Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happenings at Costa Rican Bird Route Site Finca Pangola

By: Holly Robertson, President, Rainforest Biodiversity Group

On the occasions that I have had the privilege of visiting Finca Pangola, it is never dull. This last visit was certainly no exception. At Finca Pangola/Cinco Ceibas, there is always activity to be found as the site develops to be a premier tourism destination within the Costa Rican Bird Route. While plans for the site's eco-lodge will have to be put on hold until next year, the site continues to develop its world class boardwalk and day trip program.

The name Cinco Ceibas is a reference to the five amazingly large ceiba trees to which the boardwalk will take you. And of course, there is no shortage of other vegetation under the canopy to intrigue and delight you along the way. In an effort to identify these species and produce a self-guided interpretive tour, Finca Pangola management invited a research team from May 25-29 from Purdue University led by Lori Snyder, Assistant Professor of Agronomy and researcher on sustainable cropping systems in the humid tropics.

Lori, assisted by a traditional medicine man from the Costa Rican Maleku tribe, was making her third visit to Finca Pangola to complete species identification. The medicine man, Alex, was helping with the I.D. as well as supplying anecdotal information about the traditional uses of the plants.

Also along with Lori was a group of undergraduate students from Purdue on a three week field course on sustainable agroforestry in the tropics. During this three week course in Costa Rica, the students visit farms as well as the EARTH University and other locations to see examples and hear from farmers in Costa Rica. This year is the first year that the students taking this course have included Finca Pangola into their itinerary, and hopefully it will not be the last. While at Finca Pangola the students broke into teams and collected soil samples, water samples, and took measurements of trees to be analyzed for quality as well as future research possibilities.

The more than 1,000 acres of Finca Pangola provides ample opportunities for possible research. Those 1,000 acres consist of sustainable teak plantation, agriculture production, primary rainforest, riparian habitat, lagoons and wetlands. Rainforest Biodiversity Group looks forward to collaborating with Purdue on possible research ideas at the site in the future.

After meeting with the students, myself and the upper management team of Henk, Peter, and Gary were heading back to the main house when we came upon the site workers trying to unearth a tree from the riverbed. It is a fairly common occurrence that trees fall naturally and then are washed down the river, only to become lodged somewhere along the way. If enough of them get lodged at the same location, it can cause a backup of water and subsequent issues. Not only that, but the tree is valuable construction timber that can be salvaged, and will save a standing live tree from being cut! Once the tree dries, it is just as strong, and the wood can be that much more beautiful and unique as it has taken on markings and striations from the river water.

The workers at Finca Pangola, all hired from the surrounding community, were doing their best to retrieve one of the several logs lodged underneath the bridge on the site. However, it became apparent that they needed more hands. Never ones to be shy about getting dirty (or wet) Henk, Gary and Peter found themselves waist deep in the effort.

It was a solid afternoon of strategizing and effort, but eventually the log was freed and is drying at the lumber site!

Never a dull time, indeed!