Birding and Learning

Martin Stoner
Macalaster College
Tropical Biology in Costa Rica – Summer 2022
Spreading my wings!

I arrived in San Jose with no idea of what to expect. Of course, I knew what the course was “supposed” to be like, but I really did not know what was in store for me until I got to the hotel. There, I met the rest of the group. We are from five different countries, and our love for nature and conservation is more than enough to bring us together, but there is so much else we also have in common. After that first night of hanging out and getting to know people, I was sure I was in the right place.  

We started off our program in La Selva, the lowland rainforest with mind boggling diversity. As a birdwatcher, I was stunned at how easy it was to see a whole new set of birds from one day to the next. There seemed to be no end! The amphibians, mammals, plants, and insects were equally as incredible. I learned a lot during our first group project at La Selva: How to focus my energy on a question, and approach it in a way that can give me a scientifically sound answer in the end. It was a tough process to work together and present the findings of our project after only a few days, but I learned a ton and it brought us closer together. We knew it would only be easier with experiences like this under our belt.  

Crossing the famous Stone Bridge at La Selva Field Station!

Palo Verde was next – the seasonal “dry” forest, where it rained almost every day we were there! The zancudos (mosquitoes) were crazy prolific, but that made the safe haven and A/C of the classroom even more blissful. Our second group project went smoothly (We observed iguana behavior in a cool project about time budgeting!) and got to know the cool visiting faculty. A highlight of Palo Verde for me was watching the rain roll over the hills from La Roca, as two scarlet macaws flew over the forest below. An incredible place to be.  

A scarlet macaw, a Costa Rican icon!

Our last spot was Las Cruces, a montane rainforest way down by the Panama border, with the amazing Wilson Botanical Garden surrounding us as we did our own research projects! It was incredible to be at a place where I could feel confident creating something that I wanted to research on my own. This feeling that science is accessible to me is one of the biggest things I will take away with me, along with the amazing relationships I have gained through the month. I looked back recently and expected to have at least some small regrets about something related to the course. I honestly could not think of any.  

If you want to hear more about my experience in Costa Rica with OTS, check out my profile on the Alumni Ambassador’s page.










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