July 2021

Welcome to the OTS newsletter for our community! Our goal is to stay connected, announce news, provide updates, and share memories. If you would like to contribute in any way, please contact us.   

Stay connected to students and researchers in the tropics. Get social with OTS!
Covid-19 update
We do not know about you, but we never imagined we would go a year without being on an airplane, without feeling the thrill of being ‘away.’ Our boots are too clean, our passports too empty. It is time to think about traveling again. Trips to see family, visit friends, and to go to the places that make us feel refreshed, curious, and awed are just ahead. The light at the end of this long tunnel is visible. 
Costa Rica is open and permitting international travelers. However, the State Department is still recommending that people do not travel to the country. This recommendation is based on limited capacity in hospitals due to a recent surge in Covid-19 cases. All essential services are open, and public transportation is at normal capacity. There is a country-wide mask mandate for anyone in public indoor spaces and shared outdoor spaces. Costa Rica continues to vaccinate its population, and those 12 years and older are currently eligible. Medical insurance covering Covid-19 illness or quarantine is required to enter Costa Rica through August 1. However, after August 1, the insurance requirement will not apply to travelers under the age of 18 or to fully vaccinated adults. To qualify for the insurance waiver, adults must have received an approved vaccine with the last dose administered at least 14 days prior to arrival, and documentation is required listing the traveler's full name, date of dose(s), formula, and lot number(s). All tourist visas are limited to no more than 90 days.
South Africa is open and permitting international travelers as well, but the State Department is recommending that people do not travel to the country due to a surge of the Delta variant. South Africa just raised their alert level to 4. In addition to mandatory masking and a curfew, most gatherings are prohibited, nonessential businesses are closed, and alcohol sales are banned. Public transportation is operating at reduced capacity, but be aware that mask wearing is enforced by local law enforcement. South Africa continues to vaccinate, and it is working to expand its vaccination effort. Traveling to South Africa still requires a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travel. 
The United States continues to require all travelers returning to the States to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Waivers are available for those that have recovered from the disease. There are currently no waivers for those who are vaccinated. A map of all countries with travel restrictions can be found here.
David Burton Wake: 
Commander Salamander
(8 June 1936—29 April 2021)
Guest contributors: Jay M. Savage and Maureen A. Donnelly
(Photo credit: Jim Hanken)

David B. Wake was a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Emeritus Professor of Integrative Biology, and retired Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ), University of California - Berkeley. He passed on April 29, 2021. Dave is considered to be the world’s leading authority on the evolution, morphology, and systematics of salamanders (the amphibian Order Caudata). He was born on June 8, 1936 in Webster, South Dakota. His family moved to Tacoma, Washington when Dave was a teenager, and he graduated from Pacific Lutheran College magna cum laude (B.A. in Biology) in 1958. Wake attended the University of Southern California (USC) for his graduate work and completed a thesis (1960) and dissertation (1964) under the direction of Jay M. Savage. Dave served on the faculty of the University of Chicago (1964-1969) before returning to California to join the University of California - Berkeley, where he had a distinguished career starting in 1969. Dave had dual appointments in Zoology (and Integrative Biology) and as Curator of Herpetology in the MVZ. Wake directed the museum from 1971 to 1998, and he welcomed molecular biology to the MVZ. Dave was one of the co-founders of AmphibiaWeb. The efforts to launch AmphibiaWeb started in the 1990s, and the website formally launched in 2000. Dave’s dedicated leadership was essential to the efforts of the AmphibiaWeb team to establish a “home page” for every amphibian species.

David met his lifelong partner and wife, Marvalee Hendricks, in Los Angeles while they were students at USC. They were an academic power couple and served on many national and international boards and societies. David trained and influenced scores of evolutionary biologists, and they continue exploring evolutionary questions prompted by Dave’s studies with this ancient group of amphibians. Wake’s work often included Costa Rican species of the Plethodontidae, and his contributions to our knowledge of the Costa Rican amphibian fauna help us understand the importance of the republic for this ancient taxon.

David taught in several OTS field courses and initiated the long-term study of salamanders on Cerro de la Muerte in the 1980s. Studies by Jim Vial in the 1960s provided data that courses could compare to and gave students a chance to build on a long-term study. David worked dry season courses; and Maureen Donnelly worked with wet season courses until the reality of amphibian decline struck, and we could no longer find salamanders. 

Wake received several scientific honors including the Joseph Grinnell Medal in Scientific Natural History (1998), the Henry S. Fitch Award given by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (1999), the Berkeley Citation (2005), and the Joseph Leidy Medal of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (2006). He was a member of many societies and served as the President for the Society for the Study of Evolution, the American Society of Naturalists, and the American Society of Zoologists. Wake was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1997), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1998), and was a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.

David is survived by his wife Marvalee, his son Thomas Wake, his daughter-in-law Christina Campbell, and his grandchild Summer Wake.  
OTS awards graduate research fellowships for 2021
(Photo credit: Rubén Ramos)

Every year, OTS awards numerous fellowships for work at field stations. The funds for the fellowships come from an array of sources, including the Donald and Beverly Stone Endowment, William L. Brown, David and Deborah Clark, Rexford Daubenmire, Dole Foods, Emily P. Foster, Glaxo Centro America, Lillian and Murray Slatkin, F. Christian and Betty Thompson, Francis J. Bossuyt, Christiane and Christopher Tyson, Hovore-Horn, and Henry Leigh. All of the fellowships support graduate students at member institutions (or recent graduates) and cover thesis-related field research, including station fees and permit costs. Most of the fellowships are incredibly broad, but there are a few that support specific research questions or groups of students.

This time we want to congratulate the 11 Costa Rican awardees of the OTS fellowships 2021:

  • Alejandra Pérez - La Selva - David and Deborah Clark Fellowship
  • Paola Piza - La Selva - Glaxo Centro America Fellowships
  • Bernan Rodríguez - La Selva - David and Deborah Clark Fellowship
  • Mariana Gelambi-Desiato - La Selva - Glaxo Centro America Fellowships
  • Beatriz Antillón - La Selva - William L. Brown Fellowship
  • Silver Ceballos - La Selva - Glaxo Centro America Fellowships
  • Monserrat Solano - Palo Verde - Dole Food Fellowship
  • Jose Murillo - La Selva/Las Cruces - Christian and Betty Thompson Fellowship    
  • Fabiola Chirino - La Selva/Palo Verde - Christian and Betty Thompson Fellowship
  • Arturo Angulo - La Selva/Las Cruces/Palo Verde - William L. Brown Fellowship
  • Victor Montenegro - La Selva/Las Cruces/Palo Verde - Christian and Betty Thompson Fellowship
If you would like to find out more information or apply for a fellowship, please visit our website. Funding for October-December projects is available. The deadline to apply for the next round of fellowships is September 1, 2021. 
Disease Ecology and Wildlife Management online course
(Photo credit: Lisa Nupen)

OTS launched an exciting 6-week online course in Disease Ecology and Wildlife Management, focusing on current issues arising at the interface of public health, livestock health, and wildlife conservation in South Africa. We delivered the Disease Ecology and Wildlife Management course online from June 7 to July 23, 2021. In 2022, we hope to run this course as a full summer field program, but with the Covid-19 disruptions and travel restrictions we decided to provide an interactive online version of the curriculum. 
This opportunity combines field-based skills training and online teaching to provide students with a unique experience in field methods, experimental design, data analysis, and exposure to contemporary animal health challenges in protected areas and the surrounding communities. The course is run in partnership with local South African wildlife veterinarians and scientists and is designed to provide upper-level undergraduate students with a broad understanding of disease ecology and a OneHealth approach to managing wildlife. OTS conducts this course using innovative multimedia platforms to give an immersive virtual field experience without having to travel abroad. Formal contact time consists of a total of 60 hours spread over three sessions per week and is accredited through the University of Connecticut (4 credits). 
Artists earn fellowships to work at OTS research stations
In February of 2021, the Climate Change Directorate (DCC), an agency within the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy in charge of coordinating and managing public policy on climate change, announced eight artist fellowships. Each artist worked (February to April) at a field station in Costa Rica and was asked to explore the confluence of art and science through the lens of the climate crisis. Artists considered adaptation, mitigation, and sustainability in their work. Five of the artists were in residence at OTS research stations: Esteban Hidalgo’s "Climatic Approaches" project was completed at Las Cruces; Jonathan Torres created sculptures of anatomically realistic insects as part of his “New Faunas, Resilience and Adaptation;” the giant trees of La Selva were honored by Rossella Matamoros in her “The hug, long before the death of the last tree…a forest has already disappeared;” Christian Wedel created illustrations of a future that centered on nature, and his visits to La Selva inspired “Tropical Futurology;” and photographer Sara Mata created images capturing change in the La Selva forest in her project, “I also disappear when you can see me.”

All eight artists presented their work via a webinar titled, “Art and climate: How the cultural sector can contribute to solving the climate crisis." OTS’ Sofia Rodríquez provided commentary during the live session that aired in Facebook on May 6, 2021. You can view the full webinar online. The artists’ work remained on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in San Jose through June 16. You can read about all the artists and their projects at the DCC website here.
Coffee waste
Guest contributors: Chelsea Ward
(Photo credit: Rakan Zahawi via Science)

In 2018, during my last visit to Las Cruces, Rebecca Cole took a group of us out to some old pastures. The walk to the pastures was hot and dusty, and I was not exactly sure what I expected to see. Costa Rican cow pastures generally are green with sparse trees and living fences. This pasture was a sea of brown cascara piled half a meter deep. The not-quite-a-month-old rotting fruit had a not unpleasant fermented smell and seemed to raise the temperature of the field a few degrees. The fly population was clearly enjoying the feast. Rebecca explained the desire to use the coffee fruit to kill the pasture grass, while providing much needed organic material to the abused pastureland. 

According to Rebecca and Rakan ("Zak") Zahawi’s work, within the first three months of the experiment, the 0.5-meter layer of fruit was reduced by 50%, and by the end of two years resembled existing soil. The cascara not only suffocated the existing grass but is hypothesized to have suppressed the germination of grass seed. Most importantly, the compost increased the amount of herbaceous plants and provided habitat for pioneer tree species. Soil chemistry data shows increases in soil nutrients. These results indicate that added cascara can increase succession rates of reclaimed agricultural land. At the end of the two year experiment, the barren fermented mess was transformed into a young forest with a 4m tall mean canopy covering about 40% of the field. In the control site, the canopy covered only 3% of the plot.

Rebecca Cole and Zak Zahawi’s work has been featured in Science, and an article written by the British Ecological Society (Forests on caffeine: Coffee waste can boost forest recovery) has been republished on science websites across the internet. You can read Rebecca and Zak’s full paper here.
OTS’ Deedra McClearn awarded Joseph Grinnell Award 
Guest contributor: Dr. Robert Timm, University of Kansas
(Photo credit: Ceci Coen)

Each year the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) recognizes excellence in education with its Joseph Grinnell Award. The Grinnell Award was established to honor individuals who have made outstanding and sustained contributions to education in the broadest sense, and it encompasses not only the traditional roles of teaching undergraduate and graduate students in academic institutions but also educational activities that have truly impacted the lives of others.
This year’s ASM recipient of the Joseph Grinnell Award is OTS’ own Deedra McClearn. Deedra was recognized for her impact on graduate and undergraduate students throughout the world. She coordinated, led, and served as resource faculty on tropical biology field courses in Costa Rica for more than 15 years, developed OTS’ semester-long undergraduate program in South Africa, helped to establish Duke’s international education program in China, and in “retirement” she continues to play an active role in OTS’ scientific and educational programs. One of her current projects is to assemble, evaluate, and archive many of the long-term data sets that are associated with the OTS sites. Several letters of support noted Deedra’s dedication to always promoting local communities, one stating she was a fierce “champion of efforts to support and include local students, educators, and researchers into the study abroad programs.” 
In recent years, she has been a leader in developing assessment tools for academic programs. She has developed workshops helping educators to implement dynamic, active, and inquiry-based learning into courses that continue to influence generations of students. Deedra remains heavily involved in education, working with an international team to develop innovative modules for tropical biology courses that will be freely available online for any educators to use. One nominator's letters said, “She has touched our lives in very powerful ways, setting us up for success as graduate students, continuing as a supportive and instructive mentor when we were post-docs, maintaining an active role in our lives and now in the lives of our own students.”
Congratulations to Dr. Deedra McClearn, who is truly one of the world’s leaders in education!
Long-time OTS supporter and advocate Dr. Mary Jane West-Eberhard receives Linnean Medal
(Photo Credit: Marcelo Casacuberto)
Every year the Council of the Linnean Society of London awards one or two biologists the Linnean Medal. This esteemed honor recognizes biologists from across disciplines and nationalities for their significant contributions to the science of natural history. This year the Council recognized Dr. Mary Jane West-Eberhard for her entomological work to expand the understanding to of the natural world. Dr. West-Eberhard’s work focused on kin and sexual selection and broadened our understanding of developmental plasticity and evolution. She is a long-time supporter and an advocate for OTS. Please help us congratulate her on this much deserved recognition. You can find more information about the Linnean Medal here.
Long-term Las Cruces researcher and Stanford Bing Professor Gretchen Daily recognized as Tyler Prize laureate
(Photo credit: Rob Jordan)

The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement was established in 1973 by the late John and Alice Tyler and administered by the University of Southern California. John Tyler was the founder of the Farmers Insurance group and lived in Los Angeles for most of their lives. A deep appreciation for nature and the outdoors lead them to establish the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, which recognizes international scholars in environmental science, environmental health, and energy. Dr. Gretchen Daily was awarded the prize for 2020, which recognizes her work on the intersections of humans and nature and understanding how societies need to change to ensure the future of both people and nature. Dr. Daily is the Bing Professor of Environmental Science in the Biology Department at Stanford University. In addition, she is the Director for the Center for Conservation Biology, Faculty Director of the Natural Capital Project, and a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. Dr. Daily joins other distinguished prize winners, including Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. E. O. Wilson. 

Dr. Daily is a long-time OTS researcher, having spent many field seasons at Las Cruces studying the biogeography of birds and mammals. You can find more information about the Tyler Prize and find links to Dr. Daily’s Tyler lecture and a video of the prize announcement here. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Daily.

Below is a list of other researchers and organizations associated with OTS that have been recognized by the Tyler Prize: 
TropTalks celebrates International Day of the Tropics

This year the Organization for Tropical Studies and the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation celebrated the International Day of the Tropics together. On June 29, 2021, we cohosted an episode of TropTalks featuring Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). This event was followed by a Q&A session and opportunity for discussion. You may watch a recording of Rodriguez' TropTalk here.
Update: OTS Annual Meeting
(Photo credit: Ademar Hurtado)
The 2021 OTS Annual Meeting has been rescheduled. The meeting will be hosted online this year. Please make plans to join us on Thursday, July 29, 1:00 - 4:30pm EDT. To register, please visit our website or contact Jennifer Kelley. An agenda and connection information will be distributed in advance of the meeting.
Thank you for your continued support
(Photo credit: Will Sweet) 

Thanks to everyone who contributed in response to the letter sent by OTS President and CEO Elizabeth Braker in May. Most nonprofit organizations live a hand-to-mouth existence, and OTS is no exception. The continued travel restrictions, a June surge in Covid cases in Costa Rica and South Africa, and the cancellation of fall classes by colleges mean OTS continues to struggle. However, rates of Covid-positive cases and hospitalizations are falling, vaccination rates are rising, and we hope that we will see classes resume at our research stations by spring.  Your gifts are critical to our existence during this extraordinary period. Thank you so much for your help, Jim Boyle.
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