Last week we had our last field trip to Santa Rosa National Park. The goal of this trip was to learn about the management and conservation of a highly threatened tropical dry forest ecosystem. This park is located within the Guanacaste Conservation Area and comprises secondary growth, deciduous, evergreen and riparian forests, as well as coastal habitats. It receives 1500 mm of rain in a seasonal regime and the average temperature is 25 °C.
Because of long droughts and high temperatures, the park is susceptible to fires during the non-rainy season. Thus, park administrators maintain rigorous management plans to prevent and fight against fire events that threat wildlife and forest ecosystems. Our natural setting was ideal for the delivering of field lectures on dry forest management, mitigation and compensation for greenhouse gases emissions and the ecological consequences of forest fragmentation.
The first day we set up our camp in a shaded area with giant fig trees; students received field lectures and then we engaged on a night hike to spot wildlife. We observed the Mexican Borrowing Snake (Loxocemus bicolor), the Tropical Banded Gecko (Coleonix mitratus), the Central American Bark Scorpion (Centruroides margaritatus) and, among other crawling fauna, a tailless whip scorpion. The next day we moved our camping to Naranjo Beach, a fourteen kilometer hike to a secluded protected area of great scenic beauty. The beach is a nesting site to species of sea turtles such as the Olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). Also, the area protects patches of mangrove forest and estuary habitats.
This outdoor experience complemented greatly the many aspects that compose our program and allowed the students to compare this rather pristine site with other highly touristy places. We are now moving into the research agenda component of our program to start with the Directed Research projects, a component that prepares the students for data collection and analysis to generate valuable information for conservation and management.