Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tackling the Work at Drake Bay

The work here in Drake Bay is quite different to what we were doing in Jalova. We are helping carry out research into the life cycle of two tree species in the Nutmeg family. There are many interesting things about these tree species that we're helping collect data about and hopefully the work that we do will contribute to the important research being carried out here in the Osa Peninsula. You can check out this blog: for more information about the team of researchers and the work they are doing.

One of the main tasks we have to undertake is checking nets or traps placed under the trees for seeds and fruits. When we find them we have to count them and record them in the data book. The flowers and fruits are very small and there can be hundreds of flowers in each trap. Some trees have only 3-4 traps while others have 8-10 depending on the size of the canopy. The trees are not all located next to the trails through the forest so we have to do a fair bit of careful ploughing through the jungle to find the trees. Here's where we break the first and most important rule we learnt in Jalova...touching the vegetation is not something we have any choice over!

Not only are the traps deep within the jungle, the topography of the area is the complete opposite of Tortuguero. Where Tort was flat beach and open, easy to follow trails, here is steep, muddy, slippery, thickly vegetated jungle with a few sections of vaguely defined trail. It makes for a very exciting hike! I still, as far as possible, try to avoid touching the vegetation but there are occasions where getting a helping hand from a passing tree is necessary either for balance as we climb or for emergency breaks when the forest floor seems to become like an oil slick and you are sliding further and further down towards the bottom of the ravine. At these times some of our hiking companions are more helpful than others...calling for help may bring someone who appears to be coming to the rescue but really just wants a better angle for a photo!

Another task we've been involved in is searching for trees that need to be identified as male or female and whether they have been productive in the last year. We usually do this with Pablo's research assistant, Juan whose idea of jungle attire is wellies, boardies and binoculars. We struggle to keep up with Juan as he runs up the almost vertical red clay hill that greets us every day before we can start surveys. By the time we get to the top our hearts are pounding and we're sweating so much that it feels like it must be raining!

We're gradually getting to grips with the work and we're both gaining a lot of knowledge about the ecology of the area from Pablo, the project coordinator. On top of all that we're also going to leave here super fit and tanned from hiking up the steep hills every day and chilling out on the beach any chance we get! Life is hard!

Hasta luego,

The Drake Bay team

(Helen and Kate, GVI interns)