Science department explores wildlife in Costa Rica


Colleen O'Toole

Sophomore Hasan Rizvi poses before ziplining. “It was a lot of fun hanging out with my friends outside of the country and seeing my teachers outside the classroom,” Rizvi said.

Through the science department, 24 students and four teachers traveled to Costa Rica for six days to study the various ecosystems.

“We moved around a lot, but we had three main areas that we did some science activities. We visited Sarapiqui, the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde,” science teacher Amy Van Matre-Woodward said. “We were able to do some ecology studies [in Sarapiqui] by studying bats. We would collect bat droppings overnight and see how they are important in distributing seeds in ecosystems. We also did a river study, so we collected water from the local river and looked to see what pollutants were safe to be in that river.”

At Sarapiqui, the group had the ability to sightsee animals they could not see in the U.S.

“We saw a sloth and I freaked out. They were hanging out of a tree, and it looked identical to the photos I see of them holding on to trees with their legs,” sophomore Anika Zepeda said. “Also, there were these tiny frogs that were really poisonous and if we touched them, we could die. They were different colors like black, green and blue and it was cool but scary since they were really tiny.”

Amy Cohen
A strawberry poison frog found in Monteverde. They are toxic to touch due to the poison being on their skin.

Continuing their exploration of the wildlife, senior Sydney Kinzy had the opportunity to observe the indigenous birds in Costa Rica.

“Everything was so diverse and everywhere you looked, there was something in front of you,” Kinzy said. “The moment we stepped off the bus at Sarapiqui, I saw this rainbow toucan perched on a tree right in front of us. It was then that it hit me that I was in the middle of a rainforest.”

Although it was a science-focused trip, the group still participated in team bonding outdoor activities.

“I really enjoyed the white water rafting and zip lining. The guy that was running our boat, let me and my friend Mali [Seigel] steer, and he also let us stand up, which was probably not something you should do,” Zepeda said. “It was really funny because Mali fell out of the boat while we were going through the rapids, so she just hung onto the side of the boat.”

The students and teachers ziplined in Monteverde, helping Van Matre-Woodward conquer her fear of heights.

“One thing I learned from the trip is that I could overcome my fear of heights by walking over suspension bridges and by doing the zip lining activity,” Van Matre-Woodward said. “I was pretty terrified of those activities, but I was able to not embarrass myself.”

Sydney Kinzy
Students cross a suspension bridge.

In hopes of having more students learn more about science, the science department is organizing a trip to Iceland from June 1-6, 2019.

“[In Iceland] we will be hiking, looking at glaciers and understanding the geothermal energy systems there. We will have the opportunity to visit geysers, volcanoes and the hot springs,” Van Matre-Woodward said. “[This trip] will also be a science related one, but it will be more of an energy focus trip rather than a wildlife one.”

Although Kinzy won’t be able to go on the trip since she would be in college, she recommends students to attend the Iceland trip.

“I would definitely recommend if you can afford it. [The Costa Rica trip] will always be one of those trips that I am going to look back on,” Kinzy said. “It was my first time abroad, so it got me bitten by the travel bug.”