Sierra Ullrich

Junior, Environmental Science B.S.; Phoenix, Ariz.

My experience doing fieldwork in Costa Rica was very eye-opening. When you read scientific articles regarding animal populations or camera trap surveys, you don’t realize how much work goes into creating that document. You don’t think about the several days on the trail, carrying 50-pound (at least) packs, being cold, wet, and tired, all with the goal of establishing and maintaining camera traps that lead to information on animal populations in that area. All that time, energy, endless miles, and heavy lifting for a publication that’s a few pages long but very important for conservation.

Sierra (front), Junior, Environmental Science B.S.

On the trail, we were usually up with the sun by 6 a.m. We would hike at least 10 kilometers a day through very steep and muddy terrain. I am in decent shape, but these hikes put me in my place. My knees did not handle the long, steep downhills very well, and my sciatic nerve didn’t handle the long, steep uphills well. The physical pain coupled with the general exhaustion led to me being pretty grumpy at times. One night, as I was getting ready for bed, the verse from Philippians 2:14 that says “do everything without grumbling” came to my mind and convicted me about my mental attitude over the last few days. From then on, I did my best to “suffer in silence” because voicing my complaints wasn’t going to help the situation. We had a job to do, and we all buckled down and did it, despite the hardships.

A normal day of hiking was about 8 to 9 hours. By the time we set up camp and had our nightly macaroni and cheese dinner, we were exhausted and gladly went to bed by 7 p.m. The terrain was rough but beautiful with incredible views of cloud covered mountains and deep valleys. We hiked to some very remote areas, choosing the hard routes because, frankly, that’s where the big cats are!

All in all, this experience has not only helped me grow in my knowledge of conservation work but also shown me areas I can continue to grow in, like mental toughness and relying on God’s help in times of need.

I was very fortunate that Dr. Mooring assembled a group of students who all got along so well. By the end of the 10 weeks, we had countless inside jokes, stories, and memories made. We all got along so well and truly enjoyed spending time together. All in all, this experience has not only helped me grow in my knowledge of conservation work but also shown me areas I can continue to grow in, like mental toughness and relying on God’s help in times of need.

Scat collecting.

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PLNU’s the Viewpoint publishes relevant and vital stories that grapple with life's profound questions from a uniquely Christian perspective. In addition to the content offered online, the Viewpoint print magazine is published three times a year in spring, summer, and fall.