Friday, June 30, 2006

La Selva Biological Station

For a full ten days our home has been the La Selva Biological Station. This is the premier station for OTS with a long history of published ecological research (over 250 paper a year) and several cornerstone long term projects. One of Conservation International’s five sites for Tropical Ecological Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) is here as well as Arthropods of La Selva Project (ALAS); CARBONA which is looking at forest as carbon stocks; Digital Flora, a electronic database describing more than 60% of La Selva’s plant species; ALAS, a large-scale inventory of arthropod diversity in a lowland tropical rainforest and TREES, a 22 year tree-growth and mortality project. I’ll come back to this last project in a separate post. The appeal to researchers is clear: primary forest (having never been cleared or even logged) is abundant and accessible via extensive bike trails, internet access, reasonable facilities, etc. We're finally in the lower tropics: its hot and I've never experienced the kind of rain where the sky really does seem to open and pour water on the forest.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Death of an Oak

Tree falls have significant impact on forest dynamics: returning nutrients to the soil, completely changing the light availability to the forest floor around them and wrecking havoc on the neighborhood of other trees and lower reaching plants. In the lower tropics, it takes an average of 137 years for the forest to refill the canopy gap left after the fall of a mature canopy tree. Here in the highlands of the Tamanaca, it’s likely to be much longer as these oaks may only grow ½ a meter in a decade.

Though you may be mighty, there are a number of ways to loose your life as a large canopy tree. On the other end of the spatial scale, you chief risk is micro and macro-organisms that will literally eat you from the inside out and outside in. Fires are extremely rare here but several have started in the last 100 years from neighboring farms and residents allow them to burn. The resulting fire damage can open a wound at your base allowing for disease and decomposition of your bark. Placement of your roots is critical, especially if your life began, ever so long ago, as a seed on a steep slope. In this circumstance, you will cling to the forest floor by the high anchor point of your root system and if something should compromise it, such as the root system of a neighboring tree, death is certain. The death of a neighbor also poses huge risk for when it falls, if it doesn’t take you out instantly, it can take off on of your branches, creating an opening for those that would feed themselves and all their progeny on your insides, all the way to your roots, eventually unearthing you too.

Most trees decompose through their core, usually because their core has been compromised. In this case, all that they were becomes food for the forest itself. If, however, a tree falls with its core in tact, especially in less moist microclimates, it will loose bark and cambium but retain that core for a very long time. We saw some trees in the forests of Cuerici that were almost shiny with wear and hard as rocks, fossilized where they fell.

I’ve teamed up with Laura Vary, a fantastic botanist, to look at tree falls and succession here in the cloud forest at Cueraci. The section we’re focusing on is dominated by a native bamboo, Chusquea, and two native species of oak, Quercus copeyensis & Q. costaricensis. Our aim is to describe a community succession pattern on a single species of oak based on age of the tree fall, light availability and health of the tree when it fell. Central to our study is the knowledge of our host here at Cueraci, Carlos Serano, whom we all call “Don Carlos”. Pictured below, he has helped us to find, age and diagnose a set of fallen oaks. From there, we catalog the set of plant (and possibly fungus) species present and look for patterns. Having no idea if any of this will amount to anything interesting, our day was nonetheless fascinating. Don Carlos shared his deep love and knowledge of the forest with us and showed us a monster tree fall: the death within the last 30 days of a thousand-year old giant. The fall of this single tree, pictured at the top of this post, took at least four others with it and left an enormous and precious light gap in the midst of otherwise tight canopy.

The next day we had an even more immediate experience of this phenomenon. Standing on the fallen now horizontal trunk of this enormous tree, we were stunned by a sudden cacophony of cracks, pops, followed by crashes and thunder from the ground. Over my left shoulder I glimpsed a large tree just beyond the clearing fall away to its death. I looked back at Laura as we both erupted with amazement. We waited 10 minutes and approached the scene tentatively in case the full domino effect of this newest tree fall had not yet played out. We arrived to find fresh dirt covering everything in proximity to the tree’s root system. Here’s a picture of the freshly fallen and the remnants of an unlucky neighbor.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Bees at Paramo

The first two days here at Cuerici were spent in the Paramo, the Costa Rican equivalent of our alpine regions: the highest elevation, all above treeline. There we were led by Kathleen Kay, a guest instructor on this part of our course, in a “faculty field project.” Kathleen led us to a field wherein at least 5 plant species shared a single pollinator, bombus epiphiatus, a species of bumble bee. Our challenge was to explain how these flowering plants effectively maintained population isolation: how they avoided degeneration into hybrids. We broke into groups interested in pursuing different approaches to the question; my group focused on the combination of flower and bee morphology to see if there was a prezygotic (before fertalization) mechanism at work that was based on the shape or size of the bee and the various flowers. The idea was that bees would choose flowers that “matched” their body size and shape and thus avoid cross pollination between flower species.

Here’s how we did it: braving the cold and rain of the Paramor, we caught bees pollinating each of the four flower species in butterfly nets and iced them for ten minutes or so (which effectively immobilizes them without really hurting them), allowing us to subsequently measure the area of their thorax. We then took some basic metrics on each of the four flowers. I will interject here that a chief challenge of OTS course field work is short time frame. In the matter of a few days, we must develop a research question, design our approach, execute, analyze and present. We’ll repeat this furious process many times at each site, hopefully gaining some amount of proficiency. Intermixed in this fury are non-stop lectures and field walks. The time constraint for projects is thus completely unrealistic with respect to actual (publishable) field research so what we’ll often end up with is a result that says this: our results were inconclusive.

So it was especially surprising that our bee/flower morphology matching exercise ended up with a statistically significant result. There was a clear difference in the size of the bees that were visiting 2 groups of similarly sized flowers. That said, there were a number of problems with our study including a small sample size: only 10 samples of each of the four bee pollinators. Also, our results showed differences across 2 groups of 2 species each but we couldn’t explain why the 2 species within groups weren’t cross pollinating. Another team was looking at the actual pollen on flowers under a microscope and showed that cross pollination was actually occurring between at least two species. Our overall conclusion was thus inconclusive: some yet unstudied mechanism is retaining species integrity, perhaps at the molecular level within styles or even post-zygotic (after fertilization). That’s it, write it up and on to the next project!

Sidebar: Meet some of my classmates. At the top of the post, that's Tawny who studies invasive species ecology at UC Davis. We're sharing an interest in improving our nature photography skills while on the course. My "Bee Team" follows including Javier who studies social bees in Bogota, Columbia and can lead a lovely salsa, the amazingly bright Annika, a plant specialist and Tawny again in the back.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006


We left Las Cruces in style, a rather cushy bus. Bus rides are the place for these youngsters to recover from the "final night at a station party" so sleep and iPod rule the day. The Interamerican Highway is impossibly narrow for two cars going in opposite directions, not to mention a semi and a bus... ours. I choose to look away and trust, but I shutter to think of Holli and I renting a car after the course and braving these roads, knowing what I know now.

Departing the bus, we switched to jeeps and finally arrived at our destination high in the Talamanca mountains. “Don Carlos” is the owner and manager of this 350 ha parcel and small station in the sky, our home for 7 days. Carlos’s family managed the property for forestry but his innate curiousity in nature and exposure to travelers with a conservation focus eventually instilled in him an impressive balance of necessary use and protection where and when ever possible.

Our surroundings are dramatically different from the relatively lush accommodations of Las Cruces. We sleep in a large bunk room in tight quarters and the lab/work building next door has absolutely no connectivity (thus the lapse in my postings). The socially intense environment is completely offset by our isolated surroundings. Primary cloud forest is just out the front door and the reliable afternoon rains pounding on the tin roof are surprisingly soothing, a delightful reminder of my childhood summer afternoons in my family’s rustic cabin in the Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Don Carlos makes excellent use of the intact core of fallen trees, so all buildings at the site are made of beautiful wood. Nights are quite cold so we gather around a huge fire place (wasn’t this supposed to be the tropics?) for evening lectures on the basics of vascular plants, plant breeding systems (challenge: mature and have sex all while being stuck in the ground your whole life), the fascinating social systems of leaf cutter ants or a rather dry stats review. Much of what I learn, I learn from my fellow students. I’m inspired and humbled to join them on this course and together experience Costa Rica’s diversity. This picture was taken on one of our first walks at Cuerici as the late morning mist rolled in.

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Friday, June 23, 2006


While still in Las Cruces, the course coordinators organized a side trip to Las Alturas, about 1.5 hr drive away to visit the operations of ProCAT. ProCAT is a small NGO founded by Jan Schipper (formerly of WWF) focused mostly on conserving jaguar and jaguar habitat. I was especially excited about ProCAT because of their effective use of technology including camera “trapping”, population modeling and GIS. They’ve done quite a bit of experimentation and improvement of a camera trap design. Their most recent iteration imbeds a small digtal camera and motion sensor in a small box (see picture) and will capture whatever “walks by”, day or night, and will last for several months. Using strategically placed camera traps and a well developed understanding of territory dynamics, they’ve been able to estimate jaguar density and the abundance of prey. In conversation with Jose Gonzalez, I learned that ProCAT happens to be investigating NatureServe Vista to assist with identifying conservation priorities. If it works out for them, what satisfaction I would derive knowing that my efforts could assist them with theirs.

ProCAT also conducts extensive interviews with the local communities about what drives jaguar hunting. Locals, including indigenous community members, are apparently hesitant to discuss the subject with outsiders for fear of retribution, so ProCAT has developed a number of subtle techniques including using an indigenous tribe member as part of their staff, asking women what they cook, and asking men when the last time they saw a jaguar was. Based on this information, they develop their educational information and work with national park administrators to aid enforcement of laws, taking extra care to ensure that locals willing to talk to them suffer no retribution.

Finally, ProCAT is involved with regional conservation efforts including a multidisciplinary project to link terrestrial, riparian and marine conservation on the carribean side to restore and protect the watershed and the coral reef at its outlet. I was thoroughly impressed with ProCAT’s methods and professionalism, mixing the best of modern tools and techniques with clear grounding in local ecology and human communities.

Jose, Jan and the ProCat staff treated us to a beautiful and inspiring day.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Holy Bat Cave

After an hour on the bus and a 2 hour hike, we finally arrived at a bat cave, still in the general region of the Las Cruces biological station. Arranged by our course coordinators well in advance, we were well prepared with helmets, headlamps, and schooling on life in the dark. What followed was a four hour venture into the blackest black I’ve ever experienced. The bats were too many to count but all were benign to our presence. As we walked into the cave, the level of vegetation dropped dramatically. Miraculously, 20 meters into the cave, seedings emerged but in vain for lack of light. About 300 meters into the cave, we came to an underground river. This was no stream but a serious river. At this point, several members of our group decided that was enough black dank slimy cave for them and headed back. Yours truly, albeit with some trepidation, went forward with the majority of the group … into the river. It was relatively shallow most of the time, but a few times we actually had to swim (say 10 meters). I’ve never explored a cave in any serious way in my life so this was the farthest I’d ever been from light and fresh air. I admit some nervousness at various points, but it was also exhilarating. At times we walked in water up to our hips with no more than 3 feet of clearance above our heads then crawled through tiny spaces where you might have to wiggle a bit to make it through. I felt were in excellent hands between our coordinators and the cave guides (always near by and quite “buff”). The full group made it out of the caves exhausted but completely in tact. All in all not much in the way of ecology, but it was exciting and a welcome diversion from the daily grind of independant research, faculty field projects and lectures. Alas, I have no pictures from within the cave as I didn't want to risk loosing my camera to the moisture, the river, or the guano. This shot of one of our guides ("Batmen") was taken by a coursemate just inside the cave.



At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



Monday, June 19, 2006

Ecology in the Field: Bromelania!

The second day here at Las Cruzes, Peter tasked us each individual to a 20 minute walk around the immediate area to conjure up a set of ecological questions at various scales: individual, population, community, and landscape. Beyond that structure, whatever came to mind was allowable in this game of organized wondering. Within moments of my solo walk, I came upon this lizard (not my picture), ameiva festiva, Costa Rica’s only whipped tailed lizard, I later learned.

I remember coming upon whipped tail lizards in New Mexico as a kid, many missing their tails. So I ended up spending my full 20 minutes with this one lizard and instead of thinking about how I could catch it, like I did when I was a kid, I started asking questions about its diet preferences, how much it had to eat to maintain such high metabolism, etc. I wondered how the lack of a top predator in the ecosystem (jaguar) has effected is abundance, does its range include some of the habitats undergoing restoration and how might it contribute to that restoration. I won’t bore you with all of the questions, but the one I settled on to bring back to the group was a curiosity about the way the lizard’s metabolism, ability to hunt and mate was affected when its tail was sacrificed. The lack of tail might compromise its movements in significant ways and at the same time growing back that tail takes energy itself. Limited resources would be allocated differently but would the lizard be more or less conservative in its hunting and might it forgo mating-related activities altogether? Many of these questions if not all are surely answered in the scientific literature, but I found the exercise both enlightening and quite a lot of fun.

The walking exercise is now being put into practice at a different scale: we’ve broken up into teams and pursuing a single research question. My team in particular is trying to establish whether the microbial community in a bromeliad is facilitated by the plant itself in some way. Does that sound fascinating? Well, like all things, you get close enough to it and it absolutely is. Totally fascinating. I’m on the sub-team that’s ironing out the experimental design. Our aim is to both describe the micro community in terms of richness and abundance of species and then conduct an experiment where we compare a bromeliad plant (neoregelia carolinae) to a “cup of water” to see if there’s something about the plant itself that facilitates community development. All in 3 days of work.

So far, our plan is going well. We’ve identified a total of 30 individual plants to work with (conveniently located here in the Wilson Botanical Garden) and described the community composition in a set of 10. For the experimental component (a manipulation of nature to make a point!), we extracted the contents from center column of the other 20. In ten of those we filtered the contents through tight mesh to remove the micro-community and returned the remaining water, with its “natural” chemistry, to the plant. In the final ten plants, we removed the contents and replaced it with rain water. Here’s one of my teammates extracting the water-based community from one of our experimental bromeliads.

We next set up a set of controls: plastic cups interspersed in the field of bromeliads. We cut holes all to give them a comparable volume to that of our average bromeliad and then broke them into groups containing either rain water, rain water with a “swish” of the filtered bromeliad water (to control for limitations in extracting all of the community from the bromeliad plants), or filtered bromeliad water as in the plant treatment above. Then we let the whole experiment “cook” for several days.

Yesterday was spent at the microscope. I haven’t looked through a microscope in any kind of serious way since high school! But there we all were with micro community taxonomy texts on hand separating and counting ostracods, mites, branchipods, midges, nematodes, copepods, mosquito larvae, and sorts of tiny spiders, ants, bees, flies and even a cricket. Moving from the microscope to the computer we are in the midst of analysis to compare the biodiversity (measured in our case as “evenness”: the number of difference species and abundance of each species) in each of the treatments. If our hypothesis holds out, we should see more diversity in the plants versus the cups and more diversity in the “naturalized” water over the plain rain water in both plants and cups. Here’s one view of our draft results, a “rank-abundance” which gives a graphical view of both richness (number of different species) and abundance (number of each species). Turns out there was too much variance between the results from each treatment type for our study to be considered valid, but we did see a pattern in the direction of evenness for the cup treatments and species dominance in the bromeliads.

My teammates have brought extensive expertise to bear on the project. It’s going to be interesting when I have to do an ecological study all on my own in a few weeks.

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At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really interested in the whipped tailed species. Is it true that this particular species is all female and all they need is stimulation to reproduce rather than actual penetration? I read this on Yahoo and have been researching and cant find any information.

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are some wonderful pictures of Bromelania. I'm also wondering about whipped tailed species question that kyra asked.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Bromeliad Plants said...

Whip-tailed lizard females have the ability to reproduce through parthenogenesis and as such males are rare and sexual breeding non-standard.

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too much variance to be valid? Actually if you have sufficient replication and the variability swamps ability to detect differences, then you conclude that differences were not detectable. Sounds valid to me! And if you need a million replicates to detect differences then the differences are probably biologically unimportant.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Art of Ecological Research and Strangulation

Yesterday we walked through secondary forest with an assignment to identify interesting questions we could imagine researching in just a few days. Lots of fascinating forest ecology stories were told including the delicate mechanics of orchid pollen exchange, but the focus was on the development of research questions. Having no background in research, this was for me a wee bit of a challenge, but this first step in question development seems to be about pursuing any given wonderment with a mixture of rigor and imagination. What I have less of is the knowledge to inform my wondering… having a sense for the fundamental dynamics that, in a given context such as this secondary forest, will give rise to questions about how those dynamics might manifest or how certain phenomenon might be explained.

So for instance, what forces drive variation in activity level in the monkeys of Costa Rica? Now a bit of context: Howler monkeys are relatively sedate, spider and the white faced monkeys have intermediate mobility, and squirrel monkeys are highly mobile. And now some theory: resource availability, competition, maybe even reproduction (we’re back to sex again!) all might play a role. So what specific questions might I ask to understand the variation? I might hypothesize that it has something to do with resource availability (variation in diet) and, perhaps further, specialization of diet from competition. Now I can survey the populations and observe eating habits directly or indirectly (say through their poop! Or should I say “scat”). I might also create an experiment to directly test my hypothesis, changing the normal patterns I observe in some decisive way that lends itself to illuminating measurement. I see the logic and beauty in this approach, so fundamental to knowledge but so new to me in such an elementary form. From there, the software developer in me is comfortable, if only conceptually, with the engineering problems of experiment design and execution: think of ways to answer the questions, define a design, look for and address potential defects, all the while being ready to change strategies when necessary. I can see that there's an art to experiment design, one that takes talent and dedication to develop.

And now to the art of a strangulation. Along the walk we came across a huge strangler fig (family moraceae, genus ficus) a plant with an amazing strategy for establishment. The parent strangler fig produces fig fruits that get eaten by, oh, say, by a spider monkey. The seeds, if all goes well, find a happy environment in the niche of a tree in the canopy and germinate, dropping roots from the canopy the forest floor, possibly far below. Where before nutrients were extracted from the host tree and growth was slow, the fig now sustains itself on ground nutrients and grows quickly in a lattice around the trunk of the host tree, upwards towards the canopy. The host and the fig now compete for precious light and ground nutrients, but the fig also “strangles” the host, constraining its nutrient flow and growth. Eventually, the host dies and rots inside the lattice structure, providing further nutrients for the victorious fig. I imagine there might be cases where the fig is overly ambitious, killing its host tree before it’s fully established and able to maintain structure, so there is perhaps an art to the timing of the kill. On our walk yesterday morning, we came across an example of a successful strangulation: a hollow tunnel to the sky where the host once lived.

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At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mwah hah hah. Our evil plan to bring you over to the science division is working.

Glad you are having fun and learning. Say "hi" to Peter for me.


At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kristin - Are you able to reach this communication vehicle now? What happened to your computer and if you get this, how in the world did you restore it?
Loving and MISSING you!!!


Monday, June 12, 2006

Plant Sex

So much that's fascinating about probably any ecosystem is the variety of strategies employed by organisms for reproduction. And of course the alluring details of each species' strategy.

Today was our first walk through the forest... er, I mean the outdoors. We're currently at Las Cruces Biological Station which is the home for the Wilson Botanical Gardens. So this morning we toured the Botanical Gardens. Tomorrow, primary forest.

This was a fascinating walk, however, all on its own. Most of my fellow students are specialized in some taxon or dimension of ecology. Laura, for instance, studies plant breeding systems: plant sex. Much of what we talked about today was reproduction strategies.

By the way, this will be my general format for blog entries: a general description of interesting activities, and a narrow focus on just one of a gazillion concepts or descriptions. And if, by chance, I get something wrong, feel free to use the "comment" link below to correct. After all, I'm here to learn! All that established, here is a bit of what I learned about heliconias and sex.

Heliconias is categorized into those that generally occur on the forest floor and those above and by their leaf shapes. They are pollinated mainly by hummingbirds some of whom have curved beaks co-evolved for particular heliconias flower morphology (cool word: "shape"). Heliconias chooses red for it flowers not so much because hummingbirds like it, but because other pollinators don't. Insects cannot see into the red portion of the spectrum so by choosing red and orange to attract pollinators, heliconias increases its chances of luring a pollinator that recently has or is about to visit a member of the same species. Turns out hummingbirds aren't especially attracted to red, but instead are simply fast learners: try different flowers, find one that works, remember and favor that color.

Here's the view from the room that my roommates and I share at this, the most plush of the OTS biological stations.



At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So good to hear from you Kristin. It seems like you are already having memorable experiences in the tropics. Don't think I told you, but I spent a month there at Las Cruces. I organized a five person internship to help Bob Wilson map and inventory his extensive plant collection. Like the frogs, he saw that there were endangered plants in areas of Costa Rica and Central America and tried to collect them before they were gone. Much of the work was done using his own money. Glad it still exists as an OTS field station.
Have you seen any of the giant
beetles that are about the size of half an orange?


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Frogs and Marriage

Today was about travel and tomorrow will be some business with the Organization for Tropical Studies itself to discuss their IT infrastructure and strategy.

On the plan ride over, I read a story from the NY Times site about a small group of scientists on a frantic errand to Panama to save frogs. Their analysis showed that the chrytrid fungus that's been wiping out frogs worldwide was on a trajectory towards a frog hotspot in El Valle, a dormant volcano. Other research, by the way, has linked the spread of chrytrid to global climate change. So flying in the face of conservation logic (without regard to the lack of understanding of exact habitat requirements and reproductive behavior) they desperately grabbed frogs by the hundreds for shipment back to Zoo Atlanta. Capturing as many different species as they could, shooting for 20 males and 20 males from each species, they managed to successfully bring 600 frogs through customs in their suitcases. Sure enough, not 90 days after this Noah's Ark mission, the fungus arrived in El Valle and has begun wrecking its havoc. Researches predict 90% of the frogs will be lost within 90 days.

Unrelated (I know I'm supposed to be tuning this stuff out, but give a girl a day or so!), in a 48 to 49 vote, the US Senate came frighteningly close today to passing a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Global climate change or banning gay marriage (and I do mean "or"!)? What shall we focus on?



At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets change to bad climate around banning gay marriage. I miss you!!!! sm


!Pura Vida!

"Pure Life" is a saying among Ticos. Yes, every breath I breathe deeper as I open myself to what comes. Pure, rich, true, even when that truth is far afield from my projections of the ideal. I have been thirsty to go deeply into nature. Now begins the drink, drink of knowledge and experience.

I'm definitely in the tropics. The air is moist (cooler than I expected and much less humid than DC can get… oh but just you wait). The green of the hills that surround the city is surprisingly luminous. And of course tropical trees are everywhere within the city. After reading more on the plane about various tree species and the fierce completion for light, I consider the trees here in the city may be quite lucky specimens with delicious light aplenty.

Our first day of orientation was modified so that we could partake of the country's obsession that day: World Cup Soccer. In the opening game, Costa Rica played Germany, the World Cup host country. Costa Rica did better that expected, loosing an exciting game 4-2. We enjoyed the game like most Ticos: gathered around big screen TV's at a local club. The celebrations after each of CR's two goals were ecstatic. Here's one such moment:


Prologue to an Adventure

After several months of preparation, including securing a leave of absence and buying weird stuff like a venom extractor kit, I leave for San Jose, Costa Rica for a two month course in tropical biology.

My primary research interest at OTS will be that of field research itself. If you know me, you already know this: I have made it my professional mission to bring better technology to bear on conservation, to dramatically improve efficiency and effectiveness, and thereby enable more informed and mindful decisions concerning nature. My objective in attending this OTS course, then, is to inform in myself a visceral sense of field research, especially concerning conservation biology.

So I plan to fully embrace the field projects and learn any and all harsh realities of study formulation, data collection, analysis and conclusions both from direct experience and in partnership with my fellow students, all with an eye towards technology opportunities. I'll be paying special attention to themes in data models and analysis. I also hope to interview students, (instructors!) and resident researchers about institutional, social and financial barriers to sharing field research data.

DCA Airport minutes before my flight takes off

So I embark on this journey as a furthering in the direction of science so that when I turn my eye back towards technology, I’ll know a bit more of which I speak. That said, who knows, perhaps I’ll decide technology is for the birds and my calling has shifted. Hey, I’m pretty open right now!

If I were a real blogger...

If I were a real blogger, well, to start with, I'd post profound thoughts on a regular basis, but that aside... If I were a real blogger, I would create a separate blog for the next 2 months dedicated to this tropical ecology course I'm taking in Costa Rica... but I'm not, so I'm not.

Thus ends the "get caught up on Kristin and her personal life" phase of the blog and we transition into a journal of my experience in the Organization for Tropical Studies' tropical biology course.

Todo bueno. (It's all good)