December 2019

Christmas in the Cloud Forest

Research and Volunteers:

Marissa Romp finished up a 5 month diurnal (active during the day) mammal density study this month. She was comparing the quality of density estimates using Distance software using three different field survey techniques: line transects, point counts, and camera trapping. The Distance method takes into account that during surveys some animals will be missed and that the likelihood of detection decreases as you move further from the observation point. The software ‘Distance’ is used to calculate a detection probability curve which is used to modify density estimates to get a more accurate estimate than assuming that all the animals seen during surveys were all that were there. 

Additional information also needed to be collected to be able to use the camera trap data with the distance software, including determining the angle of view of the cameras, which involved a lot of crawling around in front of the cameras pretending to be peccaries and coatis!

For the line transects method, she walked 3 routes once a week, at a speed of 1 km/hr, and recorded all the mammals she saw. For the camera trap and point count methods, she identified 2 locations on each of the 3 walking routes to set up the camera traps and act as point count locations. For the point counts, she stood quietly for 3 minutes at each location (to allow the animals to become accustomed to her presence) and then spent 4 minutes observing, 1 minute in each cardinal direction. The camera traps were set up a little way off of the trail pointing towards the trail to capture both trail and off-trail habitat, similar to what would be observed during the walking and point counts. 

While she still has a lot of data processing to do, her initial observations are that the camera trap method will yield better results for most animal species as they cause less disturbance to the animals, result in greater species richness and abundance, are more likely to capture rare and elusive species, and can also provide data on nocturnal species. The line transect data only captured data on 6 different species, most of which were Red-tailed Squirrels, and required a lot of time and effort for less results. However, line transects were able to capture data on arboreal species, like monkeys, which is generally lacking from the camera trap data. The point count results yielded no sightings. We look forward to her final results!
Best of all, from one of the cameras set up in a location we have never monitored before, she captured our first camera trap images of a Tapir within the reserve! 

Tapir photographed on the Montana trail


Hello my name is Joel and I am from the UK. I’m at Cloudbridge to discover and explore the natural world of plants. And I am also here to collect data for an experiment investigating the effects of lining cardboard around the base of newly planted trees. The aim of this experiment is to determine if trees benefit significantly from the addition of cardboard to their surface soil environment. Somewhat unrelated to this investigation, I wish to learn about the interaction between nature and culture, and also agroforestry. My first week at Cloudbridge has been eventful and I look forward to many more excitements to come during the three months I have here.


Estefany is a local student who has volunteered at Cloudbridge for a few years. Now she is also teaching us how to make tamales on Christmas Eve. This is one of the perks of volunteering abroad. Cultural traditions can teach us all a little about the diversity on our planet.

My name is Jeff.  I have a degree in Biology from SUNY
Cortland.  I have been a birder ever
since I took Ornithology while still in school. 
I began this year at Cloudbridge as a Bird Monitor Intern from January
to early April.  Upon leaving Cloudbridge
I worked for West Virginia University performing Avian point counts across the
State of West Virginia.  I finished the
Summer up north in Canada with the James Bay Shorebird Project before returning
here to Cloudbridge to become the Resident Biologist.

I look forward to leading tours and
engaging with the public about the birds I am passionate about.  On top of giving tours I will continue my
research that I began, as an intern, on mixed species flock dynamics throughout
the reserve. 

Jeff - Back for his 2nd year at the reserve!


We have added another dorm building to better accommodate the student groups that will be visiting and extended the kitchen area. Thanks to our local builders and the volunteers who did the painting.

The construction crew

A work in progress

New home made bunk beds

How level is good enough?

Community volunteering:

Cloudbridge Staff and volunteers helping out for the church fund raiser in San Gerardo de Rivas.

Photo Gallery:

Stealing from the bird feeder

Forest Fungi

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November 2018

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
Ranindranath Tagore




Here are the recent research reports that can be found on our website.


Alena Frehner’s report on “The influence of habitat factors on species richness and abundance of animals in a montane cloud forest.”
Chiel van der Laan’s report on “Forest assessment of planted, naturally regenerated and primary tropical cloud forest.”
Graham Montgomery, Frank Spooner and Benjamin Freeman’s paper on “Apparent cooperative breeding at a nest of the Silvery-throated Jay (Cyanolyca argentigula) and first nest description.” (
Éloïse Roy’s report on the “Owl survey at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.” (
Úna Williams’ report on the “Comparison of avian flight initiation distances at trails within a Costa Rican cloud forest.” (
Jade Roubert-Olive’s report on “White-nosed coati learning and problem-solving behaviour, Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, Costa Rica.” (
and a collaboration we did with SINAC and MAPCOBIO on the conservation status of the Jaguar (Panthera onca) in Costa Rica through the integration of species records data and modelling of the ideal habitat. Only available in Spanish. Seulement disponible en espagnol. "Estado de conservación del jaguar (Panthera onca) en Costa Rica a través de la integración de datos de registros de la especie y modelaje del hábitat idóneo.” (




Climate Change :

One thing that is often not discussed for climate change mitigation is our food systems.  In this open letter to Al Gore the discussion of agriculture and diets is addressed.


Open Letter to Mr. Gore Regarding Animal Agriculture

At the Seattle Climate Reality Project training, Mr. Gore and the expert panel of scientists addressed a question about the UN Food and Agriculture Organization finding that animal agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector.

Mr. Gore essentially answered that while animal agriculture is a significant contributor of GHG and he himself is vegan, it is inevitable that meat will remain a large part of people’s diets, and that consequently we should look towards improved practices such as rotational grazing.

One of the most compelling components of Mr. Gore’s materials is the conclusion that we must change, we can change, and we will change our energy infrastructure. The same is true of the food system, and we look forward to Mr. Gore reaching this conclusion as he continues his essential work in the fight to reduce the impact of climate change.

The science is in that we must change our diets:

  • A 2014 analysis by the University of Cambridge found that “the agriculture-related emissions in our business-as-usual scenario alone almost reach the full 2C target emissions allowance for 2050,” and the only scenario that would reduce emissions in 2050 compared to 2009 levels was the low-meat “healthy diet” scenario. Furthermore, “Almost all of these large GHG emission savings (5.6 out of ∼6 GtCO2e yr−1 ) are associated with livestock reductions.”
  • Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future summarized five studies which all demonstrated that the most dramatic declines in greenhouse gases are made possible through reduction in meat consumption.
  • Chalmers University in Sweden concludes that, “Large reductions, by 50% or more, in ruminant meat consumption are, most likely, unavoidable if the EU targets are to be met” because “technological options alone are very unlikely to be sufficient.”
  • A meta-analysis of 120 studies found that if Americans transitioned to a plant-based diet it could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 79%, as well as avoiding 460,861 premature deaths, and saving $289 billion in health care and climate change mitigation costs.
  • A team of researchers from four universities found that by simply replacing beef with beans, the United States could immediately “achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the U.S. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of U.S. cropland.”
  • The Global Calculator from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change allows people to see these stunning results for themselves. Selecting the Chatham House “high meat” and “low meat” categories displays the dramatic disparity in the degree of warming achieved with maximal or minimal changes to diet, while holding other abatement strategies steady.

It is evident that we can change our food system. Unlike the energy sector, which requires technological innovation, changes in energy policy, and infrastructure investments, the food system can be shifted much more rapidly and readily. Plant-based proteins require less land, water, and energy to produce, and are generally less expensive than animal-based protein. In fact, simple supply and demand is already accomplishing this change; beef consumption has fallen 19% since 2005, reducing GHG emissions equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from 39 million cars.

So it is not only true that we will change our diets, but in fact we are already changing. 60% of adults surveyed report a reduction in their consumption of animal-based protein. The numbers are even more potent when examined generationally: “12% of millennials report being ‘faithful vegetarians,’ compared to 4% of Gen X’ers and 1% of baby boomers."

Just as the clean energy sector has seen a positive spiral - ideologically-driven increased demand leads to increased investment and innovation, which leads to increased availability and decreased price, which leads to market-driven increased demand - so too the plant-based food sector is seeing a similar spiral. Vegetarian protein is consistently a top food trend. In fact, even meat and dairy companies are seeing the writing on the wall and investing in plant-based foods:

  • Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat producers in the world, recently bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, makers of plant-based chicken and beef products.
  • Pinnacle Foods, the company famous for Hungry Man frozen dinners, bought Gardein, makers of an array of plant-based meats.
  • Danone, the parent company of Dannon Yogurt, recently bought Whitewave, the parent company of Silk and So Delicious plant-based dairy products, for $10 billion.

Technology is also playing a role. Millions of dollars in venture capital are flooding to companies like Impossible Foods, makers of the plant-based “burger that bleeds.” There have also been recent breakthroughs in “clean meat” by companies like Memphis Meats who culture animal muscle tissue to grow animal protein. This process generates 96% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional animal agriculture, and also uses 99% less land and 96% less water.

As plant-based products become more accessible, affordable, and accepted, the stigma of discussing diet is falling away. Thanks to the rise of movements like Meatless Monday and Green Monday, as well as “flexitarian” or “reducetarian” diets, discussing food choices is no longer an all-or-nothing proposition.

At a time when people are desperate for ways to make change, there is no reason to ignore one of the most effective and immediate ways for individual consumers to curb climate change and many of the most pressing environmental issues facing our world.

In light of these facts, the undersigned Climate Reality Project trainees implore Mr. Gore and the Climate Reality Project leadership team to incorporate animal agriculture more thoroughly into CRP materials as both a significant contributor to climate change and a shining reason for hope.


Katie Cantrell

Executive Director

Factory Farming Awareness Coalition

Climate Reality Leadership Training Seattle, 2017

If anyone is interested in taking the Climate Reality Training with Al Gore the next sessions coming up in 2019 are March In Atlanta Georgia USA, and June in Melbourne Australia.

If you live near these locations it is well worth going to.  The training is free.  You just have to get yourself there.



Now accepting applications for:
  • General volunteers;
  • Bird interns interested in a study on mixed-feeding flocks (to start late January), or long-term bird monitoring study (to start late February/early March);
  • Research interns interested in a topic of your choosing;
To apply, please fill in our application form on our website! (
Annual Summary: 
2018 was a productive year for Cloudbridge.  Check out this link to see what was accomplished.
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October 2018

Even the rain can't keep away birdwatchers.                               Photo courtesy Leonardo Valverde


And the birds are watching whooo?                                           Photo courtesy Leondardo Valverde






Research and Volunteers:

Nina Biburger - Germany

Hi, my name is Nina, I am 21 years old and study landscape architecture and planning at the technical university of Munich. As a part of my semester abroad I am staying at the Cloudbridge Reserve for one month as a volunteer. For this time, I got a little project to work on: improve the drainage system in the camp. First, I looked for the biggest problems and thought of ideas to solve them. Afterwards I started with some volunteers with the execution of the plan. Another great thing was the tree planting day. We planted a lot of little trees, that was a lot of fun and made you feel like you are helping the environment a lot. 

I am really interested in helping the environment and subjects linked to landscape and nature. This is the perfect place to give something back to nature , I really appreciate being part of the Cloudbridge Project. It is so beautiful to live just right in the cloud forest, which is a gorgeous phenomenon itself. I would recommend the Cloudbridge Reserve to anyone who loves nature and helping to save it!





Celine Stegers - Germany

Hi! My name is Celine, I am 19 years old and have high school in Germany this year. I am volunteering at Cloudbridge for one month. During my time here I have supported the researchers on their projects. So far I’ve planted trees to maintain the reforestation. Also I assisted one of the researchers to build the drainage system. We dug two holes as collecting ponds for the rainwater and transferred pipes. I also helped another researcher with collecting leaves from the trees in one plot. For that we used slingshots and an oversized secateurs to get the samples. I hope I’ll finish more projects the next weeks and explore the jungle.

I really love the nature here - to awaken by bird sounds and the waterfall every day, and I enjoy the atmosphere between the researchers and volunteers at the reserve. Everybody is helpful and pays attention when you need someone to talk to. Living in nature with the plants and animals is a unique, personal experience.

I would recommend this project to all nature lovers and adventurers! I am proud to be a part of Cloudbridge and their projects to save and enhance the Cloud forest!


Luisa Burg

Hey, my name is Luisa, I‘m 18 years old and finished high school this summer. Before I start to study I wanted to travel and help to reforest the cloud forest in Costa Rica.

Now I‘m at the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve as a volunteer for one month.

In my first week here I supported one of the Volunteers to build a draining system for our current home.

Another really nice experience was to plant trees and be part of the reforestation progress at Cloudbridge.

To live in the jungle with so many different animals around is such an impressive experience!

I‘m so happy about my choice to be a part of Cloudbridge!!!




Leonardo and his brother David, two enthusiastic high school students from the local town of Rivas, are studying fungi diversity in the reserve. On Sundays, they walk the trails looking for interesting mushrooms and other fungi, take photos, record important information, and make spore prints to help us identify the mushrooms. Here are some of the ones they have found so far.








A few years ago Leonardo's family weren't quite sure what he was interested in and so one Christmas they got him a Nintendo Wii. He played with it for a few days and got bored of it so his dad exchanged it for a camera and Leo's been interested in photography every since.  His photography is stunning!





A Spooky Thriller in the Mountains (or maybe not that scary)  - Oct 31st

Jenn (Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, Luisa and Celine (Ghostbusters), Jesus, Tom (Mosquito Net), Helen (owl), and EV (not entirely sure…).


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September 2018


When it all began. The early days of Cloudbridge.



2001 The view Jenny and Ian saw on their way down from their Chirripo hike while on vacation. This is was the inspiration they needed to start a reforestation project.



Upon seeing the deforestation in the Chirripo valley, Ian said, “Let’s come back and buy some land for reforestation”.

Three months later, they returned to Costa Rica, drove around the country looking at properties, and coincidentally, found land on the slopes of Mt Chirripo.

The first piece they bought was stunning in its beauty – with a series of waterfalls, and mountain views, and even a house.



Los Quetzales area. You can see where the Chirripo park stops and the barren Cloudbridge property existed




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The Gavilan slope


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Montana Trail


cloudbridge North

Cloudbridge North - the trail to Vulture Rock


blog feb2012

Recovery of the forest after many years of tree planting.


Welcome to our new manager of the reserve:

Ryan Helcoski came to Cloudbridge directly from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal Virginia where he was working with the Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) studying dendrochronology, forest carbon sequestration, and climate change. Before that he was employed by the sustainability program at the University of Maryland where he obtained his M.S. in conservation biology and M.P.P. in environmental policy. Ryan has worked as a contractor for the United States Department of Agriculture, The Amazon Conservation Team, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. He has volunteered and interned for numerous nonprofits and agencies including the Wildlife Trust of India, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, the Grameen Foundation, and Cielo Azul. He has nearly a decade of experience in science education, most notably his four years teaching biology and zoology at the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science in Baltimore, MD. Ryan is forever interested in the natural world and has traveled broadly in South and Central America both on contracts and for personal interest. He is excited to begin his new position as reserve manager at Cloudbridge and can't wait to learn all he can about his new home.



Erline Vendredi  (We call her EV)

With a background in accounting and procurement, Erline is responsible for the business operations, development and bookkeeping. She works closely to support the Director as well. Erline hails from Haiti, and she's fluent in English, French and Haitian Creole. Alongside her Cloudbridge work, she is also working with a Haitian artist from Port-au-Prince to promote his art internationally. She maintains close relationships with Haiti by providing marketing and branding supports to small enterprises and local organizations.





Research and Volunteers:

My name is Marianna. I am at Cloudbridge as a volunteer for one month. So far I've had the oportunity to to accompany the researchers on their projects and plant some trees.  Currently I am working on new ideas for the welcome center.
I love the atmosphere at the reserve: Hearing the waterfalls and the birds every day and living in a little community of people interested in nature is exactly what I was looking for.

Marianna planting trees.




My name is Max Hoving and I’m doing my best to find the secrets the forests all over the world have for us to uncover. While studying forest and nature-management at VHL in The Netherlands, my home country, I realized that I had spent too much time focusing on just this one small temperate corner of the world. To broaden my knowledge, I decided to major in tropical forestry and do my internship in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world; Costa Rica! Cloudbridge has established good relations with my school and my classmates recommended me going here for the great views over the forests, good living conditions and all the opportunity to grow and learn about the topics that interest me the most.

Using tools like slingshots to collect leaves, flowers and fruits and conserving the leaves with a plant press I do my best to identify tree species to get a better idea of forest compositions within the different habitat types. By the end of this 5-month period I hope to be able to present a more complete catalogue of all the species found in Cloudbridge.


Helen Lancaster
Coming to Cloudbridge has been the second of many volunteering experiences I hope to have. Formerly, I worked at an Animal Rescue Centre in the UK, which led me into a search for somewhere I could get involved in conservation. My reasoning behind this is that to me, prevention has a greater effect than recovery when it comes to endangered species. However, this is a generalized field, therefore the current focus of my travels is to discover a more specific career route to work towards.
Some projects I am working on here at Cloudbridge are reforesting, creating a new compost system, and conducting an Owl survey which occurs twice a month. This survey involves playing different calls through a speaker at different markers along a given trail, also taking bearings with a compass when one is heard, and having a disturbed sleeping pattern for about a week.
What makes Cloudbridge special is that although there is abundant wildlife; it may seem scarce, but it will be present beyond your sight, and this makes it even more exciting to finally see.
The cultural exchange is also something I find fascinating, as we all share and compare our differences; whether that be a sense of humour, odd terminologies, or experimental food - this being my personal favourite.
When I come to leave it will be a great accomplishment yet a saddening loss of what truly feels like home.
Some of Helen's beautiful photos at Cloudbridge



Cristhian and Josue are sustainable tourism students from UNA (Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica) who are with us one day a week for an English practicum. They are working at our Welcome Centre greeting guests and providing information on the reserve to hikers, as well as working on two projects. Josue has been conducting a survey of hikers after they have finished their hike to ask what they saw and find out what they did and did not like about the reserve. Cristhian has been creating animal information cards on our most common and interesting animals which we will display at the Welcome Centre.




New Discovery:

This month a new mammal species was identified for the reserve! Derby’s Woolly Opossum (also called the Central American Woolly Opossum) (Caluromys derbianus) was identified after reviewing some historic camera trapping images. Originally mistaken for a rat due to its small size and rodent like movements, it was identified as an opossum by the distinctive two tone tail (half grey and half white), and as a woolly opossum by the thick fur that extends well onto its tail. An exciting find!

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August 2018

The rainy afternoons this time of year create some amazing rich green colors in the forest.  As the rainy season continues there is good reason to visit this area if you don't mind a little moisture.  The lushness of the forest, swelling rivers, and dramatic waterfalls are all a sight to see.


Research and Volunteers:

Cléa Lefevbre from AgroParisTech in France just finished a forestry internship with us where she was examining the differences in forest structure between planted and naturally regenerating (NR) forest of the same age. She also did some general comparisons with old growth forest. She found that planted forest had a linear relationship when plotting tree height against diameter at breast height (DBH), while NR forest had an exponential relationship. She thought this was because the trees in the planted area are planted at least 2 m from each other and the vegetation cleared so the young trees don’t have to compete with each other or other plants so can can grow at a steady rate. In the NR forest, the young trees have to compete for light so focus initially on growing tall to capture the light. Once that is achieved they then will start to increase their girth.

She then looked at the distribution of trees across 5 size classes (seedling, sapling, small tree, medium tree, and large tree). She found that the plantation forest had a large number of trees in the sapling category, no large trees, and few seedlings. While the NR forest also had a large number of sapling trees, it had a much larger number of seedlings and a few large trees, a structure more similar to the old growth. This means that recruitment is lower in the plantation area, which could lead to issues in the event of a disturbance in the forest (ex. blow-down, landslide, etc.).

She also found significant differences in DBH (greater in plantation), wood volume (greater in plantation), carbon storage (higher in plantation), and canopy closure (less light in NR), and no significant difference in tree height or wood density between planted and natural regeneration.
She concluded that while the naturally regenerating forest looks closer to the old growth in terms of overall forest structure, the planted forest is storing more carbon which is of benefit to combat climate change.

Her plots will be used in future years to continue to monitor the differences between the two forest types as they age and it will be interesting to see how things change over time!

In July, Una Williams completed her research on avian flight initiation distances (FID) (the distance at which a bird will move away from a threat (i.e. hiker)) on trails with different human activity levels. Increased FID’s and vigilance behaviour can lead to significant alteration in energy expenditure for the birds. Larger FIDs may indicate increased sensitivity and reduced tolerance to disturbance.
Study trails were grouped into 3 different activity levels: low (<5 visitors/day), medium (5-15 visitors/day), and high (>15 visitors/day + horses). Overall, across all bird species, she found that FID increased as trail activity level increased, although differences were not significant (p=0.117). There were 3 species found on all of the study trails: Common Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus flavopectus), Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor), and Slate-throated Redstart (Myioborus miniatus). Of these three, the Slate-throated Redstart showed a significant difference in FID between the trails, with much larger FIDs on the high traffic trail (Chirripó), and the shortest FIDs on one of the low traffic trails (Gavilan). This may indicate that the Slate-throated Redstart has become sensitized to the high traffic on the Chirripó Trail.
She is still completing her analyses so we look forward to seeing her final results!  Una is from Queen’s University, Belfast in Northern Ireland.


Catherine Walker, Elle Boone, Kelsey Davies, and Harriet Tyson from Exeter university in the United Kingdom finished a 6 week study on ant diversity and distribution in Cloudbridge. They wanted to study ants as they are the forest’s caretaker’s, cleaning up dead material, and can be used as bioindicator’s of reforestation success. Using pitfall and baited traps (tuna and sugar water) to collect the ants, they studied 3 forest types: planted (<15 years), natural regeneration (>30 years old), and old growth forest (70+ years old). They were able to identify the ants down to at least genus and many also to species. When comparing overall abundance and species richness, there was no significant difference between the habitats, which is a good sign for the effectiveness of our reforestation efforts. However, when looking at the similarity of the abundance of each genera present in the different habitat types (Bray-Curtis), they found that the planted and naturally regenerated habitats were moderately similar (0.5), while natural regen compared to old growth was lower (0.3), and planted compared to old growth was the least similar (0.1). Further analysis is being done to see if there were certain genera specific to each habitat and what that means for our forests.

They also compared the effectiveness of the different trap types they used and found that the baited traps were significantly more effective than the pitfall traps, in both abundance and species richness, but the baited traps were not significantly different from each other.
They did some great work and identified a lot of new genera and species for our species list. Here are some of their favourites.

Eciton burchellii parvispinum  (an army ant)


Eciton burchellii parvispinum  (an army ant)

















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Acromyrmex coronatus (a leaf-cutter ant) worker


Acromyrmex coronatus (a leaf-cutter ant) Queen

Pachycondyla impressa (largest species found, >7mm)

Carebara reina (smallest species found 1-2mm)


Alena Frehner from Van Hall Larenstein in the Netherlands completed her camera trap study in July. She used camera trap data (6 locations) and habitat data she collected to examine habitat factors that may affect the abundance and species richness of animals around the camera traps. The habitat factors she looked at included: habitat type (old growth, naturally regenerating, or planted forest), canopy closure, difference in slope of trail compared to the surrounding landscape, and tree size (when looking at arboreal and semi-arboreal species only).

She found that while species richness was not significantly different between the camera trap locations, abundance was, both when looked at as individual locations (with two of the sites showing higher than expected abundance and the rest lower, p=0.00) and when locations were grouped into habitats (with natural regenerated and planted forest having greater abundance than expected and the old growth lower, p=0.00). When examining the other habitat factors, none of them were found to have significant relationships to either species richness or abundance on the camera traps.

However, when looking at tree size (average, median, and max tree height; and median DBH) and abundance of arboreal and semi-arboreal species, with the exception of one outlier, there appeared to be a positive relationship between abundance and height, and a negative relationship between abundance and median DBH. The outlier was location E1, which also had a much higher abundance of animals than expected, and was by far the most productive camera trap location. E1 is located at a pinch-point along a ridge trail, where a large boulder and dense vegetation force most animals to walk along the trail, and therefore in front of the camera, making it more likely that the camera will capture images of animals in the area. Because of this, E1 may be skewing the data and not be a true representation of habitat choice as the animals in that location have little choice but to walk in front of the camera. As such, the examination of tree size and presence of arboreal and semi-arboreal animals on the camera traps warrants further investigation.

Some of Alena's camera trap photos  (Puma, Ocelot, and Hog-nosed Skunk) :
Janina Harms of Van Hall Larenstein in the Netherlands, finished up a study this month looking at the feasibility of using the reserve as a sloth release site. Building on the work of Ramon te Beek who did a sloth habitat suitability study earlier in 2018, Janina spent some time at an active sloth release site and then looked at the practicality of setting up a release site at various locations around the reserve. She developed a suitability index based on: habitat suitability, presence of wild cats, site accessibility, slope of the site, set-up costs, and human disturbance. Different to the habitat suitability index which found planted sites as the 3rd most suitable, she found that the planted areas were generally most suited to setting up a release site, with the other habitat types being fairly similar. The planted sites came out on top mostly because they were more accessible and flatter than a lot of the other habitat types. Janina also found information gaps that we would need to fill before we could proceed with a possible release site, which will be very helpful for us moving forward.

As part of her work on the index, she collected samples from trees to better identify potential sloth trees and took them to the national herbarium for help confirming the identifications. As a result of this work, they identified 3 new species for the reserve!


Brunellia darienensis

Styrax glabrescens

Meliosma allenii

Janina's final presentation also included some interesting facts about sloths and a look at her time spent at the Sloth Institute at Manual Antonio.

Janina at the The Sloth Institute

Elisa Yang finished up her birding internship at Cloudbridge this month and presented her results on the last three months of the bird monitoring study. After calculating Simpson’s Index of Diversity for the different habitat types, Elisa noted that the old growth (or primary) forest had one of the lowest diversities. She wondered why this was as old growth forest is considered to be of higher value than secondary (or regenerating) forest. After looking closer she found that while overall diversity was lower, all four of the Near Threatened and Vulnerable bird species found at Cloudbridge have their highest abundances in the old growth. In addition, the furnarids (an uncommon group at lower elevations) reached their peak diversity in the old growth as well. This is in contrast to the naturally regenerated and planted habitats which had a higher presence of common and widespread birds like Common Chlorospingus and Slate-throated Redstart. This shows the importance of the old growth habitat for vulnerable and sensitive species.
Elisa also brought a unique perspective to the bird study as she is skilled at identifying birds by their calls, which is very hard to do. Birds identified only by audio are typically excluded from analysis in the bird study as it is difficult to do accurately or to standardize between researcher due to widely varying skill levels. After readjusting the Simpson’s Index to include birds identified by audio only, she found the old growth diversity was one of the highest, rather than one of the lowest. The difference between the two is due to the difficulty of visually identifying birds in the dense and high canopy of the old growth.

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Introducing a new volunteer - Marissa Romp

Hola amigos y amigas,

‘The earth has music for those who listen.’ This quote is one of my favorite quotes of all time because it catches my thoughts and inspires me to take decisions in life that contribute to this ability and creates that possibility. My name is Marissa, I am 27 springs young and am currently studying Wildlife Management in my home country - The Netherlands.  Although I am still wondering ánd wandering about what profession I want to engage in, I am the happiest surrounded by forest, its inhabitants and the beautiful music they make. As part of my study I have worked at an Animal Ambulance to transport wounded or neglected animals. Last year I conducted a behavioral study on Samango monkeys in the province of Limpopo, South-Africa. After returning back to the Netherlands I knew something was missing. This experience of living in basic conditions - compared to my Western upbringing – and surrounded by the beauty of the forest has ignited a little spark of wanting to go abroad again. Hence next adventure; Costa Rica. I choose to do my internship at Cloudbridge because of the remoteness, the presence of two of my favorite species (White-faced capuchin monkey and the Geoffroy's spider monkey) and the chance to surround myself with people passionate about the conservation of the forest and its wildlife. Here, I am currently engaged in a new mammal study which recently started for a period of five months. The aim is to set up a mammal species list and to see whether there might be any differences in mammalian species diversity between the different habitats present at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. I am extremely excited to find out what the results will be. Pura vida!

Marissa in the jungle.




New Research Report Now on Our Website:

Two new reports have been added to the website this month. Check them out and many other reports on the research done at Cloudbridge on our publications page (

Ramon te Beek’s report “A habitat suitability study for sloth species Bradypus variegates and Choloepus hoffmanni in Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, Costa Rica. “ (

Cloudbridge Fun:

We do like to have fun.  Its not all work.  Sometimes there is a little rumble in the jungle for birthdays on the reserve.


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July 2018

Cloud Forest Fungi




Research and Volunteers:

My name is Eli and I’m 21 years old from Wales, UK. I’ve just finished my second year at The University of Manchester studying Zoology with French. I came to Cloudbridge as a volunteer, having already spent two weeks in Costa Rica on a field course as part of my degree: 1 week at Macaw Lodge (a sustainability and eco project located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica) and the second week at La Selva Biological Station. I have spent the past two weeks helping the research interns with different projects such as obtaining samples for the forest reclamation project, setting up a mammal project and planting trees, all whilst hiking the trails in the beautiful Costa Rican scenery. Waking up to the sounds of wildlife and hiking the tallest mountain in Costa Rica are probably the highlights of my stay, as well as making what I hope to be lifelong friends along the way. Cloudbridge will always have a place in my heart and I will miss all the hard-working people who make the reserve what it is!!!





Exeter University Students - UK :

Hi my name is Kelsey Davies and am a proud Welshman, raised in Cwmllynfell near Swansea, Wales (Cymru am Byth!) I am currently an MSci Zoology student at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus and work part-time in retail, thoroughly enjoying a life on the Cornish coast. At this point I am in the transition from second to third year. I have always had a love for being outdoors which quickly developed into a keen interest in the environment and its inhabitants- especially insects! Therefore I was extremely excited when our final decision on a research project was focussed on ants! I am quickly realising I could easily become accustomed to life researching in the cloud forest, through spending free time exploring, hiking and, especially, relaxing in hammock with a book. From this experience I hope to continue in the field of research after university, whether it is abroad or at home in the UK, continuously gaining knowledge about what nature has to give! Diolch enfawr i Cloudbridge!  We originally came across Cloudbridge through our university where there have been previous groups conducting research at the reserve. Our focus is on the formidable critters, ants. We hope to discover if ants could possibly be used to show the success of reforestation. This will be carried out through comparing the species diversity and abundance between pasture, planted, regenerated and old forest, determining if there are any differences/similarities. We also hope to add to the ant species list of the reserve, where we have already found numerous unlisted species. We are confident that through this research, we will gain incredibly valuable field experience that will be essential to continue our careers within the field of Biology and Conservation.  Also as a group, we are very eager to help out and learn about the many other fantastic research going on at the reserve, therefore gaining an insight into other people’s interests and passions. We are very thankful to the reserve for having us and are already falling in love with the cloud forest!


Hola, I’m Ellie Boone, I study BSc zoology at the University of Exeter and will shortly be entering my second year of study. Originally from Cheshire, England, I decided I wanted to study zoology as I had always had a passion for biology, however I was less interested in the micro side of things and I wanted to find a way of incorporating travel into my career, therefore, zoology was the perfect option. I am active and enjoy the outdoors, I’m finding the trails at cloud-bridge exhilarating and great fun, and they’re a good way to push myself. Although studying ants here, after my degree I think I would like to go on to study birds and their behaviour, as I find them beautiful and highly intelligent.


Hello, my name is Catherine and I am about to go into the third year of my BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology degree at the University of Exeter in Cornwall. As a wildlife enthusiast, with a long held dream of going to Costa Rica (allegedly one of the happiest countries in the world), the opportunity to embark on research at the Cloudbridge reserve was too good to miss. Cloudbridge has been an amazing place to see how progress can be made towards reforesting the Earth and I am thoroughly enjoying getting outdoors to see the wealth of species in this region. I hope to go on to do a masters after my degree and ultimately take part in more research to learn how best to protect our planet and its inhabitants.


Hello, my name is Harriet and I am studying towards a BSc Zoology degree at the University of Exeter, going into my third year. I have always been fascinated by nature and wildlife from a young age, so studying a wildlife-based degree has always been something I’ve worked hard towards. For so long Costa Rica has been at the top of my list of places I’d love to visit based on its picturesque scenery and its incredible biodiversity. The opportunity to carry out our very own research high in the cloud forest, surrounded by other great researchers, is a once in a lifetime chance. I have already loved hiking through the forest, learning more about reforestation and seeing some truly remarkable wildlife. From this amazing opportunity, I hope to gain valuable skills, research experience and, importantly, enjoy being in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

The Exeter Group





My Name is Eva Szekeres and am from Austria. At home, I am studying biology because I am very interested in nature. I came to the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve because always I wanted to see the rainforest, wanted to make a research internship and because I wanted to make new contacts with students from other countries. Here in Cloudbridge I am conducting a study about butterflies to collect data for my bachelor thesis. I really enjoy the work with these gentle and beautiful animals. In Costa Rica I can discover something new everyday, be it a humming bird feeding on the flowers, a butterfly looking exactly like a leaf, bananachips or scarlet macaws on the beach. I like the community in Cloudbridge and the simple living in middle of the forest where I can hear the birds when I get up.




My name is Tamara Pohler. I come from Austria and I’ll stay in Cloudbridge for nearly 1 month. I research on spider communities in the three different forest types – primary forest, naturally regenerated forest and planted forest.
My biggest interests are wild cats, especially leopards and lions. I have already worked with cheetahs, lions and other cats in South Africa. Now its time to face my other passion, spiders. Costa Rica is a perfect place to research on spiders. There are many different species, some of them even not been scientifically identified.
So, there’s a great adventure, waiting for me. See you maybe there 😉






Chiel van der Laan has spent the last five months conducting forest assessment research in different areas of the reserve. He took measurements from trees in many different plots, incorporating areas of planted, naturally regenerated and old growth (primary) forest habitat. Looking at the trees in each habitat, he found several differences between them: for example, trees in Cloudbridge's primary forest are significantly higher than those in other forest types, but no greater in volume. He also demonstrated that older trees have slower growth rates (measured as DBH increase per year), and thus denser wood than younger trees. He then used wood density data to estimate the mass of carbon sequestered in each habitat type around Cloudbridge - an excellent figure to be aware of with deforestation contributing so much excess carbon to the atmosphere! It's great to know that so much carbon is being stored in the trees protected within the reserve.

Chiel giving his final presentation.

"After I had collected all the data I did a normality test to find out whether the data was normally distributed or not. I did this for every tree/forest characteristic that I measured. The number of trees per hectare and canopy closure turned out to be normally distributed, so I used the one-way anova test for those. For the others I used the Kruskal-Wallis test. The pictures show some of the results of the statistical tests for DBH increase, crown class and wood density.

These results I used to see if there was a relation between the amount of light received by trees and the density of the wood. In the picture with the correlations you see that the wood density (WSG) increases with an increase in canopy closure and crown class. Also when the tree growth (DBH increase) increases the wood density becomes lower. This proves my hypothesis that: Less sunlight results in slower tree growth and thus denser wood. Because when a tree receives less light it invests more growth in wood density than volume. Although this is not based on a lot of data so more data should be collected to be more certain about this statement.

I also just wanted to show the difference in carbon sequestration between forest types. You can see that there is a big difference in the amount of carbon stored per forest type. I did no further analysis on this because I only have the data of 3 plots which I found not enough to be sure about any results."






Hola! I’m Seth and I’m one of the volunteers at Cloudbridge. I’m from the UK and came to Central America after finishing my BSc in Horticulture with Plantsmanship and spent a month climbing trees in a research station In Panama before coming to Cloudbridge. I was drawn to Cloudbridge by its amazing location and montane cloud forest at the reserve as well as the botanical beauties it holds (especially the lichens, I like lichens…). So far at the reserve I have been helping researchers with plant identification, taking tree measurements in the old growth forest, helping to maintain newly planted areas of the reserve and giving tree climbing demonstrations to visiting school groups. I have loved my time at Cloudbridge and I’ll be really sad to leave! I loved being immersed in the beautiful surrounds and getting to geek out with the others at the station. I’ve had lots of ideas for projects during my time here though, so maybe you’ll be reading another post from me in the future??? Adios!!




This past month Cloudbridge has hosted two groups of British high school students,
from Lancaster and Stamford in the UK. They were able to enjoy this experience through an organization called Outlook Expeditions who organized the trip to Costa Rica.

It has been a pleasure to spend several
days showing them around the reserve - even up to Catarata Don Victor
and Vulture Rock!  The groups were able to see some local wildlife
(including spider monkeys and a peccary), and they thoroughly
enjoyed afternoon swims in the river.

The students also contributed to the reforestation of the reserve,
planting trees that were grown in the Cloudbridge nursery.  They
were able to learn about canopy ecology from one of the researchers,
who climbed up a beautiful 30-meter tree.  The spider monkeys came
around to see what was going on!  Tree-planting day finished up with a
talk on climate change, which emphasizes strategies for creating
resilience on the local level.  The students engaged with questions of
their own and a worthwhile discussion afterwards.

One of the groups was able to enjoy a Sunday brunch at the local Jardines
Secretos and a night walk as well.  It was truly a pleasure to engage
with these groups and we hope to host more in the future!












Community Outreach:

The staff at Cloudbridge were instramental in organizing an event to promote sustainable agriculture in the Chirripo Valley.

July 26th, in San Gerardo de Rivas, Victoria Arronis of
the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), gave a small
talk about sustainable livestock.  Certain practices can reduce the
emissions of greenhouse gases associated with cattle production.
Planting trees, feeding the cattle more locally grown forages and
proper management can reduce production costs and mitigate climate
Managing livestock intensively, in small enclosures which are given
rest periods, with the presence of trees and shade, allows for less
stress on the cattle due to heat.  Forrages that are highly nutritious
and digestible can partially replace commercial feed.  Using forrage
banks which the animals are allowed to directly eat from reduces the
labor associated with chopping and transporting feed.
With these types of changes, it is possible to produce milk and meat
more sustainably, with more resilience to climate change, with many
benefits for producers and the environment.


Camera Trap Photos
















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June 2018

@gaiawilson_photography on Instagram and Gaia Wilson photography on Facebook


Research and Volunteers:

Hello, I’m Gaia Wilson and I’m from England. I am currently studying my Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation part-time and I was working full time but decided to leave my job and come to Latin America for a few months. I wanted to learn more about the Costa Rican way of life and their wildlife which is why I’m volunteering at Cloudbridge. I have been helping to plant and clear around baby trees, go out on butterfly and birding surveys and get to learn all about the other projects going on here. I also love photography and have been lucky enough to spot quetzals, monkeys and hummingbirds, to name but a few.







@gaiawilson_photography on Instagram and Gaia Wilson photography on Facebook





Izzy Gavel was studying the effect of cardboard mulch around planted trees on the soil invertebrate community. She collected soil samples from 9 planted sites, collecting 3 samples from trees with cardboard and 3 from trees without cardboard at each site. Then she used a Tullgren-Berlese funnel system to separate the invertebrates from the soil so she could count and identify them to Order.
She found that the presence of the cardboard did not significantly affect the abundance of soil invertebrates, but that it did create a significant difference in the species richness (number of species found per sample). She also compared abundance and richness between sites that were new plantings (trees planted in open or barren areas), or supplementary plantings (trees planted in areas with already established tree cover), and found that there was no significant difference between the two.

Back in January, Alyce Straub designed and set up some quetzal nest boxes in the hopes of encouraging more quetzals to nest around the reserve. Other reserves have tried installing nest boxes for quetzals in the past, with little success, making nest box design a challenging project.

Quetzals typically nest in old woodpecker nests fairly high up in dead snags. As quetzals are bigger than the woodpeckers, quetzals excavate the holes to make them bigger, which some believe stimulates ovulation in the females. Alyce found a fallen tree and cut it into 5 logs, which she dug into to create a hole about the size of a woodpecker nest, allowing the quetzals to be able to excavate the nest.

Alyce unfortunately had to leave before all the boxes were hung, but other interns and volunteers took up the project. Arran Redman and Stefan Hertell were instrumental in getting the boxes hung, although many others helped. Then Eloïse Roy and Maddy Skinner took on the long and tedious task of observation to see if the quetzals were using the boxes. Each box was observed for 2-3 hours a week and the area around the box examined for signs of excavation.

Unfortunately, although quetzals were occasionally spotted in the area, there were no signs of quetzals using the boxes this year, although two natural nests were found in the reserve. It may be that the nest boxes were not old enough for the quetzals as they typically nest in old nests of other birds, and they may be more interested in them next year. Another possibility might be the large number of Emerald Toucanet’s in the reserve (several of which were seen around the boxes) as toucanets are known to eat chicks. There could also be something about the box design that the birds do not like. Monteverde has successfully managed to build nest boxes that quetzals use and is expected to release a paper on the subject soon. We look forward to reading their results in the hopes that we can improve our boxes and have better success next year!

Holly Drage - England
Hi, I'm Holly from England. I have always been passionate about environmental conservation. I completed my degree in Environmental Science and for the past 7 years I have worked in sustainable resources for a food retailer. I have been lucky enough to take a four month sabbatical from my job to travel around Central and South America. I was really keen to volunteer at Cloudbridge after reading about all the reforestation work that has been completed here and wanted to be apart of it.
I have really enjoyed my time at Cloudbridge, I have had a variety of jobs from painting signs, preparing saplings ready to be planted and clearing around newly planted trees. I have especially enjoyed the opportunity to follow some of the research students on their birding and butterfly surveys.
Rosie Gerolemou completed her research on conflicts between domestic livestock and wildlife.  She presented her findings at Cloudbridge and also in the town of Herradurra where there has been problems with the jaguars and cattle.

Reducing conflict between livestock owners and predators in Costa Rica


  • Conflict can arise between people and wild predators when livestock is predated by carnivores
  • Aim of study: To identify attitudes which allow livestock owners to coexist with wild predators, thereby lessening the conflict
  • Suitable participants in the Rivas Valley were identified and asked about their animal ownership practices and feelings towards carnivores
  • 54 participants (27 with livestock, 27 without livestock)
  • 12/27 experienced some sort of predation
  • Predators identified by participants: coyote, jaguar, jaguarundi, opossum, puma, tayra, feral dogs and snakes
  • 53 chickens killed (total ownership 802 chickens)
  • 16 cows/calves killed (total ownership 151 cows)
  • Most attacks in the Herradura area
  • 31/54 participants had positive feelings about carnivores, generally speaking, 8 were scared or apprehensive and 15 were indifferent or had mixed feelings about carnivores
  • 25/54 said they didn’t want carnivores on their land
  • Most of the people who said they wouldn’t welcome predators on their land cited fear of potential interactions or conflict with predators as reasons why
  • Environmental education and taking measures to reduce predation (e.g. presence of dogs, lights and proper fencing) were associated with increased tolerance
  • Tolerance to carnivores was found to be dictated by numerous factors, and not necessarily conflict
  • Overall, participants were knowledgeable about conservation and wanted predators to remain part of the landscape



Nina Champion was here for three months working on the butterfly diversity project as well as doing a small study experimenting with different kinds of butterfly bait to see if they would attract different butterfly species or would be more effective than the standard banana bait. Over 4 weeks, she trialled 4 different kinds of baits: banana, papaya, cow dung, and sweet mud. She found that while the banana bait caught more individuals and more species of butterflies (with papaya 2nd highest), because the results were very variable, the differences were not statistically significant. As well, all of the butterflies caught in the non-banana bait traps had been caught in banana baited traps before, so the different baits are not effective at catching new butterfly species. So we’ll be sticking with the banana bait for future surveys!
Nina also identified a new butterfly for the reserve: Opsiphanes quiteria quirinus (caught in a banana bait trap). This butterfly is considered quite rare, so it was quite the find!
Anna Bowland presented a summary of the birds she has seen during her time as a bird monitoring intern. Over the past 3 months, she identified 2175 birds of 108 species! The most abundant birds she saw were: Common Chlorospingus, Slate-throated Redstart, Silver-throated Tanager, White-throated Mountain Gem, and Sulphur-winged Parakeet.
The bird point count stations are separated into 6 different kinds of habitats based on the type of reforestation and age of the forest: planted forest, naturally regenerating forest (under 30 years old, over 30 years old, and one station that has both young and old regenerated forest), planted/naturally regenerating forest (P/NR<30), and old growth forest. She found that the P/NR<30 and naturally regenerating >30 forest had the highest bird abundance, while the naturally regenerating <30 and planted sites had the highest species richness.
Stephen Clark - USA
My name is Stephen, I hail from the noble city of Washington DC. I’m currently Studying environmental law/policy at Green Mountain College. My arrival at Cloudbridge was catalyzed by a deep interest in conservation, particularly reforestation projects. When I discovered Cloudbridge’s remarkably successful forest reclamation projects and realized they were still ongoing, I saw it as a excellent opportunity to fulfill my desire to be involved in such ambitious work. Volunteering here allows me to actively aid the preservation efforts. Whether it’s clearing around saplings or replacing their cardboard to help retain moisture, my daily tasks grant me the ability to directly assist the current reforestation projects, particularly by nurturing the previously planted saplings. However, I will be doing my first planting event in the upcoming weeks, which I’m beyond animated to be part of. Waking up everyday to do a task benefiting the forests is very gratifying, to help accomplish a project on behalf of the environment is something I cherish greatly. I’m extremely grateful that Cloudbridge began these efforts and continues them with such zeal, allowing devout volunteers to be so heavily incorporated. When I’m not tending to the trees I’m usually hiking and admiring the serenity of the old growth forests within the sanctuary, on many of my hikes I’m able to witness first hand the result of intense dedication to conservation; seeing dense forest where farmland once lay is especially inspiring. The community here is welcoming and embracing, we thrive together since we all share similar ideologies in regards to respecting nature, it’s nice to be part of such a committed group. My advisor, Rachel, is very enthusiastic and passionate about Cloudbridge and their mission, her spirit towards the reserve’s pursuit is influential and will undoubtedly remain with me long after I depart from Costa Rica. I am so elated to be here, I wake up excited each day and could not imagine doing anything else this summer.


Cléa Lefebvre - France
My name is Cléa and I’m 23 years old, from France. I have always loved nature and wildlife. I wanted to be a vet but I did not pass my exam. I oriented my studies on the environment and more specifically in the forest management. I am a second-year student in a program leading to a Master degree in Forestry at AgroParisTech, a National Institute of Forestry and Environment, in Nancy (France). So, I’m coming to Cloudbridge to do my internship to complete my second year and I am really enjoying being here for the next 11 weeks. My project focuses on the difference between the regeneration in  the natural regeneration area, plantation area and old growth. I hope to improve my knowledge about forestry and I am  learning a lot about tropical forest. I hope to spend  part of my career in tropical island of France like La Réunion, La Martinique or La Guyane.
Elisa Yang - USA

Elisa Yang is an 18-year old aspiring ornithologist and evolutionary biologist from Orange County, California. She will be attending University of California, Berkeley in the fall to study biology and environmental science. Some of her projects include an ongoing study on Dark-eyed Junco subspecies and a newsletter for young birders, Wrong-eared Owl. In the meantime, she is doing avian point-count and walking surveys at Cloudbridge as part of a birding internship. At the end of her internship, she hopes to do an analysis of bird species composition and elevation. She hopes that the internship can provide her with fieldwork experience, and is excited to see all the Costa Rican birds. In her free time, she works on wildlife photography and writing, which you can check out at


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May 2018

Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is a birding hotspot for discovering lower montane cloud forest birds.  May was an active month as it is the breeding season for many of the species here.  These collared Trogans were hanging around chirping and calling to claim territory and find mates.  We get the benefit of watching these beauties everyday.


Research and Volunteers:

Sang Xianming - China

Sang is originally from China and now is studying architecture in the USA. Being a nature and animal lover, he is attracted by the mutualistic relationship between agriculture, tourism and nature in Costa Rica, and is here to help with conservation in the cloud forest. He is planting and weeding around the baby trees in the nursery and on the hills. In his spare time he enjoys exploring the mountains and visiting to other villages to experience the local life.

Holly Renaud - Canada
Holly joins us from Vancouver, Canada where she is an Environmental Studies student, team leader with the David Suzuki Foundations Blue Dot Movement and active voice against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. As an animal lover and nature enthusiast, Holly is volunteering with Cloudbridge in hopes to expand her understanding and appreciation of the cloud forest, it’s wildlife, and Costa Rican culture while working side-by-side with a talented group of international research interns. 
Ella Ludwig - US
"My name is Ella and I am originally from Germany, but am coming to Cloudbridge from Michigan in the United States, which is where I grew up. I will be starting my second year at Washington University in St. Louis this fall, where I am double majoring in Biology and Spanish, so I’m very excited to have the opportunity to combine those two interests of mine here at Cloudbridge. In the future, I hope to study Plant Biology in graduate school and conduct research on sustainable agriculture and new ways to grow and produce foods on Earth and in extraterrestrial environments. During my time at Cloudbridge I will be assisting with ongoing forestry studies comparing how forest structure differs between naturally regenerated and planted reforestation plots when compared to primary forest, as well as helping with the tree-planting efforts here. I am so excited to have this incredible opportunity, and while I’ve only just arrived, I’m already falling in love with Cloudbridge."
Una Williams - Ireland
"Hello, I'm Una from Ireland. I completed my undergraduate degree in Dublin in Environmental Science in 2008. Since then I have worked and travelled around the world but last year I decided to return to education and start a Masters in Animal Behaviour & Welfare at Queen's University Belfast. I am in Cloudbridge for 12 weeks as part of my Masters course. While here, I am measuring the Flight Initiation Distances of different bird species within the area and will hopefully ascertain which trails, if any, have an impact on the behaviour of birds. As well as carrying out my own research project, I will also try to learn as much as I can from other researchers here regarding their specific projects. Once back in Ireland, my ultimate goal is to get a job in the field of Irish wildlife working alongside local farmers to ensure the success of species as well as continued agricultural sustainability."
Susan and Steve quickly became part of our Cloudbridge family.  They originally came as tourists to rent Casita Blanca for a couple of days.  That turned into a week and then over a month.  We are glad that they are enjoying the reserve and we have thoroughly appreciated having them here.
We thank them for their contribution through their volunteer activities which they have dove right into.
"We, Susan Kauffman and Steve Lustgarden, are jubilados (grateful retirees) from Santa Cruz, California. We are visiting Costa Rica for the second time after honeymooning here 11 years prior. This is our first time exploring the Talamanca Mountains and we have fallen head over heels in love with this area's biodiversity, climate, steep mountain trails, and relative lack of biting insects. During our month-long stay at Cloudbridge, we are helping conduct bird and butterfly surveys, plant and tend trees, and helping support the organization's mission in whatever way we can. Outside of volunteering, we are hiking Cloudbridge's amazing trails, studying Spanish, and eating the wild array of local fruits and vegetables from the farmers market." 
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April 2018

For 2018 the focus on Earth Day is to help end plastic pollution.  For now we at Cloudbridge are helping to recycle in our community by sorting and bagging items to be sent away for processing.  The problem that remains is that the world can't keep up with recycling plastics and fewer places are accepting it. At the reserve one of our rules is to only bring reusable bags to the store to buy our groceries.  The other option is to use a cardboard box.
Some ways we can all help with the problem of plastic is:
- Consume less (Do we really need all of the STUFF we buy).
- Always take reusable shopping bags to the stores.
-When possible buy from bulk bins and stores where you are allowed to bring your own containers to use when purchasing bulk food.
-buy local.
-There is no shame in washing plastic bags such as zip locks and using them over and over again. Reusable bags made from washable materials are even better.
-In restaurants, tell them you don't want a straw in your drink.
-Try to remember to always bring your own refillable water bottle where ever you go.
-Buy items in glass jars that can later be used for storing items and canning preserves. In general, be aware of the packaging when purchasing items.  Try talking to the store owners about your concern for packaging. (Seems drastic but why not try by speaking up!)
-Take part in organized community clean up days where plastic and other garbage is collected along river banks, highways, and along beaches.  This helps to protect wildlife and our water systems.
-Support political action in your community to eliminate single use plastics.

Shirley and Bernan from Secret Gardens

One exciting thing that happened this month took place at a local establishment where we go for brunch on Sunday mornings.  Jardines Secretos (Secret Gardens) was using plastic to wrap their utensils in when serving customers.  This seems to be a regulation for restaurants in Costa Rica.  The knives and forks are always put on the table in a plastic sleeve for health reasons. After breakfast one Sunday we asked them about this and Bernan the owner agreed that is is a bad practice but that it is a regulation.  The next Sunday when we arrived for brunch they set the table with the utensils all nestled in newly sewn cloth sleeves made by Bernan's wife Shirley.  This kind of packaging can be used over and over again as they are washable.  What a nice surprise!  The family who own Jardines Secretos took it upon themselves to make this little change and we are so proud of them.  Pura Vida.
Trees filter the air and help reverse the impacts of climate change. In just one year, a mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen as 10 people inhale!

Chiel from the Netherlands is planting trees in Costa Rica

One of our little saplings starting life on one of the Cloudbridge slopes.

Linda Has been planting trees at Cloudbridge for 8 years.





 Research and volunteers:
Eloise Roy finished her research at Cloudbridge and presented an owl report.  Her data was collected at night through the surveys  on 5 trails in the forest.  There are 7 known species that have been seen on the reserve, with 5 of these seen or heard in Eloise's time here doing the surveys.
 In the 335 surveys done, 117 owls were heard and the old growth forest seemed to have the most. Her research did not find any significant difference in regards to illumination, moon phases and month of the year.  She did conclude that the Mottled owl was the most abundant specie in Cloudbridge.
Eloise was grateful for all of the help she had and the enthusiasm for volunteers going out with her on those long dark nights to do the surveys.
 Toby Elliot has been at Cloudbridge since the beginning of 2018.  He completed a butterfly survey with the aims of monitoring the diversity, abundance and species composition across the  different successional habitats in Cloudbridge.  He used a combination of bait trapping and sweep netting.
More butterflies in the understory traps and less in the higher canopy traps. However, some species such as Fountainea glycerium were found only in the higher canopy traps.
 Species richness and abundance was slightly higher in the natural regeneration forest under 30 years, as compared to the planted areas and the old growth.  But it wasn't a significant difference.
Sweep netting caught a far more diverse range of butterflies than the traps, as traps only catch butterflies that feed on bananas.
His presentation covered information on the characteristics of the Lepidoptera family, his methods of bait trapping and sweep netting, and identification of butterflies.
Toby was able to catch 8 species which are new to our Cloudbridge list.  6 by sweep netting and 2 in the traps.
Our bird monitoring program has seen a lot of enthusiastic and dedicated researchers this year.  Jeff Roth says that while he was in University a very enthusiastic professor got him hooked on birds.

 The aim of his study was to

  • Build and maintain a bird species list for Cloudbridge
  • Assess differences in species composition and abundance between different successional habitat types, and monitor how that changes as the forest continues to regenerate. The forest types that he monitored the birds in included:
  • Planted
  • Natural Regeneration over 30 years
  • Natural Regeneration under 30 years
  • Old Growth

He used walking surveys and point counts to record the data.

 Jeff was very busy.  He also wanted to continue a mixed flock study that had been started earlier by another researcher. This meant that he had to do that research every day as well and he spent countless hours out on the trails keeping up with both studies.
Maddy Skinner

'Hey there! My name’s Maddy. I graduated last August from the University of Queensland, Australia, with a BSc in Ecology. During university, I worked in planting and weed management in National Parks, but since graduation I’ve been wandering the world. I spent two months living on a reserve in Aotearoa/New Zealand, volunteering with a captive breeding program for some of their endangered birds. I’m thrilled to have landed at Cloudbridge and to start getting my hands dirty – literally – with some research! I’ll be a field intern for my stay at Cloudbridge, taking over the owl surveys and quetzal nest box monitoring, as well as helping out with data collection on forest assessment and other projects.'

Maddy in the cloud forest


Izzy Gavel

'My name is Izzy and I’m from Sydney, Australia. I first came to Costa Rica in January 2017 where I fell in love with the country and have since been eager to return. I’ve always had a passion for conservation and restoration, something that I think can be attributed to growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where native bushland is constantly under threat from urban development. I recently graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Biology, however I will be heading back to Uni in July to complete an Honours year of study. I decided that in the meantime, a Cloudbridge internship would provide me with the opportunity to gain some extra field experience and enjoy the diverse wildlife that Costa Rica has to offer. During my ten weeks here at Cloudbridge, I will be researching into cardboard mulch and whether  soil invertebrate assemblages differ between tree saplings that use cardboard as mulch and those that don’t 🙂 




Nina Champion

' I'm from London, England.  After years of wanting to change my career I finally took the leap and found myself here in Costa Rica on a 6 month internship.  After 3 months in Tortuguero National park I am now settling into my 3 month work placement at Cloudbridge.  While I am here I will be looking after the ongoing Butterfly project.  This involves setting up Banana bait traps and sweep netting on different trails each week to monitor the abundance of different species between the different habitat types.  I hope the experience and knowledge I gain here will help me further my career in conservation.'



Victor Robinson - South Africa/Belgium
'I'm Victor, just started volunteering at Cloudbridge and I'm passionate about conservation. I've been travelling for 6 months, I love everything concerning animal rehab and I'm intending to start a leopard sanctuary on the long term in South Africa !
I'm also very fond of permaculture, eco-tourism and eating consciously and in my opinion it's in second world countries (like Costa Rica) that are the best opportunities to study and learn about these subjects.'

Victor  (before Cloudbridge)



Anna Bowland

'I'm 19 years old, from the UK. I have always loved nature and wildlife so in September I am going to study Conservation biology and ecology, in hopes of becoming a wildlife conservationist in the future. I came to Cloudbridge to gain a greater insight into conservational fieldwork and techniques. While here I am taking part in Cloudbridge's long-term bird monitoring project, which looks at the species diversity within the park. Although I have only been here for a few weeks, I have already learnt so much and loved every minute of it, here's to the next 2 months!'


Nicola and Dan Woodward   - UK

'I’m Nicola and I’ve come to Cloudbridge as a volunteer to help with the reforestation projects and other work they do here. I’ve been a geography teacher for the last 12 years and I’m now taking a career break to travel and volunteer in environmental conservation.'

'I’m Dan and having a crisis. I have been trapped in an office for far too long and fuelled by my sedentary sentence I have come to frantically reforest the rainforest like a reversing Pac-Man.'
(We are not sure about Dan frantically reforesting - he is terrified of things here, like spiders.  We will see how far he will venture out in the forest.)

Dan in the foreground working with Victor


Nicola, probably supervising.







Camera trap photo of the possibly culprit that is killing livestock in the Herradura area.  


We participated in a meeting in the neighboring community Herredura with the Feline Conflict Attention Unit (UAC/fel), ranchers who have suffered depredations and other community members.  The Unit offered various proposals, such as collars for the cattle with bells and intermittent lights, pasture rotation, etc.  Together with the organization Panthera, the National Park System and other organizations, there are funds available to implement these solutions.  If you wish to donate to this initiative, please do so at
Cloudbridge or select hotels in the area.


Liesure Time:

New butterfly species



Near our Sunday Brunch spot is also a warm springs along the river.




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March 2018


Research and Volunteers:

My name is Janina Harms and I am from Germany. I am a 22 year old girl studying Animal Management in the Netherlands. As long as I can remember, my life has been centered around animals, whether that be pets, animals from a farm, a sanctuary or wildlife. And almost equally strong was the mentality my parents taught me regarding environmentalism and conservation. Both topics shaped my worldview, but still, I had never thought about a career in that field. I am not sure why, maybe because I thought that the chance of making your passion your job was so small, it wasn’t worth the effort. But then, I tried anyway. And now, here I am in Costa Rica as a research intern. My project is still a little up in the air since I’ve just arrived, but basically, I will be trying to find an answer to the question whether Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is a suitable release site for rehabilitated sloths. I really hope that this 5-month internship will give me the opportunity to gain some knowledge and skills needed for my studies and my future job and I am excited for the months of research that are yet to come.




Rosie - I’m Rosie and am from the UK. My background is in managing invasive species and human-wildlife conflict. Whilst at Cloudbridge, my project involves quantifying poultry predation in the area, with the aim of reducing conflict between people and carnivores. To achieve this, I am talking with local residents about their experiences with wildlife, to find out why people might tolerate predators on their land. I am also volunteering with casita rentals at the reserve.



Emilio Masotti-Black finished his participation in our long term bird monitoring program. In his presentation he talked about the most recent updates to our ongoing avian species lists.

Some of our birders. They look like they are working hard at identification.

Besides Emilio's participation in our on-going bird surveys he also looked at specialist species. Specialists are birds who occupy specific ecological niches. This makes them  vulnerable in landscape fragmentation thus they are indicators of forest health and  biodiversity.  He looked at woodpeckers in primary forest and degenerated forests.  Another group that he focused on was the mistletoe specialists.  Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant that attaches to their host tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant.  Mistletoe seeds are distributed to other areas of the forest and to new host plants by the specialist birds who feed on it.


Phoradendron tonduzii is one of four species of mistletoe found at Cloudbridge.

His results show that that Rudy Pigeons are vulnerable and without the mistletoe in Cloudbridge they may not exist here. Therefore mistletoe is vital for some species to exist in certain habitats.

His full report when finalized will be posted on the Cloudbridge website.

Besides his research at the reserve, Emilio was appreciated for his skill at ultimate frisbee with many a game played down at the local sports field in San Gerardo.



Warbler Interaction and Distribution -  Willem Van Doorninck and Logan Bradley

This research studied the distribution change between migratory and residential warblers as well as the difference in behavior between the two. This included family interaction, and cooperative or neutral behavior among them.

Wilsons Warbler

They compared the different habitat areas on the reserve.


The analysis said that the warblers didn't have a strong preference for different habitats although the study was done only in a short period of time and future research would be helpful.

His results found that warblers don't seem to care which families they interact with although Wilson's Warbler was less cooperative.  And it did seem that resident warblers interacted a little more within their own species than did the migratory warblers.

They also had some time to study mixed flocks.  This is always a challenge as an area can be totally quiet and then the mixed flock moves in and collecting data becomes hectic as the variety of species move quickly through the trees in all directions.

It is important to mention that Willem is only 18 years old - just out of high school.  His passion for birds and conservation is evident and to take on a dedicated research project like this is a good indication that he will do some amazing work in the future. He will be going to University later this year in the Netherlands.

Recycling Day:
Logan on the left crushing cans and Willem flying high!


Amnity Allen attended Bangor University in Wales and is now currently applying for her masters back in the UK.   She wants to focus on native species in the UK.  While at Cloudbridge she completed a 'Small Mammal Survey'  using chew cards and footprint tunnels that she made herself.  The chew cards are baited on the corners to entice animals to leave their tooth impressions. She made tunnels using a few different types of materials and used an homemade ink pad for recording footprints.  The bait used in the tunnels was peanut butter and tuna.

Cloudbridge already uses camera traps for identification of mammals. It is an accurate way to identify species but some of the problems are the expense of buying cameras  and their sensitivity to humidity which can cause technical faults and eventually the camera quits working.  She wanted to explore other  other methods that would endure wind, rain, heat and humidity.  These methods can be placed in many areas across the reserve at a low cost.



Chew card plans


Foot Tunnel planning


She found that the chew cards were used 52% of the time.  Some of the issues were that there was species interference with more than one chewing on the same card and it was difficult to identify them.  She couldn't get down to species level and was only able to detect that it was a carnivore. (It will only puncture through if it is a carnivore)

The tunnels only recorded two species - squirrels and coatis.   It was easier to identify the species with the tunnels than with the chew cards.

She found that as the season changed to drier weather the ink in the tunnels dried up too fast.  Through trial and error a new type of  'ink' was made using charcoal and oil.  This seemed to resolve that problem.  The bait she had chosen only attracted a small diversity of species.  Other baits tried were raw egg, scrambled egg and bananas and wild berries.  This is a great research project for working on home made devices and problem solving. With a little more time maybe we can continue to refine these methods to be used to compliment the camera trap identification. A monitoring program to target multiple species or life stages within a species sometimes requires multiple detection methods.





Arran Redman completed his research on  'Soil in The Changing Environment'

Fell in love with soil??   You don't hear that too often.

Arran added that his parents were a big influence in helping develop his passion.  As a family they worked to reduce their carbon footprint and even purchased some land to reforest in the UK.

His research included a soil assessment of varied habitats and posed the question - Does the soil composition vary between habitat types? Also the research looked at progression between active and passive reforestation.  He looked at planted, natural regeneration, and primary forest sites.   His research included some very challenging sites with steep slopes and thick vegetation.

Sometimes he had to resort to using vines to descend down to a research plot!   (this slide contains a word error  (We always say that those people from the UK have some strange English!!)


Some of the problems that he encountered were maneuvering around landslides, finding numerous sites for his plots,  finding a reliable furnace for drying soil, species identification, and some unfriendly neighbors destroying his bridges to access sites.

He has some preliminary results but he is also sending soil samples home to the University to continue with the research.

A significant result was the infiltration rate among different areas.  Sites with  trees, lots of leaf litter, and little compaction absorbed moisture much faster than the pasture which took considerable time for the water to filter through. This demonstrates the value of mature forests for erosion control and water filtration.





We have been using cardboard as a form of mulch for many years around our newly planted trees.  It is light weight, easily to find, and very readily breaks down into the soil.  Rachel Larson has been investigating "How Soil Moisture Effects Sapling Growth". This research compared saplings which had the cardboard mulch installed around them to those which had no addition of cardboard.   Is there higher levels of moisture beneath the cardboard and is there an observed difference in the growth of the trees?


Even though Rachel was here for many months during both part of the wet season and the dry season she couldn't find a considerable moisture difference between the cardboard mulched trees and the ones without. Does that mean we are hauling cardboard up the mountain for nothing?  We want to believe that we are helping the newly planted trees by doing this.   She says that there could be outlying factors effecting her results - slope, amount of cardboard, wicking of moisture from wet to dry areas, canopy cover etc.  Her future analysis will continue to explore these factors.

As far as the effect on the growth of the trees, that will have to be researched further when the young saplings are given more time to begin growth after their initial shock of planting and and when they become established.



My name is Raquel, from Costa Rica.

I came to Cloudbridge to improve my English however I received more than that. This experience made me realize that beautiful places like this are in Costa Rica. It’s a motivation to appreciate and do more exploring around this amazing country.

My work as a volunteer consisted of helping the researchers with their projects, putting traps to catch butterflies and see which species are common in the area and also working in the tree nursery and measuring trees.





Mike Popejoy  from Arizona is finishing his PhD in philosophy with a focus on environmental ethics.  He wasn't familiar with Costa Rica and decided to come down to volunteer.  This is also the perfect place for him to train for the US Mountain Championships coming up in July. Every morning Mike would be out running even before the sun was up and then back at the reserve by 7:00am in order to volunteer. He worked in the tree nursery, and did maintenance of steps on the trails, and helped look for the sloth that was spotted earlier.

Mike in the tree nursery





Cloudbridge was featured in a short news story on the Al Jazeera news channel.  Al Jazeera is a major global news organization.  It was a pleasure to spend the day with such a culturally diverse team - journalist (UK), camera man (Mexico), support staff (Lebanon and Costa Rica). They spent the day exploring the reserve and  interviewing our staff and researchers.  The result is a short news clip about reforestation efforts and the benefits of forests in Costa Rica.


Tom's Big Break





A Researcher's Perspective


Contributing to Reforestation in the tropics:

We would like to thank Steve Mellish (from the UK) who visited the reserve this month.  The reforestation project inspired him and he is now a monthly doner to the reserve.  Thank you Steve for your generosity. The money will be put to good use. Some of the on going needs of the reserve are research equipment such as camera traps and forestry equipment, expansion of the volunteer kitchen, maintenance tools,  hard drives, computer etc.

Steve found it easy to put a monthly donation through Paypal.



Cloudbridge is extremely fortunate to have a wide range of volunteers and interns working at the Reserve.  We are extremely grateful for everyone's assistance from the 18 year old with no experience to the 70 year old with a life time of construction experience. It is through these dedicated people wanting to make a difference that we are able to expand our educational programs both internationally and locally.

Cloudbridge is currently accepting applications for interns including:
-continuing our ongoing bird survey and inventory
-continuing our ongoing butterfly inventory
- studies designed by the intern.
Cloudbridge volunteer opportunities include:
-assisting researchers
-trail and tree maintenanc
-construction, plumbing, and electrical
Opportunities beginning in September:
-marketing internship
-fundraising and development internship
-social media internship
We are specifically looking for individuals with construction experience or trail work (working with stone steps)




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