EARTH, the biodiversity university

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: July 30th, 2019

Named Escalera del Mono and El Tigre, two verdant forest reserves comprise 1,120 hectares of our Guacimo campus in Limon, Costa Rica. These lush areas serve as the habitat of diverse flora and fauna.

For the past several years, EARTH University has led observational research into the area’s wildlife through the use of trail cameras (also known as camera traps). Fixed to trees or planted rods, these automatic cameras are triggered by movement – snapping photographs or recording video snippets of animal passersby.

Picture of an ocelot walking


Guided by EARTH’s value of biodiversity conservation, this research began with the Project for Promoting Participatory Biodiversity Conservation (MAPCOBIO Project) – the product of an alliance between the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica (MINAE) and the International Cooperation Agency of Japan (JICA), alongside the support of the Tortuguero Conservation Area and its coordinator Joaquín Vargas.

The project is led by EARTH alum Adolfo Artavia (’08, Costa Rica), a biodiversity researcher for more than 10 years in different areas of Costa Rica and Panama. Currently, it includes six trail cameras capturing still frames. Additionally, for the past four years, high-power video cameras have been providing uninterrupted monitoring of the University’s forest reserves. That is possible with the support of Victor Hugo Morales (EARTH professor of tropical agroforestry), Carlos Sandí (engineer within EARTH’s educational forest farm) and the University’s security and forest ranger teams.

picture of Adolfo Artavia and a group of men at the forest.

Luis Alberto Cerdas (EARTH Security), Adolfo Artavia (’08, Costa Rica), Jose Joaquin Vargas (Tortuguero Conservation Area), Javier Fallas (’08, Costa Rica) and Oscar Andreoli (’08, Costa Rica)

“The devices are inspected every three months to change the batteries and memory card. Then, the results are downloaded to a database that allows us to learn the dynamics of the species through the years,” Artavia explains. “Students, graduates, staff and other external collaborators have participated in these field visits.”

Up to this point, 19 wild mammal species have been recorded. The presence of numerous animal species in a single area is an indicator of ecosystem health.

  • Felines: jaguar (Panthera onca), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)
  • Primates: white-faced capuchin (Cebus imitator), howler monkey (Alouatta palliata)
  • Rodents: agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), lowland paca (Cuniculus paca), Tome’s spiny rat (Proechimys semispinosus), squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides)
  • Others: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), forest rabbit (Sylvilagus gabbii), anteater (Tamandua mexicana), white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), striped hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus semistriatus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), tayra (Eira barbara), coyote (Canis latrans)


This study enables us and our partners not only to know the animals inhabiting our campus but also to refine conservation measures and to create materials that support environmental education within the larger region.

According to Artavia, EARTH’s forest reserves represent a crucial passage for wildlife travelling between the highlands of the Cordillera Volcánica Central (Central Volcanic Mountain Range) and the lowlands of Tortuguero.

Learn more about our history with wildlife-photographing trail cameras here.

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