November 2020

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

The seasons are changing. South Africa welcomes the rains, and Costa Rica transitions to the dry season. With the change in seasons, we are seeing some easing of travel restrictions. As of November 1, U.S. citizen tourists from all 50 states and Washington, DC may enter Costa Rica on flights departing from the United States. Everyone must complete a digital epidemiological health pass and purchase travel insurance that covers accommodations in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to Covid-19. Details can be found at the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) English-language website.

South Africa opened its borders to international travel for some nations beginning in October in conjunction with the move to Level 1 restrictions. Unfortunately, travelers from the United States are still not allowed entry except for business. There is relaxation of in-country restrictions, including allowing sit-down meals in restaurants and opening hotels and resorts with restrictions. Masks are required nationwide.

For the latest Covid updates from OTS and safety protocols at our stations, please check our website
OTS Kimberly G. Smith Outstanding Student Paper Award
Photo credit: Russell Cothren, University of Arkansas

OTS recently announced the winner of the 2019 Kimberly G. Smith Outstanding Student Paper Award! Please join us in congratulating Danielle Salcido from the University of Nevada. Watch future issues of E-Canopy for an essay by Dani about her work.

Currently, we are accepting papers for the 2020 Outstanding Student Paper Award! The application deadline has been extended until January 31, 2021. 
To be eligible, the paper must be published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal reporting work completed within the tropics. The winner of this award will receive $500 USD.
Authors must have been a graduate or undergraduate student when the research was completed; must satisfy at least one of the following three criteria: a) nominee is an alum of an OTS course, b) work was completed at an OTS research station (La Selva, Las Cruces, Palo Verde, or Skukuza), and/or c) nominee is/was a student at an OTS member institution; and must still be enrolled in undergraduate/graduate school or within two years of having completed a degree.
Nomination  packets should consist of a single PDF document that includes: 1) a nomination letter briefly describing the paper and outlining the qualification criteria from the list above - self-nominations are welcome; 2) a copy of the paper under consideration; 3) a brief letter from an advisor, mentor, or colleague, in a relevant field of study, describing the impact of the paper on the field of tropical biology; and 4) the nominee’s CV.
Applications will be reviewed by an award committee headed by Dr. Erin Kuprewicz, University of Connecticut, and comprised of active researchers affiliated with OTS. Applications will be judged primarily on the paper’s originality and potential impact on the field.
If you have any questions, please contact Erin Kuprewicz.
Completion of the Skukuza Science Leadership Initiative visiting research accommodation
Photo credit: Laurence Kruger

After two years of significant effort and despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, our NSF-funded researcher accommodations are finally complete. These four units are designed to minimize the carbon input of the site. We used upcycled materials (concrete from dam walls removed from the park), earth building materials (rammed earth and earth bags), and shipping containers. Each of the buildings are off the grid with water collected from the roof for use in the kitchen and low-flush toilets, and each has its own photovoltaic system for electricity. It is always a challenge building with unusual materials, which require complex designs, but the buildings were completed beautifully. We are looking forward to our first guests. It will significantly enhance our capacity to host researchers at the site. Much credit goes to our architects, Nick Whitcutt and Kevin Mitchell, our builder, Caners Nyundi, and Donovan Tye for his indefatigable efforts in managing the project.
Principal investigators: Amanda Wendt, Paul Foster, Alex Gilman, and Robin Chazdon
Project Manager: Jossy Calvo
Restoration field worker: Edgar Hernández
Photo credit: Jossy Calvo
On August 25, the project, “Forests, Riparian Corridors, and Citizen Science,” known in Spanish as Valores, at La Selva Research Station ended its execution period. For about four years, with funding provided by First USA-CR Debt for Nature Swap as well as with donations, the project managed to bring a total of 8 environmental education and training workshops to 50 Sarapiquí farmers in topics such as ecosystem services, Payment for Environmental Services Programs (PES), forest restoration, sustainable management of agricultural farms, and under-shade crops to diversify farm productivity. In addition, the project was also possible thanks to the collaboration of various entities with reforestation programs (Proyecto Guarumo, GreenWolf, One Hand, and Pozo Azul) as well as student internships (Occidental College and Universidad de Costa Rica).

Thanks to this work, we managed to follow up and assist several farms so that the owners were encouraged to generate changes in their productive systems and land use. Among the results, fifteen farms began activities to restore forests on their lands, recovering riparian forest and water springs. Valores assisted in the construction of 4 km of fencing to assist in forest regeneration, the recovery of more than 6 ha of forest in river areas, and the planting of more than 700 trees to assist natural succession in open areas. Additionally, eleven farmers are making changes to achieve a sustainable production in topics like implementing living fences, shady crops such as cocoa and vanilla, and reducing the use of agrochemicals, among others.

During the last months, we have motivated and assisted farmers to form consortiums, based on the generation of products such as stakeholder mapping, infographics, and maps of the area. This will help them to access some tools and management skills for a future community management approach. The project proved to be an important way to generate positive experiences and short-term changes in small and medium farms. We hope, at some point, to follow up on the projects and farmers, and soon the Values scientific team will be sharing more detailed information on results, experiences, and learnings from the process to promote the replication of similar processes for promoting conservation.

You can find out more about the Velores project on our website.
Memories to :-)

When you were a student of OTS, maybe you wrote an article that was included in the Coursebook. We maintain a collection of Coursebooks in our main library located inside the OTS administrative office in Costa Rica. This library stores Coursebooks and thousands of other articles, books, and magazines. If you need to access something from our library, please contact us to request assistance. 
One day, perhaps someone can use the Coursebooks as a reference to illustrate historical changes in the biodiversity of Costa Rica or to report on the early discoveries of a world-renowned researcher, who once studied with OTS. Until then, we would like to offer our former students the opportunity to relive and enjoy the time they spent at OTS. If you send an email, including your name, course title, and year of attendance, we will send an electronic copy of the article that you published in the Coursebook. 
OTS advocates for conservation funding during pandemic

Laurence Kruger coauthored, with Robert McCleery, Robert Fletcher, Danny Govender, and Sam Ferreira, a letter entitled, “Conservation needs a COVID-19 bailout,” in the July 31 issue of Science, advocating for an increase in funding for conservation efforts. Covid-19 has led to a decrease in ecotourism this year, which has decreased some threats to biodiversity but has also decreased an important funding source for many conservation areas. Dr. Kruger and his coauthors advocate for an increase and expansion of protected areas and extol the inherent and secondary virtues of these lands.  
How many insects are on Earth?
Contributor: Erin K. Kuprewicz, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut
Photo credit: archives of Grace Servat

Photo depicts Terry Erwin with his wife Grace Servat, sorting insect specimens as they float down the Samiria River, Peru.

As postdoctoral researchers at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, DC, Carlos García-Robledo and I became very good friends with Terry Erwin, a true giant in the field of entomology and a long-time insect curator at the NMNH. Terry was probably most well-known for a landmark paper he wrote in 1982, wherein he proposed an audacious estimate of global insect diversity: 30 million species (Erwin 1982)! Our friendship continued after our postdocs ended. We kept in close touch with Terry, often discussing abstract ideas related to the discovery and documentation of insect diversity, especially in the tropics.
Years later, after joining the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, Carlos and I more seriously delved into the idea of revisiting Terry’s fundamental work and translating his verbal argument into a numerical equation: the Erwin Equation of Biodiversity (Kuprewicz et al. 2020). Almost 40 years after Terry put forth his estimate, we published updated diversity estimates for the six most speciose orders of insects. Ultimately, we came to a very conservative global estimate of about 9 million insects. However, with the advent of more sophisticated species discovery tools (e.g., metabarcoding, streamlined sampling methodologies), it is highly likely that Terry’s original estimate of 30 million is closer to reality. There may even be “gazillions” of insects in the world, as Terry would laughingly state, when constantly asked for an updated estimate!
Erwin, T. L. 1982. Tropical forests: Their richness in Coleoptera and other arthropod species. The Coleopterists Bulletin, 36(1), 74–75
Kuprewicz, E. K.*, C. García-Robledo*, C. Baer, E. Clifton, G. Hernández-Corrales, D. Wagner. 2020. The Erwin Equation of Biodiversity: From little steps to quantum leaps in the discovery of tropical diversity. Biotropica 52(4): 590-597. doi: 10.1111/btp.12811 (*equal first authors)
Help OTS to expand its online community

Thank you so much to everyone that has shared news and updates. Please keep them coming! We love to share your news and accomplishments. We need your help to reach more people concerned with education, research, and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics. If you think that you can help by sharing our information across your social networks or if you can provide us with content or material for use in our social networks, please contact us
Your donation is very important to us

Your donation helps preserve tropical rain forests by advancing scientific discovery and supporting transformative educational programs. However, our work is ultimately about people - the student, who envisions a future as a tropical scientist; the Latin American leader who strives to build a sustainable economy; and the local communities that rely on the plants and animals that call the tropics their home.  

Please take a minute to hear from Orlando Vargas, Head of Scientific Operations at La Selva, about the importance of your donation (plus you get a glimpse of the rain forest at La Selva!).

To learn about other ways you can become involved in OTS’ mission, please contact Jim Boyle by email or by calling (360) 920-6302. Thank you!
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