An interdisciplinary Costa Rican adventure

Graduate and undergraduate students from York’s Faculties of Environmental Studies, Science & Engineering, and Arts will embark on an interdisciplinary adventure this Saturday as they head off for York’s Las Nubes Rainforest.

The students, who are drawn from environmental studies, biology and political science, will participate in the sixth annual field course in applied tropical ecology and sustainable development. They will be led by York environmental studies Professor Howard Daugherty (right).

"For the first time ever, the field course will be a carbon-negative exercise," said Daugherty. "The students have created the Las Nubes Carbon Offset Program for Conservation and have each donated US$20 to the ‘Carbon Fund for Conservation’ to offset the approximately 25 tons of carbon dioxide that their flight will contribute to the atmosphere.

"In addition, each student has pledged to reduce his or her carbon footprint by an additional ton through voluntary reduction of energy consumption," said Daugherty. "This could be through more use of public transportation, increased recycling and other activities. The students expect to make the Carbon Offset Program a permanent component of the Las Nubes Program and with the hope that other members of the York community will participate."

The funds raised by the students through the carbon-negative exercise will be administered by the cooperative, CoopeAgri, and a local community group, COCOFOREST. The money raised will go toward reforestation programs, renewable energy installation and the protection of remaining pristine forests in the region. Victor Hugo Carranza, executive director of CoopeAgri, was recently named Man of the Year, an honour given by the media in southern Costa Rica. Carranza has been a leader in the promotion of collaboration with York University. (He has also been a catalyst in the sustainability aspect of Las Nubes Coffee. Carranza visited York in 2004. See the Nov. 11, 2004 issue of YFile for the full story.)

While in the Las Nubes Rainforest Region, the students will participate in a Bird-a-Thon. Sponsors can pledge a certain amount for each species identified by the students during the two-week course. The funds will be used to support natural history education in the local schools involved in the Las Nubes Program. "Our mission is to raise additional funds to support the ongoing environmental education efforts in elementary schools in the Las Nubes area," said Daugherty. "The money raised by the students will be administered by the Las Nubes Avian Monitoring Program and will be used to fund local environmental education initiatives such as equipment, field trips, bird watching excursions, tree-planting and other related activities. The aim is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world in the children who will one day be responsible for the stewardship of tropical forests and wildlife."

The York students in the field course will be observing birds throughout the duration of the course and will create a final tally of the different species that have been seen and verified. For a species to be included in the list, said Daugherty, each bird observed will be confirmed by at least two people, one of whom is an experienced birder.

Members of the York community are invited to sponsor the group’s birding efforts. For more information on the Bird-a-Thon, click here. Each pledge of support comes with an invitation to guess the total number of species the students will identify. The estimate closest to the actual number of bird species will win a framed photograph of a Costa Rican bird, taken by Brett Cole of Wild Northwest Photography who spent two months in the Las Nubes region sponsored by the Fisher Fund for Neotropical Conservation and the Tropical Science Center.

Right: Photo of a  Costa Rican bird by Brett Cole

Visit the Las Nubes Centre for Neotropical Conservation and Research Web site for more information on the reserve.

As part of their trip, the students will be sending regular dispatches from the Las Nubes Rainforest to YFile