August 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 let us know .

Stay connected to students and researchers in the tropics. Get social with OTS!
Covid-19 update

While the U.S. continues to struggle with the ongoing pandemic, OTS continues to grow and adapt. We are fortunate that the epidemic has not hit Costa Rica and South Africa as hard as the United States. At the time of this writing, Costa Rica has had over 16,000 positive cases, and South Africa has had over 470,000. Currently, foreign travel is restricted until August 1 in Costa Rica. Although South Africa was recently able to ease some in-country restrictions, borders are still closed to international travelers. OTS was fortunate enough to be able to open our field stations to in-country researchers and students. New procedures and precautions are in place to help keep our visitors and staff healthy. We are currently working with our out-of-country researchers and students to support projects and learning during this unprecedented time. If you have any questions about traveling to Costa Rica or South Africa with OTS, contact us .
OTS goes online!
Photo credit: Ruben Ramos

This summer OTS offered our very first online course, Bioacoustic Analysis in R . The course was taught by Dr. Marcelo Aaraya-Salas . Dr. Aaraya-Salas is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Chaverri Lab at the University of Costa Rica. His current work focuses on the development of social vocalizations in communal roosting bats. We are very excited about this course, which focused on the animal acoustic signals as a central tool for field studies in behavior, ecology, and evolution. Acoustic libraries provide an unprecedented opportunity to study organisms on large temporal, geographic, and taxonomic scales. The recent development of acoustic analysis tools in the R programming environment provides a powerful means for gathering, organizing, and analyzing these large acoustic data sets. Over 60 people applied to take part in this learning opportunity, and we are thankful that Dr. Aaraya-Salas agreed to offer the course a second time.

Another virtual offering, Veterinary Practicum for undergraduates in South Africa, has just concluded. The research practicum combined distance learning with remote data collection. Students received online training workshops, learned about data collection and sampling in different parks, assisted with parasite identification, and wrote up scientific reports. Local vets and specialists provided short videos and were available during live streaming events to interact with students. The course culminated in virtual presentations to Scientific Services in Skukuza.

OTS is planning additional online offerings later this summer and this upcoming fall including The Foods We Eat ; Data Management, in partnership with the Environmental Data Initiative; and Biological Corridors: Theory and Practice , a case study of the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor. (See a video about the corridor here .)

In addition, we are particularly excited about the six-week Women in Science: Elephants, Fire, and Savanna Conservation course planned for this fall.  
Applications open for South Africa, Spring ‘21
Photo credit: Laurence Kruger

OTS is currently accepting applications for the spring African Ecology and Conservation course. We understand everyone’s concern and the unpredictability of upcoming travel. OTS is taking additional steps to ease the uncertainty that students, parents, and colleagues may feel regarding the spring 2021 semester by making the deposit, which is normally nonrefundable, and other payments made to OTS for tuition and/or program fees fully refundable up to 30 days prior to the program’s start date. If you have further questions, please contact us . You can apply for the spring course here .
OTS Costa Rican Research Stations receive ‘Blue Flag’ designation

For the past several years, La Selva, Las Cruces, and Palo Verde Research Stations have been recognized by the Ecological Blue Flag program in the category of Protected Natural Spaces. The Ecological Blue Flag program is administered by the Institute of Costa Rica Tourism in partnership with several other ministries. The institute awards Blue Flags in ten categories to promote public health and sustainability. To be considered a Blue Flag site, applicants must adhere to a long list of strict criteria. Our stations and staff were recognized for their efforts and volunteer work in conservation, responsible use of natural resources, and control measures for environmental protection.
News from our alumni

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, former OTS Board member, former OTS faculty, and current collaborator on the OTS Decision Makers course, has been named the new CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Rodriguez will assume the role in August and will be the first Latin American to lead the GEF. Founded in 1992, the GEF provides grants and co-financing (totaling over $130 billion) for environmental action projects in 170 countries. In his role as Minister, he doubled the size of forests and worked to make Costa Rica’s power section 100% renewable.

Carlos Manuel Rodriquez was instrumental in the formation of the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor. A brief introduction to the corridor and a glimpse into Carlos Manuel Rodriguez’ role in its development can be found on our YouTube channel .
For more information about the Global Environmental Facility, follow this link .
Trop Talks
Photo credit: Laurence Kruger

Join OTS for semi-regular Trop Talks! The first one, on June 2, featured Dr. Laurence Kruger’s presentation on cutting-edge elephant research being performed at OTS with our partners in Kruger National Park. Undergraduate students play a pivotal role in the management of this iconic species through participation in the study abroad program, African Ecology and Conservation. Past participants shared what they are up to now and how the program builds a foundation for a future in conservation and scientific research. You can watch the first edition of Trop Talks on our YouTube channel .
OTS goes way....south
Photo credit: Steven Chown

A team of researchers, led by Monash University and including our own Dr. Bernard Coetzee, traveled to the icy continent of Antarctica to assess the impact of human activity in this wilderness.

By mapping 2.7 million human activity records from 1819 to 2018 across the Antarctic continent to assess the extent of wilderness areas remaining and its overlap with the continent’s biodiversity, the researchers showed that in fact human activity has been extensive, especially in ice-free and coastal areas where most of its biodiversity is found. This means that “untouched” wilderness areas do not capture many of the continent’s important biodiversity sites but that an opportunity exists to conserve the last of the wild. The research was published in the journal Nature . You can view a short video of the expedition here .

The work offers innovative ways to help the Antarctic Treaty Parties take forward measures to secure globally important Antarctic Wilderness.
Notes from the staff: Ademar Hurtado, La Selva Research Station
Photo credit: Ademar Hurtado

The Ornate Hawk-Eagle ( Spizaetus ornatus ) is one of the largest birds of prey in Costa Rica. It always draws attention with its beautiful black feathered crest. Frequently, it flies high in the sky, whistling and perching in the tops of very tall trees, such as the Ajillo tree ( Balizia elegans ). The color pattern in adults and juveniles varies markedly.

Their preferred habitats are primary forests, and I have observed their nest in Caobilla trees ( Carapa guianensis ). The nest is a platform up to 40m off the ground, about one square meter, and is made of dry twigs and green leaves. The clutch is usually a single egg, and the incubation period lasts approximately 48 days. The female and male take turns incubating.
While the female is incubating the egg, the male brings prey to the female to feed her. Nesting occurs every two years. They hunt inside the forest and in open areas and feed on large birds such as the Crested Guan, toucans, and the Common Potoo as well as mammals such as rabbits, skunks, and monkeys. The Ornate Hawk-Eagle was listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN in 2016.
Check out the science!
Photo credit: Karen Kearney

Science is at the core of OTS’ existence. Our researchers and stations are at the center of some amazing research. You can always access scientific publications about the tropical biology of Costa Rica by using the BINABITROP database , but we wanted to highlight some of the cool stuff that has been published in the last few months.

 If you have science to share, please let us know .
Help OTS to expand its online community

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 to provide us with content or material for use in our social networks, please contact us .
OTS on iNaturalist

In the past few weeks, we increased the number of recorded species at La Selva by 33 and added 222 observations. Just over half of the observations at La Selva and Palo Verde are research grade, with Las Cruces lagging slightly. Get involved and add your photos or identification skills .
Can you help?

Covid-19 has impacted all of us. It has also reminded us that we live in a global community. The actions of one person, one community, or one nation impact all of us. The outbreak has also heightened our awareness of the importance of open space, healthy ecosystems, and science-based decision-making—all of which are key elements of the mission and vision of OTS. Your extra financial support at this time will help to ensure that OTS has the resources needed to maintain critical operations and our research infrastructure. These last couple of months have made abundantly clear the interconnection of all life and the smallness of our world. OTS’ mission is more important than ever, and we need you now more than ever.
Need an OTS fix?
Jeremy Squire is a macro photographer whose primary interests are conservation and photographing small creatures in their natural habitats. Jeremy said, “La Selva is an extremely rich photographic location with very little human disturbance and a staggering number of species, like the stingless bees ( Tetragonisca angustula ) in this photograph. OTS and La Selva also enable vitally important science, and I encourage other photographers to visit and support them.” See more of Jeremy’s photos from La Selva here: .
Lou Staunton is a regular visitor to La Selva and photographed this Marvelous Forest Roach ( Paratropes bilunata ) at the station. Lou says, “You probably can imagine my joy and excitement when I realized that I was looking at one of the world’s most beautiful members of the order Blattodea — a stunning Marvelous Forest Roach. On a single trip to La Selva, I photographed nearly 200 arthropod species, a number which speaks to the diversity of this protected oasis.” See more of her photos at:
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