Posts Tagged ‘costa rica’

Video: Hollywood Auditions: Calling All Bugs!

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

We see them in movies all the time, and we all tend to squirm. Like in Indiana Jones, when Kate Capshaw is covered in creepy crawly bugs which would give most of us the heebie jeebies. Yet, there are professionals that love working with bugs, spiders and all of those other little critters that have more legs than we do. Entomologists study bugs while learning their behavior, habits, and how they work as a community.

The Smithsonian has studied some of the most common bugs in our backyards, including the everyday household ant. We may think they are simple little insects, but they actually create complex underground homes that include several spiraling caves into well-planned chambers. They communicate in a variety of ways, vibrating their bodies to let others know of food or danger. But there really is nothing like seeing the more exotic leaf-cutter ant in its own habitat, which you can do in Costa Rica. These ants create their nests by crawling up trees, carving out leaves, and then taking them back home. The leaves are then used to create compost to help feed the colony.

Paula, from our family show called SciQ on the Smithsonian Channel, was incredibly brave to complete this segment with a very special Hollywood actress named Rosie. If you are as brave as Paula, we’ve provided an opportunity for you to feed a tarantula at our O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History.

Take your future bug scientist on our Costa Rica Family tour this summer!

Which is your favorite bug you love to hate?

5 Things You Might Not Know About Costa Rica

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Costa Rica is growing more popular as a travel destination for its beaches, biodiversity, and ecotourism opportunities. Before you go, it’s always good to do a little research. Here are five things we bet you didn’t know about Costa Rica.The Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird is one of many bird species found in Costa Rica.

1) Costa Rica has a 97% literacy rate. Children are constitutionally  guaranteed a free education through the 12th grade.

2) It’s the greenest country in the world, with the number one spot on the Happy Planet Index.

3) Twenty-five percent of Costa Rica’s land is in protected areas, like national parks and conservation areas. Tiny Costa Rica has 5% of Earth’s biodiversity, but only 0.1% of the world’s land.

4) Ticos (Costa Rican people) often refer to their spouses, or “other half” as their “media naranja“— the other half of their orange.

5) There are about 800 different species of birds in Costa Rica—every birdwatchers paradise! Click here for more information from the Smithsonian National Zoo on bird friendly coffee.

Now that you know more about the country, why not find out more about traveling there? Smithsonian Journeys offers several adventures in Costa Rica—including this unique family adventure. Get ready to hop on that zipline and go!

Why do you want to go to Costa Rica?

Travel Hit List: Central America

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

As the cold weather sets in, we’re dreaming of warmer places. Join us for a quick journey to the sunny skies and balmy seas of Central America.

Morpho butterflies make their homes in Central America, where they feed on fermenting fruit.

Read: our account of coral spawning at a reef  off the coast of Panama, and why this is critically important to undersea ecology from Smithsonian Magazine.

Hear: how people from Central America once entertained each other with homegrown lyrics on Calypsos of Costa Rica from Smithsonian Folkways.

Watch: How scientists have been studying biodiversity at Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal since 1923 from Smithsonian Channel.

Chew: your gum with your mouth closed, while you learn about the origins of chicle in southern Mexico and Central America from our Food and Think blog.

Check out: What’s new at the Smithsonian Latino Center, including the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum in Second Life.

Go: Now is a great time to book your travel to Costa Rica, Panama, or Guatemala with Smithsonian Journeys.

Costa Rica: Q&A with Dr. Suzann Murray

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Dr. Suzann Murray is the Chief Veterinarian at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She oversees the health care of the zoo’s entire animal collection, as well as conservation, research, and training programs. Here, she takes a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk about the biodiversity of Costa Rica, where she leads our Costa Rica Discovery  tours.

Oak Tiger Butterfly. Photo: Phil Parsons

 

Smithsonian Journeys: As Chief Veterinarian at the National Zoo, how do you integrate your diverse knowledge of animals to create a memorable learning experience on Smithsonian Journeys tours?

Suzann Murray: I have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of species, from fish to mammals and birds to reptiles. Each species, and in some cases, each animal, has its own adaptations to its natural environment. I enjoy using my medical knowledge of animals as a way to provide some “inside” knowledge to tour members. To me, the diversity of animal life is just fascinating. Having the opportunity to share my knowledge of animal adaptations is a great joy.

Q. Costa Rica is nestled between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America and borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. How does this geographic location contribute to the rich biodiversity found in Costa Rica?

A. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, largely due to its two coasts and mountainous ranges that provide a wide range of topography and microclimates for a huge variety of species. From flatlands close to sea level up to the cloud forests of the volcanoes, the varying habitats are suitable for incredible animal diversity. The abundance of rivers and the access to the ocean and the Caribbean Sea also make it possible for endangered species such as dolphins and sea turtles to call Costa Rica home. Finally, by being so close to the equator, the temperature is in an ideal range to support almost any kind of plant or animal life.

Q. Our trip will visit the Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s most well-known volcano, which is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the world. How has the Arenal’s presence impacted the surrounding environment?

A. Arenal produces frequent and moderate eruptions. The course of the lava flow has also changed over the years. In areas of previous eruptions, we will be able to observe the re-growth of secondary forest and compare that terrain to the more lava-covered areas of recent eruptions. The south side of the Volcano is known for its unique cloud forest, and it is also known as a region in which world-class coffee is grown.

Q. What types of animals can Smithsonian travelers look forward to seeing in the rainforest: mammals, birds, reptiles, insects? Are there any endemic species that participants may encounter on this trip?

A. If you are a bird enthusiast, Costa Rica is the place to go. If you are not yet interested in birds, be prepared to join the growing ranks of birders! The sheer numbers and types of birds we will see are truly astounding–from colorful smaller birds such as hummingbirds, flycatchers, and toucans, to larger birds of prey and storks. Some of these birds are found only in Costa Rica. For those who are truly wild about mammals or reptiles, we will look for the impressive howler and spider monkeys, unique sloths, sea turtles, caiman crocodiles, and possibly even the rare dolphin. Whether we are searching in the land, sea, or air–we will be seeing an abundance of wildlife.

What’s your favorite tropical animal? Share below.

Click here for educational travel opportunities in Costa Rica for you and your family.

Best. Video. Ever. Costa Rica!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

This video was taken by a guide on the Arenal Volcano Zip Line during a recent Smithsonian Journeys trip to Costa Rica. Don’t miss the part where he turns upside down about 30 seconds in. Traveler Werner Schaer was kind enough to share.

Take your own ride on a zip line and learn how it feels to fly through the jungle. Click here for travel to Costa Rica. Viva la pura vida!