There are many reptiles and amphibians in Costa Rican rainforest, and they’re an integral part of our world today. They range from your average tree frog to species yet unknown. We are studying their habits and the roles they play in their environment. We are trying to find evidence of the revival of many species after the chytrid fungus decimated the local population of amphibians. This fungus has been killing off amphibians around the world. We plan on taking day long hikes through the rainforest in search of these amphibians–and their natural predators, reptiles. We will use the information we collect to assess how populations have responded to chytrid and other environmental changes.
The Forman Rainforest Project is off to a great start. All the students have chosen one of our ongoing research projects. This year we are concentrating on four: Reptiles and Amphibians, Bioacoustics of Orthopterans, Bird Banding, and Spider Silk.
In the survey of Reptiles and Amphibians project students and staff will be recording all reptiles and amphibians they catch on our reserve. Once caught those specimens are weighed, measured, identified, photographed and then released. This project gives us valuable data on the health of the herp community and documents any new species which may have moved in or species which we may not find anymore.
Our newest project is the Bioacoustics of Orthopterans (grasshoppers and crickets). This innovative group will be finding new and inventive ways to record species of orthopterans into a database. These recordings will be of specific species identified and their specific call or chirp. These calls and chirps will then be sent to the Macaulay Lab of Animal sounds to help create a database of orthopteran calls. The hope is to develop a database of calls so in the future scientists can identify these orthopterans by sound and not have to collect them for ID.
The Bird Banding project has a record of four students this year. They will be mist netting and developing a checklist of species for the reserve as well as banding migratory birds that are wintering in Costa Rica. These bands will help researchers to recognize these individuals in the future–either in Costa Rica or the States–and give other ornithologists more information about heir migratory routes and flyways in an effort to protect these species habitats.
Our fourth project is the Spider Silk project. In its 15th year, these students and staff will be working on the extraction of the strongest fiber in the world–that’s right, spider silk, specifically from the Golden Orb Weaver. The Project has figured out a way to extract the silk from the spiders at a rate of 150’/min. We have a US patent on extraction and a patent farming the spiders. This project works to find a more efficient way to farm and extract the silk as a possible sustainable resource for local cattle ranchers in lieu of expanding pastureland into the forest. We are hoping to answer some questions of why it is so strong and when it is so strong. Our hope is that these spiders can be silked in the future in a safe and sustainable way and the silk may be sold for medical purposes, such as sutures.
We hope you enjoy reading our blogs as we get ready for our scientific expedition into the rain forest in March. Next week you be meeting the team!