Tuesday, May 3, 2016

And all I can think is “moo” by Haylie Butler


           Three weeks ago, we made our much-anticipated return to Estación Biológica La Selva where we were to carry out our final independent research projects that we have been planning all semester. Fast forward what seems like one really long day with a whole bunch of work and little sleep and we are here: 30-page research papers complete, field pants packed away, and just one dinner away from leaving Costa Rica.
It’s so surreal to be sitting here at the end of this journey—writing a blog about what turned out to be an extremely rewarding, challenging, and memorable last few weeks of ~pura vida~ life. I knew that I was going to love conducting research on the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria on cattle farms in Sarapiquí (I mean who wouldn’t? It involved collecting cow poop!), but I had not taken into consideration the impact such research would have on my own personal development or the surrounding community. I did not think it would be the highlight of my Costa Rican semester.
To break it down for you, three classmates and I decided to (1) see if there was antibiotic resistance present on cattle farms in fecal and water samples and (2) assess the level of knowledge that local cattle farmers possess regarding antibiotic use. We felt it was important to conduct this research as the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria worldwide currently poses a serious public health risk. After 8 days of interviewing farmers, collecting data, and analyzing samples in the laboratory, we presented our findings to the community of workers and researchers at La Selva, and to members of the greater Puerto Viejo community. We discovered a high prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria among the farms visited as well as a trend that links low knowledge of antibiotic use to the presence of antibiotic resistance. Based on these results, we decided to focus on educational outreach. And, through informational pamphlets and conversations with each farmer, we were able to achieve our most important objective: to reach and educate a population that may not have otherwise known about the current misuse and overuse of antibiotics in the agricultural sector in Costa Rica and worldwide. 
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have been involved in meaningful community research and to have gained invaluable laboratory skills that I can use this summer and in my future medical career. There is no doubt that when I look back at my time in Costa Rica I’ll think of cow poop, long days in the lab, and hours spent talking with friendly cattle farmers. And I’m okay with that—I’m okay to be thinking, “moo.”

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