We have just finished an action-packed first week here in Atenas, Costa Rica! We began the week with tours of our new hometown and of our Rainforest Alliance Certified Center. Then, after a few introductory lectures from the faculty about the natural history of Costa Rica and sustainable development within the country, we departed the Center for our first field excursion!

The trip began with a fantastically scenic drive toward, and eventually through, the cloud forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park. On the eastern side of the mountainous park, we stopped for our first hike of the program, where we were formally introduced to the rainforest. I found myself in awe of how much life is able to thrive within every square inch of that environment—a feeling which continued for the duration of our trip, from our first two-toed sloth sighting to the night hike we took near our field station in Manú to our interactive tour at El Progreso finca sostenible (sustainable farm).

At El Progreso, our group was pleasantly surprised by the variety of sustainable farming techniques implemented by the family of owner-operators. What we expected to be an informational tour became an afternoon of contributing to the inner-workings of the farm! We were able to feed the pigs, plant yucca, harvest plantains and bananas, and collect decomposing leaf litter from the on-site palm forest to make into the farm’s microorganism fertilizer. After such an eventful afternoon, we were treated to green coconuts to drink and a lunch of the traditional arroz y frijoles with yucca, fresh hearts of peach palm, fish, and fried plantains.

We have already learned an immense amount about Costa Rica, and I personally am learning to appreciate the sustainable efforts in which we are privileged to partake. This week we have begun selecting our research projects, and campus is brimming with excitement for the next excursions on our agenda!

Photos: Kiley Spillers