Saturday, August 15, 2015

Life at La Selva

La Selva is a biological research facility not far from Saripiqui in Costa Rica.  It is run by the Organization for Tropical Studies and is also one the TEAM network sites.  Scientists and students come here for short or long amounts of time and stay while they go out into the forest to do their own individual research.  Birders and tourists also come and naturalists and guides are available for day and night hikes.  
I was informed, that as far as field stations go, this one is the equivalent of a five star Hilton.  The main dining hall has beautiful wooden ceilings with both inside and outside seating options.  
There are various sleeping options available.  Professors are placed in more prestigious houses, but as students, we were assigned to dorms which were similar to those used for summer camps.  There was a shared bathroom and a fan to help keep things cool.  Most of the time, rain kept the temperatures pleasant, but on the few days it didn't rain, it could get a little sticky.  There was no glass in the windows, just screens to keep out the bugs.  
A suspension bridge allowed us to cross over the river to get to the trails and classroom area.  It was about a mile round trip each time we went out, so we tried to take everything we would need each day, coming back only for meals.  Closed toed shoes were required on the trails, and we never went anywhere without an umbrella and a flashlight.  
We were in the Jaguar classroom for most of our time.  Peggy, Steve, and Jimmy each gave different presentations while we were there, and they brought computers and a projector with them.  
 Meal times brought us all together back at the main hall.  The menu was posted both in Spanish and English each day.  We were left to wonder what "mixed meat" meant, but there was a nice variety each day.
Meals were centered around beans and rice with a meat and a vegetable or starch.  There was also a salad bar with local fruits and a juice dispenser.  Coffee, tea and water were available 24-7, but the food was there only during scheduled meal times.  Scientists could request a bag lunch if they were going to be in the field all day.  
Here is a view of the serving line, all the food was cafeteria style, allowing you to choose what you would like at each meal.  The ladies were always willing to give you "mas" is you wanted more of a specific food.  Dinner even had dessert available!
 One thing we all noticed was how focused on recycling they were not just at La Selva, but everywhere we visited.  Plastic, paper and organics were all separated into different containers.  
Meals were a time to sit and relax, sharing stories of what we did during the day.  Most of the talk was centered around the research we were doing or the animals we had seen that day.  
Dr. Smiley was one of the scientists we shared several meals with.  He is a retired professor who always wanted to return to an unanswered question about beetles he found while working on his doctorate in 1971.  So after his retirement, he decided to come down and spend some time doing further study.  We would see him out on the trails going out to the succession plots, or at dinner excited about what he had found.  

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