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Kealohi Sabate

Growing up, I found that a lot of people have this misconception that being a scientist is hard and that it’s a job only for smart people. I admit, I am also guilty of this assumption, and always saw it as a career revolving around tons of lab work with many suspicious chemicals. Although that is true to some extent, that’s not how all scientists are, in fact, the life of a scientist can honestly be kind of fun. 

My name is Kealohi, I’m from the island of Hawai’i, and I would say I don’t have the typical features of most scientists you would expect, but hey that’s why I’m here.  Growing up, I never expected to go into such a field, especially as a woman of color, but to my surprise it’s actually a super interesting field to pursue that presents a lot of amazing opportunities.

Here at La Selva, I study canopy soils, which are basically soils that grow on branches way up in the treetops. With them I look at their sensitivities towards increasing temperatures and what this means for our changing planet. I mean at first glance, soils may not seem like the most thrilling project to be studying, but did you know soils actually play a big role in helping to control rising temperatures? This is done by mediating the CO2 that enters the atmosphere, so by understanding soil sensitivities to rising temperatures, it gives us a better idea of what these interactions could mean for our future.

Now to do this project, yes I do work in a lab, but being a scientist is more than lab work. Being a scientist means I get to immerse myself in nature to better understand what’s going on, which in my case that means working with this cool looking robot sensors, climbing trees, and playing with a giant slingshot to carry out my research. I know it’s not the typical thing you would expect out of a scientist, but since being here it has shown me that there are some really cool opportunities for adventure and exploration as a scientist. Not only does being a scientist help us to understand why things work, it also provides answers that explain what needs to happen so that we can continue to thrive in this changing environment. It’s also a cool excuse to get out and see the world! Don’t get me wrong, it is a lot of work, and sometimes I do spend long nights in the lab running experiments, but given me, it also doesn’t take a genius to do this either. Being in STEM has given me so many opportunities, funded so much that I could never afford, and presented me with some of the most unforgettable life experiences. I know science isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean its not possible. This is what I’ve been doing this far in my career, and I hope it helps to clarify and change what you think the life of a scientist is all about. 

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Taking CO2 readings
The giant slingshot

Melanie Talavera-Arboniés

¡Hola! My name is Melanie L. Talavera-Arboniés. I’m from Puerto Rico and I study biology at the University of Puerto Rico at the Mayagüez Campus. Since I was little, I have been very fond of nature and the environment. It amazed me to learn how different interactions connect and work together for a common goal. For me, every organism plays an important role in life and I want to be able to protect it. But in order to protect something, you must understand it first. That is why I’m so interested in research. I’ve been wanting to become an REU student for a while. Now, I get to be one and I couldn’t feel more grateful. Here at La Selva I get to experience nature completely. I really enjoy waking up and feeling the fresh air, walking down the trails and hearing the birds, looking up to the trees and seeing monkeys, stepping on the bridge and seeing the river flow. It is a blissful and growing time in my life.

I really enjoy birds and I have the great opportunity to be working with them. My research is on the long-billed hermit hummingbird. I want to know if song amplitude (i.e. loudness) could be correlated with fitness of the males. It is challenging to measure this on the field, but it has helped me grow as a future researcher. This experience has been so much more than I expected and I really appreciate it. ¡Gracias Costa Rica!

Saw this white faced capuchin walking from the River Station
Sunset at the hanging bridge
An organic farmer gave me a pineapple for wearing a pineapple shirt
Ochre-bellied flycatcher got in the mist net

Alondra Medina

Hi everyone! I’m Alondra Medina and I’m a Biology major at the University of Puerto Rico of the Rio Piedras Campus. I came to La Selva to study how collared peccaries act as ecosystem engineers for amphibians and reptiles. I was very excited when I got accepted to this REU because I’m aspiring to become a tropical biologist and what better place to start than Costa Rica! My project involves pretty much living in the field looking for small aquatic habitats called wallows and this enables me to explore the entirety of La Selva’s trails. Witnessing such rich biodiversity is one of best parts of the REU experience as well as being able to connect with people from different backgrounds. So far, it has been the best research experience I have ever participated in and I encourage more students to try it! Pura vida!

Holding a grasshopper
Glass frog
Spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus)
Collared peccary (Pecari tajacu)
Mud turtle (Kinosternon leucostomum)

Kala Gause

Hey there! My name is Kala Gause. I am a Junior Biology major at Spelman College from Durham, North Carolina. So far, the REU program has been an exciting experience. I am interested in a career in the medical field, but I wanted to try something new for the summer. I have met a lot of new people, seen so many new animals and experienced plenty of new adventures, and learned a lot about research and my interests. My favorite part of the program is playing Bananagrams at dinner. Even though I am not a Bananagrams expert, I am getting better every time I play, and I will be the Bananagrams champion at the end of the summer! I love the REU program and I will carry the memories with me forever.

Taste-testing fresh coconut
Exploring the Sura stream

Serina Wesen

Hola! My name is Serina and I am a student at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, studying Civil Engineering with minors in Mathematics and Outdoor Leadership. I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Despite being over 5000 miles from home, my mother is actually a tica (Costa Rican woman), so I am actually closer to my roots than one would think.

I am spending this summer conducting an independent research project on leaf photosynthetics, researching the effect of specific leaf area on leaf maximum electron transport rate in a neotropical rainforest. I generally spend my days here in the field, conducting lab work, eating (delicious) food at the comedor, and working on proposals into the late hours of the evening, all with a group of undergraduates that has helped made La Selva feel like a home.

In my free time, back home, I love rock climbing, hiking, and camping – so, in other words, I spend most of my time outside, which also continues to be the case here at La Selva! When we aren’t working on our projects, I enjoy walking, biking, and running through the jungle, trying to find wildlife to photograph, and playing fútbol (or as Americans call it, soccer) with the other researchers and staff here at the station. Here at La Selva everyone has become a part of a little community that I know I will continue to hold dear to my heart.

I can’t believe we are already past the halfway point, and I can’t wait to see what the next month has to offer!

☼ Pura Vida! ☼

Making friends!
Sunset from the La Selva bridge
Collecting leaves for my project!
Photo from riverboat tour along Rio Puerto Viejo

Yessica Jiménez

Hi, all my name is Yessica Alejandra Jiménez. I go to college in Cleveland, Ohio for manufacturing engineering, and I currently have four scholarships. One of them is LSAMP. This great opportunity was given to me through this scholarship that involves minority students who want to do research. My passion for science has been growing since I volunteered for two semesters in a project called eXtreme Green House in my university. In this project, I was looking to create a polymer based on marine algae. La Selva has allowed me to learn about a world that until a month ago was completely unknown, and I love being able to learn something new every day, get up with my new family, laugh, be in the laboratory, discover aquatic species, pH, acidification, and much more. The opportunity that this project has given me is invaluable. Here I leave some photos that describe my new family and how wonderful it has been to be here in La Selva, I hope you enjoy them!!

Collared aracaris outside the lab
Achiote tattoos
Fieldwork at the Río Peje

Hans Gonzembach

Hello everyone! My name is Hans and I am one semester away from holding a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. I am excited to experience the REU program here at La Selva because I love ecology and I love tropical research. My project involves hummingbird vocalizations and behavior. My model organism is called the Long-billed Hermit and I am studying the effects of degradation with their respective habitat. Since there are so many song types (dialects) that each population carries, I am trying to understand the reason why certain song types last longer than others and how it is affected through cultural evolution. What is the role of these songs getting passed on to the next generation? 

In my spare time, I play guitar, hike, and photograph wildlife and I am also an avid and manic birdwatcher. I love everything ornithology and my career goal is to obtain a graduate degree in Ecology and get a job as a field ornithologist. I have seen some amazing animals here at La Selva and I am only one month in. Here are some of my favorite photographs. Hope you enjoy!

Holding an ochre-bellied flycatcher
Tayra (a member of the weasel family)
Northern tamandua (anteater)
Rhinoceros beetle

Caleb Klingseis

Hello everyone, I’m Caleb Klingseis and I’m majoring in biology with a concentration in Zoology at Missouri Western State University. Here at La Selva I’m researching how a local species of fish responds to different levels of a pesticide that is increasingly being used here in Costa Rica! As an aquatic ecologist in training, my work place consists of a laboratory and the many beautiful waterways and steams of La Selva! In my off time, I enjoy hiking some of the trails in search of new animals to photograph. I have thoroughly been enjoying myself in this tropical rainforest paradise! Pura Vida!

In the lab
Red-eyed treefrog
The lower Sura River (one of our study sites)
Some of the tropical fish diversity found here
Upper Sura River

Christopher Martínez Rivera

Hello everyone! I’m Christopher Martínez Rivera and I study Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. My research project here at La Selva is about how the rising temperatures affect the arthropod communities located inside the rolled leave of Heliconia plants. Working on my project has been a wonderful experience so far. It has allowed me to to see the wonderful wildlife Costa Rica has. La Selva, besides being an amazing place for research, has also been an amazing place to make new friends. Every person here treats you very well despite the differences in age, culture, and ideologies. I consider everyone in this place as a member of my family because of the great hospitality. Definitely this has been the best experience of my life so far. PURA VIDA!!

Making a new friend
Team Heliconia in the field
Red-eyed treefrogs in amplexus

Christine Tominiko

These past few weeks in La Selva, Costa Rica have been really fun. Time passes when you have so much to do. I am from American Samoa and I chose to apply to this REU program to gain experience about doing research and so far I am learning a lot. Still, I have time to explore the many great things and see a wide range of biodiversity of both plants and animals, here within La Selva. Not only that but the hospitality is also amazing, everyone around me are nice, great and amazing people. I am grateful to have gained this opportunity to be here and I am half way through the program but there is still much more to see, do and experience and I can’t wait.

Hanging out with a collared peccary in the lab clearing
Longhorn beetle with impressive mandibles
Flowering cactus
Flowering cactus II
Blue jeans frog