Expanding the pura vida of York University’s Las Nubes Project

York U faculty member and her husband stand in Las Nubes, Costa Rica
Don and Adrienne at Penas Blancas River – site of the old log bridge

When Professor Adrienne Perry (MA ’84, PhD ’91) describes her most vivid memories of Costa Rica, she conjures images of pura vida – “pure life” – the country’s greeting celebrating existence: verdant rainforest trees enveloped by vines, orchids and other epiphytes.

“It’s so full of life,” said Perry. “It’s life growing on life.”

View of Las Nubes rainforest from the York property across the river

Perry, a professor in York’s Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health, and her husband, Reverend Don Downer, visited Costa Rica several times as ecotourists and fell in love with the country’s people and biodiversity. After enrolling as undergraduates to participate in the field course in the Las Nubes rainforest offered by the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), the couple decided to make a gift of two plots of land in 2013 to support York’s Las Nubes Project. Now, through a subsequent donation, Perry and Downer have enabled York to purchase two more parcels of land for the expansion of the Las Nubes conservation area.

Don Downer and Adrienne Perry at Penas Blancas River, the site of the old log bridge

“We were excited about what York was doing, and we wanted to be a part of it,” said Perry. “We were inspired by the vision of the Las Nubes Project and, when additional adjacent land became available, we wanted York to secure it to expand York’s land base.”

The donation feeds into the mission of the Las Nubes Project: to serve as an international hub dedicated to promoting education and research on Neotropical conservation, community well-being and sustainable livelihoods.

“The purchase of this land will enhance York’s Las Nubes Project by helping us to continue to protect the rainforest, assist in local community building and support conservation, education and research,” said Ravi de Costa, interim dean of FES. “We are extremely grateful to Professor Perry and Reverend Downer for their continuous support for our initiatives in Costa Rica.”

The new property comprises a building lot and 75 acres of protected land, including two wetlands, a waterfall and a small river. Research opportunities into the various species of flora and fauna abound.

“It’s an area in which much research is yet to be done, and what better reason to donate than to help protect the hidden wonders that are still to be found,” said Downer. “This is a way for us to preserve the environment. As researchers explore and make great discoveries, we’ll be provided with more data to bolster protectionist arguments.”

Adrienne Perry prepares to head on to the trail that leads to Las Nubes

One of the recent discoveries is a wetland habitat for rare frogs previously thought to be extinct in the region. Downer, an enthusiastic nature photographer, is thrilled about the finding, which underscores the couple’s reason for giving.

“We’re committed to taking care of the world and, by doing so, we take care of everything that’s important,” he said. “We want this for the future, and we hope that through our gift other people will experience the awe and wonder of the Las Nubes rainforest in Costa Rica.”