La Selva is a green paradise in the Costa Rican rainforest. In the 1970's I researched the complex community of passionflower vines and two parallel, diverse communities that eat those vines: colorful Heliconius butterflies and a nearly unknown community of tiny, colorful flea beetles. This project is a long-deferred, post-retirement dream to return to La Selva and find out more about the flea beetles and how they compare to the butterflies.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Working at La Selva
Cabina #3, researcher housing
I chose to work at the La Selva Biological Station partly because of the great scientific facilities there. The cement trail system (see photo) provides safe and easy access to the different habitats, even allowing travel by bicycle. Dangerous snakes such as the fer-de-lance are easily seen and avoided. Trail-side plants such as Passiflora vines are protected because traffic is restricted to the walkway and does not spread out into the forest (by hikers avoiding muddy spots). The station also provides comfortable although modest accommodations, and an excellent meal service. Perhaps the best feature of all is the excellent scientific and logistical support that the station staff provides. If I need something for the lab (for example a macro-photography set-up), or some scientific help with a question (for example, identifying Passiflora arbelaezii), I get immediate assistance. This makes my work much more effective and allows me to make progress more rapidly. Many of the facilities at La Selva have been funded by a special program at the US National Science Foundation, designed to support Field Stations and Marine Laboratories. This program evaluates field stations on their scientific value and potential, and awards improvement grants for upgrading buildings, labs, and equipment. By any measure, La Selva has been one of the most successful field stations in the world. My 1978 PhD dissertation in the La Selva library has #21 on it, but there are well over 400 others listed.