Tropical lepidpotera research, Earthwatch

Eric J. Olson eolson at
Mon Mar 16 14:16:49 EST 1998

Dear Lepidoptera-aficionados:

	The purpose of this posting is to alert you to an opportunity to
support research on tropical moths and butterflies while spending two
weeks enjoying the splendors of Santa Rosa National Park (now a unit of
the Guanacaste Conservation Area, ACG) in northwestern Cosat Rica. 
Here’s some background, much more detail available upon request:

	Last fall Earthwatch approved my proposal to conduct research on the
causes of seasonal peaks in abundance of caterpillars (principally moth
larvae) in the dry tropical forests of Costa Rica.  Thanks to the
tireless work by Dan Janzen (University of Pennsylvania) and his small
army of caterpillar collectors, we now know there is a striking peak in
both diversity and abundance of caterpillars in this tropical habitat
during roughly the first two months of the rainy season, from mid-May to
around July.  There are a number of single-generation species in the dry
forest, and almost invariably it is early in the wet season when they
appear as larvae.  Other species apparently migrate out of the dry
forest as adults after a single generation, recolonizing this habitat at
the beginning of the rainy season the following year.  Clearly there is
something about the early rainy season that is favorable to herbivorous
insects, that produces a marked peak in abundance and has selected for
single-generation life histories.

	Further details on hypotheses accounting for these patterns, methods of
study, volunteer participation in all this, etc., are available, should
any of you express interest in hearing more, or know of anyone who might
be interested.  Earthwatch has budgeted this project at $1,295 per
volunteer, not including airfare, below the mean as Earthwatch projects
go, but still, why the heck would anyone do this, what are the perks? 
In addition to supporting a focused field project looking at big picture
patterns of herbivory and life history evolution of tropical moths and
butterflies, you will find that Santa Rosa in the ACG is a terrific
place to spend two weeks soaking up neotropical nature in general (boas
and other lovely snakes, 3 sps of monkey, trogons, peccaries, large cat
tracks in the mud, etc.).  And to hang out in the evening by the
blacklight with other people who have had the good fortune in life to
realize that insects, those little things that run the world, are
really, really cool.  I’ve worked in the Park for ten years now, and
recently finished a stint as lead coordinator for the Organization for
Tropical Studies’ graduate course in field biology, but I never tire of
introducing eager amateurs and pro biologists to the splendors of the
dry forest.  

	Should you wish to receive more information on the science (copy of
proposal, etc.), you can contact me.  To learn more about logistical
details (schedule of groups in 1998, etc.) contact Earthwatch (located
near Boston) during Eastern USA business hours, 1-800-776-0188, and ask
to speak with Heather Bruce (overseas readers can contact Earthwatch
through their webpage,


	Eric J. Olson, Ph.D.

Research Associate, MCZ
Naomi E. Pierce Laboratory
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts  02138-2902

Phone:  617-558-6866
email:  eolson at

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