Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Tool we Used; Protecting our Legs

Posted by Yvonne on July 12 for July 9

On each farm, at each transect, we sampled for the percentage of ground that was covered with mulch, bare dirt, or live vegetation. The large grid held by Yvonne, Zach, and Sebastian was used to estimate each in four locations on the transects.

One of the challenges that we faced was keeping water, mud, leaves, and insects out of our shoes and pant legs. Earthwatch had suggested that we bring along waterproof pants or gaiters (worn by Yvonne in the photo above). Some members of the team were more creative. Take a look at Sabrina and Brandon with their duct tape skills!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pictures to Share

A cool

Predator meets prey.....

Outside and inside of the field amenities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

7/8 post from Brandon Finegold


We are right into the daily grind here in Santa Maria, where we travel each day to coffee farms and take data on the productivity of the farm. Each farm we select 30 coffee plants to record the height and width, the number of trunks, and number of productive branches on each tree. Then on 5 branches on each trunk we count the number of coffee beans that are growing. I have gotten as many as 170 beans on a single branch, though I am a lot happier when I have a branch of 1…

While we count the coffee plants another team digs soil samples, estimates ground cover, and measures soil density. The soil samples basically fill a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. I have not done soil duty yet but I think tomorrow will be my day. I have helped out cleaning the dirt though. You heard me right, we clean the dirt of all its sticks/rocks/living materials. I am pretty sure this is the job Joe Millionaire had before he got on tv… and probably what he’s doing now as well.

Some things I have come to appreciate during our trip:

Cleanliness: Seriously, I have never loved being clean so much as each night we return from the farms and get to shower and change clothes. I have worn about 5 pounds of dirt back with me every night. The owner of our cabins does the laundry for whatever price we think she deserves. With the clothes I have given her, I might need to take out a small loan…

Showers that don’t electrocute you: Our shower has an extra large head attached to two electrical wires. When the water enters the head, it is electrically fried into hot water before being pushed out onto you. If you don’t see where I am going with this, let’s just say I know what 120 Volts feels like travelling through my left arm.

Flushing toilet paper: Our t.p. has to go in the trash can. Imagine the possibilities.

Thankfully, we do have…

Coca-Cola: A taste of America!

Anti-insect measures: I would say the insects here are about as bad as they come. In the morning, I cover myself in Deet, duct tape the ankles of my pants closed, and put my trained pet praying mantis (named Diablito- the little devil) on my shoulder. Ok, so I have not been able to train a praying mantis, but until then we have all been relying on Benadryl anti-itch gel.

Ok, so I have a feeling soil duty is ahead of me tomorrow. Once I have cleaned my hands well enough, I will write again. Until then…

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Full Day of Research

Posted by the gang on July 7

I thought it would be fun to get a few words from some of the team members tonight. The reason for that is twofold...first, I am too exhausted to think and be clever...and second I thought it would be fun to get some different perspective on the day's activities. I hope that everyone enjoys the commentaries from the team.-Holly

Did two farms today, which was a first - as was counting coffee beans, which was an enjoyable experience with Sebastian. The second farm proved particularly difficult as the grade was incredible. Overall, an exhausting day but a productive day. Love, Zach

Team H&H (Holly and Hillary) We make a great pair. Two farms down, about 6 more to go. The sun mixed with rain and mud made for an exhausting day, but we had alot of fun! The teamwork with in our group is amazing and we will see what tomorrows day brings! <3 Hillary

I spent the day with bugs. We picked up traps set the night before and took them back to the lab. There we sorted the bugs for transport to San Jose for identification. I learned a lot about the bugs that we were catching from Dr. Banks and Lisa. We also had a pretty good time. In the afternoon we went back into the field to set more traps for tomorrow. I am looking forward to rejoining the rest of the team tomorrow.......Shawn

The "Alpha Team" (Tim and I) really have our coffee bean counting system going! New things I appreciate: counting in twos and being clean. If you are reading this right now and you are clean, take a moment to appreciate how nice it is. Then teach a small child how to count in twos... ~Brandon

Yes, the "Alpha Team" (as we are known among coffee-bean-counting talent scouts) is really revolutionizing the game. The team work, the sun, the mud, the coffee beans--it has all been great. Looking forward to getting out in the fields again tomorrow!

Today was LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG!!! It was more humid today and the sun was beating down on us as we counted coffee beans; other than that things were great!! We are really becoming confident in working in the fields and counting the beans. I find that we are really more comfortable with each other too; I guess we can attribute that to our nights player gin rummmy and texas hold 'em for sugar packets worth an extraordinary amount of 20 colones!!! aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh....the coffee counting life! ---sabrina

We finished the day with a great meal (rice and beans, chicken with vegetables in a pot, salad, and a delicious juice), and fellowship around the table. People have been playing cards in the evening, but tonight we are so tired that we are turning in early. Thanks for reading and posting comments! Yvonne

Our First Day in the Field

Posted by Holly on July 6

Today we were up early and headed out to the coffee plantation G 25. We set up three different transects and then in small groups, were responsible for taking soil samples, doing 1M x 1M ground cover foliage analysis, and doing coffee

plant evaluations. When on a Coffee Plant (CP) team we determined and recorded information

including the base diameter, the number of nodes per branch (both with and without coffee berries)

and the total number of coffee berries on pre-

determined branches.

Yvonne hard at work.

Shawn takes his work seriously,

Tim not so much.

It was a great day to be out and working. We had sunshine the whole time we were in the field and other than some nuisance insect bites, the research went off without a hitch. We headed back to the research lab and unloaded the equipment. After that we enjoyed a great lunch of sea bass, fresh veggies, mashed potatoes, and homemade bread sticks. Dessert was rice pudding and cinnamon rolls.

Coby relaxing at the lab after lunch.

Can you smell the coffee roasting?

From the lab we headed to the CoopeDota coffee co-op in Santa Maria where we are staying. The coffee tour at the co-op was really fascinating and very informative. We even saw coffee beans that would be traveling to Starbucks in Europe. At the end of the tour we were able to experience coffee cupping. This is a multi-phase activity that is done after the coffee steeps for about 5 minutes (for this you stir the coffee "breaking the foam layer on the top of the cup" and experience the aroma)... and finally tasting the coffee (which is a combination of sipping the coffee from a spoon, swirling it over the palate, and then spitting it out so as to avoid an excessive caffeine buzz).

Holly and Sabrina moving a sack of coffee beans (~70kg) to be stacked before shipping it off to the UK for Starbucks.

Hillary, Brandon, and Zach at the coffee cupping.

Most of the group liked the Quetzal coffee the best.

Before coming home we got to choose a complimentary drink, and most people chose a variation of coffee (although my choice was for a chocolate milk shake).

Check out some more photos at:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Hile Throught the Cloud Forest

Posted by Yvonne on July 5 at 4 :30 p.m.

A shout out to Holly for the cool journals she surprised us with last night- here is a picture of one- complete with stamps of coffee beans and wonderfully smooth colors perfect for Costa Rica.
The picture was taken during today's o-mazing hike through the cloud forest. The sights, sounds, and smells during the hike presented a richness unlike that I had ever experienced before.

Here is a photo of the group after we emerged from the forest. We hiked back to the building and were treated to lectures on the region, soils, nutrients; lunch; and more informative lectures on our field methods (we'll begin tomorrow!).

During the lectures it rained off and on (downpours so hard that we stopped the lectures because the sound was so loud on the roof it was too hard to hear the speakers!).

We are back at the cabins, journaling, playing cards, and relaxing before dinner.

Sabrina's visit to the INBio Parque July 4

So after an exciting 3 days of tours with other group members to the Canopy tour, Teatro Nacional, Poas Volcano, a casino for poker night (despite the fact that there were no poker tables) and other small sites, I decided to attend a small tour to the IN Bio parque by myself on Saturday morning before our scheduled meeting with the entire Earthwatch group.

I took a tour bus from the hotel to the IN Bio parque which is set up very similarly to the CA science center, except for its focus. IN bio Parque's mission is to recreate the various ecosystems found in Costa Rica, and to house various animals, critters, plants, and other living life that represent CR. My tour guide Sergio (who happens to be from the region of Tarrazu, and who was pleasantly surprised that I would be going to his hometown for this research....but i digress) was very knowledgeable and patient with my fear of critters and snakes.

The two great things of this tour were : a) Sergio's explanation of the symbiotic relationships that NATURALLY occur in the various ecosystems! FOr example, did you know that some plants have holes within their leaves that allow sunlight to pass through the leaves so that the energy can transfer to the plants below. To the untrained eye, the holes resemble the same holes that insects create on leaves as they munch on the plants; however, these naturally occuring holes are much smoother and rounder. GWOW GWOW!!! b) The area of the Butterflies was amazingly beautiful!!!! We walked in the area and there were a bunch of different butterflies fluttering all around! It was amazing...stunning...fascinating! THe colors were mesmerizing!!!! Sergio (the guide) says that if a butterfly lands on a person than that means 7 years of good luck ---guess who is going to Vegas right after this trip!! Woot Woot!!!

A Satisfying Meet-up

Posted by Yvonne on July 5 at 6:45 am

A quik post just before breakfast.....

The entire team assembled one by one in the lobby of the hotel. It was exciting to meet each member and hear of their travel excitements :) . We then made the 2 hour drive to Terrazu, and arrived at Cecilia's Cabins, where were were briefed on the project.

Now it is off for a full day of activities. Gotta run. Here is picture of one of the cabins- they are delightful!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Brandon Finegold Day 3 post

Yesterday we took a guided tour to the Poa Volcano, the Vargas Coffee fields, and the Goods Factory shopping area. I had a good time and the tourguide was very enthusiastic and taught us a lot.. The volcano was completely cloud covered when we reached the top (almost 8000 ft above sea level). We waited almost a half hour, staring at the white, but never got to see anything. We did hear the activity and smell the sulfur admissions though. I will spare any coffee details for the real coffee trip.

I have had a good time being in Costa Rica. Some of the things I’ve noticed…

The food is great and the people are very friendly. Everyone is proud of their country (which, according to our tour guide, has the best economy in Latin America).

Outside our hotel within one block there is a McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, and KFC. What, no Wendy’s? There are plenty of local options too but there is always a line at the American restaurants. Oh yeah, the first restaurant I saw after getting off the airplane was a Schlotsky’s. Glad my people have made it down here too…

I wish there was a place I could bet on the population of San Jose EXPLODING in about 2 months. This is the most pregnant women I have ever seen in my life.

The speed limit on the highway is 50 km/hr. The speed limit on mountains with twisting roads and hairpin turns and no guard rails? You guessed it: 50 km/hr.

In the shower today my face soap went over my nose and when I exhaled it blew a bubble that went completely over my mouth. This has nothing to do with Costa Rica but I’ve never done that before!

We were lucky enough to get a room with a view of the plaza outside our hotel. There is a mariachi trumpeter who plays all night at regular 5 minute intervals. In related news, I didn’t sleep much.

Despite the lack of sleep I have been loving every minute of this trip! At 3 PM MT we are being picked up by the Earthwatch people. I’m looking forward to the expedition, even if it is a little work. I hopefully will have an internet feed at some point there and will write again. Until then…

Friday, July 3, 2009

Poas Volcano Trip and Coffee Plantation Tour

Posted by Holly and Yvonne on Friday July 3

The day began early as usual. We had an excellent guide named Hector today who told us lots of fantastic information about the wildlife, the geography of the area, and the coffee plantations.
For instance did you know that coffee has three critical needs for optimal growth and flavor (according to the expert at the Doka Coffee Estates)?
1. The coffee needs to grow in elevations of 4000 to 6000 feet.
2. The coffee needs to have volcanic soil.
3. The coffee beans must be harvested by hand since they become ripe at three different times.

Another interesting coffee fact is that the coffee plants are grown w
ith banana trees which aide in regulating the
humidity for the coffee plants and provide a wind break during the windy and dryer winter

Costa Rica also contains approximately 5-6% of the worlds biodiversity. For example all 53 species of humming birds found in both N. America and S. America are also found in Cost
a Rica. We saw one of these beautiful creatures near the Poas Volcano today. We did not see the crater of the volcano itself due to cloud cover at the time of our visit, but we were able to hear the "fumeroles" (escaping gasses) and smell the sulfer that escaped as the gas was released. The sensory experience was still worth the trip?!

We are all seen here in front of the volcano ..... note the white back ground. We are literally in a

Hector gave us a great botany lesson here. Check out the pic of Yvonne in front of the Poor Man's Umbrella plant's leaves. It is considered a jurassic plant.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a wood carving and bead making factory. It was
interesting to hear how the Costa Ricans import some of their specialty woods so that they can preserve their own fragile ecosystems and yet make money from their beautiful crafts. This picture is of Sabrina with an ox cart that was on display at the factory. These carts are a symbol of the country and the more brightly and intricately they are painted, the wealthier the family.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My picture is worth an additional 1000 words!!!!!

Posted by Holly on July 2.

The zip line was even more fun than I expected. The expert at the first platform told me I had "excellent technique". I do not know if he said that to everyone or not, but it made me have even more confidence and enjoy the experience to its fullest.

The final descent was the longest and fastest. As you can was 700 meters long (or 2,296 'feets') and has twin cables so two can descend at one time.

A special shout out to Yvonne's family for giving her this amazing little computer so we could all share in this blog. Thanks!

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Posted by Yvonne on July 2, 2007

We had a ton of fun!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Pre-Earthwatch Group Has Arrived!

Posted by Yvonne on July 1, 2009

Holly (Michigan), Sabrina (Hollywood, California), Shawn (Pittsburg, PA) and I converged upon San Jose International Airport and made it through customs just fine. After a 20 minute taxi trip to our hotel, we were treated to a 2-hour tour of the City of San Jose. The highlight of the tour was the National Theater,, a grand majesty of a building constructed by the government in the 1890's.

The tour guide was a wealth of information about the history of the country, including the fact that Costa Rica's military was abolished 60 years ago after a civil war. Also that the land mass of the country is less than .03 percent of the earth, but it holds over 6% of the golobe's biodiversity.

We ended the day with dinner at the hotel, and are looking forward to tomorrow's activities of horseback riding and zipline tours.