Calling Costa Rica home- Amanda Macias

Danta: Association for the Conservation of the Tropics meant nothing to me until last April. I was sitting in a doctor’s office scrolling through Facebook when I came across the Osa Conservation page; it advertised classes offered by Danta which took place in Costa Rica. I was intrigued as I had been to Costa Rica in 2012 (for a high school trip) and had fallen in love with the country. Now, I wasn’t some random person wanting a trip to a different country. I am someone who has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and I have been trying to figure out what exactly it is that I want to do with my degree. This course, entitled Methods in Primate Behavior and Conservation, really piqued my interest. It seemed perfect because I have been leaning towards researching animal behavior and conservation work. Also, this was the perfect opportunity to gain much needed field experience.

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Thus began the process of applying for the class. It took me awhile to save up money for the program, make certain that this was something I would follow through on, and filling out the application. Two weeks after I submitted my application, I was happily surprised to find in my email inbox an acceptance letter. I was going to go to Costa Rica!! January couldn’t come fast enough. I was so excited, and admittedly a little nervous and I began to think of going off on my own, knowing no one. The weeks passed by and finally the day came. The first day of travel was a blur, I barely remember meeting my roommates at the hotel in Alajuela, but I remember them being nice. The following day passed quickly as well, getting to know my fellow classmates and Kimberly, our instructor. I remember arriving at the Piro Research Station in the Osa and thinking how wonderful and open the place was. We were literally in the middle of the rain forest.

DSCN0510I fell in love with the station. It felt good to be there, so close to nature and her noises. The night sounds didn’t surprise me, but what did surprise me was how close the howler monkeys seemed to be. They woke me up out of a dead sleep, and I swear it sounded like they were right outside our cabin. Let’s just say that I didn’t get much sleep after that, but it was an experience! We got to work right away, not only learning about the four species of monkeys found in the Osa (howler, capuchin, spider and squirrel monkeys) we learned about the land itself and the birds that live there. That first hike through the forest was just what I expected it to be: beautiful and full of so many interesting organisms. Our exploring didn’t end there; we hiked different trails and explored a nearby river, hoping to see a puma. Sadly we didn’t see one. We saw a waterfall on the last day of our stay, which was beautiful.

As the course progressed, I gained a love for the monkeys and their environment. I found the lives of monkeys much more complex than I could have imagined. Studying the howler monkeys and their behavior was like a small glimpse into their world. Such a special feeling. Friendship among us students began to grow as well. My awesome roommates, Jo, Morgan and Tiffany as well as our male counterpart, Anthony, started to get to know one another and learned to work together. I couldn’t have asked for a better group. We all shared the same love for what we were doing which made everything that much more special.

IMGP0200We not only got to research primate behavior, we participated in a sea turtle release as part of the sea turtle restoration program that is happening at Piro. We released around 100 olive ridley and green sea turtles. Being able to help release baby sea turtles was an incredible experience simply because they are endangered; it was our own contribution to a restoration effort that is happening worldwide. I am thinking of going back later in the year to help out with their restoration program. Hopefully this will actually happen! I can see myself calling Costa Rica home.

Amanda Macias, DANTA alum 2018

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