Brewster Conducts Field Research in Costa Rica
Lauri Brewster, who graduated from UMF with a self-designed major in biology and Spanish, recently concluded master’s degree research in the mountains of Costa Rica to determine how the White-Faced Capuchin Monkey promotes cloud forest biodiversity. Living near the monkey’s habitat (the high altitude cloud forest near Monteverde, Costa Rica) meant that Brewster shared a cramped, one-room cabin with a host of creepy-crawlies. For Brewster, seeing Costa Rica’s flora and fauna up close was a dream come true.
“I once had to trap this tarantula the size of a softball with a salad bowl, and I always had to check the shower for scorpions. The other problem was that, of course, I was conducting my research during the rainiest season on record,” said Brewster, whose regular visitors near the high-altitude cloud forest included toucans, sloths and eyelash vipers, among other species of venomous snakes.According to Brewster, biologists have long acknowledged the role birds play in seed dispersal. Through original research into the Capuchin diet, Brewster discovered that Capuchins actually rival birds by dispersing 45 species of fruit. Since tree tops of the higher altitude cloud forest comprise the Capuchin habitat, she also discovered that continued fragmentation of the cloud forest by crisscrossing roads inhibits Capuchin mobility, and, therefore, their potential for seeding biodiversity.
Brewster’s conservation biology research interests always have been rooted in rain and cloud forests, but there’s another reason she chose Costa Rica for her research: to speak Spanish.
“I really topped off my fluency,” she said. And even though she’s back home in Vermont, there’s little chance Brewster will lose the language. She is now engaged to a master’s degree candidate in computer science and education, whom she met at the University of Costa Rica. She’s been stateside only a few months, but already Brewster pines for the land of cloud forests. “He wouldn’t have to twist my arm too hard to go back,” she said.