Deep beneath the overstory
I was fortunate between my second and third years to spend five months in Costa Rica, designing and constructing research on amphibian and reptile ecology, as well as taking tissue samples which we barcoded once back in Plymouth. DNA barcoding is a method of identifying organisms based on short standardised fragments of DNA and it is a process to rapidly accelerate the discovery of new and cryptic species which helps us understand and better conserve these very rich tropical ecosystems.
The purpose of the research was to better understand the amphibian and reptile communities within that system, the conservation area known as the Área de Conservación Guanacaste in north-western Costa Rica. We were hoping to better understand how the reptiles and amphibians work and which species are found where.
This experience came about after I spoke to one of my lecturers, Dr Robert Puschendorf, about the fact I was interested in amphibians and reptiles. In 2015, Dr Puschendorf was part of a team of researchers who published a paper identifying the first new species of glass frog to be discovered in the country since 1973. He said come to Costa Rica and conduct a research project, which was brilliant.
This was the first research of its kind to be done in this protected area, especially looking at the distinct forest types which we focused on: cloud forest, rainforest, dry forest and an ecotone that represented in-between the rainforest and cloud forest, the semi-moist forest.