Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuning in to Amphibians

Our stay at the San Gerardo Research Station near Monteverde was peaceful, idyllic, and far too short.  This was the most isolated station we visited, requiring a 3 km hike through primary and secondary forest to reach the station.  We carried all our necessities for the next few weeks on the hike into the station.   Although there were no heavy rainfalls during our stay, a slight mist was falling during our hike in, which made the ground very slick and the air heavy.  However, this hike was still not a hassle but rather contributed to the uniqueness of our experience at the San Gerardo Station.  Our stay felt like more of an adventure than our time at the other research stations.

While at San Gerardo, we worked with a Costa Rican natural history expert, Mark Wainwright.  He taught us about the various amphibians in Costa Rica- including frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians.  One of my favorite topics was the natural history of frog calls.  It was fascinating to listen to recordings of various species and learn to distinguish advertisement, courtship, aggressive, and distress calls.

On a night hike, we had the opportunity to see many frog species in the San Gerardo forest.  We identified various species of glass frogs, rain frogs, and tree frogs.  While in the forest, we paused, turned off the lights, and listened to the many sounds of the forest.   I could count over 10 layers of sounds, including owls, crickets, and the occasional frog.  This exercise made me conscious of the many sounds that usually escape my attention, and in the future, I’ll try to be more conscious of the various components of the forest soundtrack.

Overall, I had a great time at the San Gerardo Research station.  The food was delicious, and I particularly enjoyed being served an afternoon snack of coffee and homemade cakes to fuel the rest of our day.  Upon stepping outside of our bedrooms, we were met with a spectacular view of montane wet forest and comfortable hammocks beckoned us to lounge and enjoy the mountainous panorama and refreshingly cool weather.  In addition, I am excited to be heading to our next research stations (Bocas del Toro, Panama and La Selva, Costa Rica) better prepared to see and hear many unique species of frogs and other amphibians.

Jamila Roth
Skidmore College

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