Katherine Zarada is an ecology and biochemistry double major and one of the first two recipients—ecology major Rachel Usher is the other—of the Ron Carroll and Carol Hoffman Costa Rica Travel Award. As a thank you to Ron, Carol and all those alumni, faculty, staff and friends who made contributions honoring Ron's retirement, Katherine has shared her Costa Rica experience.
Costa Rica is hands down the most beautiful place that I have ever been. We started out at the rain forest in La Selva Biological Station in the Caribbean lowlands where we filled our days with natural history walks and bird watching. We conducted research projects in the forest and also had some fun rafting and swimming. The forest was raining and hot but also beautiful and so peaceful. It was amazing to see all the biodiversity and how different the animals are compared to back home.
I love how colorful all the birds are. After we finished up collecting data at La Selva, we headed to the Nicoya Peninsula. There we stayed at Hotel Las Tortugas on Playa Grande. The beach was amazing. The water was a wonderful clear blue and the beach was so clean.
We worked on writing our research papers, learned about sea turtle conservation, and read various scientific papers while enjoying the peacefulness of the ocean. We went to Tamarindo for a day to see the difference between the tourist town and the preserved beach. And we learned to surf. Which was amazing! The teachers were wonderful and so helpful.
I actually climbed one of the volcanic rocks near some tide pools we were studying and I believe it will forever be the prettiest view I've ever had. The sun was setting in the distance, there was a storm on the horizon, the waves crashing below me, the beach curving around and the mountains behind me. I will never forget the serenity and love for nature I felt on the top of that rock. After enjoying the beach for close to a week, we headed to our final destination in Monte Verde at the UGA Campus. We had more nature talks and bird walks and started another research project.
I worked on stream ecology with a group and was able to play in the crystal clear water while gathering data. It was a blast. We also went horseback riding, visited a chocolate factory, went zip lining, and other fun adventures in Santa Elena. We hiked to the top of the continental divide one day and ate lunch in a cloud at the top of the mountains where we could see all the way to the Pacific ocean. We finished up our projects and papers at the campus and had our final presentations and exams before heading back to the states.
Costa Rica has fabulous views. I loved seeing the lush forest and high mountains and the beautiful waters and sand. Every place we went I was sad to leave and yet excited for the next step of our adventure. This last month has been the best of my college career. Scott Connolly created the perfect mixture of fun and education. Thank you so much for helping me get to Costa Rica. I will never forget the amazing sites I saw and the experiences I had.