What is studying forests in the Osa Peninsula like?

What is studying forests in the Osa Peninsula like?

Blog by: Ing. Leonardo Álvarez, Associated botanist researcher, Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica

Since I was a young boy, I have felt a great fascination toward natural life. I was eager to learn about everything that composes and occurs in its systems. Every time I had the chance, I asked my parents to go out to a National Park, and I would rather celebrate my birthday – or any important date – outside instead of at a party or in the city. Also, for me it was more fun to watch a wildlife documentary than a cartoon.

Admiring Fila Carbonara forests in the Osa Peninsula. Photo: Lucy Kleiner.


When it was time to pick my profession, I knew it had to be centered on the natural world. As forests and trees are by biggest passion, I chose forest engineering. From there, I have focused on tropical dendrology and botany, though I am still interested in any living thing.


Leonardo identifying a tree found during the botanic expeditions. Photo: Lucy Kleiner

Studying forests and plants in the Osa Peninsula is a huge challenge. First off, the region is a hotspot for biodiversity with an immense number of species, many of which are rare, endemic (only found in a particular zone) or unknown. Second off, you have to deal with poorly accessible places, difficult conditions, mosquitos, ticks, venomous snakes, and many other things. One day, while on an expedition, I was walking down a steep rocky slope when all of a sudden my feet started slipping, and I began to slide. I didn’t know where I was going to end up. Luckily, I was able to grasp on to some bushes and everything was fine – nothing but a few scratches. Moments like that make fieldwork even more exciting and remind you that in any moment, everything can go wrong.

A flower of the orchid Epidendrum montis-narae found during our botanic expeditions. Photo: Lucy Kleiner.

At the end of the day, these activities are always gratifying. They take you to new discoveries, amazing animals, travel to recondite impressive places and gradually learn what the forests have to offer. It is a great honor and a great challenge to expand our regional knowledge and contribute to the conservation of forests and species of the Osa Peninsula.

Leonardo Alvarez on a botanic expedition with the Osa Conservation team on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. Photo: Lucy Kleiner