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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI students plan research trip to study wildlife on Costa Rica's coffee farms in June

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Group raising funds for equipment, travel expenses KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 1, 2004 -- When Amy Gottfried of Stratford, Conn., travels to Costa Rica in June with fellow students at the University of Rhode Island, she'll enter a world of wildlife unknown to her. It's also relatively unknown to most biologists.

The eight students, along with URI professors Tom Husband and David Abedon, will spend three weeks studying the mammals that live on the many coffee farms in the country. While a great deal of research has been done on the effects of coffee farming on bird life in the region, no one has examined the impact the farms have on mammals.

"Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world," said Husband, "but no one has looked at whether mammals use the habitat on coffee farms, or whether the shade-grown farms are used any differently by the animals than on the sun-grown coffee farms."

Gottfried and her fellow researchers will wake up early each morning from June 3 to June 24 to check traps and motion-sensing cameras, set new traps, and record and analyze data to determine what mammals live on the farms and surrounding forests. She hopes to get hands-on experiences with sloths, monkeys, squirrels, mouse opossums, and many others, perhaps even a jaguar or jaguarundi.

"We’re looking at not only what animals are there, but also how they use the farms," said Gottfried, a 19-year-old wildlife biology major who graduated from Bunnell High School in 2002. "Are they using the farms as corridors to get from one place to another? Are the farms an obstruction they face when getting from one habitat to another? There's lots of questions we hope to answer."

The URI research team will stay at the La Hilda Farm operated by the Three Generations Coffee Co. in the Costa Rican town of San Pedro de Poas, near the famous Poas Volcano. Since it will be the off-season for farming, they will sleep in the living quarters of the seasonal coffee farmers.

"I wanted to be part of the research team because we will be researching something that hasn’t really been studied before, and our findings will be important in implementing mammal conservation practices in Costa Rica," Gottfried said. "The project is also very appealing because I will have the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience I could never get in the classroom. The techniques and skills I learn, and working as part of a research team, will be valuable when it comes time to find a job after college."

The students are responsible for raising funds for their travel expenses, as well as for their share of expenses for research equipment and transportation in Costa Rica. Those interested in supporting the project and contributing toward the cost of this expedition should contact Husband at 401-874-2912 or send a check made out to URI Foundation/CREW to the URI Foundation, 79 Upper College Rd., Kingston, RI 02881.