Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Research
|Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Research|
Tortuguero, Costa Rica
The Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation (COTERC) is a registered Canadian-based charity. COTERC was founded in 1991 and is based in Pickering, Ontario, Canada but also has operates in Costa Rica, with Caño Palma Biological Station.
The Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation was founded in 1991 to protect tropical rainforests. The board of directors is composed of biologists, accountants, educators, environmentalists, zoo professionals, and media professionals operating in both Canada and Costa Rica. The mission of the organization is to provide leadership in education, research, conservation, and the educated use of natural resources in the tropics.
The Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation has been associated with Toronto Zoo for 20 years. In Canada, a teaching guide for rainforests based on the Ontario curriculum is available to teachers along with over fifty fact sheets on the wildlife of the Tortuguero Region of Costa Rica.
Caño Palma Biological Station
The station was founded, and is continued to be supported by the Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Research. The Caño Palma Biological Station is about five miles (18 km) north of Tortuguero, Costa Rica on Costa Rica’s north-east coast and is located inside the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge. It is adjacent to Caño Palma, a palm-filled canal that separates the Biological Station from the Caribbean Sea by a mere 200–300 metres. This area, once an ancient floodplain, is covered by lowland Atlantic tropical wet forest and is one of Costa Rica’s richest biological ecosystems. Due to being a secondary growth forest, the area provides a home for unique plant and animal species.
Some endangered species such as the green, leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles nest on beaches accessible from the station. Access to Caño Palma can only be made by boat via a network of rivers and canals.
The biological station hosts researchers, university groups interns and volunteers. They work on independent research, or assist with long-term monitoring projects  The station receives interns from tertiary institution such as York University, HAS Hogeschool  and Vanier College 
Ongoing monitoring projects over the past years have included conservation work on sea turtles nesting sites, mammal monitoring, bird breeding studies, migratory bird studies, reptile and amphibian diversity surveys and surveys of the freshwater fish in the Tortuguero region.
Marine Turtle Monitoring
The marine turtle monitoring, being the largest project at the station, looks to conserve and protect existing sea turtle species.The program began in 2004, with tagging of the species beginning in 2006. The project also works with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Ministry of Environment, Energy and Sea (MINAEM) of Costa Rica to gain a wider understanding of the species'. Playa Norte, the beach that the station is located near, is home to four of the existing seven sea turtle species. This includes, green, leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles. During nesting season, (March until November) volunteers and interns survey the beach to insure safe nesting and hatching of the sea turtles.
The bird monitoring program started in 1991, first under the National Museum of Costa Rica and then in 1994 with the Tortuguero Integrated Bird Monitoring Program. The mist-netting program works under the guidelines of Partners in Flight to ensure the safety and conservation of the bird populations. Area searches and mist netting are both used in weekly data collection. Another bird monitoring project, shore bird surveying, was added during 2012. Volunteers and interns survey the beach on a weekly basis to gather data on the shoreline species.
The canal is surveyed once a week to gather information on the local caiman population. 2001-2002 station manager Paul Grant, came to the station in 2006 to study the local caiman populations. Through his work he found that the pesticides from surrounding locations were negatively impacting the local spectacled caiman. His work was published in National Geographic on September 30, 2013.
Large Mammal Monitoring
This project has established baseline data on the presence of the large mammals and each of the three primate species ranging in and inhabiting the lowland rainforest of the Caño Palma and Tortuguero region. The three Costa Rican primate species are found to inhabit the area, including; mantled howler, white-headed capuchin and spider monkey; other large mammals include the jaguar, the tapir, and white-lipped peccary and many others. Using the two established transects, volunteers record the presence/absence of mammal vocalizations, visuals and tracks. Project data provides an improved understanding of demographic parameters, distribution, habitat use, and foraging behaviour.
Once a month, participants survey the local forest canopy. Data includes, percentages of new leaves, flowering and fruiting plants.
In 2012, a Vanier College intern started an ACER (Association for Canadian Educational Resources)forest plot on the station's property. This project follows Smithsonian Institution protocols to inventory, then monitor forests, using 1 hectare plots.
In the past five years facilities have been built to house over 30 students and volunteers, trails have been elevated to reduce impact on the forest. The one acre compound consists of a central kitchen and dining room with a surrounding library, dormitory, and washroom facilities. The site at Caño Palma has provided data for PhD and MES thesis, interns work every year and Toronto Zoo staff have been instrumental in keeping the programs going.
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