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2015 Costa Rica

The 2015 ADMAC field season in Costa Rica was an absolute success. From June 3 to July 14 we worked at eight field sites, achieving our planned 100 miniWinkler samples at each site. We then spent eight days sorting all the Winkler samples at the University of Costa Rica, getting to see up-close the teeming biodiversity of the tropical forest floor. The season culminated in a 10-day workshop at the University of Utah, learning the ins and outs of DNA extraction, genomic library preparation, enrichment for Ultra-Conserved Elements, data formatting, and analysis techniques.

We sampled at eight sites distributed from the Atlantic lowlands, up over the continental divide, and down onto the Pacific slope. They were all wet forest sites, across a range of elevations from near sea level to 2000 meters.

Arrival day! Mac and Jack unload gear at University of Costa Rica, CIEMIC.

Our first field site; the cloud forest of Tapantí National Park. We stayed at a little hotel near the park.

Our first successfully hung miniWinkler set.

Selfies abound!

We see the first fruits of our labor, as ants and other microarthropods drop into our sample bags.

Michael introduces Krissy and Scott to the joys of litter sifting.

Site two, Hitoy Cerere! A wonderful rainforest reserve in the Atlantic lowlands.

Our Winkler-hanging venue at Hitoy Cerere.

On one of our first nights at Hitoy Cerere, after an afternoon downpour, there was a mass emergence of winged queens and males of the cryptic subterranean ant Tranopelta gilva.

Photo-op with a scaly friend.

Mac takes the beating sheet position.

A happy camper! Krissy holds vials from a baiting transect.

Ed the Onycophoran. An unusual rainforest beast.

By far the most difficult site was Cerro Platano! Cerro Platano is part way up the Atlantic slope of the Talamanca range and has hardly been explored by biologists. Herpetologists and botanists have found new species here, and we hope to do the same with ants! It was an 18 km (and 700 m elevation gain) hike to a remote hilltop in primary forest, where a field camp had been set up by our expedition organizer, José Salazar. We had lots of gear to transport, and several remarkably strong porters helped us hike it all in. Here we are beginning our trip.

It proceeded to rain heavily for almost the entire time. Our camp was a sea of mud, but tents under tarps kept us dry. There was a 24hr period when it rained non-stop.

But we lucked out with a few breaks in the weather that allowed us to get our Winkler sampling done.

It was a welcome relief when we had all 100 samples hung.

After a day of recuperation in San José, next site Finca Naranjo. We were met in Santa Maria de Dota by Rafael Parra and family. We loaded our gear into trucks and drove on winding farm roads until we came to Jose Ureña's dairy farm, nestled in cloud forest high above the Rio Naranjo.

An idyllic setting for litter sampling.

Jack and Michael taking stock of the Winkler gear.

Although based at Finca Naranjo, our first sample site was Las Rejas, a 2000 m site an hour's drive up the road.

When running miniWinkler transects, one person is always the scribe, recording collection data and GPS points.

While others chop and sift square meter plots.

Accumulating our precious bags of sifted litter.

Las Rejas was home to this beautiful viper, Bothriechis nigroviridis. We decided to move our plot instead of moving the snake.

Las Rejas miniWinkler samples, hung at the farm house.

Hard to resist checking the catch.

A teaching moment: describing Cecropia-ant relationships to the team.

Guardians of the yard at Finca Naranjo. Honk Honk!

Jack and Rafa share a reflective moment. Fresh cuahadas were a special treat, made on-site by the farm hands.

A second set of miniWinkler samples was taken at Finca Naranjo itself. Things get a little crazy on the last day.

Our final site was Ranchos Tinamu, an ecotourism lodge run by Santiago Parra and family. Santiago is the brother of Rafael Parra, who hosted us at Finca Naranjo. Tourism runs in the family! This was a fabulous site with a comanding view of the forested slopes of the Rio Savegre valley. We used this as a base to sequentially sample three sites: Cerro Plano at 1100 m, near Ranchos Tinamu at 800 m, and a site down near the Rio Savegre at 400 m.

Paper-wasp stings were an occupational hazard at this site. For some reason, the wasps didn't like being disturbed by transect lines.

The Winkler-hanging house was PERFECT!

Josh strums a few bars of the Litter Sifting Blues.

After six weeks in the field, time to see what we got! Students hole up in Paul Hanson's entomology lab for a week of sample-sorting heaven.

Next stop Utah! Michael kept us all busy with ten days of lectures and lab activities at the University of Utah. Here we all take a field trip to see some canyon lands.

From field to lab, we've got it covered!

Thanks everyone for a truly rewarding field season. ¡VIVA ADMAC!