New project – a Biological Research Station at La Ceiba

The place where we are living now is a natural reserve owned by the Jaguar Rescue Center. The place is not so far away from the Rescue center but in some senses, it feels like worlds apart. In just four kilometers, one moves from the hassle of Puerto Viejo to the “quietness” of the forest, listening to a myriad of bird sounds, and being surrounded by green lush tropical forest no matter where you look. 

The 50 hectares of primary forest, bordering the Gandoza-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, are used as a pre-release and release station. In the pre-covid times, it was also a place where the volunteers will come in the last week, to experience the last and best part of their nitty-gritty work cleaning cages and working with the animals: the release phase. 

What I didn’t know is that the intention of the owners had been all along to combine the release station with a biological research station. And to host researchers and students, rather than volunteers.  The facilities are all there. But they needed some help in setting up the research station. When they saw my research profile, they asked me if I could help them in setting up the research station. So, I will be now volunteering one month extra to assist with the background research needed to set up a research station. Starting with mapping the available research stations in Costa Rica and their specializations, gathering the available information on the biodiversity of the area, finding out what how to promote the research station among relevant research groups, and generally, setting up a work plan for the launching of the station. 

 So, I will need to put my brain to work after all. 

And to be honest, this is a very nice challenge that I am looking forward to. 

On the one hand, I believe that this is a great place for a research station and has lots of potential. Only in the month that we have been here and just from the terrace of our house we have seen more than 90 different species of birds, some of which are rare or unreported in the area. 

On the other hand, it pushes me a bit out of my comfort zone. One thing is to set up a research center or a research group in innovation studies – something in which I have experience – and another is to set up a biological research station. Emphasis on the biology part. I need to start finding out who are the main actors and networks and what they are looking after when they decide to go to a particular biological research station in Costa Rica. 

Funnily enough it also feels like a beautiful way of closing the circle for the whole sabbatical year, since in a way it has some links with the initial volunteer work I did for Osa Conservation at the beginning of the sabbatical year.  While doing the research for Osa Conservation on the socio-economic impact of marine protected areas, we discovered how important the scientific and educational tourism was in economic terms for the region and hence for the broad conservation aims pursued by protected areas. Protected areas are like a magnet for researchers interested in ecology, biology or nature conservation but also for filming crews interested in wildlife. It is no wonder that there are about 12 biological research stations in the Osa Peninsula alone.  

Outside the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica hosts more than 30 biological research stations, allowing researchers to tap into a great variety of biomes in a very short amount of time. Surprisingly enough, most of them are concentrated in three spots: the north, the central valley and the Qsa peninsula. The Southern Caribbean is an empty spot on the map which is quite interesting if one takes into account that it also hosts two national parks (Cahuita and La Amistad) as well as a National Wildlife refuge – the Gandoca Manzanillo.  So, here we go, to the last of the volunteer jobs of this absolutely amazing sabbatical year. 

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