Friday, December 9, 2016

All I have to ~ bee ~ thankful for


Lame puns aside, OTS has provided me an amazing outlet to which I could experience another field of science. Our final site was at the Palo Verde National Park. The climate, marsh, and mosquitos were very reminiscent of back home and that was comforting when trying to finish the last stretch of the semester. One part of this ‘stretch’ was the second independent project. I worked with Jocelyn on the effect of florivory on bee behavior and interactions with plants. This project was a complete 180 from my La Selva project because instead of working till 2am, we were starting at 5:15 am. I thought the idea behind the project was super interesting and once we analyzed the results I thought the implications were also very interesting. What I had a hard time convincing myself of was staying motivated to do the project each morning. I am, definitively, not a morning person. This is especially true when I have to walk through the marsh to pick 120 water hyacinth inflorescences, cut their flowers, and make the plots stay from falling over into the water at 5:30 in the morning. Once the plots were made, we sat in the direct sun for 3 hours counting the number of times bees landed or hovered over a flower. The project, in all honesty, was very monotonous. With all this being said, I am extremely glad that I did the project. I had never had the experience of doing this type of fieldwork and it was quite different than I had expected. Whether or not I found this project to be the most exciting thing on earth or not, I learned from it and I grew because of it and that’s what I was looking to get out of my OTS experience. 
            On one of the days that we had free, I took a walk through the dry forest to reflect on the program and have some alone time. I didn’t know where I was walking to and didn’t particularly care. While heading down a main road of the park, I saw a trail called the ‘mirardor’ trail and figured that if I was going to be spending a couple weeks here I might as well look at the park at a lookout site. The trial wasn’t kept up as indicated by the fallen trees over the path and the apparent lack of visitation. After about an hour or so I came across a small pile of limestone rocks. As I kept forward, I saw that the rocks got larger and larger until I saw them go to the top of the side of the mountain. The path had just stopped so I decided that it would be a fun idea to scale the side to get a better look at everything. Climbing up the rocks, getting cut by Agave seemanniana, and avoiding cacti made the end of the walk a little more difficult than the mosquitos had already made it. Once I got to the top, I sat on the edge of a rock and looked out over all the dry forest. The view was beautiful and the gentle breeze made the rest comforting.
            While looking out I came to realize a few things from this trip. My first was that I am so lucky to have been given this opportunity to join this program. Being a low-income first generation student, I had never imagined being able to go to Duke, let alone live in Costa Rica for four months. Traveling from Las Cruces to Palo Verde and everywhere in-between has been an unforgettable experience. My second was that to an extent, I really enjoyed doing fieldwork. I loved being able to collect samples from the natural environment and perform experiments with them. While this might not make its way full time into my future endeavors, I want to incorporate to some degree an aspect of fieldwork. Collecting my own samples from nature helped put a lot things into perspective for me. Lastly, I realized that this trip is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. The experiences, friends and knowledge that I gained during this study abroad are one of a kind and I’m very happy in my choice to join OTS. 

Tanner Waters
Duke University

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