Weeks 2-3

Hi everyone!  I’m aware I’m a little behind, sorry about that!  I have been SO busy I haven’t even had time to get on here and give an update!  In my last post I mentioned we were assigned to group projects while at La Selva.  I was assigned to the group that was studying birds.  We did a condensed research project on seed dispersal with the birds at La Selva.  For our project we were wondering if there was a difference in the amount of time birds spent perched in trees based on their size, color, etc.  In theory, the less amount of time a bird spends in a tree the better it is at dispersing the seeds of the tree.  In a period of three days we spent around 8 hours watching four different fruit bearing fig trees, noting how long each bird spent in the tree, what species of birds we saw, and whether or not each bird ate the fruit in the tree.  We also noted the bird’s diet, whether or not it was frugivorous, omnivorous, etc.  During the time of our study, we didn’t note any significant differences in any of the factors we assessed.

We left La Selva on Monday, June 21st.  We spent one night in San Jose, and had the opportunity to meet our research mentors who we would be working with for the next 6 weeks.  My mentor was unable to come this year, so I was reassigned to a group that was planning on working with indigenous people near Las Cruces Biological Station.  We left the next day to travel about 6 hours to Las Cruces.

Once we arrived at Las Cruces, the work began!  We got into our individual groups with our mentors.  My mentor is Dr. Conway-Gomez, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.  Our group is working with Dr. Pablo Ortiz, Director of the Emergency Department and Inpatient Services at the Hospital de San Vito.  We were able to meet with Dr. Ortiz for about an hour to discuss options for our research.  Dr. Ortiz estimates that around 65% of the local population of Coto Brus County is suffering from gastritis.  Gastritis is a term used to describe a group of conditions involving inflammation of the lining of the stomach.  It is unknown how many people actually suffer from gastritis since none of the charts have been computerized.

For my project, I have decided to choose one of the towns in Coto Brus (with the help of Dr. Ortiz) and input the patient records into Excel.  I am then planning on randomly selecting a feasible number of houses and taking tap water samples.  I will then hopefully have the resources available to test for the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the water supply.  I need to meet with the microbiologist at the hospital, which hasn’t been possible yet, to determine if I will be able to test for that specific bacteria.  H. pylori infection is the most significant risk factor for gastritis, followed by the use of pain relievers, and age.  I will compare the water quality of the people suffering from gastritis to that of those who have not been affected by gastritis.  I am planning on measuring chlorine levels and nitrate levels as well.

Dr. Ortiz was interested in nitrate levels, and after A LOT of literature review, I found a study relating elevated levels of nitrate with gastric carcinogenesis.  Chronic gastritis can increase the risk for gastric cancer in some cases, so I expect to find the highest rates of gastric cancer where the nitrate level is high and there is also the presence of H. pylori.  There are many unknowns in my project that I will be unable to determine until I am able to meet with Dr. Ortiz again, hopefully tomorrow.  I will try to write soon after about the more specific details of my project.

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