To start the day of December 30th we will be having breakfast in the city of Tilaran which is located in the northwestern region of Costa Rica. Tilaran is a small town with a population of around 2,500 people in the Guanacaste Province, located in the hills and overlooking the west shore of Lake Arena.
For more information on Tilaran: http://www.costaricadatabase.com/crdb/city.asp?action=2&q=TILAR%C1N&b=TILAR%C1N&p=5
After breakfast the group will begin our two-and-a-half-hour journey to Monte Verde to visit the University of Georgia Costa Rica Campus. Monte Verde or “green mountain” if you would like to brush up on your Spanish is such a spectacular yet fragile place that the American magazine Newsweek voted it number 14 on the list of “things to remember before they disappear”. This amazing reserve was also named by the locals in the list of “7 Natural Wonders of Costa Rica”. Renowned for its bio diverse cloud forests and bio tourist involvement from hiking of trails to zip-lining across rainforest canopies. Famous “Monte Verde Cloud Forest Reserve” shelters countless species of life known to Costa Ricans as “floras and faunas” or in English “plants and animals”. Such species include jaguars, ocelots colorfully plumed quetzal, and the largest area of naturally growing orchids on the planet. The reserve’s well-marked trails cut through ferns and orchids patches, while way overhead, hanging bridges of vines creating a forest canopy. Known as a cloud forest due to its often “cloud/fog” filled state which is made possible because of its high elevation, proves much needed moisture that supports the vast amount of life in this forest.
For more info or activities: http://www.monteverdeinfo.com
Monte Verde is also the home of the UGACR campus, which is where our study abroad group will have lunch for the day. After lunch, we will all gather up and begin a tour of the campus’s anaerobic digester facility. For those who are unfamiliar, an anaerobic digester is a form of waste treatment which also produces useful methane gas that can later be used to create heat energy. Although there is much more to learn about these extremely interesting facilities including their functions and benefits, the UGACR uses their digester as a method of wastewater treatment and heat sources for cooking food on the campus.
For more information on UGACR: https://www.externalaffairs.uga.edu/costa_rica/
The MSU study abroad group will remain at Monte Verde until Friday January 1st performing interactive activities such as night hikes, tours of the rainforest reserve, and even taking a visit to the coffee production facility at Cafe San Luis on December. All while soaking up as much as possible about how Costa Rica takes an ecologically friendly approach to daily activities, preserve land through promoting sustainability.
For more information on Cafe San Luis: http://www.monteverdeinfo.com/cafe-monteverde-coffee-tour/
Starting the morning of December 30th the group started the day in the beautiful town of Talaran. Once finished with breakfast, we all loaded up on the bus and made the long and bumpy journey to the beautiful Monte Verde which ended up only being nearly an hour and a half drive instead of the previously estimated two and a half hour drive. When we arrived to our destination in Monte Verde, the study abroad group was warmly welcomed by the University of Georgia: Costa Rica (UGA) faculty and had our first lunch in their facility. An appreciation of the beautiful landscape and campus was immediately formed upon arrival along with delicious food grown primarily on the UGA campus. Words cannot describe the feeling that this atmosphere brings, but hopefully this will give you a better idea of the area which the study abroad group stayed.
On the first day at UGA, we were taken on a tour of the campuses anaerobic digestion systems which provide fuel for cooking all of the meals. The style of digesters used at the UGA campus are pug flow reactors supplied with pig and human waste to create biogas (methane) and perform nutrients and solid reduction of the waste. Closing out the night o December 30th the group was split into two teams and taken on an extraordinary night hike through the cloud forest on campus to observer nocturnal types of organisms. Here are some photos of interesting things that were caught on camera during the hike.
The photo on the left is a Costa Rican zebra tarantula and the photo on the right is an eyelash viper.
Starting the morning of December 31st, the study abroad group is went to the Monte Verde cloud forest biological reserve. Here we were able to observe organisms that are active during the day in their natural habitat as we hiked on trails through the cloud forest. While hiking the group decided to split into 3 sub-groups due to interest in terrain through the forest. While on the hike we observed many spectacular view-points and multiple species of birds, insects, monkeys and reptiles. Below are just a couple photos from our hike.
Immediately after our visit to the biological reserve, we went back to the UGA campus for lunch, and then went of a walk to the Cafe San Luis coffee plantation to see a small scale coffee operation from start to finish. The unique thing about how Victor from Cafe San Luis produces his coffee is that he still used traditional methods for growing and processing his coffee beans to work to preserve the culture of how coffee is made. While on the tour it was clearly evident the love and passion that Victor had for his work; this warmed everyone’s heart and we all truly appreciated the sustainability of his methods. Victor also has a small scale plug flow bag digester on his property that we got to see. Unfortunately it was not functioning properly and this opportunity allowed us to brainstorm on why it was not operating as efficient as it should and how to fix the problem. The answer, an improper carbon to nitrogen ration within the digester reducing the biogas production. Below are some pictures from our visit to Cafe San Luis.