with personal insect collections. The collections of these young scientists may also last for centuries to come!

 

Post and photos created by Photojournalism Intern Charles Austin Boll

 

It’s a Monkey, It’s a Margay! No, Just Ernest Again.

 

The T.A.C.T. (Terrestrial and Arboreal Camera Trapping) project started when Ernest was wondering why there is hardly any information on the stratification of communities of medium to large mammal throughout the rainforest.

Ernest Minnema has been traversing the world for the past 10 years as a naturalist at various field stations. Being a new-age explorer has led him throughout Australia, Brazil, Guyana, Panama, and now Costa Rica.

Originally from the Netherlands, Ernest has grown into a exemplary force on the UGACR naturalist team. For the past 14 months, he has illustrated the most pristine night hikes, carbon offset work, sustainability tours, and of course, mammal talks.

He now looks into the composition of mammal communities through different layers of the forest. His main focus is what species are present, what are their behaviors, and their spatial and temporal distribution. This starts to draw patterns of when and where we find some of the most elusive animals in the world, with a central reference point in the pre-montane wet forest.

“Any time I had an issue as a kid, I would walk into the forest, climb up into a tree and find a seat… that was my way of escaping the world below when I wasn’t happy. It’s because most people don’t look up too often.” – Ernest Minnema

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Ernest has committed to mentorships and personal practice to acquire the skills necessary to quicken his efficiency. Now he spends two and a half days climbing twenty trees to collect data every three weeks.

It is relatively common to see camera trapping on the forest floors, even in our surrounding reserve areas. What is incredibly unique about Ernest’s work is that it includes mammals in all four layers of the rainforest: the forest floor, understory, canopy, and the emergent layer of the canopy. Some mammals are rarely found on the ground, so it’s a new look into the entire animal kingdom.

This particular practice is something new to all rainforests, not only Costa Rica. He breaks the mold by conducting one of the only arboreal camera trapping projects in Central America.

The goal to close out the year of data will not only show differences in stratification but the change of diversity and migration between the two seasons.

“Seeing a large mammal is one of the hidden gems in the forest.” They are some of the most elusive animals who demand space to exist, travel, migrate, and hunt.

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Ernest also has a deep love for arachnids and reptiles, but figured that his climbing and camera skills could combine to fit a greater need in science.  It’s not about what he could do, but what was valued in the scientific community.

Because there isn’t much scientific precedence or peer-reviewed literature concerning mammal distribution in the area, it will create baseline knowledge to test more theories in the future. He’s formulating a recipe to blaze a new trail in mammal research.

Even having 20 camera traps can only inform us to that specific, localized area. One of Ernest’s main struggles is finding methods for statistical analysis to calculate commonly used ecological indices from what he captures on his cameras. These indices are needed to extrapolate the generated knowledge to the vast areas that these mammal communities inhabit.

The academic soundness of his research is the most puzzling part of his process.“So as good research should do, it always raises more questions.”

“You have information, so that is the data set, but creating knowledge from that information – that is the academic challenge, how to go from information to knowledge.”

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This margay video wiggles into a special place in our hearts. It’s one that we could hear Ernest yelling about from across campus. Ernest usually positions the trap for a horizontal stretch of the tree, which in this frame is to the top-right edge off screen. Lucky camera number 13 was repositioned by a curious capuchin monkey just days before this video, making it possible to see this margay grooming itself.

Before the generation of camera traps, mammal researchers had a different experience gathering data through short-term direct observations. These methods require long sampling transects and frequently result in a low number of encounters, because they are highly dependent on visibility. The real die-hards will travel with a troop of monkeys for a week to a month perhaps, pitching a hammock and hoping they can catch the monkeys to hang with them the next day.

Camera trapping is a proven method to overcome these limitations. They can detect previously undocumented presence of elusive and rare species, previously undocumented behavior for a variety of animals, and even discover new species.

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Now we start to ask more specific questions:

“We take this strategy from the forest floor, but it could very well be different… If we take out that [emergent canopy] layer, what does the animal actually do?… If I can show that in the rainy season we have a lot of Mexican Hairy Porcupines, then someone else can say, but why?”

“Do we only find these patterns in the secondary forest, or do the animals act the same in the primary forest?”

A great example is the spider monkey, known for relying heavily on primary forest. It was reported last year in 2016 during the same part of the season as Ernest trapped it this year – something we wouldn’t have known if not for his cameras.

The spider monkey is now the 21st target species of mammal Ernest has found on campus. Outputs like these are fairly hard to come by for someone who doesn’t use any bait for their traps. All of the sightings have happened in a non-biased fashion.

Ernest’s ability to wander with the general public is what makes him so approachable. That’s why he’s decided to share his project with staff and friends.

 

“I like to tell people that I never really started climbing – I just never stopped; it’s only changed forms.”

It’s unlikely that Ernest will ever stop climbing. There are always new opportunities on his plate, whether it be academics, or his experience in the formal education spectrum, or being able to mentor others to facilitate their research. He teases the idea of organizing data into a PhD project to continue in academia.

One of his current pleasures is taking our local workers and community up for tree-climing tours. It’s growing into a favored bonding activity of the staff, interns, and locals in San Luis.

Because his project is completely self-funded, he is now reaching out to the community in order to maintain his equipment and his project. You can support his GoFundMe page here.

 

This story features a collaboration of Molly Bond’s photos from the community climbing workshop, a profile of Ernest setting the trap by previous intern Rachel Eubanks, and photos taken by current Photojournalism Intern Charles Austin Boll.

Fabricio Camacho: The Cognitive Composter

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Why do humans produce double the amount food that the entire world needs, but one billion people are still left hungry every day? How can we reduce the global impact of an agricultural industry that takes up 38 percent of Earth’s land mass?

On his childhood farm, a young Fabricio was wondering the same: why are they clearing the trees from the coffee plantations? Why do the coffee plants need chemicals? Why are the chemicals held in a room that I am not allowed in? These are questions Fabricio Camacho asked on his grandparent’s coffee farm in the 1980’s in the southern region of San Isidro, Costa Rica.

Now as the director of UGA Costa Rica, Fabricio is asking similar questions for his PhD research. This time, it’s through a more scientifically polished and globally pertinent lens.

He has a vision to fuse traditional methods of farming with the latest science. The goal is to produce coffee plants just as efficiently with a fraction of the emissions, cutting out synthetic fertilizers that deteriorate soil quality and emit greenhouse gases. Fabricio believes that we can sequester carbon and safeguard our water supply inside a rich soil that is facilitated by waste products that are already abundant.

Fabricio thinks that by using microorganisms and compost that is accessible to farmers, we can make a steep turn towards improving global health – and he’s got 1,600 plants outside the campus nursery to prove it.

Young Fabricio saw many of the fields on his home farm become degraded because of chemical use. This translated to special consideration for the long-term health of coffee plantations.

The first goal is substitution of synthetic fertilizers by purely organic matter. Because coffee production is the second largest crop in Costa Rica, the outcome could become a nationally adequate solution for carbon gas emissions.

“The idea could be adopted by just coffee farmers in Costa Rica, or the model could be introduced around the whole world” – Fabricio Camacho

He has eight different soil mixes randomly placed within each of the 64 blocks. The blocks are placed together to organize soil treatment throughout the experiment. Two of the eight are standard controls that farmers already use: basic soil and synthetically produced treatments. Two of these formulas are renditions of what Fabricio calls “optimized compost.”

The two optimized compost treatments have food waste products like banana leaves, wood chips, biodigestor sludge, and microorganisms that are available in the area, making his solution accessible to everyone.

Fabricio’s project delves into microbiology to understand how the MM (Mountain Microorganisms) and biodigestor sludge can facilitate nutrient absorption by the coffee plants and how much more carbon can be sequestered.

All of the plants are located in the same area to standardize lurking variables such as sun cover, rainfall, insect herbivory, and the microclimates of each block. His study will be able to be reproduced with 95 percent accuracy. This is lively science to be seen in an outdoor classroom where we can share the process with guests, students, and other researchers.

Fabricio takes every opportunity to share and crowd-source his ideas. The first planting day involved our UGACR maintenance team, most of whom have their own farms, to help weigh and mix the composts for the soil testing. A group of local farmers came to see and study the experiment due to their desire for new solutions.

Fabricio gladly shares the recipe, like teaching students from Fit4Earth how to bake a compost cake. These are young ticos who can apply the knowledge in their country, where 8% of the citizens work on coffee farms.

Fabricio’s hypothesis is that the optimized compost with purely organic material will facilitate coffee plant growth equally or better than the synthetic alternatives. The main objective is promoting sustainability by utilizing the natural resources that we have available. It can be more cost efficient because this method is easily obtainable within our environment.

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San Luis is a great example of a sustainable and organic model. If we prove this hypothesis correct, our community can serve as an inspiration to others. Through research and technological innovation we can bring the Costa Rican ecosystems back up to health by transitioning back to agro-forestry across the country.

The sustainable farms present in the community could use more strength for their plants. We could prove these soils to create more strength to grow, absorb nutrients, and contain water to hold throughout the dry season.

The common goal of Fabricio and participating interns is to bridge the gap between the practical farming community and the latest scientific breakthroughs. This experiment using unique ingredients is still one-of-a-kind on Earth. Fabricio is branching out by traveling to Germany for a month this summer to learn more about carbon sequestration.

It is already known that agro-forestry is more sustainable than monocultures. The questions Fabricio will resolve may prove that we don’t need any synthetic chemicals to maximize production. We can return to traditional methods with a newfound knowledge to gradually improve global health.

Blog post and photos by Photojournalism Intern Charles Austin Boll

The Man Behind the Mariposas

Eyes peer over the cabinets as José decides which butterfly case to show. Each is organized by family, pinned nicely in order to see the wings with an individual label for each subject.

José Joaquín Montero Ramírez is creating a library of information that many generations will be able to pass down. As well as being the Research, Instruction, and Internship Coordinator for UGA Costa Rica, José also leads workshops and lectures on his expertise – butterflies and moths.


UGA conservation inventories can be found in our lab, where the specimens are kept in sealed cases and organized by families. These collections are expected to last for 300-500 years and will be studied by future generations to tell our history.

“Having those specimens in a drawer with a label that specifies time, location, altitude, and GPS coordinates is extremely important because it’s the only way for you, in the future, to reveal a story.” – José Joaquín Montero Ramírez

Through his hands-on education and his growing collection of self-written books, that is exactly what José is doing – telling a brilliant story. We use the collection as one of our main tools to show students how thorough research is conducted.

José published two books on the Butterflies and Moths of Costa Rica in 2007. Now he is using the UGACR collection of over 1000 specimens collected on campus, beginning in 1998, to write his third book describing the 250 species that are found in San Luis de Monteverde.

CAB_2017_1395_Fit4Earth.jpgJosé’s main goal through teaching is to promote Bioliteracy.  This means that people study a particular biology well enough to become fluent in understanding the causes and effects, pushes and pulls, between environmental stimuli and species. Our field observations tie together butterflies with the plants that they use to eat and pupate, for example.

UGA Costa Rica is a place where we can constantly make observations, proving step-by-step that butterfly and moth behavior is a key indicator of environmental health.

Looking to publish his third book will bring him closer to San Luis, focusing on species that surround us here on campus. Costa Rica has .03 percent of the world’s land mass, but yet 8 percent of its butterflies and 11 percent of the world’s moths. Our campus is a magnifying glass to hold to the butterfly world.

José Joaquín Montero Ramírez has worked for a non-profit science organization as well as contributing to the National Museum of Costa Rica’s butterfly and moth collection.

As the curator in charge of collection at Costa Rica’s National Biodiversity Institute (INBio), José would organize parataxonomists, organize samples from families to species level, and teach new collectors how to preserve the specimens. Every curator would focus on one or more families

A research center in Ontario, Canada at the University of Guelph has a DNA reader that creates a library of barcodes of life for each species.

Butterfly researchers send a leg of the specimen to be tested by the machine and receive a detailed description of the genes in return (barcode). This information is crucial to the ability to delineate species boundaries, specifying which insect is a sibling or cryptic species, family member, distant cousin species, or a newly found species all together.

During his work with INBio, José was at the forefront of differentiating species using this form of identification. The family of moths that Jose was in charge of, Lasiocampidae, grew from 130 to 203 species through his leadership.

“When you have a collection, it implies that you have knowledge, and in this era of technology, if you have knowledge, you have a lot of power. Collections, for me, represent power in terms of having the opportunity, data, and the information to teach young people and show them that you have to collect butterflies and moths because it’s the only way to conserve.” – José Joaquín Montero Ramírez

Students are able to take a sample of a species, unravel their net to hold their butterfly gently, understanding that the interaction between human and insect can be purely positive without harming the butterfly. Then they sit down with the page of the butterfly family in the book and make their guess to exactly what species they have found.

They will learn the scientific and common name. José will often share amazing details about a unique characteristic or personality trait of that particular species.

The kids realize the animal and form a tangible connection between themselves and a certain species of insect. This can feel something quite new to students of all age, who are normally timid to hold insects, and show them that there’s no way to gain knowledge of a species if we don’t interact with it.

UGACR bridges the gap between the forest and the laboratory where we study. At this field station, a wealth of information is just right outside the doors of the lab. One of the main goals of this activity is to teach people how citizen science is applicable.

There are species fluttering around us that we still don’t know about; we are exploring new species month to month. Living in this unique forest that shares such a vast border with reserved land creates an atmosphere of discovery through some unexplored frontiers of biodiversity, sometimes flying right past your eyes.

Words and photos contributed by Photojournalism Intern Charles Austin Boll