Friday, December 13, 2013


December 13, 2013
We arrived safe and sound in Costa Rica!  The weather is a hot 91 degrees and humid.  Had a nice ride to Horizontes -- it's still as beautiful and breathtaking here as it was before. We got settled in our rooms and had a lunch of ---- SURPRISE!! Rice and beans! and chicken and salad and rice pudding.  Some of the students took the opportunity after lunch to get some homework done -- I have pictures!

We will gather tonight about 5:00 for the Turtle Presentation with Dr.Bibbi, dinner after, then to the beach for the night.

Will have the kids blog later.

Hope you are all keeping warm at home :)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Final thoughts

Everyday this trip was packed with adventure and great learning experiences. As a group, we worked well together and had a great time. As an individual, I learned a lot about science, Costa Rica, and myself.

This trip was one of the best experiences of my life. It was worth every penny and I don't regret any of it. I will miss this group so much we have gotten so close and have become a family. It was sad to say goodbye but hopefully one day we will be back! I spent 10 days with the most amazing students, scientists, and teachers. Being able to use what I learned in the classroom, in the field and learn from failure was hard at times but rewarding in the end. This was an experience that I will never forget.
~Camille Johnson

Every moment in Costa Rica was so amazing and it's hard to believe that it's over. The science we learned and experienced is something that can't be replicated in a classroom. We have all become so close to each other in the past ten days that I will definitely miss everyone. I have learned so much and I will miss every memory made. It has truly has been one of the best experiences of my life and I am thankful that I was able to spend it with the best teachers, scientists and students.
~Annie Kleckner-Thiele

It was fun. Jake Helgerson

It was an honor to get a head start on a breakthrough that will shake the foundation of humanity. Learning to use the tools that will revolutionize medicine and the way we perceive life was a phenomenal experience. I learned that I have a lot more knowledge at my finger tips than I realized.
-DJ Pearson

I had such an amazing time learning how to sequence genes and being able to use the tools that will change the future of science.
~ Kelly Sandhofer

This was such an amazing, one of a kind experience. The chance to participate was truly an honor, and I will always remember this trip, and all the people I either met, or got to know better throughout it.
~Erin Dehler

I had a great time being able to work with real scientists and live in Costa Rica for 10 days. This was the experience of a lifetime and I do not regret any of it. I had the chance to learn about myself and connect with the person I've become. I learned that a classroom is one place but learning stretches every corner of the globe.
~Tyler Maas

Costa Rica was a whole new experience that can not be replicated anywhere else. It was great to spend 10 days with peers that shared the same excitement for science. The trip really gave me the courage to think big and to try new things and having the chance to go to Costa Rica was truly a unique experience. I had some great laughs and memories that I will always treasure. Words can not describe how much I learned about myself and science.
~Sarah Hoogenboom

This trip to Costa Rica was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Amazing food and people, the rain forest, the ocean, and diving into science with world class scientists. What more could I ask for? I learned so much more studying science in the field during these 10 days than I ever have in a classroom. I realized that you can never truly understand something unless you immerse yourself in it. I have always been passionate about science, but this research trip has intensified that passion. If I could, I would do it all over again.
~Erica Salhus

It would be impossible to describe these past ten days in a few simple sentences! Learning and experiencing Costa Rica was such an amazing opportunity that I will never forget, nor regret. Every day in the rain forest was an adventure filled with delicious food, a lot of laughs, knowledge, and people coming closer together. This trip has taught me so much, but I think the most important lesson that I learned while working with Dr. Pinto is that it is okay to fail- not just in science, but in everything you attempt- because learning is all about the journey, not just the outcome.
~Lindsey Salhus

These past few days have truly been a blessing and a gift. Learning and researching within Costa Rica has been an amazing opportunity and it has made me realize what I want to do in life. From day one of this trip everything has been a opportunity to learn and create memories about. Although I got pretty beat up this trip I look forward to next year in hopes that I can be a second year student and study bioinformatics. I learned a lot and I hope to keep learning more for years to come. Overall this was an experience I will never forget.
-Jacob M. Noble

For any students that are considering going into the science career field, this trip is absolutely invaluable. In the Seeds of Change program you experience hands on what it is like to participate in science, whether its through microbiology or bioinformatics. This experience really instills a knowledge that cannot be learned in a classroom and accurately shows the potential of a science focused career. I would take this trip again in a heartbeat, and am ecstatic I went a second year.
-Hannah Van Sambeek

For me, the past 10 days in Costa Rica were absolutely amazing. From gram stains to plantain chips, Adrian Pinto to zip-lining and plastic cones to airport security, this trip has been a great experience. I learned more and experienced more in these ten days that I could ever have expected or dreamed. It was the most fun I have every had while learning. This kind of trip should replace school since it is so much more effective. The trip made me more passionate about science... and leaf cutter ants.
~Caroline Urban

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Can you believe that today was our last day in Costa Rica? Attention parents: Your children are coming home tomorrow. Have your washer, dyer and vacuums ready to clean up sweat and sand.
An ambitious group of girls woke up at the cringing hour of 5:30 am to milk the cows at Horizontes. It was a new experience for the seven of us, including your two trusty writers. It is obvious that we come from the city because of our lack of technique that the owners proudly showed off.
After breakfast, the group set off on the tractor for one hour. The ride was quite bumpy but in the end we had a guided nature hike. Our guide, Freddy, was very informative and pointed out the characteristics unique to the dry rain forest. We saw bats, fungus, and millions of types of vines that call the dry rain forest their home. Just as we thought we were not able to see monkeys, they appeared out of the trees on our way back to Horizontes. We were able to see a white faced monkey leap from tree to tree. That was really exciting!
The final event in Costa Rica was a visit to the beach. We spent a great 5 hours body surfing, hurdling and tumbling around in the waves of the Pacific Ocean. After some of us were tired of being crashed into the sand, we wandered the shoreline in small groups. We found seashells and puffer-fish that unfortunately saw the end of their days.  Many of us also tossed around a Frisbee in the ocean.  We did our best not to lose the bright orange disk in the overwhelming foam of the waves.  Dinner was served on the beach; it was a delicious barbecue of  chicken, beef, and sausage with tortillas.  The sun began to set and fill the sky with vibrant blue, purple, and orange.  A plethora of pictures were taken within the 30 minutes as the sun sunk into the horizon.  It was a bittersweet end to a wonderful trip.  It was beautiful.
Many of us are excited to return home to eat cereal and pizza, but we will miss our arroz con frijoles.  Adios Costa Rica! Pura vida! Hopefully there is a round 2 for us!
With love from your two Minnesota-bound beach girls,
Erica Salhus and Sarah Hooogenboom

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Waterfalls and presentations

What an exciting end to our final day at Finca la Anita!
All of the students spent their morning finishing up the presentations. We all definitely felt the stress of the looming deadline. It almost felt like being in school again! However, we were all proud of our work by the end of the day.
The first year students practiced giving their presentations before lunch. Even though the critiques were a challenge, everybody was looking forward to the tourist event of the day- swimming in the natural hot springs of la Ricon de la Vieja!
Our method of transportation to Sensoria was a caravan of taxis. The most rugged trucks you will ever find in the taxi service! On the way to the hot springs, a bridge was out of commission due to the rain, so we detoured by driving through the stream instead. However, on the return adventure, we decided to all walked across the bridge and kept driving once the car was on the other side.
After the adventurous ride to the trail, we began the hike to the springs. The hike started out on a high note with our first stop which was a waterfall inside of a canyon! To get to the waterfall, we had to endure wading through a rocky river bottom. The experience was definitely worth the tender feet! The thrill of jumping through the waterfall would be hard to beat. The next stop was a cold spring. Once we approached the spring, everybody was amazed at the brilliant blue water. The water, however, reminded us all of home and plunging into the cold lake water! We spent our time at the cold spring splashing around and jumping off of rocks into the water. On our hike back we stopped at the hot springs. The water that flowed into the hot springs came directly from the volcano, Rincon de la Vieja. The hot springs concluded our hike before we returned to Finca for dinner and to make final preparations for our presentations.
After our final dinner at Finca, each group gave a fifteen minute presentation to their peers, mentors, chaperons and Ana and Pablo. All of the presentations were well done and showed the hard work we have been doing the past week. It was a nice way to end our stay at Finca la Anita.
Tomorrow, we are off to Horizontes where we will stay near the beach and learn about the dry rain forest.

-Brynn and Lindsey

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Day of Science

Today there was no special activity for us to do. We focused on our experiments in our rush to finish. Pinto may have been gone, but the work continued all the same.

We started off the day with a delicious (as usual) breakfast of fresh fruit, beans and rice, omelets, and toast, then we were off to work. We were introduced to what our poster boards had to include (title, names, introduction, method, data, analysis, conclusion, acknowledgements, and references), and all went to finish the last of our trials.

After a lunch of rice and beans, vegetables, potatoes, and a tender cut of meat, we were all back to work. A few of the groups got caught in the two huge rainstorms that, as usual, came out of nowhere. Overall today, there wasn't a huge amount of ant activity, because it was either raining, or too hot for them. The lack of ants made the day's progress majority indoors, working on our presentations. It was a very productive day for the second year students as well. It was a long day as we sat at the tables doing our work, but Gabriel made our research very amusing. We all finally finished our data collection and began to work on our presentations just before dinner time.

Next, it was off to dinner: salad, lasagna, and plantain chips (yum), and then we all went back to working on our boards. Most of us are almost finished, with just a few more things to write. After a long day of what (in our opinion) is the most boring part of science (the report), it's off to bed with us all.

Erin and Kelly

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Community Service

To nobody's surprise, the day started with rain. The usual thunderous downpour, just a little earlier than we expected. The weather around here works to an unsteady rhythm, but it's one we rely on: light rain in the early morning, and downpours in around two in the afternoon, with copious sun in between. This morning's rain certainly ruined several groups' hopes for getting a jump start on field work today. See, the trouble is that the ants are smarter than us. They realize when rain is coming, and opt to quit work early rather than risk carry on and get washed away. Us students on the other hand, tend to venture out into the forest while the rain clouds are moving in to try and do field work, only to find the ants called it quits ten minutes before we got there and are nice and dry in their colonies while we get soaked on the way back.

After breakfast, which was delicious as usual, the groups separated and mostly did their own thing. We checked our fungal cultures, which are growing nice and disgusting, and worked on our groups' experiments at our paces. The lesson today was Gram staining, a technique Pinto said any real microbiologist can do in their sleep. It was interesting because it allowed us to identify the bacteria we had cultured earlier. Putting a name to what we were seeing was nice, especially if it's a nice long Latin one.

The delicious cheeseburger lunch we had reminded us of home. Soon afterwards, we all headed into town to join some locals in a community service project. They're developing and building a community spice garden as part of a plan to grow herbs to create natural shampoos and soaps to sell to visitors. They have a very well, thought-out plan of how they are going to construct the project, so we stepped into help with some labor. We separated into groups, in which we weeded, moved rocks, and carried away dirt on wheelbarrows. We all worked very hard, and have plenty of dirty clothes to prove it. Then we walked to one of the local families home, where we had a delicious chicken and plantain dinner. Tired, dirty and full, we walked back to Finca La Anita and went to bed content.

Jake H and Sam

Second Years Student Experience............

 The second year students were taken on an experimental trip: repelling down a waterfall on the Santa Maria mountain. We climbed down the side of the mountain using rope and climbed down the side of a waterfall by hand. This was done to help create new ideas for midday trips for future first year students.
The Santa Maria mountain (a majority of the land) is privately owned by a billionaire that owns a cattle plantation. We met him on his land and he gave us permission to explore the mountain. He was even nice enough to drive us through a large open field of cattle on the mountain. The trail for the hike was uphill and became more and more narrow as time went on. Once we reached a point where we could hear the waterfall we reached our first point of descending down the mountain.
The climb down was rather frightening. It was a steep and slippery climb down the side of the mountain. The only support we had was rope to repel down. Climbing down the side of the waterfall was almost worse, because it was more slippery, but we had a guide who would hold us as we went down each step. Once you hit the bottom of the waterfall and could look out to see the surrounding, it was incredible. Words and pictures don't do the view any justice. To the right was the waterfall, and all around us was this beautiful thicket of rain forest ascending upwards. Unfortunately we could only stay and swim at the base of the waterfall for a few minutes. Climbing back up was a lot easier so it didn't take nearly as long.
Overall, I would say that it was a great experience. I don't even really know how to describe the scenery, other than saying that it was indescribable. It's so different to see an image and compare it to being there. This experience was so awesome that it makes my second year here even more special being the only group to have tried it.


Monday, June 24, 2013


First and foremost it is Pablo's, one of the owners of Finca La Anitas, birthday today! It was great to celebrate the occasion with his family. Pablo claimed that he was the convincing age of 24, but later confessed that it was that multiplied by two. He could have had us all fooled!
It is 8:30 pm, and everybody else is getting all tucked into their beds as three dedicated writers type away on a teeny, poorly lit laptop. Everybody is pooped from so much brain power and flying though the canopies of Costa Rica. Half of the students rolled out of bed this morning at the dreadful time of 6:30 am to look for trees that were suitable for testing. After an exceptional breakfast of pancakes with cacao chips, and the daily serving of rice, beans and eggs, everybody broke up into their designated groups to get a jump start on their experiments. We feel as though we are working as hard and efficiently as a colony of ants! Although we are in separate groups, we are helping each other out and problem solving together.
While Team Balto and the DNAs were working out in the field, the mealtime rain surprised us and came a little early. Us three writers took a shower in the downpour. Maybe we should have brought some soap... Rain in the rainforest? Go figure!
After lunch, the three brave writers and company had to face our fear of heights and pitch ourselves off of a platform high above the Costa Rican canopy and into the fields below. Luckily we were harnessed in. Some of the second-year students, such as Kelly and Logan, didn't skip a beat to agree to zip line upside down. Some of us were not as courageous to graduate from holding on to the harness. After spending so much time sloshing around in the mud, it was great to experience it all from above and keep those feet clean.
On a different note, but related to our zip-lining adventures, one of the passengers on the bus had a freak OUT! One thing you must know, the drivers down here are crazy, but have enough control not to kill anyone, or anything. This includes dogs. Tyler did not have faith in our trusty driver and was convinced that the bus would be the murder weapon that would have lead to doggie death. Just as we were all taking a siesta, Tyler decided to wake us all screaming “no. No. NO. NOOO!” It was a rude awakening and the native driver chuckled as he realized that we had a dog-loving drama-king amongst a group of scientists. Words cannot describe Tyler's terror. Or his face.
Though productive, the evening was not quite as eventful. We did some science. We celebrated Pablo's birthday. We thought we had a successful day and more wonderful experiences!

And now we are going to retire to our cabin.

Us, the fabulous three writers are signing off for the night!
With love,
Erica, Sarah, and Lindsey