Monday, January 24, 2011

Pura Vida!

A Report from the Tropical Ecology Course
By Prof. Valerie Banschbach


Pura Vida! That’s the Costa Rican expression for living life fully, immersed in every moment. That sums up the experience that the Saint Michael's College students (Jake Girard, Ian Sullivan, Emily Ogilvy, Jess Sprague, Corey Dolbeare, Mike Sprague, Bridget Levine, Sara Williams, Jeff Dukette, Chris Lavallee, Jake Withee, and Janel Roberge) and Professors Denise Martin, me, and Jonathan Leonard, had during our winter break trip to study ecology and conservation of the cloud forests and lowland rain forests of Costa Rica.

{PICTURE OF WHOLE GROUP, V. Banschbach’s camera}

As you might guess from our group photo in the lodge, the cloud forest at Monteverde, CR was a little chilly and damp. The cloud forest receives 20% of its rain as “horizontal rain”, i.e. clouds. The hummingbirds and the plants thrive on it and we saw plenty of super-sized examples! Students researched pollination biology of a hummingbird pollinated member of the plant family Acanthaceae, behavior of the trap-jawed meat-eating ant, Odontomachus sp., and the habitat preferences of bromeliads.



After our work at Monteverde, we took an interesting full-day road trip down from the mountains to our next study site, the Atlantic slope lowland rain forest at Selva Verde.
{PHOTO Mike Sprague, Bridget Levine and Jake Withee, taken by V. Banschbach}

When we arrived at the lower elevation rain forest site, it was a bit hotter, and like this basilisk lizard, we were ready for a dip in the water.{PHOTO OF BASILISK LIZARD, V. Banschbach}

At the Selva Verde rain forest reserve, students conducted projects on Heliconia sp. pollination, red-eyed tree frog behavior, ant lion prey capture, and bird foraging behavior.

At both study sites, we had excellent Costa Rican naturalist guides that helped us pack an enormous amount of learning about natural history, ecology and conservation issues into our 10-day trip. Of course, we also took a little time just to hang out and enjoy the experience.

{PHOTO OF MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY, taken by V. Banschbach}

And now we are back enjoying the snow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's time....

So, here I am, the Friday before classes begin. Trying feverishly to wrap-up the piles of administrative left-overs from last semester and get ready for Monday - the opening of the new semester.

Two of our faculty returned recently from our Department's Costa Rica study tour course, and it sounds as though everything went great. We hope to share some specifics and a photo or two with you in the near future.

We've got a good array of course options for our Bio major and minors this spring semester. In addition to the second semester of Intro Bio (BI 153) and Biological Reading & Writing (BI 205), both of which are required of all Bio majors, we've got Genetics, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, Animal Behavior, Human and Comparative Anatomy, Human and Comparative Physiology, and 3 sections of Senior Seminar (each with a different topical focus). For more information about our program check out our website.

For accepted prospective students and their families - please plan to come and visit at one of our accepted student open house dates - February 28, March 7, and March 28. I hope to see some of you there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Beginning

Greetings, and Happy New Year to all. It's been a while since my last entry, but I decided to take a little blog-break over the holidays. I wish I could say that I went away to some exotic and exciting location, but alas, I've been here the whole time. Doing my best to get caught up on the many "left-overs" that were piled high on my desk (literally) and in my inbox (electronically). Administrative planning stuff, reports to complete, manscripts to review, more student recommendations to finish .... And now, even though that isn't done just yet, it's time to get ready for the new semester... supplies to be ordered, classes to plan, syllabi to complete.

We did have some nice lab tech upgrades over the break - new screens and ceiling-mounted projectors in the three teaching labs that didn't already have them. So that will be a nice feature for the future. But other than that, not much new to report at the moment - but in just over a week classes will be back in session. Then we're off and running.

So back to work....