Updates from the field

Fauna at Taboga: UTN Students Use Camera Traps to Investigate the Animals that Live in Taboga

Anyone who goes to the Taboga Forest Reserve knows that it’s a special place. Sure, for some people it may be difficult to see that while you are there (what with the mosquitoes, snakes, mysterious rashes, and the fact that you are always sweating), but once you leave, it’s the fond memories that persist and outshine the others. People who have spent extensive time on the reserve will recall special little anecdotes, facts, or monkey stories that end up making them miss spending twelve hours fighting off clouds of mosquitoes and flicking ticks off of their pants. Herpetology enthusiasts will remember the myriad lizards and snakes, birders will remember the parrots and motmots, and everyone will remember the bevy of cool mammals that they were fortunate enough to see. Those who spend considerable time in Taboga invariably leave having seen something amazing or unexpected or memorable. As a result of all these animal observations, a good collection of stories began to accumulate about what might be out there in the forest. The speculation (often based on glimpses of tails or days-old paw prints left in dried mud) continued to the point that we just had to take the time to try to find out what kind of critters call Taboga home.

Fortunately for us, two students from the Universidad Técnica Nacional (UTN) had expressed interest in working with us. Anderson Eduardo Molina Jirón and Bryan Steven Zúñiga Cerdas took on the important task of using camera traps to set up an eight week long project in order to determine what habitats were able to support the most wildlife. By placing camera traps in various parts of the reserve, they were also able to see what Taboga actually had to offer in terms of fauna.

When their two months working with us were up, they had captured 25 different animal species on the camera traps. There were 2 reptiles, 11 birds, and 12 mammals. 25 species is by no means a large number for a tropical forest, but given the amount of time they had and the species that they captured, it was enlightening.

The biggest realization to come from this project was the fact that there was a very real and active presence of at least one puma (Puma concolor) on the reserve. It seemed like almost every week they put the cameras out they captured a puma. The photos were taken both during the day and the night and sometimes in locations very close to where we had been with the monkeys not an hour before. They were captured in a variety of different habitats and all across the reserve as well, leading us to believe that there was more than one out there (a real life sighting of two pumas together a couple of weeks later confirmed this suspicion). The fifteen or so photos of pumas that were captured backed up a story that long time monero Juan Carlos had told of seeing one near the Palmichal while he was alone one evening. While I don’t think anyone doubted him, it was nice to have his story verified by photographic proof.

The immediate question was why there were multiple big cats in such a diminutive (less than 300 hectares) and isolated forest fragment. What’s more, this fragment has been adrift in a sea of sugar cane and rice fields for decades. In thinking about how to answer this question, we remembered the many days when we would go out into the field and see 50+ coatis in just a couple of hours or the time spent on the computer sorting through thousands of collared peccary camera trap photos and the answer became clear: there’s plenty of food.

This abundance of food (i.e. small to medium sized mammals) also provides sustenance for other predators. Through camera traps and personal observations, we have also recorded the presence of ocelots, jaguarundis, tayras, greater grisons, crocodiles, rattlesnakes, boa constrictors, and many avian predators. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list and there are many other animals out there that I haven’t included and perhaps even more that we haven’t even seen yet.

In short, what the students’ project helped to reveal to us was an even more extensive and vibrant ecosystem than we had previously imagined. We all knew that Taboga was special, but now we begin to see just how important it is. Bryan and Anderson note in their paper that there is less than two percent of Central American tropical dry forest remaining and, while it makes up just a fraction of that two percent, Taboga clearly has a lot to offer in the way of animals. Researchers on the Capuchins at Taboga project have been keeping lists of all the fauna species they have observed in their short time there and have been wowed at the overall diversity and at the presence of animals like pumas and giant crocodiles, which we believed might not be able to survive in a reserve as small as Taboga. As Juan Carlos Ordoñez once casually noted after seeing an ocelot on the road just after nightfall: “que reservilla”, or in English: “what a little reserve”.


Here is a list of what Anderson and Bryan were able to capture on camera for their two-month project:



American Crocodile

Green Iguana



Groove-billed Ani

Inca Dove

White-tipped Dove

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Gray Hawk

Cattle Egret

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Great Blue Heron



Black Vulture





Collared Peccary

Central American Agouti

White-nosed Coati

Northern Tamandua

White-tailed Deer

White-faced Capuchin Monkey

Common Opossum

Mexican Mouse Opossum

Nine-banded Armadillo

Eastern Cottontail



A large American Crocodile was captured several times in one week while the cameras were placed in a wetland habitat.


One of the pumas captured on camera. They were found to use the same tree bridges that we use to get across the river.


Ocelots (or perhaps just one) were frequently photographed at this water tank, which draws in a lot of wildlife during the dry season and was Bryan and Anderson’s most productive location.



By Evan Farese

Mesas Takes the Stage

Nestled between sugar cane and rice plantations lies the lovely Taboga Forest Reserve. With intermittent internet, amicable field assistants and a life seemingly disconnected from the drama of the outside world, I thought I found a place free of politics. I was mistaken. Though free from the petty politics of Homo sapiens, white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capuchinus) have a telenovela-esque drama that could rival those seen on any broadcasting network.

(Queue the entrance of Mesas) 

Mesas, one of our four habituated monkey groups in Taboga, has had a colorful background from the start.  This group of 16 has been one of the hardest groups to habituate, taking nearly 2.5 years. This reluctance is perhaps due to people throwing rocks at the monkeys prior to the project’s start.  Understandably so, this weariness is still ingrained and the group spends their time on Mountain Eskameka, or in the Valle de las Moras. Only when the farm workers leave and the sounds of the tractors and voices subside do they venture across the road or visit the mango tree near the houses.

Perhaps they were taking advantage of a quiet Sunday, when on November 10th, 2019, crossing the road via power lines, the dynamics of their group was thrust into turmoil.  Maradona, the alpha of the group was electrocuted by a power line. The crew sprung into action! We called the electrical company to retrieve him, conducted morphometrics (If you are wondering how heavy an adult male capuchin is, it is 7 lbs), and necropsied him (thanks to the amazing vet, Dr. Marta Cordero from Las Pumas, a local rehabilitation and rescue center). Then we turned our efforts to behavior data.

And so began the drama of the male next in line to take the throne. We made it a priority for the next few weeks to follow the group, recording behavioral data and collecting fecal samples to analyze hormones.  There were only two possible options as successors: Moises, the only remaining adult male and Mozote, a sub-adult male. Despite Moises’ seemingly pleasant and amicable demeanor he quickly seized power as the new alpha. Mozote was left to reside far outside the group. His lost calls were sometimes heard in the distance and some brazen members of the group responded. Business carried on, more or less as usual. The females tumultuously vied for the alpha female position.  The juveniles gargled at Moises, a sign of submission.  Though he led the group well, every day Moises looked more and more tired. He traveled primary on the ground and was usually in the back of the group. He seemed slow, stiff and weak, setting the stage for another overthrow of power. With every conflict with the neighboring groups we wondered if an outside male could contend. Weeks of Moises’ reign turned to months and we naively began to think the group would settle into normalcy again.

Moises watching the group

In February, after a week away from Mesas, the crew returned to find Moises nowhere in sight and Mozote in the middle of the group. He was groomed and gargled at, particularly by the three youngest of the group. And aside from a flap of his skin hanging over his eye, it seemed like he had finally found his place.  After a few days of acute observation however, our suspicions started to grow that Mozote might not have complete sway in the group. Mozote would vocalize ‘Let’s Go’ calls repeatedly and no one would budge. It seemed Meza or Mulan, adult females, would lead the group at times and on occasion the lost calls of Moises were heard in the distance. Nearly a month later we still haven’t seen Moises, but perhaps he is living on the fringes of Mesas’ range. With the loyalties of the members of Mesas in question, I expect the next few months of observations to be equally enthralling. But until seen otherwise, the hierarchy of the group remains unstable, with Mozote precariously perched on top.

Mozote in November


Mozote in January


Mozote in February



By Sophia Prisco




Los Bomberos de Taboga (The Firefighters of Taboga)

Costa Rica is a country known for its high levels of biodiversity and its complex, lush, tropical rainforests. While this appropriately describes most of the country, it does not capture the climate, essence, or forest of Taboga. The lowlands of the province of Guanacaste (in the country’s northwest) experience a completely different climate from most of the rest of the country – one defined by an extensive dry season (from November to May) during which rain seldom falls. Indeed, much of the flora of the area is adapted to this tropical dry forest ecosystem and many plants enter a period of dormancy while they wait for the rains to return in May. Walking among the leafless trees, I sometimes feel like it’s early winter back in North America. The only difference is that instead of snow on the ground, it’s 99 degrees and I’m sweating through my shirt, pants, hat, binoculars, and anything else that might touch my body.

Coincident with this dry period, the area experiences a fire season. Wildfires here are often started by people and of relatively low intensity when compared with the infernos of western North America. That being said, they still are, of course, potentially very dangerous. On March 1st, 2019, a wildfire jumped into the forests of Taboga. Farmers on adjacent properties were burning sugar cane when flames leapt the firebreaks and entered the Palmichal, a unique area in the southeast of Taboga typified by many native Royal Palms (Attalea rostrata)(See satellite photo). Fortunately, the region’s volunteer forest firefighters, part of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), were quick to react and they quelled the fire before it affected the forest (and monkey habitat) on a large scale.


Satellite photo of Taboga. The red shading demarcates the burned area.

I know what you’re thinking: what if there’s another fire in Taboga and the volunteers are not so quick to respond or are otherwise occupied? Will it mean the  destruction of precious tropical dry forest and the unique blend of flora and fauna that call Taboga home? To that, I would ask you not to fret and to rest easy for it just so happens that two of our long-term team members, Alexander Fuentes and Juan Carlos Ordoñez, are volunteer firefighters. Still not satisfied? Well, how about this: on Saturday December 7th, the whole Capuchins at Taboga team was invited to participate in a workshop where we learned how to operate certain equipment so that we may be able to help in the event of another fire on the reserve. Sounds fun, right? Well, it was. I mean, if you like coiling and uncoiling hoses and doing wind sprints. And also we got to spray trees with a fire hose.

After watching the twelve official volunteers (including our own Alex Fuentes) run drills connecting water pump to nozzle through eight hoses, the rest of us got a chance to learn from some of the best around. We learned about proper techniques for holding a high pressure fire hose and what it takes to be a good lookout for your partner. We also got to run drills where we saw how quickly we could straighten out, connect, and coil back up six hoses (Our quickest time was 5 minutes. The pros do it in 3, so we are feeling pretty good about ourselves). After, we learned how to properly create a firebreak using hand tools.

As the sun began to drop in the western sky and its golden light played blithely on the waving, amber grass and verdant forest, we looked with approval at our two meter firebreak and we all (I assume) thought the same thing: we need to do more cardio. All that sprinting made us sore for days.

The good news is that if there is another fire in Taboga (and let’s hope there isn’t), we all know a little bit more now about handling firefighting equipment and will be more comfortable lending a hand and holding a hose if we are called upon. Until then, we know what we have to do: wind sprints every morning from 4-5 AM, then go watch monkeys.


Evan and Sophia spray trees engulfed in imaginary flames.











Sophia learns how to properly coil up a hose and cinch it tight.














Our group amongst the SINAC bomberos forestal. Long time monero Alexander Fuentes is standing in the rear and center (with the beard). For some reason they asked us all to kneel in the center (please note that we did not shove our way to be front and center).













Ren learns from William Ramirez how to properly throw a coiled hose so that it unravels perfectly in front of her.











Ren determinately puts her new knowledge to the test.















Perhaps the most fun part, Evan coils the hose back up after having thrown it out and coiled it many times before.

















By Evan Farese

Guest Post: UTN ecotourism students on Tropical Dry Forests

Here is one last guest post from our ecotourism student interns: Ximena, Victor, Wendy, Nicole, and Luis. I asked them to do a write-up on the type of forest that Taboga is characterized as: the tropical dry forest.


El bosque seco tropical, es un ecosistema de densa vegetación arbolada que alterna climas estacionales lluviosos breves, con climas secos más prolongados.  En los bosques deciduos del Área de Conservación Guanacaste, hay una época seca bien definida durante 6 meses, entre mediados de diciembre y hasta mediados de mayo.

Costa Rica se puede considerar como un país que presenta dos estaciones bien marcadas, una época seca y una época lluviosa.  En el país, el Bosque Tropical seco se encuentra en el Pacífico Noroeste, desde la provincia de Guanacaste, desde el valle de Tempisque, hacia el norte, hasta la frontera con Nicaragua, y al sur hasta la desembocadura del río Tárcoles.

Características del Bosque Deciduo

  • Escases de lluvia (ríos intermitentes).
  • Perdida de las hojas en la época seca (vegetación decidua) para evitar la pérdida de agua.
  • Abundancia de luz solar, les permite a las plantas un mejor desarrollo.
  • Solo sobreviven las especies que han desarrollado adaptaciones evolutivas.
  • Se encuentra en puesto el número 2 de biodiversidad

Adaptaciones de las plantas en el bosque tropical seco.


El bosque tropical seco es recocido por su naturaleza decidua 1, la cual es la adaptación evolutiva más notable en este tipo de ambiente, porque de esta manera, las plantas evitan la perdida de agua, la cual se conserva durante los meses que no hay lluvia. Otra adaptación bastante notable en la flora de este lugar, es realizar fotosíntesis por medio de la corteza, y no por sus hojas, como normalmente se realiza, como respuesta a la perdida de agua. En algunas plantas, las hojas se modifican, cambiando de forma o tamaño, por ejemplo, los zarcillos, que son hojas o tallos modificados, que les sirven de sostén a muchas plantas (Guisantes).


Como un gran ejemplo de adaptaciones presentes en animales, cabe mencionar al sapo excavador o sapo borracho, ya que este, durante la época seca, se entierra y de esta manera, se protege de la deshidratación, hasta que llegan las primeras lluvias, para su reproducción.

Árboles en bosque tropical seco

  • Roble de Sabana (Tabebuia rosea)

Se encuentra en los bosques secos y lluviosos en elevaciones de 0 a 600 m siendo característicos en la zona de Guanacaste, mide aproximadamente 20m de altura y 85mm de diámetro. Su nombre común es roble de sabana, es de la familia Bignoniaceae, sus hojas son compuestas  opuestas, con el haz verde y el envés verde claro y en la época seca de abril a junio es muy llamativo por sus flores rosadas.

Esta peligro de extinción por la tala de estos para el uso de su madera en industrias de corrocerías de camiones y muebles pero hoy en día el hábitat de estos árboles está siendo protegido.

  • Indio Desnudo (Bursera simaruba)

Este árbol puede llegar a medir entre 25 a 30 m de altura. Sus hojas son alternas, imparipinnadas, ovado -oblongos.

Inflorescencias unisexuadas. Flores verde-amarillentas.

Frutos en cápsulas drupáceas

Tronco con la corteza exfoliando, irregulares, savia resinosa y aromática.

Distribución: Puede encontrase desde climas secos hasta muy húmedos. Nativo desde México y Florida hasta Colombia, Venezuela y Las Antillas.

Usos: En medicina popular, la infusión de la corteza se utiliza para adelgazar o en el tratamiento de úlceras estomacales.  Adicionalmente se ha empleado en casos de dolores de espalda y estómago, mordeduras de serpiente, debilidad, fiebre, cangrina, hernias, impotencia, obesidad, erupciones, reumatismo, inflamaciones, enfermedades venéreas, llagas, fiebre amarilla, cálculos renales, diarrea y cáncer gástrico.

Se usa mucho para cercar terreno.

Años atrás los aborígenes usaban la goma o resina para proteger las canoas contra el ataque de insectos.

  • Árbol de Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum ): este árbol es característico del bosque tropical seco, es un árbol nativo de América, de regiones tropicales y templadas cálidas. Tiene un fruto muy llamativo, ya que este se asemeja a la oreja de un animal o una persona. Es un árbol muy alto y ancho, puede llegar a medir 20 a 30 metros de altura, la copa es hemisférica, con un follaje abundante.


  • Adhesivo (Látex): Gomas
  • Artesanal (Madera): se elaboran juguetes y otros tipos de artículos.
  • Comestible (Semilla): Especie susceptible de aprovecharse como futuro recurso alimenticio. La composición de aminoácidos de la semilla es comparable a la de algunas harinas como la de trigo y pescado. La almendra posee 17 aminoácidos. Las semillas se comen tostadas y son tan alimenticias como los frijoles. Ricas en proteínas (32 a 41 %). Contienen hierro, calcio, fósforo y 234 mg de ácido ascórbico. En algunos sitios se consumen las semillas en salsas y sopas y como sustituto de café.En Colombia sobre todo en la costa Atlántica se hacen dulces con la semilla sobre todo en época de semana santa.
  • Combustible (Madera, fruto): Carbón. Los frutos maduros contienen un jugo gomo-resinoso que mezclado con la pulpa del mismo previamente macerada sirve para fabricar aglomerados de carbón. Produce buena leña muy usada en los hogares e industrias rurales. Uno de los beneficios más importantes es la leña. Tiene un poder calórico de 18 556 kj/kg, lo que la ubica como especie recomendada como fuente energética.
  • Construcción [madera]. Construcción rural.
  • Curtiente [corteza, semilla, fruto]. El tanino se utiliza para curtir pieles.
  • Forrajero [tallo joven, fruto, semilla, hoja]. Excelente árbol forrajero. Las semillas contienen 36 % de proteína. Se emplean como forraje y complemento alimenticio para ganado bovino, porcino, caprino y equino. Se aprovecha mediante ramoneo y corte de ramas. Debido a la altura del árbol no es muy apetecido por el ganado vacuno.
  • Implementos de trabajo [madera]. Implementos agrícolas.
  • Maderable [madera]. Madera aserrada, lambrín, chapa y triplay, paneles, carretas, ruedas, carpintería y ebanistería, fabricación de canoas y embarcaciones ligeras por ser muy resistente al agua, muebles, acabados de interiores, duelas. Algunas personas son alérgicas al polvo de la madera, el cual tiene un olor desagradable y algo picante.
  • Medicinal [corteza, tronco (exudado), corteza, raíz, fruto]. La corteza se usa en infusiones o en vainas para curar el al forra o salpullido; es depurativa. La goma que exuda el tronco es empleada como remedio para la bronquitis y el resfriado en varias partes del país. Los frutos verdes son astringentes y se utilizan en casos de diarrea.
  • Raíz: gálico sanguíneo.
  • Melífera [flor]. Apicultura.
  • Saponífera [fruto (vaina)]. La pulpa de las vainas verdes se usa como sustituto del jabón para lavar ropa (produce saponinas).
  • Uso doméstico [madera]. Utensilios de cocina. Su madera presenta gran durabilidad y es fácil de trabajar.
  • Pochote (Bombacopsis quinata)

Porte: Árbol caduco de hoja ancha, de 25-35 m de altura y 1-3 m DAP. Tronco recto, con aletones. Corteza: cubierta a menudo por gruesos aguijones. Sistema radical: moderadamente profundo (2.5 m). Hojas: en forma de mano, normalmente 5 hojuelas. Flores: 8-14 cm de largo con 5 pétalos blanco-rosados dentro y verde pardo fuera. Aparecen tras caer la hoja al inicio de la estación seca y son polinizadas por un murciélago. Fruto: cápsula de 2-15 x 2.5-5.0 cm, a menudo elipsoidal y kaki-pardo. Madura a los 35-50 días. Semillas: 30-50 por fruto, envueltas en una lana blanca


En Costa Rica y Nicaragua son comunes las cercas vivas a partir de estacas con espaciamientos entre 2 y 5 m. En Nicaragua a veces se respetan los árboles para dar sombra al café o, más frecuentemente, al ganado como árboles aislados en.

Su madera es muy apreciada por los agricultores en su distribución natural para construcción no estructural en interiores de viviendas (molduras, marcos de puertas y ventanas) y muebles de calidad. También se usa para desenrollo y chapa, aglomerados y otros usos en carpintería y ebanistería.


Local Outreach

Comité Local Meeting

One of the top priorities of the Capuchins @ Taboga project is community outreach and education. For that reason we joined the local committee of the Corredor Biológico Mono Aullador (Howler Monkey Biological Corridor), sponsored by the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación (SINAC). The organization is comprised of local actors within the biological corridor, including ranchers, municipality employees, and researchers. The goal of the project is to enhance connectivity between protected forested areas and promote biodiversity in the region.

In November we (Celia, Monika, and Ariek) went to a meeting of the Comité Local, where we toured a regenerating forest owned by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, introduced ourselves and our project, and discussed environmental initiatives run by the other local actors.

Marcela, Toño Pizote, and Monika

Through our partnership with the Comité Local and SINAC, Capuchins @ Taboga has started collecting data on migratory birds and howler monkey counts, which we are sharing with SINAC, as well as planning environmental education classroom visits for the coming year. Celia has also volunteered for SINAC, in the role of Toño Pizote! Toño Pizote is the Costa Rican equivalent of Smokey the Bear–a coati character who spreads fire prevention advice to children in classrooms and festivals. Celia got the opportunity to be Toño leading a dog parade in Bagaces, and in the Cañas Parade of Lights.

We hope to continue and expand our community partnerships in the new year!

Guest Post: UTN Ecotourism Students Introduction

We asked some of the students completing an internship for their ecotourism major to tell us a bit about the ecotourism major and their post-graduation plans.


¿Quiénes somos?

Nosotros somos un grupo de cinco estudiantes de la carrera de Eco Turismo de la Universidad Técnica Nacional (UTN), estamos realizando nuestra práctica de diplomado en la Estación Experimental Enrique Jiménez Núñez, específicamente en la Reserva Forestal Taboga.

La carrera de Eco Turismo, puede ser considerada como un tipo de incursión en regiones naturales para apreciar su cultura e historia natural, de tal manera que minimice cualquier cambio que altere la pureza y estabilidad de los ecosistemas en el ambiente, al tiempo que haga la conservación de los recursos naturales ventajosa para la población local, debido a la producción de beneficios económicos para ésta.

“Bueno, después de terminar la carrera de Eco Turismo, me gustaría claro, trabajar en algún área relacionada con la misma, y después, empezar a estudiar la carrera de traducción” — Víctor González C.

“Después de la carrera, me gustaría desempeñarme en algún área referente al turismo y después especializarme en vida marina o estudiar criminología.” – Ximena Pichardo Ch.

“Bien, después de terminar esta carrera me gustaría especializarme y trabajar en el área de ornitología, además de estudiar más adelante biología marina.” – Wendy Villagra R.

“En lo personal a mí me gustaría trabajar como guía turística en algún hotel de aventura o bien, en algún lugar al aire libre donde pueda interactuar con otras culturas enseñarles la belleza de nuestro país y más adelante crear mi propio negocio.” – Nicole Salas F.

Moneros weigh in on their favorite monkeys

Tail, a juvenile male from Tenori group

Ariek: My favorite monkey is Tail.  He is a 4-year-old in the Tenori group and the capuchin world’s best babysitter.  He can’t go anywhere without a trail of babies following, especially the rambunctious Tenori.  And he has never-ending patience, playing with them for hours on end.  He may be missing a tail, but that doesn’t stop him from racing around, wrestling on perilously-thin branches, and enjoying life!


Tico, a subadult male from Tenori group


Celia: My favorite monkey would have to be (hemmed and hawed for 10 minutes) Tico.  Because, number 1, he has a very symmetrical face.  Reason number 2, he likes to play around.  He is a kindred spirit of mine because he likes to play around like me, Celia “Games” McLean.  If I was a capuchin monkey, I would play games with Tico all day.  He likes to chase monkeys around, give them friendly bites and smacks, and have a general good time.



Alex: Mi mono favorito era del parque Lomas Barbudal y se llamaba Fonz.  El era un macho alfa.  A mi me gustaba Fonz porque el era agresivo y es el único mono que me pego en mi estómago y me se cola aire.


Maní, a juvenile male from Mesas group.


Juanca: Mi mono favorito es Mani.  El es mi héroe del día (hero of the day), porque cargó uno de los dos bebes de Minnie cuando el bebe y su mamá estaban separados.  Minnie dejó uno de ellos y Mani cargó el bebe que estaba separado de Minnie.  Se veía que le era difícil cargarlo en la espalda, pero Mani tuvo la determinación a llevarlo aunque fue por corta distancia.

Ecology Field Trip

On Thursday, Nov. 8th we hosted a field trip of ecology students from the Universidad Técnica Nacional. They are all in the Gestión Ambiental major (I would translate it to Environmental Management) and this is one of the few field trips in which they were able to be out learning science in the field. We split into four groups and, assisted by our UTN ecotourism students, taught about tree identification, phenology, symbiotic relationships, and soil. After being able to see the reserve and learn about our research, many students were interested in doing projects here in the future.

Welcome to our UTN interns!

From left to right: Nicole, Wendy, Ximena, Luis, and Victor

For the past few weeks we have been joined by five students from the University Técnica Nacional. They are all ecotourism majors who are doing a work experience by joining our project every week from Thursday to Sunday. So far they have been immersed in the life of a Capuchins @ Taboga assistant: learning the Tenori monkey IDs, taking tree reproductive state data, identifying animals from trail camera photos, and identifying and measuring trees in vegetation transects.

They have been excellent sports about the mosquitos and working in the flooded forest!

Guest Post: Caleb from GSU

This past summer we had a student from Georgia State come work at our field site for several weeks to gain field experience. Here is a post he wrote about his time at Taboga:


My name is Caleb Truscott. I am a student at Georgia State University in my third year of studying Biology with the desire to work with animals and study their behavior. I started working in a primate research lab that was doing noninvasive research on social decision making when I first started college. While working in the lab, I have gotten the opportunity to work on many projects and research presentations and have learned all about and sometimes more than I wanted to about brown-tufted capuchin monkeys. After two years of working in the lab, I got a fantastic opportunity. One of the lab’s post doc’s, Marcela Benitez, offered to take me to the Capuchin de Taboga field site in Costa Rica and work there for a month. This opportunity was perfect. I had wanted to try out field work for a long time and to work with white-faced capuchins. So, I went to live and work at the field site for a month.

It turned out to be an amazing month. I lived in a small house with five assistants, three from the states and two from Costa Rica. They were wonderful people to work with and whom I grew to respect greatly. They taught me all about the local flora and fauna and of course the monkeys or monos as I learned to call them in Spanish. In the group of monos that we studied the most, there were 16 individuals. I spent much of my time in the field learning to identify each monkey with binoculars and taking lots of pictures! My favorite was named Tio. I also learned how to use an Ipad program called Animal Observer that is used to record behavioral data on the monkeys, and by the end of the month, I was helping to collect data.

Aside from the actual fieldwork experience, I got to live in a country that spoke Spanish as the primary language. My Spanish is pretty bad, so I had a hard time communicating effectively with the locals but by using lots of hand gestures and many awkward smiles I survived and had a wonderful new cultural experience that I would repeat and extend in a heartbeat.

When I came to the field site a month seemed like an age, but after surviving the swarms of mosquitos, oppressive humidity, and chirping geckos, I found myself wanting to stay for much much longer. Before I knew it, it was my last day, and I was saying goodbye to the monos and the great people that I had lived with. It was a very bittersweet moment. I was happy to be able to go home and use my new experiences at the lab and to continue my education but on the other hand part of me wanted to stay, get up at 4:45 AM, and go out for another day in the field.