The last month of our program is entirely focused on research with a professor, and we recently completed the field portion of our research. Students were split into three groups: one was focused on the impacts of tourism on climate change and water use, another was focused on the effectiveness of agroforestry in coffee farms, and the last group studied the effects of traffic noise on bird songs.
I was in the third group, and we spent a week in Carara National Park collecting data.
We played recordings of bird songs through a speaker and then recorded the responses of our focal bird species. We did it close to and far from the road to see if there was any difference in their song structure.
It was amazing to get to spend hours in the national park every day, hiking through the trails and looking for birds. We regularly got distracted from our research to observe wildlife: we saw peccaries, a hoard of army ants, countless types of birds, and many other species. We also saw monkeys almost every day.
It was a lot of hot and sweaty work, but it was also very rewarding and we made sure to have lots of fun along the way; we even convinced our professor to play soccer with us in our rubber boots!
We are now in the thick of analyzing our data and writing our final papers. It’s remarkable to me that we get to be a part of such large and significant research projects as a part of our study abroad program. Experiential learning is such an important aspect of education, and I’ve gained so much from being able to apply what I’ve been learning about all semester to this project.