Haylie Butler '17

Time flies when you’re having fun…or doing research

Two weeks ago, we began our our much-anticipated independent research projects at La Selva Biological Station. Fast forward what seems like one really long day with a whole bunch of work and little sleep and we are here: 30-page research papers complete, field pants packed away, and just one dinner away from leaving Costa Rica.

imageIt’s so surreal to be sitting here at the end of this journey—writing a blog about what turned out to be an extremely rewarding, challenging, and memorable last few weeks of ~pura vida~ life. I knew that I was going to love conducting research on the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria on cattle farms in Sarapiquí (I mean who wouldn’t? It involved collecting cow poop!), but I had not taken into consideration the impact such research would have on my own personal development or the surrounding community. I did not think it would be the highlight of my Costa Rican semester.

To break it down for you, three classmates and I decided to (1) see if there was antibiotic resistance present on cattle farms in fecal and water samples and (2) assess the level of knowledge that local cattle farmers possess regarding antibiotic use. We felt it was important to conduct this research as the imageemergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria worldwide currently poses a serious public health risk. After 8 days of interviewing farmers, collecting data, and analyzing samples in the laboratory, we presented our findings to the community of workers and researchers at La Selva, and to members of the greater Puerto Viejo community. We discovered a high prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria among the farms visited as well as a trend that links low knowledge imageof antibiotic use to the presence of antibiotic resistance. Based on these results, we decided to focus on educational outreach. And, through informational pamphlets and
conversations with each farmer, we were able to achieve our most important objective: to reach and educate a population that may not have otherwise known about the current misuse and overuse of antibiotics in the agricultural sector in Costa Rica and worldwide.

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have been involved in meaningful community research and to have gained invaluable laboratory skills that I can use this summer and in my future medical career. There is no doubt that when I look back at my time in Costa Rica I’ll think of cow poop, long days in the lab, and hours spent talking with friendly cattle farmers.


A las mil maravillas 

En actualidad, pasé a las mil maravillas en Costa Rica (a very Tico way to say, “I had an incredible time this semester”). These past three and a half months in the rainforest have been some of the most fun and challenging of my life. There’s no guide on how to survive in the jungle for 16 weeks with the same 12 people, extreme weather conditions, no AC, poisonous snakes, the ever-present bullet ants, and demanding tropical disease coursework…but hey, we did a pretty good job if you ask me!

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At the end of this experience, I’ve got some tan (burn) lines, mosquito bite scars, a swollen right ankle, a pair of muddied up boots, and 12 new friends to remind me of how unbelievably unique (and dangerous) this abroad semester really was. I honestly, wouldn’t want it any other way.

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On that note, the sun has officially set on my wonderful year abroad. Thank you to Argentina, Costa Rica, and all the people who made this year unforgettable…Nunca olvidaré. That, of course, includes all of you who followed my blog! I hope I was able to provide you with some laughs (at my expense) and a variety of adventures to add to your bucket list.


Caio. Besos. Pura vida. USA, I’m on my way.

Haylie 🙂



This semester I learned…

1.) that it’s possible for me to reach a point where I can no longer consume rice & beans for every meal.

2.) that Ticos (Costa Ricans) are the nicest, warmest, and most welcoming people I have ever met.

3.) that howler monkeys don’t care if you are sound asleep at 4am in the morning. They will begin howling and screeching at the crack of dawn even if you implore them not to.

4.) that hammock chairs serve as a great location for naps or full 8 hour “sleeps”…don’t worry I brought two home with me and one will be available for lounging in Figge Hall next year!


Let’s go to the beach, each. Let’s go get away. 

My final week in San Jose flew by. I could say it was my host mom’s delicious cooking or our five hour-long Spanish conversations about life in my two-person language course that made this week so enjoyable, but the truth is our weekend getaway to Playa Manuel Antonio really put the icing on the cake. While it had only been three full weeks since spring break, we were in desperate need of a mini vacation. We had recently survived 100+ degree weather at Palo Verde Biological Station, traveled around 3 different cities in Nicaragua, and were preparing to reenter the rainforest where we would be conducting 14 straight days of solid field and laboratory research. So yea, we deserved some beach time…not to mention it would also be our last opportunity to see a Costa Rican sunset while sitting in the sand/drinking from a coconut.

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Manuel Antonio is a touristy little beach town located on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, just a four hour bus ride south of San Jose. And I have to say, it is definitely tied with Monteverde as my favorite destination in Costa Rica. It has a gorgeous coastline, a national park highlighting beautiful rainforest, and some great restaurants. We decided to spend our two days relaxing on the beach and eating good food…aka we didn’t feel it was necessary to pay the 16 dollars to enter the national park when we’ve been living in the rainforest and waking up to the sound of howler monkeys for an entire semester.

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Hands up and touch the sky

imageAfter getting ridiculously burned (thank you sun for always reminding me of your powerful presence) and spending the entire day in the ocean on Saturday, we thought it best to get our beach activities done early Sunday morning…you know, before it got scorching hot! At 8 am we were flying high above Manuel Antonio. I’ve been parasailing once before (in Mexico, four years ago) but this experience was incomparable. Hopefully, this picture can give you a sense of how beautiful the view was: teal ocean, clear blue sky, and lush green rainforest for miles.


Back to “school”

While it was very hard to say goodbye to Manuel Antonio and my loving Costa Rican host family in San Jose, it was time to head back to La Selva and finish out my last three weeks of life in the rainforest. Fortunately, our rigorous independent research projects were not to start right away. We had a couple more “school” activities to enjoy before I would be culturing bacteria samples 24/7. My favorite activity was one related to our ethnobiology course (a class dedicated to learning the human uses of the nature that surrounds us). In the image below, you can see our creative use of the “lipstick” plant. Often used as a lipstick (obviously) or a blush for indigenous women, the bright red plant can also be used in art or to make cool temporary fern plant tattoos on your body! We also got the opportunity to do an incredible and educational 3 day visit to the indigenous community of Kékoldi where the Bri Bri people live. There we witnessed the firsthand use of many plants for medicinal and alimentary purposes. We also got to visit a chocolate co-op run completely by indigenous women within the community…a visit that was both inspiring and delicious!

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It’s clear that the last two weeks have really been nothing but smooth sailing. I mean I got to parasail, relax on the beach with friends, meet wonderful Bri Bri people, and play with plants. But now it’s time to get to the real work–the part of the semester we have been preparing for since day 1. Wish me luck with research and hopefully I will find time to update you all soon!


Pura vida,

Haylie 🙂



This week I learned…

1.) imagethat coconuts are even more delicious and nutritious than I originally thought. Some people in Costa Rica believe that they can  help cure Parkinson’s disease???

2.) how to surf…well kind of. Yes, I am from southern California and just surfed for the first time in Playa Manuel Antonio.

3.) That there is this super cool tree called the “rubber tree”. When you peel off the bark, you are peeling off actual strands of legitimate rubber. So fun.


“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.”  -Eduardo Galeano

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Granada, Nicaragua. March 2016. 



This week we crossed the Nicaraguan border, went from being Tica to Nica, and joined forces with Fundación VIDA to provide public healthcare assistance and education in the small rural community of Los Manguitos. We had three days to assess the current needs, provide medical treatment, and perform meaningful community outreach. This was a dream come true for us premed and public health junkies as we got to work alongside skilled and empathetic Nicaraguan physicians and help administer health surveys.

imageI cannot explain the gravity of this experience nor put into words how I felt upon learning that potable water only exits the pipes twice a week in Los Manguitos. Our work with the community was both challenging and inspiring–allowing us to practice solidarity and work alongside them in a way that provided educational tools and instilled a sense of hope for the future. While we could not firsthand experience their daily struggles, we listened to the words/stories of community members and identified the top health concerns: diabetes, presence of contaminated drinking water, and respiratory issues due to smoke inhalation. To combat these, we put three projects into action on our third and final day: 1.) We educated families about water treatment, 2.) provided a recipe that included healthy and local foods grown in and around the community, and 3.) taught kids imageabout recycling at the neighborhood grade school.

My efforts were mainly focused on the recycling campaign. When I discovered that families were burning their trash (including plastic, aluminum, and glass) right outside their homes because of a lack of funds to pay for trash pickup, I was insistent on finding some sort of solution. For two hours, we talked with children grades K-5, picked up trash and recyclables around the schoolyard, and showed them how to separate the items into separate barrels. It is our hope that the children will continue to bring their recyclables to school, their families will show support, and the schoolteachers will be able to exchange the recyclables for money every month in the imagenearby city. With this money, they could help the school and eventually pay for trash pickup in the community to lower the overall risk of smoke inhalation.

That being said, we are not naïve. We know that what we were able to provide in these three days was minimal compared to what they so desperately need—compared to the amount of knowledge, experience, and joy we attained from spending quality time with the children and people of this beautiful community.


Nica Time

During the rest of our short week in Nicaragua, we got to enjoy a rich cultural immersion in the city of Masaya…staying with a host family, salsa dancing the night away, visiting the central market, and taking in the gorgeous views of the country’s many lakes and volcanoes. Our Holy Cross group of four–Andrea, Caitlin, Rob, and myself–also took our first official picture together this semester (big deal!!)…see below, we are smiling in front of Apoyo Lagoon.

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Back to Pura Vida

imageI absolutely loved my time spent in Nicaragua but after 7 days of endless learning, handwork, joy, and unforgettable memories, it was time to head back to the great CR. We have one week left taking Spanish classes at CRLA and living with our homestay families in San Jose…and then it’s off to the rainforest again for our final three weeks doing research at La Selva Biological Station. I plan to make the most of my last week in the capital and started by spending a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon walking around the artisan market and eating ice-cream on a park bench with my two incredible host sisters.

Until the next blog…


Pura vida,

Haylie 🙂



This week I learned…

1.) that Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and is about the size of the state of New York.

2.) that the exchange rate in Nicaragua is 20.30 Cordobas per US dollar…try doing that conversion in your head!! I miss Argentina where pesos were a simple 10 to 1.


So, at the end of my last blog I said I’d elaborate on my adventures in Las Cruces if I didn’t have to make a return trip to San Vito Hospital…turns out I totally jinxed myself! While I did not go to the ER (it’s debatable if this was the best decision), I did sprain my ankle pretty bad while attempting to imagerun on the extremely rocky trail that leads to the station’s canopy tower. Leave it to me to injure myself just days after I finish my antibiotics and get over being sick. It’s not up for debate anymore…I have the worst luck ever.

On a positive note, the sprained ankle happened at the perfect time (if there is such a thing as the “perfect time” to lose walking ability). This week I was too busy working on my independent research project proposal to even notice my lack of mobility or the throbbing pain in my foot. In good old Costa Rican fashion, I practiced R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, & elevation) while I sat and painstakingly typed my 20 page proposal dealing with antibiotic overuse and misuse on Costa Rican farms –> more to come on this exciting research I’l be conducting later!!


4 days of bliss  

In between my stomach virus week and the day I became crippled, I had four days of solid health (wahoo). These four days were incredible as we got to visit two very interesting and beautiful indigenous communities.

We first visited La Boruca, a territory located just 1.5 hours from Las Cruces Biological Station. Being the fourth largest indigenous community in Costa Rica, the Brunca make up 9% of the country’s indigenous population. During our stay, we learned about the history of the people, stayed in a traditional ranch-style home with thatched roofs, were taught how to dye and weave Brunca clothing, witnessed impressive artisanal mask-making, and made homemade rice tamales. We also talked about current medical uses and practices within the territory.

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Immediately after, we traveled to Las Alturas, a small community with only 300 inhabitants. There we spent an entire morning teaching grade school kids (K-5) about the importance of recycling. Before arrival, the twelve of us made “trash monsters” and then, through stories, activities, and fun relay races we taught the kids which trash monster ate glass, paper, metal, or organic material. While this was my absolute favorite part of my time in Las Alturas, milking a cow for the first time at a local dairy farm was a close second!

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Sister Spring Break

As much as I loved my time at Las Cruces (sickness, indigenous community visits, research proposal, and all), the three weeks spent there definitely prepared me for spring break! I was beyond lucky to  spend the entire week with my little sister up in the northwest Guanacaste province (side note: extremely hot!!) We zip-lined, rode horses, swam in the ocean, took in some great views, and most importantly, got some much needed R&R.

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But spring break is over now, she is on her plane back to Syracuse University, and I’m sitting here in my host family’s house trying to mentally prepare myself for the second half of this exciting yet challenging semester.

If I have one wish for the upcoming 5 weeks it’s this: LET’S SPREAD THE BAD LUCK AROUND! Airport troubles, allergic reactions, bullet ant sting, stomach virus, ER visit, sprained ankle…what else can possibly happen? But hey, I’m still smilin’ and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I can sure handle whatever my time abroad has thrown and will continue to throw my way. Next stop Palo Verde Biological Station.

Until the next set of unconventional & entertaining stories at my expense…


Pura vida,

Haylie 🙂


This week I learned…

1.) imagethat nature-made waterslides in the middle of the rainforest that you by chance happen upon on a Sunday hike are the best kinds of waterslides.

2.) how difficult it is to use crutches in the rainforest. I consider myself an expert when it comes to crutching around (I can’t even count how many times I’ve had to use them in my life)…but I was completely out of my element with uneven ground, muddy patches, and the possibility of a poisonous snake crossing my path at any second. YAY for not injuring myself further!! 🙂

Welcome to The Cross(es)

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I can’t believe we are already at our second biological field station here in Costa Rica! Estación Biológica Las Cruces is absolutely gorgeous, featuring a lush botanical garden and a canopy tower that offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountain region. That being said, it would not have taken much for me to LOVE this new location. The name translates to “The Crosses”…and this, of course, makes me think of home–The Cross a.k.a. Holy Cross–and I get a bit nostalgic.

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During our three weeks at Las Cruces, we are studying Ethnobiology, or how people utilize and interact with plants and animals in their surrounding environment. This can be for medicinal purposes, nutrition, or artisanry. Not surprisingly, I have found the use of plants for traditional medical practice to be extremely interesting. Too bad I missed a majority of the lectures on this topic…why you ask?


My time in the ER

I’d like to say that this trip to the emergency room of San Vito Hospital (the closest hospital to Estación Biológica Las Cruces) was planned and a part of my course curriculum, but it was not. Two days after arriving at Las Cruces, I contracted a pretty bad stomach virus and could not stop vomiting. After 24 hours of me trying to convince everyone I wasn’t too sick, I finally visited the ER. And good thing! Turns out I had a whole host of issues and I had to have four different medications pumped into my veins over a 3 hour period (longest 3 hours of my life).

Minus the whole being sick, nauseous, and dizzy part, my time in the hospital was quite educational and enjoyable (enjoyable might not be the right word here but I’m trying to put a positive spin on it). It’s always fun when the aspiring doctor becomes the patient. I got a first-hand look at their public healthcare system, one-on-one interaction with a physician, and 3+ hours of normal hospital operation! Getting sick was all apart of my plan.

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The great part of this story, however, occurred three days later when I was once again able to eat solid food. My first night back at dinner with the rest of the group, the head chef noticed my return and welcomed me back. Later, he walked over to my table and put a large plate of scrambled eggs in front of me…and said, “I made this special for you. The only ingredients are eggs, water, and love.” This was by far the most adorable thing I have heard during my time in Costa Rica. I appreciated his words and heartfelt gesture so much that I made it the title of this blog post!


Let the good times roll

I have so many other wonderful experiences to share from my time in Las Cruces…visits to indigenous communities, morning workouts on the tower overlooking the canopy, fun nature walks to hidden waterfalls. The adventures are endless. I’ll elaborate a bit more on my next post as long as I don’t make any more trips to the hospital. Fingers crossed!


Pura vida,

Haylie 🙂



This week I learned….

1.) that pineapples have an enzyme called bromelain that causes a prickly sensation in your mouth. That’s why we can only comfortably eat 3-4 pieces of pineapple at a time!! Also, because of these properties, pineapple is often used as a meat tenderizer.

2.) that I have managed to get sick and visit the ER on every abroad trip since being at Holy Cross. El Salvador, India, and Argentina. Let’s add Costa Rica to the list!


*warning: this blog contains many incredible videos that are 100% worth watching*

A weekend in the clouds

imageThis past weekend, a few friends and I traveled to Monteverde, Costa Rica (often known as “the cloud forest” for its high altitude and stunning views).  The quaint city of Monteverde is located 6 hours north of San Jose and while the bus ride was rough (and I mean VERY rough), the thrilling activities we got to experience there made it all worth while.

Monteverde is actually known for having the longest bungee jump in all of Latin America…so naturally, some of us HAD to do it. I am disappointed to say that I was not one of those brave souls. However, two of our very own from Holy Cross, Rob and Andrea, took the leap and dropped 143 m (469 ft)! That is taller than a 30-story building!!!

Because I cannot possibly describe the insanity/epicness/amazingness of what I witnessed or what they experienced, I have included two videos. Rob’s was taken using a go-pro attached to his helmet and Andrea’s I filmed from the observation deck. Please enjoy all of our screaming:)


While I didn’t have the guts to leap off a cable car attached to a single rope, I did go zip lining that afternoon…and it was INCREDIBLE! In addition to 7 normal zip lines, there were two “supermans” and a “Tarzan swing.” I’m calling the Tarzan swing a mini bungee jump because it was a good 40 m drop (and I am very proud I did it). The best part of the day, however, was the mile long superman! I captured my entire “flight” on video here:


Back to the jungle. 

imageKnowing this would be our last extended amount of free time before spring break, we definitely lived it up in Monteverde. We did some crazy activities, ate great food, and explored all that the single “downtown” street had to offer.

Disclaimer: It is very important to treat yourself when you know you are about to reenter three consecutive weeks of non-stop work in the rainforest.

That being said, I think we are all ready to get back to learning about tropical diseases, ethnobiology, and human health. These past two weeks of Spanish in San Jose offered a nice change in pace, but us science majors can get a bit anxious when we don’t talk biology and its human implications.

So…Caio caio, Monteverde! Caio caio, San Jose! Next stop is Las Cruces Biological Station.

Pura vida,

Haylie 🙂


This week I learned…

1.) that I will bungee jump at some point in life. Although the thought had never crossed my mind before, I was 100% impressed and inspired by my friends who took that leap.

2.) that, if given the choice, I would choose the 25 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, Argentina over the 6 hour bus ride from San Jose to Monteverde, Costa Rica. The seats are much more comfortable, you actually have room for your legs, and they don’t fill the bus to capacity by squeezing standing people in the aisle.



tico time (n.): the accepted and frequently practiced lateness that arises from a laid back, “pure vida” way of life

My two weeks in San Jose have already come and gone…but my limited time here in the city has been incredible to say the least. I lived with a host family, took an intensive Spanish course at Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA), learned how to salsa dance, cooked traditional plantain empanadas, and traveled to the beautiful Caribbean coast over the long weekend. It was nice not having to wear my traditional “I live in the jungle getup” everyday (zip-offs, snake boots, bug repellent, etc.) and I greatly appreciated the freedom/much needed change in pace…think less science, more Spanish, and much more sleep.

I finally got to experience tico time in action–got to witness and participate in the chill, relaxed attitude that characterizes Costa Rican daily life. Now, this doesn’t mean that I could arrive late to my 9am class. However, I could casually sip out of a coconut on my walk to school or take a leisurely stroll with my Spanish teacher during class because it was “a nice day.” These two weeks, I discovered true pura vida, conversed in Spanish, and got all I could out of this mini cultural immersion.

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Tico spanish

I didn’t realize how much I missed speaking in Spanish. Since I left Argentina in November, my use of the language has, without question or surprise, significantly decreased. The wonderful thing about my language course at CRLA is that it was completely personalized, integrated interesting medical concepts, and only consisted of the teacher, myself, and Rob (HC student who studied abroad with me last semester in Argentina). With a certain level of proficiency in the language, we were able to spend class time telling stories, practicing doctor-patient interactions, and lecturing on the cell biology of illnesses like diabetes, dengue, and Alzheimers. It was quite remarkable for me to see my two majors clash like that…never did I see myself actually explaining cellular functions or metabolic pathways in Español.


Tica familia

My loving Costa Rican host family was another great surprise. Comparing this experience to my five-month home stay in Argentina, I did not expect to feel like part of the family after 14 days. Of course, I was quickly proven wrong. My tica madre (host mom), Ana, and her entire family welcomed me with open arms and made me feel right at home. Her grandson, Paublito (5), and I had some great times playing Captain America after school and I always shared a delicious dinner with the whole family. I was also fortunate enough to have a Swedish host sister, Lucia, to keep me company. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better familia. I mean my tica madre gave me peanut butter for breakfast…so naturally, what could have been more perfect than that!


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Tica vaca

Over the long weekend, some friends and I decided to head east to Puerto Viejo, a popular beach town located right on the shore of the Caribbean Sea. The beaches were, of course, stunning and the main street of the town had great energy. To save money (& also for the story), we slept in hammocks at a hostel! While I was slightly hesitant at first, I can now confirm that it was very comfortable and given the opportunity, yes, I would do it again. We also got the BEST Jamaican food from a stand at the beach: coconut fish and jerk chicken with rice, yuca, and some amazing Jamaican slaw that I can’t even describe. Please enjoy these photos and short time-lapse I captured of the Caribbean (el caribe) before my phone died.

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Well that’s all for my very tico-filled week…Check back in soon to hear about my exciting zip-lining trip to Monteverde, Costa Rica before I get back to my also super exciting science and rainforest life!


Pura vida,




This week I learned…

1.) that pedestrians have absolutely NO right-of-way when it comes to crossing the street. I think it is actually safer to bungee jump/sky dive than it is to make my commute to school in the morning.

2.) the word chunche. It is a Costa Rican slang word that is used to mean thing. Basically, you can point to anything and call it a chunche without having to think of the actual word. This is very good for non-native speakers like me who often forget the names of miscellaneous objects!




Another week in (biology) paradise

My third and imagefinal week at Estación Biológica La Selva has been quite the whirlwind. From sun up to sun down, it has all been research, research, research (my only saving grace being the heaping amounts of eggs and gallo pinto served at breakfast, yum!).

After two weeks of exploring the rainforest and attending lectures on tropical disease and statistical analysis, it was time to put what we learned to the test. Three faculty-led projects were conducted on the following topics: Chagas disease, parasitism in bats, and the prevalence of dengue mosquito vectors in surrounding habitats. I won’t bore you with the scientific details…but I will say that each project challenged me to learn new skills and build on important research methodology. In other words, this week really reminded me why I am studying abroad in Costa Rica and the impacts such an opportunity will have on my biology studies when I return to HC.


Lions and tigers and bats, oh my!

My favorite experience during this intensive research week was definitely my night of mist-netting (method utilized to catch bats). Sounds kind of scary, I know. I actually consider myself to have a pretty severe fear of bats, but I left the forest that night with a huge smile on my face and a desire to learn more about these intriguing mammals. They are actually really cute and less harmful than you would expect (this, of course, does not include the blood-feeding “vampire bat” which is pictured below on the far left!!).

For each of the seven bats we caught, we performed a series of identification steps and collected any visible ecto-parasites. All in all, it was pretty surreal–never in my life did I think I would come face to face with a bat (and not die) in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest.

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Caio caio, La Selva!

With the research portion of our projects complete and only an extensive group report to follow (yay!), it is time for me to emerge from the rainforest and rejoin the rest of civilization. For the next two weeks I will be living with a host family in San Jose and taking a Costa Rican language/culture course. I am very eager to speak in Spanish 24/7 and experience a bit of city life.

And while it is bitter sweet saying goodbye to Cabina Tortuga and all of my animal friends at La Selva, I’ll be returning to this exact location at the end of April to complete my final independent research project…so no worries there!!

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Talk to you all in San Jose!


Pura vida,

Haylie 🙂



This week I learned…

1.) that when you watch the Super Bowl NOT in the U.S., you miss out on the commercials. Fortunately, we did not miss out on the most important thing: homemade guacamole:)

2.) that bug spray is NOT optional at any time of day.


It has been a little over one week since I arrived here at La Selva (a biological research station located 2 hours outside of San Jose) and the reality of me actually living in such a beautiful tropical environment has not quite set in. Any day now it feels like I’ll be plucked right out of the rainforest and sent back to snowy, frigid Worcester–but for now, I’m here and I am on top of the world. Yes, literally on top of the world. This week, I climbed a 40 m tower to view the rainforest canopy from above. Instead of sitting in a classroom at 8am, I was chillin’ with the monkeys in the trees. And the view I got at the top was 100% worth the chance of me slipping and falling to the forest floor week 1 of the semester. Promise.


Days here at La Selva are jam packed. From 630AM to 11PM I’m either learning, eating, running, playing soccer, or studying…the remaining time, of course, is reserved for sleep and desperately searching for wifi.

Here’s what a normal schedule looks like:

  • 630AM: wake up!!
  • 7AM: breakfast (mixed beans & rice, eggs, tropical fruit)
  • 8AM-12PM: SCHOOL (lectures focusing on tropical disease & biodiversity)
  • 12PM: lunch (separated rice & beans, meat, tropical fruit)
  • 1PM-4PM: LAB (field work, field trip, or guest lecturers)
  • 4PM: run in the rainforest/ play soccer
  • 6PM: family dinner (separated rice & beans, meat, tropical fruit)
  • 7PM: more SCHOOL! (Spanish activity or lecture)
  • 8PM: study & read scientific articles for the next day
  • 11PM: pass out from exhaustion


While these days may be long and tiresome, I am studying what I love and am constantly being exposed to new opportunities. I get to visit rural communities and participate in campaigns to prevent tropical disease. I casually spot exotic animals on the way to class (pictured below are a blue jean frog, capuchin monkey, & a peccary). I even get to dodge venomous snakes while running through the forest (I wish I could say this didn’t happen).

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How do you like them pineapples?

So, you could say the ~pura vida~ life is treating me well. The people here are wonderful and the food is amazing…especially the fruit. Pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, watermelon, you name it! I shamelessly consume at least two servings of fruit with every meal. And this week was especially cool because we got to visit a small pineapple farm and take a tour of the Dole banana plantation.

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Also (you may want to quote me on this), I will never get tired of rice & beans. We can check in at the end of the semester after I’ve consumed R&B for literally EVERY meal, but right now I am very content. The kitchen here at La Selva does a great job pairing them with different sides and things always get super interesting at breakfast when the R&B are mixed!! Pictured below is a typical breakfast featuring gallo pinto (mixed rice & beans) and of course some delicious fruit.



Well that’s all for now! Time to study for my first tropical disease exam (also the first real biology exam I’ve taken since May of last year)…Yikes. Wish me luck!


Pura vida,




This week I learned…

  1. imagethat the rule to wear rubber snake boots here at La Selva is VERY important. After
    meeting a quite dangerous Fer-de-Lance during my afternoon run, I plan to be much more aware.
  2. that getting ridiculously muddy during a game of student v. professor soccer is unavoidable…but totally worth it.



Sorry, everyone, for the late arrival post…turns out there isn’t much wifi in the rainforest!! You’ll be happy to hear that I have made it safely to my first biological station, La Selva, and have settled into my humble home at Cabina Tortuga (Turtle Cabin). For the next three weeks, my 11 classmates and I will be exploring the rainforest, studying tropical disease, staying up to the wee hours of the morning reading scientific articles, and attempting to stay cool despite the unbearable humidity (supposedly not too bad yet).

image   image


Welcome to Costa Rica!

But let’s back up a bit…let’s address the title of this post and talk about why I am indeed cursed when it comes to any kind of traveling. While my arrival in Costa Rica cannot compare to the nightmare that was my transition from the U.S. to Argentina back in June (missing my flight and losing my luggage), it is quite a story. Let’s start at the beginning:

I boarded my direct flight (yay) from L.A. to Costa Rica at 1 am on Mondayimage
morning, fell asleep immediately, and landed promptly in San Jose at 845 am. I got off the plane half expecting to be hit by some sort of issue–bag lost, problem with customs, passport stolen–but was only met with smooth sailing. Within minutes, I was out the door with bag in hand…looking for the driver who was to be holding a sign that read “OTS Semester Abroad.”

Unable to find him after 30 minutes, I thought nothing of it. I just sat down on the curb, ignored the commotion around me, and listened to music. After 1 hour, I became suspicious. After 2, I realized I was in a foreign country with no cell service. And after 3, I finally asked a taxi driver to borrow his phone so I could call the program. Turns out that some random girl claimed MY identity and took MY ride to the hotel (I think it’s hilarious now…but honestly who does that?!).

End of story, I was able to use some good old Argentine Spanish, take a taxi, and make it to the hotel. Of course, my travel day wouldn’t have been complete without an ice cold shower and a mysterious allergic reaction that left me covered in hives. But no worries…by the time everyone else arrived that evening, I was ready to start a great semester!


In other news, enjoy this time-lapse video of my landing in San Jose 🙂


Welcome to the rainforest!

One might think that after an unorthodox arrival in San Jose, I might have made it through day 1 in the rainforest unscathed. They would be wrong.

After driving the two hours from San Jose to La Selva Biological Station on Wednesday morning, we were immediately debriefed on all the kinds of snakes, mosquitoes, and pests that could bite you and 1) cause serious pain, 2) transmit a disease, or 3) lay eggs to hatch inside your skin. I recall them saying that obtaining any of these more serious bites during the course of the semester would be highly unlikely and at most happen to 1 of us.

Yea, you guessed it. Night 1, I was stung by a “bullet ant” outside my room–an ant that delivers such a painful bite that it feels like you’ve been shot. Luckily, there’s no crazy side effects or diseases included…only a week or two of joint pain in my upper arm and shoulder. Glad I could take one for the team!


Can’t bring me down.

Let’s just say this. I remember vividly the struggles I endured when I first got to Buenos Aires and it turned out to be an unforgettable five months. If this is any indication, I’m about to experience some pretty cool and memorable times here in Costa Rica!

Thanks for reading and sorry for the rant today! Next time, I promise to talk about life in the rainforest, Costa Rican culture, and most importantly, food. I’ll give you a clue till then: RICE AND BEANS!



Pura vida,



This week I learned…

1) that Costa Ricans love to be referred to as Ticos & Ticas.

2) that the term ~pura vida~ can pretty much be used for anything here: hello, goodbye, have a good day…you name it!



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Haylie Butler '17

  • Studies: Biology and Spanish double major with a premedical concentration
  • Hometown: Rossmorr, Calif.
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