June 2, 2012 - Saturday, Day 19
Again, a bit slow to update, though we have been putting
images up on facebook. Today is a free day, with the students exploring
the island of Caye Caulker and perhaps taking a boat over to Ambergris Caye
and the larger town of San Pedro.
It's been a busy 3 days. Since the last post, we
explored the caves at Barton Creek via canoe. The cave system is one of
the largest 4 cave systems in the world. We were able to go back about
700 meters into the cave. Some of the rooms we passed through rival
their counterparts in Mammoth Caves or Carlsbad Caverns. The following
day was a long day of travel First we went to Belmopan, the Belizian
capital, to meet with Dwight Neal, a marine biologist and learn about marine
conservation issues in Belize. Then we drove on to Belize City to catch
a water taxi to Caye Caulker. The day ended with dinner at restaurant on
the shore looking out to the barrier reef. Friday, June 1rst we went to
EZ Boy snorkeling tours to get gear and then did a practice session from
shore. We then visited the headquarters of the Caye Caulker Marine
Preserve ti hear about the leadership challenges of marine conservation
here. In the afternoon, we went out to the reef in the Cay Caulker
preserve, where we saw a good diversity of fish, coral and other
invertebrates. At one stop there were plenty of rays and even nurse
sharks (all fingers and toes are safely accounted for). Dr. Brown and
the students then cooked spaghetti, squash and garlic bread for dinner.
Tomorrow will be a full day of snorkeling at the Hol Chan
Reserve, then packing for our flights back on Monday. Here are some
pictures up through snorkeling on Friday:
Getting ready to enter Barton Creek Cave.
Entrance to the cave.
Entering the cave.
Passing in the cave.
At the deepest point we reached in the cave, about 700
The entrance becomes the exit.
Exiting the cave.
Listening to guide Ian give snorkeling instructions.
Snorkeling at Caye Caulker Marine Reserve
Lionfish are an invasive species in the Carribean. Our
guide, Ian, speared this one after it had been spotted. We saw one other
lionfish while snorkeling. The lionfish are changing the ecology of the
reefs. The long spines are venomous, and can give a person - or another
fish - a nasty sting, so there are few natural predators. On the other
hand, they are apparently tasty, and have been showing up on the menus of a
At one site, the rays (and sharks) are very tame and they
are present in large numbers.
Ian holds a ray - "Lucy" for the students to
pet. This particular ray has lost its stinger and is thus even safer to
handle than the regular rays. Lucy would seek out Ian and swim right up
to - and over - him.
The students were able to get very close views of the rays.
In 2009, on the previous incarnation of this class, the
service project on Caye Caulker was to help local schoolchildren paint murals
on the water tank at their school, the following two pictures are from the
Lauren, the project leader, helps a local child paint a
The street side of the tank.
These pictures are of the murals in 2012:
May 30th, 2012 - Wednesday, Day 16
Thanks to our friends at Mayawalk Tiurs (http://mayawalk.com/http://mayawalk.com/)
for the internet connection in San Ignacio!
This is our 3rd full day in San Ignacio, Belize. We
spent the last two days exploring Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and Caracol.
This morning the students are doing surveys on attitudes towards conservation
here in town, this afternoon we will go canoeing through caves at Barton
The ruins have been fascinating. They are not as
extensive as the ones we saw 3 years ago at Tikal in Guatemala, but they are
impressive. First up was Xunantunich (the X-ruins), which lie right on
the border with Guatemala.
The main temple - the Castillo - at Xunantunich.
The temple showing Maggie at the top for scale.
Closer view of the top of the Castillo.
Climbing the Castillo. Alina for scale, Rob McManus for gauge of
Another view of the first part of the climb - it really is a long way up!
A view of the side of the Castillo, about 1/2 way up.
On top of the Castillo. You can see 3 countries from up here -
Belize, Guatemala, and, on a clear day, Mexico. The temple is almost
right on the border with Guatemala.
Marci enjoys the view from the top of the Castillo.
Looking down at the temple complex from the top of the Castillo; Alina's
foot for scale.
Looking down again. A conversation taking place at normal volume
could be heard clearly by the students assembled on the platform below.
The professors decided that future lecture halls at Marietta should be
designed this way.
On Tuesday, we went to different ruins; these were at Caracol, about 40
miles away from San Ignacio where we were staying.
Pyramid by the Mayans, pyramid by the McDunoughs.
Climbing down from the main temple at Caracol.
Looking up at the main temple at Caracol; this one is designed so that you
cannot see the top from this point. Only when you get up to there the
people are standing up above can you see the top. There were few
tourists at either site; this is the slow season for tourism.
This temple; used for astronomical observations, had very narrow slits.
The whole group at Caracol. Zane Lazer had returned to the states at
the end of the Costa Rica leg of the trip.
We were able to crawl down into two Mayan tombs in Caracol. No tomb
juice in this one.
On the way back we stopped at the Rio_on Pools, a series of pools and
Another view of the Rio-On Pools.
It was a good place to relax after a hard day climbing Mayan temples.
May 28th, 2012 - Monday, Day 14
It's been a while since the last update. The
trip is flying by and there just hasn't been the time or opportunity to get
things updated. We went from Monteverde down to the town of La Fortuna
for a night. La Fortuna is at the base of the Arenal Volcano. The
students were able to spend some time in volcanic hot springs and collect more
survey data. The next day we went to El Zota, a remote field station in
the northeast of the country. On the way we stopped at a restaurant
where they feed the iguanas and were able to photograph dozens of them.
At the field station we hiked through the lowland rainforest and spent 2
mornings doing our service project - we planted trees to reforest the last
part of the field station that had been part of a tree plantation.
From El Zota we returned to San Jose. We were able to go
to church at a church downtown, then take a bus to the airport for the trip to
Belize via El Salvador. We drove across Belize to San Ignacio, where we
are now. On the agenda for the next few days are trips to Mayan Ruins, a
canoeing trip through limestone caves, and some general sightseeing.
Then out to the island Caye Caulker for snorkeling, then home on June 4th.
Planting the trees in El Zota.
One more tree for the forest. If one of these trees
grown to full size, it will absorb all of the carbon we generated using
planes, cars and boats on this trip.
The El Zota workers had cleared small areas in the grass for
us to plant the trees in (and doing that clearing is hotter and harder than
actually planting the trees!).
Dr. McManus doing physical labor. Yes, we were amazed
We spent two hot morning planting trees. One afternoon
we went to a pineapple plantation and the other we went for a hike in the
The El Zota field station is run by the Ramirez family.
They make pallets for commercial use, and the property was originally bought
as a source of wood. Hiner Ramirez's daughters convinced him that he
should not be cutting the rainforest, so they reverted to growing Melina trees
on the cleared land. These trees grow quickly and were then harvested
for lumber. Two American biologists - and Hiner's daughters - convinced
him to go even further and convert the property, which adjoins a national
park, into a field station. The property has about 500 hectares (over
1000 acres), half of which is primary forest which has never been logged. The
plots we worked on were the last of the Melina plantation to be
reforested. The station invites local schoolchildren to come out.
They bring in government biologists to teach them, then send them into the
forest to find seeds. The high school students plant the seeds at a
nursery they run; the station then buys the seedlings and those were the trees
we were planting. We finished ahead of schedule - they actually had to go out
and get more trees for the second day.
May 20th. 2012 - Sunday, Day 6
It's been a busy day in Monteverde. We met with local farmer and
international conservation consultant Joe Stuckey in the morning. Joe is
related to the Quakers who originally settled Monteverde, and has lived here
over 30 years. He spoke to the class about the leadership challenges
facing the first Quaker settlers, and the conservation issues of today.
We then headed off to the ziplines nearby. Ziplines were invented in
Costa Rica and have provided a source of income from tourists, the
ziplines are mostly on private property which is then protected from farming
or other development.
Listening to Joe Stuckey at the Hotel Quetzel.
Joe Stuckey (far right) and the class. Joe was a source of much
valuable information and insight about conservation issues in Costa Rica,
Ready to go!
Even more fun than it looks.
Ready for the Tarzan Swing.
Tarzan swing. You need to see the video to understand this; but it's
May 19th, 2012 - Saturday, Day 5
Sorry for the long delay in posting. We were at
Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste, staying at the biological
station. They do have internet, but not at the dorms where we were, and
I was too busy to get to the internet and make any posts. As off noon on
May 19th we are in Monteverde and have internet at the hotel; so hopefully
I'll get caught up. Everyone is doing fine and having a good time.
On Wednesday the 16th we drove from San Jose to Santa Rosa -
no big deal, but it is about 4 hours on the road, and we met with Marco
Quesada of Conservation International in San Jose in the morning. Marco
gave us a great presentation on marine protected areas and CI's philosophy of
working with local groups on environmental issues. Then we had a long
lunchtime of getting money at the bank, renting a van and a car (a very slow
process) and driving to Santa Rosa. We ate at a little restaurant
outside the park, then headed in. No scorpions the first night, and we
got to sleep.
We were up early on the 17th to hike around some of the
historical sites at Santa Rosa, then down the road to Las Cruces, which is
near the Nicaraguan border. We got lunch supplies and made lunch in the
park on the town square. The students worked in teams to give questionnaires
to the locals; the questionnaires ask for opinions about environmental issues
and will be repeated by students on later trips to Cambodia, Vietnam and other
countries, as well as in the United States. Then we went down to a secluded
beach on the Pacific Ocean to look at a mangrove swamp, tidepools and a great
sunset. Dinner was in La Cruz at a truck stop with really good
food. We did find some scorpions back at the dorms in Santa Rosa.
Filed Station at Santa Rosa. These are the dorms where
Discussion time - talking about the leadership issues
involved in creating the park we are in.
A good point!
Lunch in La Cruz.
Dr. Brown shows students a crab.
Julie has caught a crab; the land in the far background is
Another early morning on Friday the 18th as we drove up to
Rincon de la Vieja, and active volcano. In fact, the volcano is so
active that the trail to the crater is closed; we had been able to hike to
near the top last year. Instead, we went on a long (8+ miles round trip)
hike to a waterfall,
where we did some swimming, then headed back to the park headquarters and
another set of trails where we could see fumaroles, mud pots and other signs
of volcanic activity. Back down the mountain and into the town of
Liberia, where we had a great dinner at Rancho Dulce and the students worked
on surveys in the town square. The night ended with a trip to the
heledaria for ice cream.
An assassin bug eating a beetle.
Hike to the waterfall,
Hike to the waterfall.
Waterfall at Rincon de la Vieja.
Looking up at the waterfall from underneath.
Swimming below the waterfall.
Sunset from Rincon de la Vieja.
Presentation by marine biologist Marco Quesada at the Costa
Rica office of Conservation International.
Dinner at Rancho Dulce in Liberia.
This morning we got up at the usual 7AM time for breakfast at
Santa Rosa, then it was time to load up and drive to Monteverde (we are
actually staying in Santa Elena, which is right next to Monteverde).
We've had lunch, and the students are out shopping, doing more surveys, and
relaxing a bit after several hectic days. We will be in Monteverde for 3
May 15th, 2012
We're all safe and sound here in Costa Rica. Two hour fog delay in Columbus,, about 1 hour late into Atlanta, but Delta held the flight. Everyone has been fed, and most of the group is at the bank changing money before we head out to dinner, then the first discussions. On to Guanacaste tomorrow; probably no internet there for a few days.
Above - fogbound in Columbus. We were an hour late getting into
Atlanta, but they held the plant to San Jose for us.
In the van from the airport downtown.
First meal in Costa Rica.
Planning Meeting; April, 2011
Emergency Contact -
Marietta College Police - (740) 376-4611
2011 Costa Rica Field Trip
2009 Guatamala/Belize Leadership Trip
Costa Rica Field Trip
Costa Rica Field Trip
A web site with pictures
from both the 2007 trip and the previous, 2005 trip is under
Stop by regularly as the
site is being updated as we work our way through about 15,000
pictures we took there.