Friday, July 12, 2019

Day 9: Last Day at Horizontes

Day 9: Vamos a la playa: El ultimo dia

Hello from all nine of us from our current stay at Horizontes! 

Today began with breakfast at the “comedor”, the dining area at the research center. Bella would like to note that it was “more rice”. Erin would also like to add, “it was rice rice baby”. After, we had another few hours of science. First we visited some trees to discover some symbiotic relationships with ants… again. Following this, we helped Michael, the resident arborist, to plant some Guanacaste trees. We also learned about the importance of these trees to the native cultures of the Guanacaste province. All of this was followed by lunch. Erin and Bella say it was “rice”. Then, at last, we got to go to the beach. Andreea notes that there were “lots of fun waves”. There were still many cool organisms to look at: hermit crabs, small mussels, and herons… oh my! We were warned that we may see an American Crocodile. Erin thought she saw a croc but it turns out it was just her shoe. Shortly after swimming and snacks, we were kicked out by some nasty lightning and rain. While hustling to the van, we noticed a fire smell coming from the woods behind the parking spot. As it turns out, lighting had hit the tree! Then came our last dinner in Costa Rica. Erin and Bella say “it was good, there was less rice”. It’s amazing of how close all of us have become, and how much we have learned in such a short period of time. We also had the chance to talk about a second year trip dealing with bioinformatics through Seeds for Change, which is another amazing opportunity some of us may see in our futures. We would all like to thank our parents and other family supporting us during this time. This program would not be possible without all of our teachers, and we would not be able to do any of the amazing activities we did without our amazing drivers. See all of you very soon!

Pura Vida,
Alexis, Allie, Andreea, Bella, Benny, Erin, Grace, Kinga, & Logan

Friday, June 28, 2019

Day 8: Final Projects presentations

Today was the day we did our final presentations! There was a lot of stress around to do good, so finally doing them was a bit of a relief. Everyone did really well in their experiments even if it didn't always turn out as planned. After having a later lunch (presentations went a bit longer than expected), we all went to a river waterfall to swim. Everyone had a lot of fun. On the tractor ride on the way back, there was a lot of group singing and laughter. After supper, Beth told us about the place we're going tomorrow, Horizontes. It's a research facility focused on finding a way to restore the rain forest without spending buckets of money. 
Alexis Darkow

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Day 7: Stressful But Blessful

Today we traded our excursions and exploration for a stressful, experiment-focused day of science. We started working at 8:30 sharp, and as I sit here writing this post (at 8:22), most of our group is still in the lab. Tomorrow morning we'll present our experimental design, results, and analysis for Dr. Pinto and the lab team from the University of Costa well as all of our peers and teachers! It's as exciting as it is stressful.

Everyone here has come up with an original experiment and worked in groups to design and conduct them over the course of the past three days. One of the grad students serving as a sort of mentor told us that one of the most exciting things about this experience is that no two experiments are ever the same, and our group is no exception. We have people tracing leaves on graph paper to analyze the amount that leaf cutter ants consume depending on various extraneous factors, measuring changes in size and composition of fungus gardens based on the acidity of the soil around them, and even pitting ants against each other in a fight-to-the-death sort of situation that has resulted in some interesting discoveries about ant war tactics. It's been incredibly impressive to see the dedication that everyone here has for this kind of work and to watch the experiments develop. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing the final results tomorrow!

As stressful as today was, it was also incredible for me because of the amount of love and support I felt from the people around me. I turned 17 today and despite my threats to put various insects in the shoes and cabins of anyone who sang the song, the entire group (from both schools) surprised me during a break by singing happy birthday and bringing out a cake. I'm pretty sure Bella has a video of my reaction, and I'm even more sure I was near tears at the overwhelming display of affection from this incredible group of people that I had never really interacted with before this trip. In my opinion, one of the greatest things about Costa Rica so far has been the relationships I've developed with the people who came with me. Not only are these people absolutely brilliant, incredibly creative, and weirdly knowledgeable about ants, they're also generous, open-minded, and positive. It's been an absolute honor to get to work with these people. 

Since today was spent entirely on experiments, I really don't have much to talk about in this blog. I doubt you really want to hear the details of my ant-counting experiment. Instead, let me go over a few of today's best moments. 

Erin and I went on a morning hike at about 5 am because we were both up. We got lost in the cacao trees (twice....oops) and then ended up in the cafeteria with coffee. It was fun to be able to just wander and relax while completely ignoring our looming experimental deadlines and instead sharing stories about waffle trucks and leeches. 

After the first person said happy birthday to me, everyone else did the same. It got to the point where there was a competition to be the fastest person to say happy birthday. That was about the time when I started threatening to leave beetles in peoples' shoes. 

Right before dinner, Logan found a giant beetle in the cafeteria area and everyone started screaming for me to come and pick it up. I was in a building across the path and ran over thinking someone was hurt only to find a gigantic cricket-looking bug that was around three inches long. When I picked it up, it did some fun yoga poses with its legs and then flew directly towards the face of one of the girls from Mounds Park Academy (the other school on this trip). She recovered quickly and our guide at the resort came over to pick the bug back up and give us some more information. 

After dinner, Benny and I went behind the cafeteria to a little grove of trees and picked a bunch of starfruit (you can just pick them off the trees here!!) that we shared between the entire group from both schools.

Overall, today was both uneventful and incredible, or as Kinga really wants me to say, "stressful and blessful". 

There were many many other tiny moments that made today wonderful, and I doubt tomorrow will be any different. 

Thanks for following our adventures!!

Grace Lynch

Happy Birthday Grace!
Mrs. M

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Day 6: Hot springs, waterfalls and some more science

DAY 6!

What's up y'all! It's the princess of Hungary and Benny Boy. So today we woke up at 5am, breakfast was at 6am, we had an omelette and rice and beans. At 6:30am we got on a bus and took an hour and a half bus ride to Parque Rincon de la Vieja. Where we took a long hike through wet and dry forests to get to some hot springs. We hiked for 3 km and then finally got to the hot springs. Which smelled of eggs (pretty bad eggs). The sulfur mud made a great face and body mask. We stayed there for about an hour and then continued hiking. We walked for another 15 minutes and got to a waterfall. We decided to swim under the waterfall, which was absolutely freezing but so refreshing. We swam for about 30 minutes and started our way back to the bus. Once we got back we got sandwiches. We hadn't eaten in 7 hours and we were starving. Everybody ate so much, Benny had 4 sandwiches. After, we got back on the bus and drove back to Finca la Anita. We got back, showered because we all smelled of eggs and went straight to class. Today our group finished out experiments and collected data. At 6pm we ate dinner, which was really good, as always. And now we're writing the blog. So we're signing off here, hoping to get at least 8 hours of sleep to prepare ourselves for the full day of science tomorrow.

Hasta la vista,
Kinga & Benny

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Day 5: Blood, Sweat, and Butterflies. (And horses) (And ants)

Why hello there! Nice of you to stop by on day 5 of our Costa Rica Extravaganza!!

Alright, alright, all jokes aside, this trip has been beyond what can be considered an amazing experience, and today did not disappoint. With breakfast starting at 7:30am, a few of us have gotten in the habit of waking up earlier to read in the hammocks or do a bit of yoga before our busy busy day, and this morning was no different. After breakfast, we were split up roughly into two groups and set off on our morning excursion. Our first stop was to the butterfly garden we had visited earlier in the week, except this time we were the ones putting in the work. Our morning chore was not 'make your bed' or 'help clean after breakfast', no, ours was to help extend and dig 1 meter by 1 meter by 1 meter holes, as well as searching for Gmelina Arborea plants to help plant around the edge of the property. After a bit of team-work, blood, sweat, and tear, our shift was done and it was on to the next stop. 

This stop was the one I was more excited about. Most people wouldn't necessarily see a "horse girl" when they look at me, however, I can tell you all right now that the 6-year old, horse obsessed, little girl in me just about lost her mind when finding out we would be horseback riding. Horseback riding by itself is a blast, but through the different biomes of Costa Rica? Even better. Not only were the sights around us breathtaking, but most of us were having so much fun that even the start of a downpour rain didn't make us bat a single eyelash. Afterwards, we were sent drenched to lunch and to start the rest of our science filled day.

Today was the day that we started working on our experiments. I know that everyone was beyond excited to start working on the ideas they'd come up with. So excited in fact, that when we were supposed to take a break at 5pm before dinner, all the groups kept working up until just a couple minutes before the food was served.

As I'm sitting out here on the deck at the end of this night, I just find it so great to be working in the company of so many kids with the same enjoyment for science as me. I may not be all that into the biology section of science, but the process of what we're doing is so captivating that honestly, it doesn't really matter what the topic is about. For all I care, we could've been researching and conducting experiments about what's the best type of kitty litter.

Anyways, if you don't mind me, I'll be ending my day the same way I started it. On the cabin porch, in the hammock, reading a book before calling it a night.

Signing off,
Andreea Moisei :)

Day 4: Class time

Class time.

So today we spent all of our sessions in science and it really gave us some good time to remember what being productive feels like. We had a wonderful american breakfast of pancakes to give us lots of energy, which we would need later in the day. After breakfast we had a quick break to squeeze in some extra sleep or get ready for the day. Then we headed to the science session to wrap up our first experiment of where we were finding where bacteria was most common on the farm. After getting back our plates we spent some time counting up the plates and recording the data. We then went over our numbers with Dr. Pinto using a website to calculate P-value and find if we could conclude our numbers being significant to draw conclusions. Later in the morning we started a second experiment based off the parasitic fungus called escovopsis. This will harm the fungus garden along with the whole ant colony. After assigned the research question "where is escovopsis in the fungus gardens" we went to work in our teams, completing the scientific method with the given question. By the end of this session it was already lunch and we had some tasty hamburgers that reminded even more of home. After a nice hearty lunch we took some time to relax, hike, play cards, or most importantly develop a question for our groups that we would later discuss and use to develop a big research question. When we got back, we took some time as a group to talk about what we would use as our final research question. We then confirmed it with Dr. Pinto and then continued to run our question through the scientific method. Then after getting the idea of our project together, we got going on presentations that we would present after dinner infront of the other groups  along with Dr. Pinto and his students. When we were working on the presentations we had a break with some fresh costa-rican  coffee and hot chocolate. By the time we got diner was supposed to be over, most of us were going over some last minute preparations for our presentations. When we were done with our presentations, we got some valuable feedback to improve our experiments and answered questions to clarify things to our audience. By the end of the day we talked about how tired we were and how much it felt like being in school again but we all can agree that for learning and getting so much done in the middle of the summer, this sure was some valuable Class time.
                                                                                                                 Pura Vida, Logan

Monday, June 24, 2019

Day 3: Digging for Ants

Hello, welcome to day 3. The authors of this blog were Erbear and Bellaboopers. 

Right after breakfast, we had class. Dr. Pinto showed us our first ant fungus excavation. Then each group got their own materials and dug up their own fungus garden. Every group was successful. Then, we had lunch. After lunch, we went zip lining. It was very exciting! There was nice hike up and a green view down. When we got on the bus, there was a small mishap. There was no power and there were 3 trees blocking the road. We decided to chillax in the bus and play a game of telephone while Pablo came to rescue us in a school bus. Nobody got hurt, and we are all okay!!!!!! After that, we visited the butterfly garden and caterpillar house. They had Blue Morpheus, and two other types of butterflies there. We got to visit the mall for the first time, which was right behind the butterfly house. It has a lot of things in a very small space. We then hiked to a local house to learn how to cook our own dinner. We made tortillas, chicken, vegetables, salad, plantain chips and ended it all with a nice ice cream cone. We got a ride back to Finca La Anita in a trolley and ended the night by transferring our ant colonies to larger bins. Then we went to bed J

Bullet Ant

Fungus Garden

Day 9: Last Day at Horizontes

Day 9: Vamos a la playa: El ultimo dia Hello from all nine of us from our current stay at Horizontes!  Today began with breakfast ...