For the first time since I’ve arrived in Costa Rica, I had trouble waking up this morning. Having spent nearly eight hours in the field yesterday, my body was not ready to bounce out of bed at 6:05. But I came here to do fieldwork, so I got up and got going.
We went to the field with two of La Selva’s staff to act as guides. While we can now identify saplings of our nine species when looking closely at them, it would have taken us quite a while to find all of the two hundred fifty trees we need. Leo and Willie helped us find the saplings quickly, and also kept an eye out for snakes.
For each tree that we or our guides found, we needed to mark its location on the GPS, flag it with bright orange tape, label it with an aluminum dog tag, and record its position in a notebook. By our third full day of work, we had streamlined our system as best as we could, but there were still some challenges. Some of the trees were just a few meters off the trail, but we’ve found others a fair ways back in the forest, and reaching them has required climbing down logs and pushing through giant palm leaves. Long roots, spiked vines, and the threat of snakes sometimes has made finding safe footing a mini adventure in each step.
In the next gap, fully lit by sun, stood our final Pentaclethra macroloba. As with all the rest, we tagged, flagged, marked, and recorded it. “Pentaclethra is finish!” My graduate student called out to our guides. Our search continued to be quite productive, and one by one, we checked the final trees off our list. By the time we headed back to the station, only three species remained unfinished.
We emerged from the forest a little after two, walking slowly to avoid staggering. We washed our boots, unpacked our gear, took a shower, and were luxuriously clean by three.
“I actually feel really awake now,” my graduate student said. I agreed–the bit of rest and cold shower woke me up considerably. We planned on heading out to the lab, and I sat down briefly on my bed to stretch out my ankle.
I was woken up about an hour later by the wonderful sounds and smells of a rainstorm passing through; she slept even longer.