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by Anna Kudla, Duke University

Around 8:30 am on Wednesday June 24th, up in the mountains of Costa Rica in a tiny field full of newly blossomed clover and next two a small red house, you would have seen three figures standing still. The three had their eyes transfixed on the grass, and then practically out of nowhere, one of them would swing a large insect net or plastic bag over a clover plant and yell excitedly, “I got one!”.

This memory stands out to me for some reason. As one of three figures in that field that day, I would call it a meditative collecting of bumblebees for the third and last Faculty Led Project. It took me a minute to realize why it was so powerful because there have been so many memories built into my repertoire that will always be Costa Rica OTS 2018. So, what about this field on that particular day did I realize? Yes, the field was beautiful in the region of Costa Rica just below the Paramó. Yes, the fresh air tasted wonderful after an evening of fireside bonding. Yes, the sun felt just right after a chilly night and blankets that weren’t quite warm enough.

But there was something else. There was something impactful about the two strong women I was with and the three of us working together as a collective to get something done. And then I thought about the FLP group working on this bumblebee project—five strong women working together. Still even more, our Trop Bio 18-3 group consisted of seventeen strong women, all from different places, all working on different aspects of biology or environmental studies, and all committed to contributing to a broader scientific community. And our group was led by two outstanding and strong females in science.

I certainly do not want to exclude the gentlemen who were part of the course and contributed greatly to the group dynamics. However, there was something wonderful about being practically surrounded by women, strong intelligent women. We learned from one another, we made each other laugh, we listened to one another, we took care of each other, we grew sick of one another, and we reconnected. There is no doubt in my mind that each of the women with whom I became colleagues and friends is going to have an impact on any and all of the communities of which they are a part. I am so excited to follow their stories and to think back on shared memories of projects, long bus rides, clammy rubber boots, rice and beans, and tiny rooms full of flying insects. And of course I will think about the bumblebees, the ultimate representation of strong women working together to survive and that have an profound influence on the environment in which they are in.

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