Among the hazards of Kevin Ryan’s work as a water quality intern in Costa Rica are rain storms and unexpected wildlife.
“The fieldwork is exciting, but it also has its challenges such as bad weather, complicated logistics and unexpected wildlife. Indeed, often when I am sampling a stream, I find unexpected wildlife such as snakes, spiders, monkeys, birds and insects,” he said.
Ryan, a biology and chemistry double major student from Lyman, S.C., graduated from Winthrop in May. He moved to Costa Rica for a water quality internship with the University of Georgia's Study Abroad Campus to monitor a watershed in a conservation area. He will work there for the next six months along with other interns and researchers from Canada, Costa Rica and the United States.
“I am responsible for setting up a stream monitoring program for three small watersheds on the Pacific Slope of the Tilaran Mountain Range in North West Costa Rica near the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve," he said.
These watersheds define a type of conservation area called the Bellbird Biological Corridor. There is concern, Ryan said, that the increasing development in the area due to tourism, industry, and farming has degraded water quality. As he learns about the culture in Costa Rica, Ryan understands that conservation efforts in developing countries must consider socio-economic factors.
Ryan previously worked on an undergraduate water quality project at UGA-CR in a nearby watershed. The director of the campus asked him to return in order to establish a long-term water quality monitoring program.
Ryan’s research experience helped him in May capture the Caskey Award at Winthrop, which is given for excellence in undergraduate research in the College of Arts and Sciences. “The thing I liked most about Winthrop was the opportunity to get to know the professors,” he said. “The opportunities for undergraduate research played a big part in teaching me how to do science.”
In Costa Rica, Ryan’s work with the monitoring program involves collecting data from the headwaters to the Pacific Coast for local watershed managers. Ryan samples the physical and chemical properties of the water, as well as collects aquatic insects which can be useful indicators for pollution.
“Over time, the data will tell us the extent of contamination in the streams and also if any restoration efforts are effective,” he said.
Last updated: 07/01/2011