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Brazilian River Otters
Mexican Wild Cats

The sign at the guardhouse welcomes you to La Selva in both Spanish and English.

Welcome to Costa Rica! Our first full day here is a full one. The 12 Earthwatch team members come from England, Canada, and different parts of the United States. For the next two weeks we will spend our days and nights together as we help collect caterpillars and explore the forest.

Today, we started to get to know each other as we traveled to La Selva from San Jose, Costa Rica's capital city. It was a beautiful though misty ride down from the central mountains to the lower land of La Selva. The bus let us off about a kilometer from the reserve and we walked the rest of the way. As soon as we arrived, we were assigned rooms and set off to find them. Although everything is simple, it is actually fancier than I expected. We are staying in a small dorm for researchers, called the River Station. To get there you first cross a suspension bridge over the Puerto Viejo River and follow a cement walkway past the lab and a forested area. Although the river looked far below as we dragged our bags across, we were told that during flood times it could rise to within a few meters of the bridge. There has been a lot of rain and today, along the edges you could see large amounts of darker-colored sediment entering from a nearby creek.

Boots are essential research equipment at La Selva. Boots protect you from snakes and save you from the worst of the mud. We even played soccer in our boots!

We were warned to use our rubber boots, especially at night even just to go to the bathrooms. There are several species of poisonous snakes here. They are "sit and wait" hunters and use heat to detect their prey. This means they will simply sit there until they sense a warm body — so, to them, out bare feet might seem like small mice or rabbits and an easy meal!

There is wildlife everywhere — on our way back to the dining hall at lunch there were peccaries and coatis in the lab clearing right near the path. After lunch one of the research assistants took us for our first walk in the forest and started to explain about the many plants — especially those where caterpillars might be found.

Photos courtesy of Shauneen Giudice/Earthwatch Institute