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Seaver Stories | The Rainforest

(piano music) (upbeat drum music) – So, I’m Lee Kats, I’m a
biologist at Pepperdine. We’re on our way to La
Selva Biological Station, a lowland Caribbean
based research station. Where the group of students and biologists are gonna study poison dart frogs. – We’re all researchers
based in California. And so, what we’re coming here to do is research the field
dynamics of poison dart frogs. So, in a lot of environments
there’s very limited resources, which limits the amount of biodiversity. But, in Costa Rica there’s
a ton of vegetation, and a ton of rainfall, which
allows life to really grow. So, we’ve worked for months on
coming up with a project plan and an outline, but as
soon as you get here things start coming into perspective, you don’t really account
for some of the stuff that you see once you get here. So, last night we went over
our main project ideas, each steps that we’re doing, and addressed some of the questions that have emerged since
coming to Costa Rica. – It’s kind of a primitive
place, where we’re going. But, it has some of the most sophisticated scientific equipment
anywhere in the world. They’ll have towers of instruments that go 50, 60, 70 feet into the sky, monitoring temperature, humidity, climate, every step of the way. So, we know everything
about climate change in Costa Rica because of
what’s being done at La Selva. And, just very quickly,
what they discovered is that tree growth had
basically stopped at La Selva because of temperature warming. So, let me just tell
you a little bit about how that plays out, trees stop growing, they decrease the amount of production they can put into leaves, leaf
litter begins to decrease. Where do frogs live in the rainforest? They live in leaf litter. So, why are frogs disappearing
in the lowland tropics? Maybe because leaf litter is disappearing, because trees are stopping their growth. – These near tropical poison
frogs that a lot of us are familiar with are
susceptible to UVB radiation, which is the radiation
that comes from the sun. What we’re going to be investigating is how UVB may or may
not influence the way that Dendrobatid frogs
move their tadpoles, and practice their tadpole
rearing strategies. – This is the problem with
being an animal ecologist, in that, hey, there’s a certain percentage that we might not find any occupied tanks. – [Female Student] Right. – I mean, it’s been raining a ton, and the frogs, you know,
have stopped breeding because it’s raining too much. Or, it’s been too hot, or… So, they don’t, you
can’t go out year round and find, you know,
tanks every single day. So, just be aware of that. – We’re out on our first
expedition of the day. And, we are looking for bromeliads, which are basically these plants that grow on top of trees, and
logs, and other things. And, the dart frogs lay
their tadpoles in them. So, right now, we’re checking
for presence or absence of the pumilio, the dart frog tadpoles. – [Male Student] I just don’t think these tanks have enough water in them. There’s not a lot of water. – But, there’s a ton right here that fell. – [Male Student] Right, right,
and a ton calling in here. – Yeah, right in this area. – [Male Stutdent] Yeah. – So, I’m wondering if they’re
trying to figure out too. I’m worried that I’m like missing them, that I can’t see them. Yeah, there’s not a lot
of anything going on here. It is completely dry. – Because of a recent tornado or windstorm a lot of the trees have fallen and the bromeliads have
come out of the canopy. So, there aren’t as
many breeding locations, and there’s not a lot of
water in the bromeliads that are still there, for the frogs. So, we’re not finding the tadpoles present that we were hoping to, to
do our original project. And, because of this windstorm, we have a nice opportunity to study the effects of a natural incident. And, collect data on
how these fallen trees are affecting pumiliol calling. So, Morgan is taking our first UV reading at the forest floor. We’re gonna use this to quantify an average ambient UVB level in the areas with more or less fallen
trees, to compare the two. – 0.64. 0.1, no 0.05, sorry. 0.95. 0.17. These frogs don’t like to be in areas that have high sun exposure. And, that means that they don’t like it for various reasons, and those reasons we won’t be able to elucidate yet. But, what we can conclude
it that they can sense this exposure from the sun, and they’re actively trying to avoid it. – [Female Student] Okay,
ready to start again? – ‘Kay, so we’re about to enter Cantarana, the most well know frog swamp here. And, you’ll hear all kinds of species. So, we’re about to see a bunch of frogs. And, there’s always snake
predators on the frogs. We’ve already had our fair warning. It was a very thin, young one. Very hard to see. Young snakes are much
more likely to strike than older snakes, because
they have a whole lot to lose. So, Gary mentioned that
just feeling the vibrations of people walking up to it,
caused it to coil and strike. Look for snakes along
sidewalks, along tree logs. Snakes are notorious for
crawling, crawling, crawling, bumping into something, and
then crawling parallel to it. (frogs calling) – [Female Student] Oh wow. Something is– – [Male Student] That’s not a frog. – [Female Student] That’s a frog. That’s a red-eyed tree frog. – [Dr. Kats] Wow, how cool is that? So, did everybody see the
frog eggs on the banister? They’re on the pole, look on the pole. Go back up, back up. That’s so cool. Look at this. – [Male Student] What species is that? – This is a good chance
this is agalychnis, red-eyed tree frogs. And, then they just drop into the water. Absolutely beautiful little frogs. – [Male Student] Oh
look, it’s moving again. – How beautiful is that animal? The sounds in the background. Does it get any better than this? You guys have watched this
on TV for the last 15 years, and now you get to live it. – Frogs are more active in the morning. So, we’ll see if we can find anymore strawberry dart frogs,
and see if we can find anymore trends in the data. – We had a theory coming in that frogs might shy away from
high levels of UV radiation, ’cause it can be damaging. And, they might not shy
away from areas with low. And, one of the ways
we were looking at that is by using playback, playing frog calls and seeing if frogs
approached the playback in different various
levels of UV radiation. (frog calling) – [Female Student] Move back, move back. – It turns out, there
may be something going on about what’s going on on a different trail that has far more
clearings than this trail. Versus a trail like this,
it’s called primary forest, where it’s dark, not many trees have been cut down or removed. And so, science, we’re always kind of morphing our hypotheses, and we’re making new observations all the time. – So, Dr. Kats is incredible. I am incredibly fortunate
to be working under him. He is the type of professor,
when you go to a conference, and someone asks who you work for, they’re immediately
enthralled when you say you work for Dr. Kats. Everyone knows him,
everyone wants to meet him, everyone wants to talk to him. He’s an incredibly well-known biologist. He’s published an
amazing amount of papers. He’s worked for insane journals, that are super well known, super popular, really important, and very prestigious. He’s extremely, extremely
intelligent in what he does. And, his work with amphibians, especially in Costa Rica
and California, is amazing. – To be honest, Dr. Kats is the reason why I’m at Pepperdine. The way he thinks is
revolutionizing science. Science is such a closed off community with all of its jargon, but with Dr. Kats you learn that it’s not important that we tell other scientists, but it’s important that the
rest of the world knows. – Pepperdine is super
unique in the fact that undergrads get to do research like we do. It’s really rare for undergrads to get the amount of research we’re allowed to. We’re doing graduate and professional level research as undergraduates. I’m an upcoming junior, so I’ve only had two years in the lab, and I
have done a couple of projects, which is absolutely insane
when you think about it. I have traveled to Portland,
we’re traveling to New Orleans, we’re here in Costa Rica. They really try to give you
the best experience they can. So, they really give you as
much opportunities as you want. So, as long as you wanna
push it as far as you can, you can really go anywhere. (calm music)

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