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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Costa Rica

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Costa Rica
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Registered: December 2014
City/Town/Province: Mount Vernon
Posts: 1
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Mario Irelan

My Trip to Costa Rica

What is the biggest threat to our planet in the current time? It seems quite difficult to swallow but in actuality, it is human activities which are causing a great amount of havoc to our environment. Saving the environment may seem like a daunting task from the point of view of every individual, however, we are not as helpless as it may seem at a first glance. In fact, people have been shown to have the power to change the world if they really want to, one step at a time.
My name is Mario Irelan and I’m a senior at Mount Vernon High School. I come from a family of four. I have a sister, a dog named Sirus, and my mom and dad who are divorced. I am an environmentalist which is reflected in my everyday actions. I utilize alternate transportation like taking the bus and biking and conserve water and energy in every way I can. I have made my houses (my parents are divorced and live separately) greener by installing energy efficient light bulbs, creating a garden and setting up compost bins. I was a member of Earth club at my high school where we do activities like adopt-a-highway and invasive species cleanup.
Last school year, I saw an opportunity to travel and conduct an Apprentice Ecologist Project in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world with a group from my high school. A travel organization called Eco-teach was hosting a trip to Costa Rica in the summer of 2014 and thanks to a lot of fundraising, I was able to be part of the trip. For two weeks, we travelled around Costa Rica in a bus, experiencing everything from the coasts, cities, and the biodiverse rainforests of this beautiful country, along with doing many projects to protect the different ecosystems of Costa Rica.
The first part of the trip was staying several days at the OSA turtle shelter. We helped capture and tag sea turtles with marine biologists. I helped spread the 100 meter net in the ocean and carry a turtle onto the boat to bring it to shore to be studied. We ended up capturing two hawksbill turtles and tagging one of them (the other was already tagged). I even got slapped a few times while carrying one of the turtles, an experience I will never forget. While at the Osa turtle shelter, my group also helped restore mangroves. To plant mangroves, you first need to find seedlings along the shore dropped from the mother plants and then plant them in bag of sand. We planted over 50 mangroves in bags of sand that we made. Mangroves are essential to the coastline to reduce erosion, providing necessary habitat for fish and other sea life, and helping to reduce climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.
The next major project was travelling to the 4000 acre Veragua Park to study the rainforest and work on a frog habitat restoration project. On the first night, we took a night walk with biologists and looked at the various insects and animals that inhabit one of the most biodiverse rainforests on the planet. I saw various sorts of large insects and frogs and we were even lucky enough to see the critically endangered Tiger frog. The next day, we began working on the frog habitat restoration project to help increase the population of this very same frog. Several members of my group and I grabbed shovels and began to dig out plants from other parts of the rainforest to plant next to a manmade pond, the ideal breeding ground for the Tiger frog. I ended up hitting a spike covered vine with my hand and putting over ten little spikes into the surface of my skin that later needed to be painfully removed by a needle and tweezers. The experience was fun, especially when you realize you are helping to prevent a beautiful species of frog from extinction.
Later on during the course of our trip, one of our guides named Eloy, showed us something not originally part of the trip. He has been working on an organic farm project for several years, first acquiring the land, then building on it. This farm was over two acres of rich soil, thanks to compost he had dug into it. He had also designed a water retention pond where water from the roof of his shed would drain into it during the rainy season, which he could utilize during the dry season when it doesn’t rain much. His farm helped me realize the common connection that environmentalists share across the world, regardless of where you come from or your background.
The last project was planting native trees into a nearby forest that was previously logged. This effort was mainly to attract the great green macaws of Costa Rica to come back and re-populate. Thanks to the effort of my group of thirteen teens, we were able to plant over 200 seedlings in ideal locations marked out by other local volunteers. It’s extremely important to conserve natural resources such as forests that provide vital habitat for wildlife, filter the air, and provide erosion control.
It’s very important to conserve a place like Costa Rica. You can never replace the biodiversity because once a specie goes extinct from habitat loss or for any other reason, it is gone forever. By visiting Costa Rica and being part of various environmental projects, you help protect and enhance the environment there for future generations to come. I learned a great deal about the biodiverse environment of Costa Rica but also a much deeper message than that. In a world that’s so connected like ours, it can be difficult to find people who actually care about the environment and who realize that it takes a concerted effort throughout the whole planet to protect and take care of it. While people say the environment is important, it is not truly reflected in the actions of a lot of the people that say they care. Travelling to another country and working with people from across the world helped me realize a common connection to people that truly care about the natural environment. The trip and the different projects I did inspired me to continue working on protecting the environment and to get further involved in doing so. I am determined to do my part for the earth, one step at a time.
Date: December 31, 2014 Views: 4863 File size: 15.8kb, 3402.3kb : 4608 x 3456
Hours Volunteered: 600
Volunteers: 13
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 13 to 18
Native Trees Planted: 200
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