Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Guy Melvin reports on the Clayton State University Costa Rica Study Abroad program…
Last Friday, Clayton State’s Costa Rica Study Abroad group travelled to Guayabo National Monument in the Turrialba region.
This area was home to an indigenous civilization that existed hundereds of years before Europeans arrived. Many artifacts have been found here and excavations are ongoing. The monument is also a great place to learn about the ecology of the middle altitude rainforest due to the many trails that are found around the excavations. Elena, our guide, was very knowlegdebale about the countless plants and animals we encountered along the trails. One subject of interest to the students was the many uses the indigenous peoples had for some of the plants. We were lucky in our wildlife spotting as well, seeing the colorful Keel-billed toucans and not one, but two, three-toed sloths!
On Friday afternoon we arranged a visit it to a local dairy farm. The Turrialba region of Costa Rica is known for its unique cheese, and this farm is producing it organically. The farm, called Finca la Florita, is family-run, and we were given a tour by Carla, who inherited the farm from her grandmother.
Carla turned our tour into a game by dividing the group into two teams and having them compete in different activities. We learned how the different grasses, grains, and dietary supplements given to the dairy cows impacts the ultimate taste of the cheese. The teams were then asked to identify the different grasses and suplements – with the team that correctly identified the most winning the points for that round.
Our tour continued to the diary, where we learned about the types of cows, such as the Jersey Cow, that the farm uses for its milk. The teams competed in milking the cows, seeing who could get the most milk from the cow in one minute. The students quickly realized that milking a cow is not as easy as it looks, but we enjoyed the experience. We continued by learning how to make cheese, with a taste test afterwards. Finally, we learned how the farm is using the cow manure in a biodigestor to produce methane gas, which is then used to power the farm.