Expedition to Costa Rica
On the 1st November 2016, Dr Susanna Curtin joined Drs. Rick Stafford, Anita Diaz and Phillipa Gillingham on a ten-day student expedition to Costa Rica. Although Costa Rica is a renowned world leader in conservation with 25% of its landmass designated to a national park system comprised of protected tropical dry forest, cloud forests, wetlands and marine reserves, there are a number of economic and social pressures that threaten this environmental sustainability. The purpose of this expedition was to research the conservation projects and policies which co-exist alongside the large scale banana plantations, coffee, other agriculture and tourism industries that are essential to their economy. The students’ brief was to evaluate the positive and negative impacts of these important activities on conservation; paying particular attention to the different perspectives presented by various stakeholders.
Our experiences began at the Gandoca Project which is situated in a laid back coastal town on the Caribbean. A fine black sandy, windswept beach is the backdrop for Gandoca’s turtle conservation. Whilst November is not the season for turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs. During our stay here in small wooden cabins, we studied the flora and fauna of the area on foot in the primary rainforest and on boats through mangrove-lined tributaries. There was also work to be done planting palms and mangroves to protect the beach from erosion from the vicious storms that have begun to claim the coastline. We also cleared the litter to rid the beaches of the alarming array of plastics which threaten marine wildlife.
From here it was north to Cahuita national park for snorkelling on a coral reef and walking through the tropical rainforest which lines the shore. Here we experienced tourism infrastructure but also an amazing list of reptiles, mammals, insects and plants; an example of where tourism and nature can happily co-exist. The latter part of our journey consisted of volcanoes, a kilometre of zip wiring high over the jungle, hot springs and Costa Rican hospitality. Overall, an excellent experience for everyone and a good blueprint for a student expedition.