Up to Speed with Our Community

Around campus, we know Gilberth Lobo de Rodríguez as a bright and compassionate host of our coffee tours. His wife, Amalia Rodríguez, is responsible for the fresh smell of our fabrics and shining campus corridors. But behind the family of hardworking farmers, there is even a more intense side to one of their favorite hobbies – running!

cab_2017_755_leisureGilberth and Amalia both finished in medaling positions in their last race, the Fire Mountain Trail. They demonstrate the importance of experience as grandparents in a competition of all ages.

The long display of trophies in the Rodríguez house shows the fruit of practice and repetition – medals won from all around the country, some named with races they have run 10 years in a row. Their running crosses borders from thin forested trails to paved roads, from steep mountains to a yearly race on the beach. With Hilbert’s hopes of running the Boston Marathon, the possibilities show no end.

The UGACR campus depends on locals like Amalia and Gilberth to keep all of our necessities available. Gilberth explains how this hasn’t always been easy: The generation before Gilberth’s grandparents were some of the first groups of people in the upper San Luis area to cultivate coffee. Most of the farmers that lived here would grow coffee, beans, and corn with a focus on subsistence. Families would often take the harvested plants long distances to be able to trade for necessities like medicines, clothes, and textiles.

cab_2017_00710_toursIn the background of this photo you can see a trunk of a coffee tree passed down from Gilberth’s grandfather, cut when it was 65 years old. From the tours, we learn how the cultivation of coffee has evolved in these few generations. By refraining from the use of pesticides and chemicals, the production quantity is reduced on the fincas (farms) around our campus.

This is a logical sacrifice because of the demand for high-quality organic coffee.
cab_2017_00741_toursRetaining these independent ethics means balancing the
relationship with fungus, parasites, and local wildlife, which is a community effort. Like many in the community, Gilberth shares his strong labor on several farms aside from his own.

The workers and visitors at UGA Costa Rica all play a role in the production cycle by creating trade opportunities. The food that we eat either comes from campus or other local fincas. Gilberth sees a beneficial companionship between the two. From his perspective, the university has developed in harmony with the local fincas. The arrival of different nationalities, cultures and customs provided the community with a possibility of beneficial exchanges of experiences and knowledge. Now he sees much of the local youth speaking English.

“Cuando llegan grupos de diferentes nacionalidades, culturas y costumbres, eso permite a algunas familias de la comunidad tener una relación de intercambio, experiencia, y conocimiento.”

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The Rodríguez family is a supercharged example of working hard and playing even harder, waking up early in spite of long hours. They keep their practice strong by maintaining healthful and organized habits that are centered around the family. They continue the tradition of growing coffee in a similar way they pass down the hobby of running to the next generation – theicab_2017_00334_toursr daughter now has seven races under her belt.

Gilberth and Amalia say that the other competitors are often people they are familiar with. They do not see opponents as rivals, but rather as friends to share the experience with. When he gets tired and may slow down, Gilberth thinks of the exhaustion as a common denominator between his friends, that the man behind him may be even more tired himself.

“Cuando me siento cansado yo solamente pienso que los demás también están cansados y posiblemente más que yo. Entonces no hay razón para terminar.”

Racing with this mentality is an exchange that motivates the community. Gilberth and Amalia are more content with the tranquil lifestyle of rural Costa Rica in the San Luis valley. They have relatives scattered in many parts of the country, but enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor in a more direct way. At a finca, you have to be committed to your daily work, but it pays off when you are provided with the ability to immediately quench your hunger and thirst without paper exchange.

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Meeting people like Gilberth and Amalia is what makes a visit to UGACR memorable. It makes an impression to see people who are committed to their trades and hobbies every day, helping to lift up the campus community. This is part of what makes our exchange so rich, that possibly one day the Rodríguez grandson will show his medals to a touring group.

 

 

Photos and words contributed by Photojournalism Intern Charles Austin Boll

Friday Feature: Water Quality Research

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This trip was designed with a story in mind,” Lindsey, one of the school group’s leaders explained. She along with Pat, two science teachers from Colorado, traveled to Costa Rica with thirteen middle school students on a Source to Sea trip, which highlights the importance of water sources as indicators of an environment’s overall health. The group, organized by the Global Travel Alliance, began their ten-day tour at UGA Costa Rica to learn about the upper watershed in Monteverde, including the Bellbird Biological Corridor.

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Water quality intern Darixa leads students into the upper stream to capture macroinvertebrates.
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Students from the Source to Sea trip collect data to determine the health of la bruja, a creek that lies five minutes from UGA Costa Rica’s main campus.

The Source to Sea group worked with Darixa, UGA Costa Rica’s current water quality intern, to learn how researchers evaluate water quality based on chemical, physical and biological measures. Darixa emphasized the importance of riparian areas, or banks that act as buffers, providing natural vegetation, shade, food, and habitat, all while reducing erosion and pollution. Here in Costa Rica, each side of a bank must measure at least twenty-five meters to be reserved as a riparian area, as Darixa explained in her presentation to the class.

Out in the Field

The thirteen students recorded water quality measurements such as pH and turbidity before placing their nets in the streams to collect macroinvertebrates. Each measure works together to help researchers understand the overall health bill of a body of water.

To collect macroinvertebrates, the students divided into teams, kicked up rocks and released the organisms from their aquatic dwellings so they could be collected and later examined in the lab. What originally seemed to be pieces of leaves often revealed to be macroinvertebrates, which are sedentary organisms with long life cycles whose responses to pollution are well-known. Water quality researchers focus on the presence of macroinvertebrates because their lives depend on the health of the water in which they reside. 

Back in the Lab

Next students used forceps to pick through their specimen bags, dividing their findings into types, such as insects, crustaceans, molluscs, arachnids, and amelids, then using microscopes to take closer looks. The abundance and classifications of the macroinvertebrates revealed the healthy conditions of the bruja and alondra creeks, as a higher presence of pollution-intolerant organisms indicates lower levels of pollution in the watersheds.

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All images © Rachel Eubanks Media

Water quality research is one of the key pillars of sustainability goals established by UGA Costa Rica. As population growth and climate change create detrimental impacts upon the world’s water sources, water quality research remains an essential component of environmental conservation efforts.

This post and its images were created by photojournalism intern Rachel Eubanks.

A Day in the Life of a Moth…Intern

     “It’s 2:30am again!” That is a frequent saying of mine the past four weeks, usually followed by a thought of, “I should have went to bed earlier.” 2:30am, that’s the time my work begins in the day. I am the current moth intern here at UGA Costa Rica and every morning I wake up at 2:30am to venture out around the campus to check two light traps for moths! Hundreds of beautiful moths filling the light walls and my mission is to take a photo of every one of them.

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Humans of UGACR, San Luis: Mario Pérez & Official Site

As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of UGA Costa Rica (UGACR) offering education abroad programs, what better way to reflect on the great decade than to speak with those who have been at the UGACR campus since day one. We spoke to San Luis native Mario Pérez. With his infectious smile and caring nature, Mario is truly an essential part of the hardworking team that is Mantenimiento, or Maintenance.

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Friday Feature: Bird Researcher, PhD Student Cody Cox

cody_toucanetCody Cox is a PhD student in Integrative Conservation and Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia who is conducting his research at UGA Costa Rica. Cody’s research focuses on ornithology and spatial approaches to wildlife conservation.

As part of his PhD research, Cody is examining how landscape structure, specifically the arrangement of forested and agricultural areas, affects the movement patterns of several bird species in the region around UGA Costa Rica’s campus. This kind of data is critical for developing effective conservation plans for these species.

We were able to join Cody as he took a group of students from the National Geographic Student Expedition program through part of his daily process from retrieving birds from the nets to data entry.

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Independence Day: Talk Like a Tico

With approximately 470 million speakers worldwide, or 6.7% of the world’s population, Spanish is the second most popular language in the world after Mandarin Chinese according to a study done by the Spanish language nonprofit Instituto Cervantes. Though the more formal, classroom Spanish is understood throughout the entire country, Costa Rica is known for its distinct colloquialisms, the most famous of which being Pura Vida.

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