Kimberly Freid, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

The Osa Peninsula on the southern pacific coast of Costa Rica is home to nearly 3% of the world’s biodiversity, but the land its species occupies is highly variable, consisting of preserved national park area, commercial and agricultural areas, and privately owned land. Essential to forming a conservation strategy for the peninsula is an understanding of how the existing biodiversity uses land that is not completely preserved and/or in contact with domestic farmland. We explored this issue by examining the biological corridor, or forest segment that comes into contact with other forms of land use. To do this, I used camera traps—specialized digital cameras with infrared sensors–to detect large and small mammals in native forest, forest that was partially deforested, and forest that had been converted to commercial plantation. While this was valuable field experience, the most important skill I gained from working on this project was the ability to continuously manipulate my experimental design as new challenges arose. I began this internship knowing only that I wanted to pursue veterinary medicine, but my work on the Osa and developing fascination with this experimental problem-solving piqued my interest in the research component of the field and using medicine to accomplish conservation goals.