As my interest in birds and other wildlife expanded into different areas of biology such as habitat use, evolutionary ecology, and others, my eye eventually turned toward the Neotropics as it is here that the greatest abundance and diversity of many groups of organisms is found. In late 1994 or early 1995, I discovered a poster in the main hallway of the Botany and Zoology building at Ohio State University seeking applications for a variety of courses at La Suerte Biological Station on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica. One of these courses was on the ecology of neotropical birds. It didn’t take much thought to decide apply. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program and this set the course for the rest of my career as a biologist.
As a side note to the biology conducted at the station, my trip to Costa Rica that summer was my first time ever leaving the United States other than a handful of birding trips to Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, Canada. It was with some degree of trepidation that my American Airlines itinerary included a stopover in Guatemala City. Guatemala, at the time, was embroiled in a years-long civil war, and newspaper accounts didn’t give me a lot of confidence that the simple matter of flying into Guatemala City would be safe. We descended into that fair city’s airport in a pretty severe storm, with heavy rain, near constant lightning flashes, and no shortage of heavy turbulence.