Day 1: Liberia to Palo Verde……..

I peeked over the side of the bridge at the Catalina wetland inside the Palo Verde National Park. Whoa!!!

A rather large American Crocodile (like the one we saw the next day on the Rio Tempisque, below) was lurking under the bridge with mouth open, just waiting for an unsuspecting wood stork or perhaps a DEL student…. We had just seen two jabirú  storks fly in to join the hundreds of migratory wood storks and great white egrets on the wetland, and so were already a little giddy. I thought our Palo Verde OTS Academic Coordinator and guide Rafael Ramirez was going to actually jump up and down……
American Crocodile on the Rio Tempisque
American Crocodile on the Rio Tempisque

Our group arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, on Friday evening, from various parts of the United States. To some dismay and much laughter, we distributed the “readers” of background information on the biogeography of Costa Rica that Megan and I had prepared – they were much thicker than anticipated as the double sided copier was not working that day!!! Hopefully these readers will turn out to be academically useful and not just a workout tool for us to drag from site to site!

Our course is a comparative look at tropical ecosystems, and the threats that they face. We are starting in the dry forest of Palo Verde, and on then to montane forest and cloud forest at Monteverde, and then ending up at lowland tropical forest at La Selva Biological Station.

We arrived at the OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies)  dry forest station at Palo Verde in the late morning, and spent some time talking about what people hope to get out of the course. Mike D indicated that he saw himself as a clear canvas, ready to absorb new information and experiences, particularly in terms of the similarities and differences in ecology and patterns of usage here in Costa Rica and back home in the US- people are occupied with the same issues of supporting themselves and improving their lives. Joe mentioned that the tropical environments are new to him, and given how well he knows the plant life in North Carolina, he was looking forward to learning to recognize some of the species here. David spoke if his interest in comparing different kinds of topical forest, and in recognizing different kinds of previous disturbance, while Megan indicated interest in local land management practices, and Gerry mentioned his interest in mammals in all of these ecosystems. Finally, Tom discussed his interest in the political aspects of changing tropical ecosystems- how does one generate the political will and willingness to pay to sustain these ecosystems?

In the afternoon, we took an introductory trip to the Palo Verde laguna wetland in front of the station, to the dry forest and finally to the Catalina wetland area, where we saw the aforementioned jabirú  and crocodile. And did I mention that on the way home we saw an ocelot, walking across the road, as clear as day? Do you know what an incredible sighting that is? What could we possibly do on Day 2 to top this day???