Katie Waters ’19 is one of 13 students in Dr. Ralph Saporito’s Tropic Field Biology class this spring; together they have learned the biological makeup of tropical rainforests. Over spring break, the class spent 10 days in Costa Rica conducting field-based research.


Here is Katie’s story in her own words:

“I had the amazing opportunity to partake in a research centered course tropical field biology. Part of this course is studying research that has come out of the tropics, and then designing your own research experiment to be performed in the tropics. After spending the first two months of the semester preparing and perfecting our research project, we then flew down to a field station, La Selva biological station in Costa Rica to study the tropics with a hands-on approach and perform our experiments.

In my research group, we chose the study species Oophaga pumilio, the strawberry poison dart frog. My groups sought to examine if a correlation existed between a male frog’s perch height and call parameters and boldness. In order to do this, we recorded the male frogs’ calls, then measured how close we could get before the frogs hopped away, and then caught the frog and measured its perch height. We then performed boldness assays on the frogs we captured by placing them under a bowl with a door on the front and letting them acclimate for five minutes. We then removed the door and timed them to see how long it took for them to leave the bowl. The time it took for them to leave served as our measure of the frog’s boldness.

We spent a total of five full days working on our experiment and learned so much about the tropics in the process. The opportunity to design and conduct our own research was incredible and helped me discover so much about the field research component within the field of biology. As a senior, this experience was particularly impactful to me because field research was a part of my major that I had yet to explore. I loved it. I had the opportunity to work with wonderful classmates that I wouldn’t have met if not for this class. Overall, the trip and the class have been an incredible experience, and have given me a deeper understanding of my major.”

Learn more about opportunities in biology at JCU at sites.jcu.edu/biology.

Posted on March 21, 2019
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