This site serves to document the ant collection trip that I made to the
Area de Conservacion de Guanacaste (ACG) in November and December 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.
The ACG, is a 163,000 hectare national park in northwestern Costa Rica. It extends from 6 km out in the Pacific to 2,000 m at the top Volcan Rincon de la Vieja and down into the Atlantic lowland rain forest. 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!
I use a standardized collection protocol to help me understand the ant species diversity at each locality. The ants I collect are 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!
At each site I record the habitat using a GigaPan robot. Since 2008, I've been part of the Fine Fellows group testing and experimenting with uses of 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.
Here's an example from 1,500 in the cloud forest of Volcan Cacao
Since testing out the DinoLite AMK4012-C200 digital field microscope in 2010 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 each collection trip, 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).
Are you looking for a graduate work? Please visit my webpage for contact information if this work looks like something you could also be passionate about. Information regarding the University of Guelph's graduate program can be found here.