Between March 5 and March 16 Connecticut Audubon Society staff members travelled to the Costa Rican rainforest again to teach Connecticut high school students about the importance of rainforest conservation as part of the Forman School Rainforest Project. This unique hands-on biology course based out of the Forman School in Litchfield, but also catering to high school seniors and juniors of the local public high schools (Litchfield High School and Wamogo Regional School), is currently in its 17th year. Every year a group of 12-14 students travels to the remote (and difficult to reach) rainforest preserve Rara Avis, where they work around the clock studying the area’s biodiversity and developing sustainable non-timber resource projects that can provide local people with alternatives to the commonly used slash-and-burn method of agriculture.
the Caribbean slope of northeastern Costa Rica
and even that can be tricky at times!
Since its inception the project has been a demonstration project of sorts, researching different ways to reveal the tremendous value of an intact rainforest - both biologically and financially. Only once people realize that it pays to leave forest intact and use its resources intelligently rather than replacing it with poor quality pasture land, a major step has been taken towards the preservation of these important habitats.
Frank and his team also carry out studies on the local hummingbird populations and document the avian diversity in the preserve each year.
After dark, nectar-feeding bats (Carollia castanea) take over the feeders
Strawberry Poison-dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)
Even though the devastating effects of this disease on amphibian populations are best known from the tropics where many species are going extinct while researchers frantically try to come up with creative ways to save them, this is truly a global phenomenon and the pathogen has been reported from all continents, including North America. Twan is also involved with research programs in Connecticut that monitor local amphibian populations and track the spread of the disease.
This Short-nosed Vine Snake (Oxybelis brevirostris) is not dangerous at all, but fools most people
A bizarre Yellow-spotted Night Lizard (Lepidophyma flavimaculatum)
Banded Slug-eater (Sibon annulata). Most tropical snakes have a highly specialized diet
Helmeted Iguana (Corytophanes cristatus) in the lush rainforest vegetation
A fourth team researched the dazzling moth diversity in Rara Avis, a group of animals that still remains largely unstudied.
Owl Butterfly (Caligo atreus), named after the large eyespots on the closed wings
that supposedly deter predators by resembling an owl
Students work day and night on their projects
Butterfly traps with black lights are placed throughout the forest to capture moths and other nocturnal
insects and retrieved later for analysis
Caterpillar of the Owl Butterfly (Caligo atreus)
In the past, teams have also worked on radio telemetry of rainforest mammals (ranging from bats to tapirs), researching the potential to sustainably harvest and market canopy orchids and rare palms, and studying potential pharmaceutical uses of the venom of the largest Neotropical ant, the bullet ant (Paraponera clavata) in treatment of stroke victims.Coati (Nasua narica) a relative of our raccoon
Leaf-cutter Ants (Acromyrmex octospinosus) are ubiquitous in a tropical rainforest