This site serves to document the ant collection trip that my student, Connor Warne and I made to the Area de Conservacion de Guanacaste (ACG) in February 2011.  Find out about other ACG collection trips in 2010, February and December 2011; February, May and December 2012, in March 2013; as well as other related work in French Guiana, Algonquin Park and close to my institution in Guelph, Ontario.

I am a molecular ecologist, based at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada, and interested in tracking how ACG ant communities change here with elevation, temperature and time.  I have been following this across three volcanoes in Guanacaste Province (Cacao, Rincon de la Vieja and Orosi) since 2008.  My hope and intent is to continue this monitoring for the long term.

Connor is a MSc student at the University of Guelph - and his major job on this trip was to time travel to 1998.  No mean feat. He accomplished this by carefully examining Malaise traps from Volcan Cacao collected between 1998 and 2000.  We will compare the ants he finds there with the ants we are finding on Cacao today.  


The ACG, a 163,000 hectare national park in northwestern Costa Rica, extending from 6 km out in the Pacific up to 2000 m at the top Volcan Rincon de la Vieja and down into the Atlantic lowland rain forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The ACG is home to more than 325,000 species of plants and animals (2.6% of the world's biodiversity) and has grown dramatically from a 10K acre national park (formalised in 1971) to a global example of tropical biodiversity conservation, dependent upon, and inserted within, the development and economy of the local people.  If you are interested in more information on the ACG, please visit the Guanacaste Dry Forest Fund website. At the bottom of that page you'll find a button to donate to the ACG.  "Every penny donated to GDFCF goes to forest purchase to expand ACG" - a very worthwhile investment!

Feb 2011 ACG collections

I continued to use a standardized collection protocol to understand the ant species diversity at each locality.  The ants I collected will be databased, mounted, photographed and DNA barcoded in an attempt to measure community change with elevation, with volcano and with time.  "Time" is particularly important, as the peaks of the volcanoes are drier and warmer than they have been - and I am very interested in documenting and testing who is arriving and what happens upon these arrivals! Connor's project will be a big start to this.  

Hiking the ant barrel

At each site I record the habitat using a GigaPan robot. Since 2008, I’ve been one of a group of scientists beta-testing the GigaPan. This remarkable piece of equipment consists of three technological developments: 1) A robotic camera mount for capturing very high-resolution (gigapixel and up) panoramic images using a standard digital camera; 2) Custom software for constructing very high-resolution gigapixel panoramas; and 3) A new type of website for exploring, sharing and commenting on gigapixel panoramas and the detail users will discover within them. On this site I've embedded GigaPans from each locality.  Their names link to the full view of each panorama at the GigaPan website, and there are also links to the panorama displayed on a proper sphere using the GoogleEarth browser plug-in. 

One of the GigaPans taken on this trip was one of seven featured on the GigaPan website in a collection celebrating Earth Day. 

Since testing out the DinoLite AMK4012-C200 digital field microscope in November it has become a necessary part of my field gear.  I continue to be charmed and amazed at what this tool adds to my field work.  As in November, I've moved the results directly to You-Tube.  Have a look!

Check out each the field notes and thoughts for each day's entry on the Journal/Blog section for GigaPans, videos and more!

My work in the ACG is funded by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).