Saturday, November 29, 2014

Knowledge Lasts Longer than Mosquito Bites.

Two pairs of pants, two shirts and a rain jacket, and high socks tucked firmly over my field pants. This is how we started off the night of rodent trapping for one of our last Faculty Led Projects (FLPs) in the Palo Verde Biological Station. We were lead by Andrea, a bubbly biologist and former OTS student. Armed with DEET, peanut butter balls, and about 120 rodent traps, we set off apprehensively into the night. Our goal was to leave baited traps throughout the station in order to catch as many rodents as possible, and we were working after sunset. To sum it all up, this short, two hour venture was easier said than done. 
The great part about Palo Verde is the unique landscape that you do not typically see in Costa Rica. It is one of the endangered "tropical dry forests", and in its midst is a massive mirror of a swampy lake that is used as a resting place for migrating birds. From that swamp can be seen some of the best sunsets in Costa Rica, where the entire horizon is on fire and glowing embers of clouds reflect in the water below. The wildlife is also quite beautiful. On a standard day, you can see ten or so iguanas sunning themselves in the grass, among herds of cattle and horses that stroll casually along the road. And if you are lucky, you can look up into the canopy and see a family of Capuchin monkeys leaping from tree to tree. Even the birds can catch your eye, bright blue-crowned motmots with a signature racket shaped tail. 
But, as always, all these animals and beautiful views are a little too good to be true. The second we arrived at the station, we were greeted with clouds of little black mosquitoes. Endless applications of DEET and bed nets hardly kept them at bay; I found myself attacked on attempted runs, while sitting to eat, and even in the shower. This is why, when half of our class was informed we would be making a late night mission to set rodent traps in the forest, we didn't receive the news with much excitement. Nighttime was when the bugs were most active, and being out in the forest for more than 15 minutes almost guaranteed that the following days would be filled with itchy, swollen welts.  
Armed, as we were, with excellent leaders and gallons of bug spray, the night went much better than anticipated. We were able to experience some of the good and bad parts of the life of a rodent biologist, and in the end, we were able to catch five rodents for analysis! Our mosquito bites only lasted for a few days, but the experience was truly unforgettable. 

Aidan Telfer-Radzat

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